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Weddings On A Budget

50+ tips to cut the cost of dresses, venues, cakes & more

Jenny | Edited by Steve N

Updated 6 Mar 2018

Get married on the cheap

It's meant to be a fairytale day – but the cost of the cake, venue, dress and all the little special touches can really add up.

The average wedding is estimated to cost a heartbreaking £25,000+, according to experts – but there are ways to cut back. This guide offers a host of tips including cheap venue advice, the top used bridal gown sites and how to nab an all-in reception package for less than £1,000.

The proposal – how to find THE ring (after finding The One!)


OK, so you're ready to pop the question – first, 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 – and you could even find some gems on eBay*.

  • 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 – many celebs 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 Boost 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 on the Weddings forum board – 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.

The 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 do 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?" 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.

Get max interest on your wedding savings

Where to save the wedding cash If you're saving up to get hitched, or perhaps your parents have given you some money, make sure you maximise the interest.

The personal savings allowance (PSA) introduced in April 2016 means every basic (20%) rate taxpayer can earn £1,000 interest without paying tax on it, higher rate £500.

For most people, the personal savings allowance means tax is now not an issue, so to maximise interest pour your cash where you earn most.

Your best bet's an easy access account, which means you can easily withdraw the cash when needed. See the Top Savings Accounts guide for a daily updated list of best buys.

Play 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 account for about one third to half of your budget – and leave room for contingency too.

Whatever your budget is, whatever you think you're going to spend, budget for at least 10% more. Presents for close family, stamps for sending out invites – it's the little unexpected things that all add up.
- MSE Guy

Consider using a spreadsheet to keep close tabs on everything you're spending (see a list of free tools you can use below). 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 at least you won't spend what you can't afford.

Pick an unconventional day or season and save 50+%

Pick an unusual day or seasonThe 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. Fridays 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 registrars as well.

Lots of couples also steer clear of Friday 13th weddings because it's considered unlucky in Christian tradition – so if you're not Christian (and not superstitious), you can make even bigger savings by booking then. Wedding planning website Hitched told us: "Venues and suppliers alike recognise Friday 13th to be a less popular day, so offer discounted prices."

Of course, fewer guests may be able to attend if you pick a weekday – though that in itself can be another way to keep costs down.

Major savings are also possible on winter weddings due to fewer bookings being made then. 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, canapιs, a three-course meal and evening food.

The package cost £12,000 on April to September 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!
- MSE Rose

Check everything's included – especially VAT

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.

Party for less – receptions 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 guest list. The key is you know what you're going to pay from the outset.

Don't over-invite

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. And if you want to invite more, just do it to the evening disco.

Play the wedding prioritisation game above and work out what's more important to you – gold-embossed invites or including ex-colleagues?

Benchmark typical wedding prices

Quotes can vary wildly from place to place, so ask friends and look online for typical prices to ensure you don't overpay. As well as researching costs of venues, photographers, florists and others, get at least three quotes for each. Email makes this a doddle.

This way, if a photographer quotes £3,000, but the going rate's £1,500, you'll know to think twice.

Book a £4,000 ALL-IN wedding reception... at Wetherspoon's

Who needs Windsor Castle when you can have Wetherspoon's? The pub chain's London wedding reception costs £4,000 and includes a three-course meal with wine for 100 people, a DJ, decorations and a wedding host.

Plus this isn't just any Wetherspoon's, it's a swanky pub in the heart of central London.


Afterwards you'll get exclusive use of the venue until 1am Sunday if your wedding's on a Saturday, or 11.59pm on Sunday if you get married that day – although children have to leave the venue by 9.30pm on both days. The offer also includes an extra 200 guests in the evening.

It has a marriage licence, so you can even say your vows there. You'll need to pay the registrar separately – prices vary depending on days of the week, but start from £529, including deposit.

At the moment only one venue offers the deal – The Knights Templar pub, a former Georgian bank in Holborn. To enquire, call The Knights Templar on 020 7831 2660 and for more info, visit its website.

We found similar wedding packages at a nearby venue starting at £14,500, so if you're happy to celebrate in 'Spoons, this is a decent deal.

If London's too far, many other Wetherspoon's pubs have function rooms available to hire – there's nothing to stop you throwing your bash there. For example, Opera House Wetherspoon's in Tunbridge Wells hires out a room for £3/head.

Haggle, haggle, haggle


Over the years, Brits have apparently come to accept that haggling's rude and impolite, when it's neither. This is never more true than in the wedding industry, where some of the snootier venues and dress shops can give the impression haggling is not the done thing.

Tap into friends' talents

Got a magic uncle? One way to avoid the price-trebling effects of getting married is to use the talents of your friends and family.

Got a top tip we haven't listed? Add it to the Cheap Weddings forum discussion.

Should 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.

Protect your wedding expenditure

Section 75 adds protection

Sadly, firms go bust. Often wedding suppliers ask for a deposit far in advance, so if the worst happens, it's a nightmare.

Use Martin's Money Mantras and DON'T overspend

It's easy to get swept up in the romance of the moment. To keep you disciplined, use Martin's Money Mantras.

Bag 5% off all your wedding shopping

Cashback credit cards pay you every time you spend on 'em – and while you won't be able to use a card for all of your wedding purchases, it's a great boon when you can. The idea's you grab one, then set up a direct debit to repay in full every month so it's interest-free.

If you've a good credit score, the American Express Platinum Everyday* gives new cardholders 5% cashback (max £100) for three months and up to 1% after (you must spend at least £3,000 in the year to get any cashback).

Always set up a direct debit to repay in full so you avoid interest, or it's 22.9% representative APR on purchases. Full help and best buys in the Top Cashback Cards guide.

Web clearance outlets for up to 80% off

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 outlet store – lots of high street and high-end stores have online outlet stores, either via eBay* or special websites.

See our Outlet Stores guide for a list of big names including Hobbs, Karen Millen, Figleaves and more.

Go for off-the-beaten track venues to pay less

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.

Is wedding insurance worth it?

Weddings are an expensive and emotional business, so you should carefully consider if you need insurance.

Wedding insurance covers a problem with the venue or a supplier, or a key wedding party member falling ill. It doesn't cover a change of heart.

Our Wedding Insurance guide explains the basics of insurance for a wedding or civil partnership, everything it covers and how to get it cheaply.

Lay 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.

Buy someone else's cancelled wedding to bag 60% off venues

Sometimes couples call off weddings that have already been planned and paid for, and snapping up these cancelled wedding packages can get you a bargain. It's not always about heartbreak for the original couple – people cancel for all sorts of reasons, including if a loved one suddenly can't make it.

Cancelled Weddings is a broker that matches people looking to sell on their cancelled wedding packages with couples hoping for a cut-price celebration.


This works best if you're flexible with dates, or you're planning to tie the knot soon. You'll also need to be happy with the package the original couple agreed – although there's often space to tweak details such as menu and guest count.

This is a new concept and we don't have any feedback yet, so tread carefully. Please let us know your experiences in the Cheap Weddings discussion.

How much can you save?

Cancelled Weddings says that on average UK buyers save 57%. A July wedding in London is currently up for grabs. Originally £11,400, the bash could cost £5,000 if you make the average saving (it's up to buyers to negotiate the price with sellers).

The company makes money by charging wedding companies for adverts. It's free for individuals to buy or sell cancelled weddings.

How to do it

Register a profile for free to get alerts about suitable deals. Also follow its Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates.

If you spot a wedding you're interested in, email the couple selling to negotiate. There's no guide price – it's up to you to strike a deal, but bear in mind the average discount is 57% off the original price, as above.

You're more likely to get a result if you're polite and charming, with some sympathy for the couple's predicament – see our Haggling Tips guide for pointers.

Most venues are happy to transfer the wedding, according to the site. But of course, always speak to the venue directly to confirm it's on board.

Cancelled Weddings then prepares a binding agreement that has to be signed by the seller, the buyer and the venue. Consider asking a solicitor to check this over. Finally, only transfer money directly to the venue (some charge the new buyer a £20-£50 admin fee).

Get up to 65% off last-minute deals

The site also features late-availability offers. For example, we found a package at a manor house in Suffolk with catering for up to 120 guests and dates available in April and May 2018 for £3,995 – a 65% discount on the original price of £8,495.

Rent a holiday property for your venue

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.

Don't let the bank steal your wedding cash

'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.

Dress tip I: £100 dresses from China

Dream wedding dress for less China has a roaring dressmaking cottage industry you can tap into via eBay. Quality and reliability varies massively, so research is vital.

The weakened pound means dresses might cost slightly more than they would have from China. But if you strike it right, you can get a made-to-measure dress for around the £100 mark.

Dress tip II: Top second-hand wedding dress sites

Second-hand dress sites offer glam gowns for a fraction of the RRP. MoneySavers' top sites to try are SellMyWeddingDress and Preloved. Other good bets are The Dressmarket, Gumtree and, of course, eBay* (see eBay Buying Tips and the Local eBay Deals Finder).

Dress tips

Dress tip III: Grab an Oxfam frock

Oxfam has 11 specialist bridal departments that stock dresses from £50 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.

Dress tip IV: Bag a high street bargain

Off the peg High street doesn't have to mean boring – department stores have cottoned on to the 'wedding on a budget' business and Debenhams and Asos* offer great low cost alternatives.

Find hidden eBay local wedding steals

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.

Amazon 75%+ hidden discounts on decor, rings & 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*.

Look 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.

Plan your big day with free spreadsheets, tools & apps

Do a spreadsheet to keep tabs on estimated costs versus actual costs. There's a great template on Google Sheets.

Set up a FREE website for your wedding

You can create a free personalised website for your wedding, using, a wedding website provider. This will help you update guests about your big day, let you keep track of RSVPs, set up a gift list and guest book, and share photos after your wedding.

There are free templates to customise your website's design, and tools to help you share your timetable, seating plan, travel tips and even add an FAQ section. These make Getting Married popular with forumites, and former MSE Sally used it to set up a website for her wedding.

We saved money on invites by creating a website with all the details of our wedding (eg, a list of local B&Bs) – it meant we could keep the paper invites short and sweet.
- Former MSE Sally

It's worth noting, however, that Getting Married is owned by a wedding gift list company (called Prezola). So although you can create a website for free, it does encourage you to set up a Prezola gift list. This is completely optional, and you can add a link to another site (eg, John Lewis) instead, if you already have a gift list elsewhere.

You'll usually need to pay £59 for a premium subscription if you want to set up a honeymoon fund or create an option for cash gifts – although this is currently free if you sign up for Prezola.

Don't mention the 'w' word

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.

Free DIY invites & cheap stationery

Designing and making your own invites is easy, especially if you use free DIY printing sites such as Wedding Chicks.

Of course, you'll have to pay for paper and ink when you print them out yourself (although if you really want to keep it free, you could email them instead). Alternatively, why not ask your workplace if they'll let you use its company discount on stationery?

Free place settings

You can easily make place settings for free. Why not collect pebbles or shells on the beach and write the guests' names on them?

Make your own confetti

Forumites suggest making your own confetti using small heart or flower punches and colourful paper, which should all be found in your local craft shop.

You can also dry your own rose petals in the oven – if you have friends or family with rose bushes you're onto a winner, but some forumites have managed to haggle cheap roses from flower markets at the end of the day.

Make pretty cones to hold the confetti using doilies, which can be found in pound shops, craft shops and on eBay*.

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. 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.
- Tiger_greeneyes

This is what former 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.
- Former MSE Dan

Everyday 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 on crisps and Coke each day, you'd have 365 x £2 to spend, making £730.

Try our Demotivator tool, which reveals your annual spend on coffees, snacks, cigs, mags and other discretionary purchases to help you cut back.

Need fast cash for your wedding? Flog it!

If a few quid more in the wedding fund would really help, get flogging. Selling via eBay usually pays best. Our Ebay Selling Tricks guide offers a crash course, from cutting eBay fees by tweaking start prices and using no-charge listing weekends to adding extra pics with special tools.

You can also harness Facebook's power to sell to others in the local community. The best bit is there are NO fees, so you keep the profit. See our Facebook Selling guide for tips.

eBay Selling Tips

Buy your own booze to cut costs, and look out for sales

Cut costs further by supplying your own alcohol. You'll usually need to factor in the corkage fees, which can be as much as £15 per bottle. Do the maths – buying your own and paying corkage often still wins.

Buy your own booze Remember, like everything, corkage isn't fixed, so haggle. Even better, look out for venues that don't charge for corkage.

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.

Bargain banquets

Food is where most couples go over-budget, especially if you go for a 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.

Buy a basic cake and decorate it yourself

Cake!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. By this stage most guests will be too stuffed to put away much cake anyway.

Super-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.

Think carefully about what prezzies you ask for

Too many people only consider wedding gifts at the last moment. But they 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?.

Don't be embarrassed to ask for cash

Most people are happy to give cash as a wedding gift if asked – many even prefer it to the hassle of picking a gift. Of the 21,000 who voted in our poll, 55% would prefer to give hard cash, while a further 34% would give it if requested (see the full results).

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.

Tips 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.

Beware 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.

Ask 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. Or if you do want to hire one, delay the booking until the last minute. That way if they want the job they'll still do it and this can halve the price.

Drive down the cost of transport

Even 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.

Secret five-star honeymoon hotels at two-star prices

For plush honeymoon hotels at bargain prices,* 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.

£25 off Secret Escapes

There's also Secret Escapes, which offers discounts on luxury hotels worldwide. Despite the name, the identity of the hotel isn't kept secret before you book. You need to sign up to the site to view hotels, but it's completely free to join.

Newbies can get £25 free credit on a £100 minimum spend via a special link on VoucherCodes*.

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.

Don't miss cheap honeymoon package holidays

MoneySavers do it together...

To help with the wedding preparation, both the Cheap Wedding board and 'What I wish I'd known before my wedding' thread 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.

The big 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!

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