The perfect wedding on a budget

When I proposed to my now wife I was under the impression it would be a three or four year engagement, although she was thinking of months rather than years. The cost of a wedding – or a perfect wedding – was way out of my budget.

We looked at all of our in and out goings and we had £5,000 with a £1,000 credit card that we really didn’t want to touch but kept just in case. This also included the saving we would accumulate in the run up to the big day which amounted to about £1,500. It wasn’t a lot but we didn’t want to live like hermits as this would put far too much unwanted pressure in an already stressful few months ahead.

So how do you plan for a cheap wedding?

Firstly, you need to break up the big costs such as the venue, food, drinks, rings, dresses. Then you need to account for everything else – and I mean everything. This way you don’t get hit in the final through and make cut backs. There would be nothing worse that being sat at the head table wishing I had spent a little bit extra on something.

I have compiled a list of what we wanted and what was spent.

Wedding Dress: Now this was a shock to me but I came home one day and found my wife on www.ebay.co.uk looking at wedding dresses. This was something I thought you couldn’t compromise on, although she actually had a big smile on her face. Her theory was, it has been worn by one person before her and made them happy and she can have the same dress at a fraction of the price. What I didn’t know was that she had done the shopping thing that same day with her mum and sister trying on every wedding dress – but with no intention of purchasing one! She was testing out the brands, styles and sizes so that she could choose something on ebay later that evening. I soon got pushed to one side as she searched some more. (Incidentally, the dress was put back on ebay after the wedding where we almost got the money back!)

Wedding Car

: We originally wanted a stylish classic car, although we later found out from a few simple Google searchers that it would cost around £300+. So we put a profile update on Facebook and Twitter asking our entire friend list if they or their parents or anyone they knew had an old fashioned car that we could use for our wedding. After a week of chatting and updating we had the choice of two cars and a horse and carriage! We went with a white soft top as you can see in one of the pictures. It wasn’t free but much less than £300.

Venue

: This was the crunch decision for the entire budget and it was the hardest decision of all to make. It was simply not feasible to get any venue to accommodate 120 guests at the budget we had proposed. So again we had to be imaginative. A good friend of my parents has a large mansion in a town just a few miles away. Although it was not the house we had in mind, as we did not want a huge bill for broken ornaments, it had the land surrounding the house. The idea was to construct several marquees creating one large marquee. This was by far the most daunting and time consuming task of all. We had to test the construction beforehand as the marquees were not made by same manufacturers and we had no idea how it would look. Although with a bit of touching up and fabrics bought from a market stall it was perfect – and FREE!

Food

: Again, picking the perfect wedding food for 120+ guests was not going to be easy on a budget. We didn’t want to spend an excessive amount on getting a catering company involved, so we turned to family and friends and got on the phone. We started with mums and my mum took no hesitation in offering her skills, along with my wife’s mum. My grandparents also helped as much as they could as my granddad was a chef in his day. We went for a light pate with dry toast to start with, a fish salad for the main followed by strawberries and cream. Not the most extravagant but it was presented really well and we didn’t have a single complaint. Also the reason we went with fish for the main course was because Leanne’s dad is a fisherman and two days before the wedding he and I went out and caught 300 mackerel just off the coast of Anglesey North Wales, gutted, filleted and blast frozen ready for the day. (I understand things like this are not available to everyone but you will probably have contacts I could have only wished for – it’s just a matter of looking and asking.)

Flowers

: Flower arranging is an art and the flowers would be an important focal point as the venue with no flowers would not look like a wedding. It’d probably look more like a family BBQ! Again we turned to family and friends. By the way, do not be scared of asking for help with your big day. Without our family and friends the day would not have been possible on our budget. Everyone involved took the task as a part of them creating and making our big day special. Leanne’s Aunt who runs a local pub put herself forward. We gave her a budget and colours and simply left it to her imagination.

Photography

: Again this sounds too good to be true but Leanne’s best friends dad is the well renowned Phil Wenlock begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting (well-renowned in North Wales) for his wedding photography and he kindly offered his services on the day for free. Although he was also a guest and a good family friend it was a bit of work and a lot of play. Again I could almost guarantee in your facebook list you will have one friend that is a budding or keen photographer who would be more than happy to take some classic pictures. If you haven’t, Google “wedding pictures” and take a look at the classic shots.  Why not let all your guests take the pictures? The quality of cameras have come a long way in the past 10 years and I would be very suprised if you you did’t have one you liked of each shot. Think about it; let’s say you have 50 guests all taking a picture as you cut the cake, isn’t is very likely that just get one perfect picture? Plus, when they look through the album in years to come they can say “I took that picture!”

Cake

: As shown in the picture, we fell in love with a cake we saw at a wedding fair. It was a normal three tear wedding cake but the outside was all covered in maltesers – we wanted it! The only person we knew with any chance of creating such a master piece was Leanne’s Nan. She made a three tear chocolate base with an outer layer of white chocolate and then melted each individual malteser in place. She actually said it was not that hard, just time consuming.

Wedding Rings

: The rings was one area we did not want too scrimp as it’s one of the only things we take away from the day and keep. As we are Welsh we had to have a Clogau Gold wedding ring. Firstly, it contains one of the rarest gold in the world and secondly, it’s also worn by The British Royal Family. Leanne went for the Yellow and rose gold tree of life ring where as I went for a more classic cariad ring (cariad meaning Love, Darling, Sweetheart, in Welsh).

Invitations

: This is one area we really thought we would make a massive saving although it turned out we went a bit extravagant with the cards and the costs soon mounted up. We went with a plain cream card with a dark purple indented pattern, and some text glued on the purple. Basically, the invitation was cream with a smaller purple card glued on with the text on a white paper glued on the purple card. This was folded and held by a purple ribbon. Now I know that sounds like something that a few Blue Peter presenters would create in about five minutes, but it honestly looked superb. Although the fact that we doubled up on card mounted up the cost.

Grooms outfit

: Now I was not that fused on what I was put in on the day. To me, a suit is a suit – although I did want cream form some strange reason! My wife, however, had chosen a grey penguin rented suit. Again all ushers where matching with a slight difference in waist coat. Again keeping cost down all ushers paid for their own suit hire. It was only £75, yet it saved us a small fortune. This was the same for bridesmaids who chose their own dress and again sold it on ebay which meant the dress ended up costing them £20 for the day.

Music

: Initially, this was one of the most daunting tasks, yet in the end become the simplest. Again we turned to www.Facebook.com and as strange as it sounds we soon had to hold auditions for young bands wanting a bit of exposure. As we had no venue we held a day in our back garden where by a band had an hour to impress the bride. Out of 5 bands we ended up using two. We also had a DJ not so much for mic work but for the speakers. We simply hooked up an iPod with a pre-planned and timed list of music. It was very simple yet effective.

Table decorations

: We had gone to several wedding shows and the only table display that was impressive yet cheap to mass produce was balloons and feathers. The balloons were a simple purchase yet the feathers were expensive being died to the right colour so this again become another manual job. The only place I could think of was a hotel just down the road that had peacocks roaming within the grounds so I asked them if I could take a walk round twice a week and pick up what I could. To be honest we didn’t collect enough to cover each table but it still saved a large amount of cash. We also had to die the feathers. By the way, do not try and spray them with spray paint as they clot and don’t look right at all! Once we got hold of the perfect colour die we just left them in the bath over night.

Thank you gifts

: Now I know I have mentioned this once or twice but it really saved us a fortune and if you haven’t guessed it, they came from ebay. For the table gifts we got plain boxes and small heart shaped chocolates. This again took more time than cost as the boxes arrived flat, but it looked really good and finished the table perfectly.

Drinks

: For the drinks we got a bottle of red and white wine on each table from Sainsbury’s. Not the most expensive but not the cheapest either. We also got a local mobile bar company. This didn’t cost us anything as they just charged per order.

Staff

: OK, your family and friends have helped you out and they’re all looking forward to the big day. Now it’s time for them, as well as you, to sit back and enjoy the day and for this to happen you will need some staff for the day. We went with one member of staff for every twenty people. That worked out at six staff and it worked well. We put an ad in the paper for staff for a day and were inundated with response. One thing we did specifywas that they had to invoice us and be self employed as we were not a company. If they were not self-employed but told us otherwise, the tax man might come knocking and it was up to them to deal with it as we have kept above board.

Chairs

: Finding a friend with 120 matching chairs was not an option. We had a look at hire ring but it was still very expensive and Leanne remembered a local theatre had movable chairs. We spoke with them about how they could help us and they were more than happy to accommodate, we just had to sign a £50 a chair brakeage charge (Two Broke) and place a £100 pound donation to the theatre.

Honeymoon: This is what I was most looking forward to! After all the commotion, a two week getaway would be perfect – although keeping the now wife and I both happy was a task in itself! Like the rings, I didn’t want to scrimp as it could make or break the entire thing, so we had to compromise. Two weeks got cut to ten days and we stayed at the Hayatt Regency in Sharm el shake Egypt – it was worth every penny!

All in all, it was one of if not the most stressful time of my life. But the day was perfect. Sometimes I look back ask myself, “Would I spend an extra £10,000 so that I could just respond ‘sure just get it’ to my wife’s every wish?” I don’t think I would.

Unless you have won the lottery or your second name is Shake, it’s a lot of money for a single day that we can now put towards our future. We did a lot of pleading and borrowing but you will be surprised at the change in generosity from the people around you just so they can contribute to your big day.

Total Wedding Costs

Outgoing Spend
Registra 50
Priest 50
Wedding Certificate 15
Organist 35
Wedding Bells 40
Venue 0
Venue Decoration 370
Food 300
His Wedding Ring 450
Her Wedding ring 400
Flowers 300
Postage 17
Music 0
Table decorations 50
Staff 295
Plates and Cutlerry 420
Chairs 200
Wedding Dress 300
Grooms Suit 85
Wine – White and Red 96
Cake 0
Guest Book 29
Honeymoon 1400

Total £4902

Written by Ben Roberts

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