It's meant to be a fairytale day. But average wedding costs of £18,000 are unbelievable too. Far too many people get into debt and risk ruining a marriage for the sake of just one day.
This guide includes a host of financing tips and is also crammed with cheap venue advice, the top used bridal gown sites, £1,000 reception packages and more.
Got a top tip we haven't listed?
Add it to the Cheap Weddings forum discussion.
01The proposal - finding THE ring!
You've found the one, now you have to find the ring. Jewellery advertisers would have you believe the rock should cost two months' salary, yet whatever your budget, you can still get your bling for less ker-ching.
Cheap jewellery quarters. Londoners and Brummies can take advantage of precious metal dealers on their doorstep. The UK has two world-famous jewellery districts: Hatton Garden in London and Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter.
These are full of hyper-competitive specialist merchants, which deal in bulk and are usually cheaper than normal high street shops. Haggling's a must - see our Haggle on the High Street guide for top tactics.
Pick up a second-hand sparkler. Vintage rings can be gorgeous, as well as thrifty. Don't think second-hand means second-rate – Kate Moss, Scarlet Johansson and Lara Stone all sport vintage engagement rings on their fingers.
You can find some real gems in vintage and antique shops. It's also worth hunting on eBay*, though read sellers' feedback carefully and ask lots of questions (more help in Ebay Buying). One thing to watch out for is loose stone settings – fix these before wearing or it could kill the romance.
Hand-me-downs. A much-loved family heirloom can have more significance than a new ring – and best of all is free. So ask family members if they can dip into their jewellery boxes for hand-me-downs. You might get lucky.
- Trade in Tesco points for Goldsmiths vouchers. Spend Tesco points in-store and they're worth 1p, yet convert them to Rewards vouchers and the value can triple. One reward up for grabs is Goldsmiths vouchers.
Every £10 Clubcard voucher gets you a £30 Goldsmith voucher, so a £600 ring costs £200 in Tesco vouchers. Rings from Goldsmiths start at around £200, so doing this can seriously shave pounds from your budget. See the Boost Tesco Points guide for a full how-to.
Check diamonds carefully. If you're buying a diamond ring, it's worth noting that the quality and look of diamonds can vary (even in the same range). So always check the ring for yourself if you can.
There are some helpful MoneySavers in the Weddings forum - see the engagement rings thread for more on how to buy and what to look for.
Don't forget to insure your ring
It's easy to forget you may have just added a few grand to your personal belongings. Call your insurer and check your rings are covered - you may need to add a separate policy for it. See the Cheap Home Insurance guide for full details on cutting costs.
02The perfect day doesn't mean spending loads
Too many couples work through a wanna-have list – a film star dress, flowing champagne, platinum rings, a five-star honeymoon. Only then, they ask how they'll pay for it.
One disgruntled father told us: "I asked my daughter what her budget was. She asked me, 'Dad, how can I work out my budget until I know what I want?'"
So, instead, ask "what can we afford to spend on our wedding?" Then work out how to have the best do possible within that budget. A picnic in a park with close friends can be just as magical as a blingy bash for 300. Use our Free Budget Planner to help.
Before we get too far into this, and you skip straight to this guide's bargain-grabbing section, it really is worth pausing to think about the financial effect of your celebration.
As Martin says: "While a wedding is a wonderful dream day, it's important to remember that one of the biggest causes of divorce is debt and financial worries.
"If the cost of your wedding leaves you financially crippled and in debt for most of your married life, it's a pointless waste."
03 Get max interest on your wedding savings
If you're saving up to get hitched, or perhaps your parents have given you some money, make sure you maximise the interest.
The best bet's an easy access account, which means you can easily withdraw the cash when needed. Yet many people avoid cash ISAs, wrongly thinking their money is locked in.
Every UK citizen over 16 gets a cash ISA allowance, which lets you save £5,760 each year safe from the taxman (from April this will rise to £5,940). Use it up first to max your rate.
You can withdraw it at any time (provided it's easy-access), but you just can’t then return it to your account. For example, imagine you put £4,760 in this year’s cash ISA, leaving room for £1,000. If you then withdrew £2,000, that’s irrelevant – you can still only put another £1,000 in. But if you're spending it anyway, this won't be a problem.
For a full updated list of best buys, see Top Cash Isas and Top Savings.
‘Setting off’ means banks can swipe big money from our accounts without permission. So if you've a loan or credit card debts, be very careful about other people, such as your parents, giving you cash to fund your wedding.
This outrageous law allows banks grab cash from your account to repay debts without permission and without telling you. See the Setting Off guide for the full legal info.
This wrecked wedding story sums it up.
No tale more gut-wrenching has landed in our mailbag than that of poor Peter Wilson, whose generous wedding gift to his daughter was then thieved by her bank to ruin her cherished day.
The proud father had saved up £12,000 with his local credit union to give a cheque to his daughter towards her day.
Two days after it went in her Northern Bank account, the bride-to-be's white day turned black, as she was horrified to see £6,000 had been lifted to pay off her credit card debt elsewhere with the bank - even though a repayment plan was already in place.
Peter told us his daughter was inconsolable, adding that for the bank to do this and ruin her wedding day was despicable.
"We told the bank that credit union officers would sign a statement to say that the money was ours, but it till refused to refund the money," he added.
05Play the wedding prioritisation game
Once you know your budget, the aim’s to work out how much you can actually afford to spend on different areas and prioritise what’s important to YOU.
Write down all the things you need to spend cash on on a different piece of card – from cakes to cars, rings to registry office fees. Always keep in mind that you don't need to stick to convention or have everything you're told you need.
Discuss what’s most important to both of you. You may fancy a funky themed wedding cake, but would you prefer a honeymoon abroad? Or a professional photographer? Remember, venue costs are likely to be about one third to half of your budget.
Being aware of how you can trade one item for another helps you see how far your budgeted cash will go. If it doesn't go as far as you want, you need to change your list - but not your budget.
The end result may be that you can't afford the wedding you wanted. But, more importantly, it means you won't spend what you can't afford.
06Everyday savings help towards the big day
Small sacrifices can boost your wedding coffers. If your big day is a year away, cut out something today that you buy every day. If you cut out £2 crisps and Coke each day, you’d have 365 x £2 to spend, making £730.
People swear by (and at) our Demotivator tool, which reveals your annual spend on coffees, snacks, cigs, mags and other discretionary purchases to help you cut back. Try it to see how much you could save in time for the big day.
If a few quid more in the wedding fund would really help, get flogging. Selling via eBay usually pays best. Our 30+ eBay Selling Tricks guide is a crash course, from cutting eBay fees by tweaking start prices and using no-charge listing weekends, to adding extra pics with special tools.
Prefer speed and ease rather than getting the top price? Several sites let you enter details, they offer a price, and you post the goods free. See our Flog It guide.
Consider setting up a specific bank account to pay your earnings into. That way you'll see the wedding cash pile up, rather than just disappearing into your current account. See the Top Savings Accounts guide for best buys.
08Should you borrow to pay for the wedding?
If you can possibly avoid it, don't borrow for the big day. Leaving yourself in debt at the start of your married life is not the best idea.
Having said that, a wedding is a major expenditure, and like buying a house, many people simply cannot afford to do it without a loan. The difference here is afterwards there are no bricks and mortar - only memories - to keep from all that cash.
Never borrow more than you can afford to pay back within a year
We can tell you not to borrow till we're blue in the face. But if you ignore that, at least do it the cheapest way. Ask:
Can you afford the repayments?
Can you pay them back in a year or less?
Have you planned the expenditure so you need to borrow as little as possible?
Are you borrowing the cheapest possible way?
Use the longest 0% SPENDING credit card possible. Always repay in full before the cheap rate ends, or rates rocket.
Avoid dangerous high cost credit, including payday loans. With APRs of up to 6,000%, these are the Mac Daddy of loans to avoid. There are now some longer-term 100%+ loans too (ouch).
Sadly, firms go bust. Often wedding suppliers ask for a deposit far in advance, so if the worst happens, it's a nightmare.
However, Section 75 laws mean if you use a credit card (not debit card, cheque or cash) to pay even partly for something costing between £100 and £30,000, the card company's jointly liable for the whole amount.
Better still, even if you only pay a deposit on the card, provided the goods cost over £100, the card company is liable for the ENTIRE amount.
If the firm goes bust, you can get redress from the card firm instead – giving you valuable extra protection. Though only do this if you can clear the card in full each month to avoid interest.
Section 75 doesn't apply to purchases under £100, but there's still an option which can help if you use a Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit card, or any debit or charge card.
If the goods don't appear, you can ask your bank/card provider to reclaim the cash from the seller's bank, so long as you complain within 120 days of realising there’s a problem. See the Chargeback guide for full details.
10Use Martin's Money Mantras
It's easy to get swept up in the romance of the moment. To keep you disciplined, use Martin's Money Mantras.
Different scenarios require different approaches, so there's normally one mantra for those who are skint and one for those who aren't. Hopefully any spending should be within your wedding budget, so we'll assume you're not skint. Before you buy anything ask yourself:
- Will we use it?
- Is it worth it?
- Is it cheaper elsewhere?
If the answer to any of these is no,
don't buy it!
The most important question here is "is it worth it?" While you may use something, could the wedding cash be better spent on anything else? Are stunning £250 heels that’ll be used once and then packed away worth it if the same money could buy other items which will be used more often?
Get free mini Money Mantras to print and put in your wallet as a reminder.
Cashback credit cards pay you every time you spend on 'em. The idea's you grab one, set up a direct debit to repay in full every month so it's interest-free, and to boost the gain use it for all spending instead of cash, cheques or debit cards.
If you've a good credit score, the American Express Platinum* gives new cardholders 5% cashback (max £125) for three months (and 1.25% after), though it has an annoying £25 annual fee.
Always set up a direct debit to repay in full so you avoid interest, or it's 14% representative APR on purchases (18.7% rep APR including fee). Full help and best buys in the Top Cashback Cards guide.
12Receptions for less than £1K
Holiday Inn, Old English Inns and Britannia hotels have £999 wedding packages - fab if you're on a tight budget and have a limited guestlist. The key is you know what you're going to pay from the outset. Here's a rundown:
Holiday Inn offers a buffet for up to 40 guests, a wedding ceremony and planner and overnight stay for the happy couple. Packages start at £999 at selected hotels - for more info, ask your nearest Holiday Inn.
Old English Inns
At Old English Inns you get a three-course sit-down meal, including wine and a glass of bubbly, and a disco for up to 50 guests - all for £999.
The offer's valid Sunday to Thursday (Friday and Saturday cost more). Look through the list of 40 participating Old English Inns and call quoting the offer.
The Britannia Hotels £999 deal includes Buck's Fizz, a three-course meal for 50 guests, evening buffet for 100 guests and room hire.
If you want an affordable, simple affair with some basic food and drink, it won't be easy to organise it for much less. If you're worried it's going to look 'cheap', then take a look at some MoneySavers' feedback:
We had our wedding in October at Holiday Inn with this special offer. It was amazing. The staff went all out and bent over backwards to give us our fairytale wedding!
We had a red carpet on arrival from the church, the hotel provided a toastmaster, the service staff were fantastic and if guests wished to stay over they had heavily-reduced rates too. All in all I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone wanting the perfect wedding day! - Hayley-Hops
I booked the Old English Inn deal and got wed last weekend. I have to say the whole day was fantastic and would def recommend it to others. I really didn't feel like I had cut any corners and honestly don't think the wedding could have been any better had I spent thousands and thousands. - Muffin86
I had an Old English Inns package for £1,000. While you can't dispute it's good value, I had a few issues on the organisation. At least if you do it yourself, you organise it, choose food, drink, etc.
You are restricted to their menu choices, their food packages, and their disco, which plays their music. That said, if you did do it yourself, it would be more hassle and could end up more expensive. - vicki+1
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13 Pick an unusual day or season and save up to 50%
The venue usually creates the biggest dent in your budget. So get this right and you'll be on to a budget bash winner.
Pick an unpopular day. Friday or Sundays can cut the cost of the reception venue by up to half - Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays by even more. Discounts are often available for photographers, florists and ceremonies as well.
Of course, fewer guests may be able to attend if you pick a weekday – perhaps another way to keep costs down.
Major savings are also possible on winter weddings due to fewer bookings. To show how much you could save, we checked the price of a package for 50 guests at one country house hotel, including a drinks reception, wine, canapés, a three-course meal and evening food.
The package cost £12,000 on April to Sept Saturdays, £6,750 midweek and just £5,950 in January and February.
Our own MSE Rose cut the cost of her venue by over a third by getting married in December:
Getting married outside peak season can be the difference between settling for an 'it'll do' venue in August, or getting one you love in December. And if you don't mind a weekday wedding, quotes from suppliers can come in much lower too.
Plus planning for a winter wedding means you've already factored in the British weather!
Outlets sell end-of-line bargains - ideal for snapping up suits, shoes, cheap bridesmaids' dresses and more. Nowadays you don't need to drive miles to an out-of-town village - lots of high street and high-end stores have online outlet stores, either via eBay or special websites.
Tell our Outlet Store Discount Finder what you want, the price and discount, and it'll find it for you. You can also drill down to specific stores, too - big names include House of Fraser, Karen Millen, Asos and more.
15Top questions to ask venues
Some venues have more hidden charges than Ryanair - one MoneySaver had to pay extra to hire a cake knife. So before booking, ask as many questions as possible and get important answers in writing.
Here are some of the key questions to ask before signing - hopefully they'll help you find a suitable but cheap wedding venue:
- How much is corkage?
- Does the price include VAT?
- Are there any extra staff costs and is service included?
- Is there a minimum headcount or charge per person?
- Is the cloakroom free?
- Are there extra costs for lighting?
- Is there a marquee hire charge?
- Is there a charge for tables, crockery, glasses, linen or chairs?
- Will we get exclusive use or are there other weddings there on the same day?
- If it's a hotel, do they give reduced room rates for guests?
Over the years, Brits have accepted haggling's rude and impolite, when it's neither. This is never more true than in the wedding industry, where snooty venues and dress shops can give the impression haggling is not the done thing.
This mass hypnosis has left the knowing few with big bargains, and companies' profits intact. The truth is most wedding suppliers are open to negotiation - while haggling cuts profits, if you wouldn't book them at that price anyway, this way they still get work.
Get them to chuck something in - for FREE!
Some venues and suppliers say they're not allowed to give discounts. An easy starting point is asking them to throw something in on top. Whether it's champagne, lighting or chair covers, if you need an add-on, try not to pay extra for it.
If the price is already reduced – because it's short notice, winter or midweek - there's often more flexibility. The boundaries have already been flexed, so the psychological loss for your supplier is reduced.
Remember to get the discounts in writing - especially as it's easy to get stung by 'annual price increases' between the time you book and your big day.
17Go for off-the-beaten track venues
While a hotel or country pub is in an obvious choice for a reception, don't disregard church halls, village halls or local sports clubs.
Less obvious venues can cost a fraction of big hotels, which are in it to turn a hefty profit. They still look the business once they're decorated.
Even better, if you've family or a friend with a sizeable garden, ask if they'd consider hosting it for you. Though ensure you discuss what you want, so you both have the same expectations.
Make sure you have a good plan for the catering and the clear-up afterwards if you're worried they might feel imposed upon.
18Lay on a posh picnic
Some savvy MoneySavers have taken a punt on good weather by having their wedding reception in the park with a picnic-style buffet.
Just provide blankets for people to sit on and take some food. You can cut costs even further by making them bring a bottle and even nibbles. The only thing you can't plan is the sunshine, though it worked out for our own MSE Sam:
My husband and I tied the knot at London's beautiful Marylebone Registry Office, then strolled across the road for a picnic in Regent's Park with our closest friends. We popped open champagne we'd got on a Tesco offer, and clinked flutes from Poundland.
We were lucky to have picked a date in the middle of a May heatwave, so there was glorious sunshine and everyone walked barefoot on the grass. It was cheap but extra-special – if you had to pay for a venue with such stunning grounds, it would cost thousands.
Book the right way and holiday rental sites let you rent five-star private country houses and villas at two-star hotel prices. Many make fantastic wedding venues and can undercut established venues.
You usually need to sort your own caterers, table hire and lighting, so do your sums first. But the advantage is it becomes your house for the week (or weekend), so there's usually no corkage charge and guests can stay in the rooms.
Always email the owner to check it's okay to use it as a venue before throwing a bash there. They may charge extra, but they'll often help you plan the event.
Direct booking sites let you quickly search for holiday rentals. Our top picks are HomeAway.co.uk* for global reach, Villarenters* for easy payments and TripAdvisor* for search. Be careful how you pay. You book directly with an owner, so there's less protection. Plus check it's not a fake villa - see Cheap Holiday Rentals for safety tips.
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20£100 dream dresses from China
China has a roaring dressmaking cottage industry you can tap into via eBay. Quality and reliability varies massively, so research is vital. But if you strike it right, you can get a made-to-measure dress for around the £100 mark.
Simply search for "custom wedding dress" on eBay* and a raft of sellers offering super-cheap wedding dresses will appear.
On auction-type sales, bidding often starts from £1-£15, yet the real cost is often the postage.
Each seller offers a variety of styles but often, if you ask, they'll make alterations to the design according to what you want.
Also check your local independent bridal shop's sale rails, and get some typical prices.
Of course, there's an ethical consideration to all this. It's hard to check out small eBay businesses' labour practices, so if you have any concerns, you may wish to avoid.
It is easy to be scammed on eBay and there are horror stories, so you must have your wits about you. Do your research and use this checklist as a start point:
Ask lots of questions. Ask plenty of questions about the dress, delivery, measurements and design. Genuine sellers will be happy to help you and professional responses hint you'll get a good result. Most sellers will send swatches so you can check colours and fabric quality before you buy.
Check reviews. eBay has a ratings system, so carefully inspect what others have said before buying. Have they delivered on time, have people received what they expected, and has the seller swiftly sorted any problems?
Get the measurements right. If ordering a standard size, make sure you're using UK, not US sizing. Most sellers offer made-to-measure dresses, so get a friend to measure you properly and follow the sellers' instructions. Good sellers will give a precise how-to.
Factor in import tax. Overseas goodies can look cheap, until you add VAT, customs duty and Royal Mail handling fees. There's usually no VAT/customs to pay on items costing £15 or under, but above this level, it can cost a lot.
When buying £15+ items from outside the EU by post, you have to pay import VAT. If it's £135+, add customs duty too. If you'll pay charges, Royal Mail adds an £8 handling fee. Double-check this on HMRC's site or call it on 0845 010 9000. For a rough estimate, use the DutyCalculator tool (10 free searches allowed).
- Always factor in postage fees. If a seller hasn't listed shipping charges to the UK, get them to confirm them via the 'ask seller a question' button before bidding. Otherwise you could be subjected to sky-high charges.
I got my wedding dress from China last year - £150 for dress and lace jacket and it was stunning. It was the talk of the day and no one guessed the cost or where it was from.
I got it taken up a bit by a dressmaker - she said the fabric was amazing for the price, really heavy satin. I loved it and felt amazing in it.
21Top second-hand wedding dress sites
Second-hand dress sites offer glam gowns for a fraction of the RRP.
MoneySavers' three top sites to try are SellMyWeddingDress, Preloved and Confetti's for-sale section. Other good bets are The Dressmarket, Gumtree and, of course, eBay* (see eBay Buying Tips and the Local eBay Deals Finder).
Some MoneySavers even try on dresses in shops, pick their favourite design then look online to grab it less. But to be fair to the shop, try to minimise the amount of their time you use if you're going to buy it cheaper elsewhere. And why not give them a chance to offer you a discount?
HOW to buy cheap wedding dresses
eBay has strong buyer protection. Yet with other sites – as you could be spending £100s – always carefully inspect the dress in person and pay cash on collection. Ask if you can return the dress if you're unhappy when you get home.
Do it right and you could grab a film star number for a fraction of the cost, like forumite laura_hoggle did:
"I tried on dresses in a shop and found one I loved. I was really lucky to find someone selling the exact same dress in my size on SellMyWeddingDress.
"I would have been happy to wear a second-hand dress, but this was brand new, unaltered, tags still on – the woman selling it didn't end up getting married. It was advertised at £400, but she said she was open to offers, and accepted £350 straightaway."
22 Grab an Oxfam wedding frock
Oxfam has eleven specialist bridal departments that stock dresses from £150 as well as accessories, plus you get one-to-one help and advice. So not only can you bag gowns for a fraction of the price, you help a charity at the same time.
It says many dresses are donated by designers, straight from the catwalk and many are brand new, so you really can pick up a bargain.
Forumite little_miss_sunshine was chuffed with hers:
I bought my wedding dress from Oxfam in Leicester. No one noticed and it was a fraction of the cost of a new one. It was in great condition, I felt good about giving money to charity too. I also got my bridesmaids' dresses second-hand - got two lovely dresses for £50 each!
23Bag a high street bargain
High street doesn't have to mean boring - department stores have cottoned onto the 'wedding on a budget' business.
They sell fancy frippery at reasonable prices - which get even better if you can snag them in a high street sale or with a discount code.
Here's what some of the big retailers offer:
- BHS. You can buy bridal dresses* from £80-£475, as well as bridesmaids' dresses.
- Tesco. Tesco Clothing* offers occasion wear for boys, girls, men and women. You can pick up a flower girl dress for around £25.
- Debenhams. There's a range of simple wedding dresses* starting from about £115. Nab one in a sale and they're as little as £50.
- TK Maxx. Famed for cut-price designer fashion, TK Maxx has a bridal section online with bargain dresses from £80. Visit the bigger stores for more.
To cut costs further, you could ask your bridesmaids to wear shoes and accessories they have already.
Whether they're wedding gowns, cake stands or champagne flutes, eBay sellers often specify items must be collected in person. As this often means fewer bids, there are bargains to be had.
You can't normally search "collection-only" sales, so we've built a mapping tool. Tell our Local eBay Deals Mapper your postcode, how far you're prepared to schlep, and it maps nearby gems.
For more help tracking down hidden bargains, our eBay Buying Secrets guide lists tools to find underpriced goods, exploit spelling mistakes, auto-bid to cheaply seal deals and more.
25Amazon hidden discounts of 80%+ on decorations, rings and more
It's the original e-giant, and like any megastore the challenge is to see behind the shelves to dig out mega-discounts. Our ever-popular Amazon Discount Finder manipulates Amazon web links to create customised bargain basement pages, eg, rings 70%+ off*, wedding decorations 75%+ off* and wedding fashion 75%+ off*.
Though remember, just because it's discounted, it doesn't mean it's a bargain. So in the tool there's an input box for the CamelCamelCamel site, which lets you instantly check a product's Amazon price history to see if it's ever sold for less. Then use our MegaShopBot to check its price in other stores.
26Look ravishing with free makeovers
While some brides go DIY, it may save a lot of stress if you get make-up done by a pro. Before you start wincing at the fees, there are sneaky ways around this.
Get your make-up done at a beauty counter in a department store, then simply buy the lipstick to 'touch up' (you could even ask if they'll give you that as a freebie sample).
Department stores also run beauty courses that you could attend. You can learn a new skill, do your own make-up on the day, and even help out at your friends' weddings.
Alternatively, check out local beauty training schools. They may do your hair and make-up free on the day as part of their training. Check Beautyfinder for a directory of training schools and colleges in your area.
Think very carefully about guests. The numbers soon add up: 70 sounds a lot, but it's only 15 members of each person's family, then 10 friends each with partners.
Narrow down your guest list. Stick to close friends and family. One trick many people use to cut the cost is to invite a limited number to the ceremony and wedding breakfast, but invite many more to the evening disco.
28 Plan your big day with free tools & apps
Free sites including Google Weddings and Hitched, along with apps such as Wedding Party and Wedding Happy, let you be your own wedding planner. All you need to do is create an account and log in when you want to edit info.
Google lets you keep tabs of the estimated costs versus the actual costs. Additional tools help you organise the seating plan, guest list, menu and music playlist. You can also share documents, so two people can edit it at the same time. Hitched offers similar tools, but also includes ideas on decoration, dresses and more.
Pinterest is another great website (and app) for ideas. Use it for inspiration for everything from invites to lighting, then do it yourself for a fraction of the cost.
29 Never mention the 'w' word, or do...
If there's one thing guaranteed to increase the price, it's when the suppliers you're buying from know it's a wedding. So when negotiating flowers, wine etc, try to avoid the word 'wedding'. Call it a party or celebration, and only once the price is agreed should you mention it is for a wedding.
Having said that, if you're eloping, or after smaller bits and pieces, such as make-up, the mentioning you're getting married can mean freebies galore! Forumite laughing cow said her wedding was a secret elopement...
"It was like catnip - lots of squealing and loads of good quality free samples (Clarins, Space NK, etc). Same thing on the plane - got chatting to some other passengers and crew and said we were eloping - cue lots of champagne on the flight and a bottle to take with us."
30Tap into friends' talents
One way to avoid the price-trebling effects of getting married is to use the talents of your friends and family.
Ask for their help in lieu of a wedding present. It'll cut the cost of saying 'I do' and perhaps save on a gift for them. Plus it will make your big day all the more personal and memorable. Examples include:
- Do you know a keen baker who can make the cake?
- Is someone a talented photographer or video cameraman?
- Do you have a friend who is a DJ, musician or even magician?
- Do you have an aunt or uncle with a landscaped garden they'd let you use for the reception?
- Is your mum a florist in the making?
- Is a relative in the printing trade?
- Does someone have a holiday home you could use for the honeymoon?
- Will your friend do your hair or make-up for you?
- Is a friend handy with a needle and willing to make your dress as a gift?
- Will a friend be your master of ceremonies?
- Does your grandad have a posh car and is willing to chauffeur?
- Will any pals who've got married recently lend you wedding shoes and bags, or even dresses and suits?
31Free DIY invites & cheap stationery
Designing and making your own invites is easy, especially if you use free DIY printing sites such as Wedding Crafter, Wedding Chicks and Serif. Also, why not ask your workplace if they'll let you use its company discount on stationery?
A bit like an eBay for arts and crafts, Etsy is full of sellers who will design bespoke invitations for as little as £5 and email you a PDF to print off yourself. Just search for 'printable wedding invitation'.
Try Vistaprint* for super-cheap self-designed cards, scour eBay* for cheap sellers or get off-the-shelf invites from high street shops such as Paperchase*. If you do pay for invites, always check if the cost includes envelopes and factor in the cost of postage.
32Free place settings and favours
You can easily make place settings for free. Why not collect pebbles or shells on the beach and write the guests' names on them?
For thank-you cards, find a really good snap of the two of you, reprint as many times as necessary and write your personal thank yous on the back, by hand. See Free Digital Prints guide for a list of freebies.
DIY favours such as paper flowers add a nice touch. Or you could just do yourself a favour and forget them - many guests leave them behind in their hazy state.
33 Make friends paparazzi for the day
Many of your guests will record the day for posterity, so why not ask them for a copy of their photos and videos?
You can encourage this further by leaving disposable cameras on the tables at the reception (though a number of our forumites have said they wish they hadn't bothered, as the photos weren't half as good as those taken with digital cameras).
Even though they're not pros, if they take enough shots, hopefully some of them will be good ones. You could ask everyone to upload their snaps to a photo-sharing site, such as TryCapsule to make it easier to sort through them, then use our Free Digital Prints guide for free prints and cheap photo books.
If you want a professional photographer, get your haggling hat on, like forumite Tiger_greeneyes.
We went to a wedding show last week and got chatting to a photographer. She charged £575, which we couldn't afford. So I asked if she would charge less for a weekday (we're getting married on a Friday) and she said she'd discount £50.
It still wasn't great for us, so we mentioned that we'd only want a dozen or so photos. She said "make me an offer". I replied "£250 cash" and she accepted! Don't ask, don't get.
This is what our own MSE Dan managed to get, after using some charm and chutzpah:
The photographer can be tricky to haggle with, as they sit you down, give you tea and biscuits and put you at ease. But that doesn't mean it's impossible.
We wanted a pre-wedding shoot, plus the photographer to stay for an extra couple of hours to catch speeches and cake cutting, but this added a fair whack to the overall cost.
This is where the friendly atmosphere helps. As the photographer considered these to be added extras, we didn't book on the day - just hopefully left a good impression - then emailed a few days later after considering, asking nicely if she could wrap them both into the same price, effectively getting the pre-wedding shoot for free, which she agreed to do.
34 Cut the cost of booze with hidden wine sales
We've created a way to dig behind online wine sellers' virtual shelves for hidden mega-discounts. Whether you're after red, white, champers or you've a country or grape in mind, tell our Wine Discount Finder to find the biggest discount or cheapest crate at Tesco Wine, M&S, Majestic and Slurp. We also list codes to save you more.
Also check shopping comparison MySupermarket's wine section - it includes all the supermarkets as well as wine from bulk-buy seller Majestic.
If you're in the south east of England, a quick (and low-cost) trip to France could help you get crates of cheap booze and champagne. You could also opt for cava or prosecco instead of champers to keep costs down. See Cheap France Trips for offers.
Finally, look for a venue that doesn't charge a corkage fee, which can be as much as £15 per bottle. Remember, like everything, corkage isn't fixed, so haggle.
(Please be Drinkaware)
Food is where most couples go over-budget, especially if you go for a sit-down meal during the day and a buffet in the evening. So, look at how many people you've invited (factoring in more guests for the evening if you're having two lots of food), work out your budget and divide by the number of guests for your per-head budget.
Sit-down meals will cost the most, but buffets, hog roasts or even picnics can be just as smart as well as being far cheaper. Local independent caterers may trump all offers you have, so check out neighbourhood cafes and restaurants.
Another way to massively reduce the cost of food is to have the ceremony later, followed by one big meal, rather than the standard two. Many of our forumites said much of the evening buffet food at their weddings was wasted, and they'd have been better off providing just one meal.
High street shops such as M&S and Waitrose* have party food sections for nibbles and platters. Many supermarkets and off-licences offer free glass hire too. Also consider having the wedding cake as dessert, to avoid paying for pud.
You usually have to provide a meal for the photographer, the band and the master of ceremonies, so ask caterers if they can do a cheaper option, such as fish and chips.
36 Don't be in tiers over the cake cost
The cake is one of the easiest places to save a stash of cash, as wedding specialists can charge an arm and a leg for these. Here are a few tips to cut the cost of a cake.
Buy a simple sponge cake, or whatever takes your fancy, from the supermarket and then decorate it yourself. You can buy glitter, sugar flowers and edible pearls cheaply.
- Instead of making one massive cake, make three small ones, or even cupcakes. To avoid massive cost and waste, you can also have one small cake for show and another plain one in the background to serve to guests.
- Instead of cake, why not go for a cheese wheel? Serve it in the evening as part of or instead of a buffet with crackers and relishes, which can be bought cheaply.
- If you do decide to make your own wedding cake(s), MSE Debs recommends freezing them ahead of time.
My mum and I baked and iced 120 cupcakes for my sister's wedding the week before, but didn't have enough freezer space to store them. So, we called the local Iceland supermarket. It kindly agreed to lend us one of its industrial freezers free of charge.
37Super-cheap decorations & flowers
Flowers and decorations can cost hundreds, if not thousands, if you go to wedding specialists. But with a little time and effort, much can be done yourself.
Pick a day before or after Easter or Christmas. It often means the church is decorated lavishly. By the same token, if someone's getting married an hour before you, ask the flower secretary at the church if they can leave them up for your ceremony.
Ask friends to help set up the venue. Doing it yourself will take time you might not have, so enlist the help of friends and family. Many hands make light work!
Make your own wedding flowers. It's amazing what you can do with some vases, spray paints and a bit of elbow grease. eBay's a haven for cheap bits 'n' bobs to furnish your venue, with tealights, candles, vases and more.
If you're new to flower arranging, handy site Videojug has a mass of how-to videos including how to make a wedding bouquet and how to make a corsage. Also swap tips in the forum's on Do your own wedding flowers thread.
If you're particularly handy, brooch bouquets are popular with MoneySavers. Here, you fashion a bouquet from old collected brooches instead of flowers.
Don't overlook markets. Good quality flowers can be found cheaply on the village market or down the local grocer's shop.
- Check flower delivery costs. This can make it cheaper to get someone more local. Some will also charge to move flowers from the ceremony to the venue. Rope in mates to help do it for free.
38Think carefully about what pressies you ask for
Too many people only consider wedding gifts at the last moment. Wedding presents can be worth a significant amount of cash.
So consider as soon as you can what you want people to get and how that fits in with your own financial plans - so that the two fit together. See Martin's blog: Am I alone in wanting to know what to give to couples?.
39Don't be afraid to ask for cash
Wedding gifts aren’t just a pleasant way of wishing a new couple a great life together. Historically, they’re there as a form of social banking. So before you decide what to ask for on the big day, here's what Martin has to say:
It’s worth understanding the function this ceremonial gift exchange performs.
Far too many think of wedding gifts as an added extra, yet financially it needs to play a core part in your plans. You’re likely to be shelling out a serious sum of cash for your wedding, but lots of people are willing to effectively pay you back in return for going to the ceremony.
Of course, etiquette rightly suggests no one should ‘ask for gifts’. So what we’re really talking about here is whether you can express a preference for cash over presents for those who want to give.
Gift giving is a form of social banking
Older generations would give gifts or money to younger ones to help them start off in life before they'd had time to build their own finances.
Then once that couple grew older they effectively gave back to the same community when they attended weddings of younger couples by giving them gifts. Thus the money moves in a circular way and is targeted at those who need it most.
Yet in recent years things have changed radically, many couples already live together when they get married and have much of what is needed in their homes - whether it's toasters, kettles or silverware. In fact, perversely, the biggest cost of getting married for many couples isn't setting up home, but the wedding day itself.
Therefore don't be afraid to ask for cash on your wedding day. It's part of what the original ceremony was all about; if you're shelling out, this is likely to be the most efficient way for you to receive the cash back."
Read Martin's blog for the full low-down on this: Don't be afraid to ask for cash.
40Tips on asking for cash
There are many ways to do this: envelopes on the day, money into a special bank account, even perhaps a targeted honeymoon fund. Many people find that less clinical, but you don't need to spend it all on the trip.
As for how much they should give, well that's up to the guest. There are a number of factors: the closer they are to you the more they should give, the more expensive the wedding ceremony the more they should give (effectively offsetting the cost). But if they're struggling, expect less.
Here's a poem one MoneySaver, Luke Pritchard, suggested putting in the invite:
Because at first we lived in sin, we already have the kitchen bin. A gift from you would be swell, but we'd prefer a gift to our wishing well.
Or this worked for MoneySaver slickster:
As you all know we have lived together for many, many years now and so have all the possessions (kitchenware, bedding etc) that we can make good use of. Therefore, we are not intending to produce a gift list.
The one thing which we are working to save towards is a memorable honeymoon, so if you did wish to make a small contribution to that fund then we would be very appreciative.
Ultimately, just attending our wedding is an expense for everyone who is travelling from far and wide and so we really do only wish for you to join with us and share our special day.
41Beware vouchers and wedding lists
Gift vouchers are now nearly as popular as gift lists themselves, often to fund the honeymoon or kit out a new house.
But remember, vouchers and wedding lists are just a promise from a company. If that company goes bust (as wedding list firm Wrapit did in 2008), you'd have no rights.
Chances of getting all your money back are slim. Secured creditors and employees get first dibs on cash, and only after that will you get a share of the leftovers. Cash is dull, but a safer present. See our Gift Voucher Warning.
42Ask a friend to be master of ceremonies
Ask a friend who has a flair for public speaking to be your master of ceremonies. Not only will you save a wad, it's likely to be a crowd-pleaser too.
If you do want to hire one, delay the booking until the last minute. Then, if they want the job they'll still do it and this can halve the price.
43 Drive down the cost of transport
If you don't live in the capital, go for a London-style cab as a wedding car and you'll get smart black transport atmosphere at a much lower cost.
Even better, if you live near the ceremony venue (and you're lucky enough to get good weather) why not follow French tradition and walk?
When comparing venue costs, factor in the cost of getting yourselves (and possibly guests) from the ceremony to the reception. It can work out cheaper to choose a slightly pricier venue which can hold both, rather than paying for transport.
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44 Secret 5* honeymoon hotels at 2* prices
For plush honeymoon hotels at bargain prices, Lastminute.com* has a Top Secret Hotels option, which offers big discounts - but you only get the location, star-rating and price, NOT name, until you book.
Yet often, you can cut and paste key phrases into Google to discover its identity. Once you’ve got the hotel’s identity, check reviews on TripAdvisor* and whether it’s really a bargain compared to the top comparison sites. See Cheap Hotels for how.
45 Don't miss cheap honeymoon package holidays
The internet's great for flights or DIY city breaks. But if your honeymoon's specifically for seven, 10 or 14 days to a traditional holiday destination, then package holidays often come up trumps.
When it comes to booking, timing's crucial: the later you book, the cheaper, but this means limited choice, perhaps not ideal for honeymooners. If you can't book late, book as early as possible. Full step-by-step help in Cheap Package Holidays.
46Is wedding insurance worth it?
Depending on what level of cover you go for, insurance can cost from £20ish to £300+. Here's a breakdown of what insurers usually cover, but check before buying:
Supplier failure. If your caterer or florist goes bust, then you'll be able to arrange a replacement without worry. Same goes for if the transport provider fails to meet their contractual obligations.
Cancellation. Sadly, this doesn't include cold feet. But if you have to cancel or rearrange for reasons beyond your control, for example adverse weather conditions, illness or death, any costs incurred will be covered.
For events in temporary structures such as marquees, do check, as not all give this cover as standard.
Presents and cash/vouchers. Presents should be covered for loss, damage or theft. Do check with the insurer on any restrictions on covering gifts. For example, they may need to locked away.
Accidents and public liability. If you're the victim of an accident, if you die or accidentally injure someone else or damage their property during the wedding, then if legal proceedings follow then you'll be covered.
Extra stuff. You'll also find policies cover damage or loss to the wedding dress and hired menswear, wedding rings, flowers and cake. The list can go on to include stationery, redundancy, essential documents and fireworks.
If you're shelling out on an expensive wedding, it's worth considering. If things go wrong, the cost is likely to be heavy, both financially and emotionally. Yet do weigh that up against the cost and the risk.
47 How to get the cheapest insurance
Insurers have different levels or 'tiers' of policies, depending on your needs and how much your wedding costs. For smaller weddings on a budget, you'd be better off going for the cheaper packages that cover up to £5k. If you're having an extravagant do, some policies cover you up to £100k.
Sadly, there are no decent comparison sites out there for wedding insurance, so finding out who's cheapest in your case is a matter of rolling up your sleeves and using a bit of elbow grease. Just go through as many as possible to see which suit.
To help start you off, we've done a quick table of popular wedding insurances, comparing their packages and how much they cover (as at February 2014). All of these are fully UK-regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
It's also worth checking your home insurance policy to see what it covers you for. If you're keeping things like wedding presents, your dress or flower arrangements in the house, most insurers automatically raise the home contents limit for free. See the Cheap Home Insurance guide.
|Wedding insurance comparison (February 2014)|
|Tier 1||Tier 2||Tier 3||Tier 4||Tier 5|
(up to £2.5k)
(up to £10k)
(up to £17k)
(up to £27k)
(up to £65k)
(up to £5k)
(up to £9k)
(up to £18k)
(up to £40k)
(up to £6k)
(up to £10k)
(up to £20k)
(up to £30k)
(up to £5k)
(up to £10k)
(up to £20k)
(up to £30k)
(up to £5k)
(up to £10k)
(up to £15k)
(up to £25k)
(up to £50k)
(up to £10k)
(up to £15k)
(up to £20k)
(up to £30k)
(up to £50k)
If you're getting married abroad, check with your insurer to see what it offers.
48 Fight back if your insurer won't play fair
In the horrible event that something goes wrong, and the insurer won't play fair, you've a right to complain to the free independent Financial Ombudsman Service. It will review the case and can order insurers to make good.
Better still, unlike the courts, the Ombudsman needn't just rely on whether insurers have fallen foul of the law. It can also simply look at whether it's treated you fairly or whether it's dropped below typical industry standards.
Write to the insurer, saying you're unhappy. If it tells you to get lost, go to the Ombudsman. For a full how-to, see the Fight For Your Financial Rights guide.
49MoneySavers do it together...
To help with the wedding preparation, both the Cheap Weddings and 'What I wish I'd known before my wedding' forum boards are full of top tips to cut costs for brides and grooms-to-be. MoneySavers post cheap wedding ideas, and share suggestions on having a more affordable day. Some top tips include:
- I set up an alternative email account to get quotes and haggle them down. I then emailed the suppliers from my regular email address saying a friend had passed on the info. That way I didn't have to bother dealing with lots of pushy, expensive tradespeople or be spammed for ever more. - gloriouslyhappy
- I wish I'd known to request a second copy of my marriage certificate at the time I got it. If you're changing your surname to your husband's, many people will request the original marriage certificate, so if you have two, you can keep one safe and use the other to send off, which saves the worry if it goes astray. - scousewife
- A company we saw at a wedding fair was going to charge us £300 for a sweet cart, jars, sweets, scoops and bags (super-popular for weddings). After a quick look on eBay and a trip to Costco and Makro, we did our own sweet table for £50! - pixieG
- Make sure you have some alone-time with your new husband/wife. For us it was the car journey to the reception. - lazer
- Don't look at wedding magazines! You will feel as though you need all these things which bump up the cost when you don't. Plus, the magazines are the same every month - same recommended suppliers, same photos, etc. - shoplady
50The day is here - Enjoy it!
Most of all, congratulations. Enjoy the day, don't stress too much, and we wish you a healthy, financially fab, wonderful life together!
Got a top tip we haven't listed?
Add it to the Cheap Weddings forum discussion.