A wedding on a budget is the perfect way to prepare a couple for the realities of marriage. If you’ve found the love of your life and are ready to start planning a wedding, the cost-of-living crisis may be a rather annoying spanner in the works. Weddings are notorious for being expensive, and with just about everything costing much more than it did pre-pandemic, some couples are left wondering whether they can even afford to host their special day.
We’re here to help you change your mindset. Encouraging strong teamwork, financial planning and bucketloads of creativity, love and compromise, organising a wedding during these difficult times will prepare you as a couple for future challenges. Our practical and realistic guide will walk you through the key costs of a wedding, with plenty of ideas to create an unforgettable day on a smaller budget.
Weddings vs the cost-of-living crisis
A low-budget wedding is becoming the norm in the face of the rising cost of living. UKSOC reports that a survey by Gumtree indicates nearly a third of couples planning a wedding are making cuts. This survey also found that:
Just as we’re all paying more to run our homes, so too are businesses forking out more to meet their running costs. Caterers and wedding cake makers are paying more for ingredients, entertainers have higher fuel costs for travelling to venues, and the venues themselves have higher utility bills. There’s no escaping the fact that you’ll feel the impact of these rising costs – but that just means you need to think about how to minimise those price hikes.
The cost of a Great British Wedding
The Office for National Statistics reports that the average UK wedding comes in at £23,030, with more extravagant weddings soaring to a staggering £60,000. With even the lower of the two figures feeling like a major financial undertaking during these challenging times, couples are being forced to appraise their budget thoroughly – and, therefore, their expectations for the “big day”.
The essential expenditures relating to a standard wedding include:
Now that you know where the money traditionally goes on a wedding, the next step to achieving a cheap wedding is working out how to lower the budget on each item – or even miss some altogether.
Cutting costs without compromising the occasion
The cost-of-living crisis does not have to dampen the sparkle of your wedding day, but it does mean you both need to decide exactly what essentials you need to make your day feel special. The following budget wedding ideas will help you organise the best day of your life without breaking the bank.
Choosing the big day
You can start saving money from the get-go by picking a date that sits on either side of the classic late spring and summer wedding season. Booking off-season can lead to savings across the board, and you can play off the autumn or winter season using affordable décor and hearty, rustic catering that costs less.
Though not always practical for guests, for small weddings, choosing a weekday can lead to significant savings.
Know your numbers
Keeping things very simple – the more guests you invite, the more expensive your wedding will be. Though creating a limited guest list can be tricky, there is an option to ensure nobody feels left out. You can keep the ceremony and meal for your inner circle, then invite more guests to celebrate with you afterwards.
Likely to be one of your most significant expenditures, think carefully about what you need from a venue. A common mistake is choosing a venue with too much space. A smaller room that still allows for dining and dancing can curate a wonderfully intimate atmosphere – and it’s easier to decorate cheaply.
When you’re trying to achieve a cheap wedding, you may need to compromise on the grandeur of the venue, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to forfeit stunning wedding photos. When you start looking for budget-friendly venues, search for beauty spots in the locality or interesting architecture as a backdrop for some of your wedding portraits.
You can make further savings if the venue you choose is already brimming with character, as this will save you on the additional décor. Don’t even consider a free bar if your budget is tight – make sure your guests are aware.
Follow the route of those questioned in the Gumtree survey and choose to hire your wedding outfits or buy second-hand. Few items could be in better condition than a second-hand wedding dress – usually worn only once and lovingly handled and taken care of. In addition to platforms such as Gumtree, Vinted, Depop and eBay, you can use a dedicated service such as Still White, Rock My Wedding and Bridal Reloved.
If you’re happy to take the mix-and-match approach, bridesmaids and groomsmen can wear an outfit they already own.
If you would like to buy your wedding attire, rather than turning to a specialist wedding boutique, look to the high street, where formalwear at affordable prices can be found, especially during the sales.
Anyone who has paid for the weekly food shop knows how much of a price hike there has been. Naturally, this makes catering a wedding a more costly affair than in recent years. Find a caterer who is willing to talk you through their budget-friendly options. This could involve avoiding the more expensive meats and seafood or serving a meat-free starter or a low-cost buffet.
One of the best budget wedding ideas is, rather than choosing a formal British three-course meal, to liven things up with large sharing platters of Mediterranean, South American, Indian or Asian cuisine. Many of these dishes are heavy on vegetables, low on meat and bursting with flavour – so you can pull off a fantastic feast that won’t feel cut price.
Other ways to slash your catering costs include:
Cutting the cake
Think carefully about how much cake you actually need to serve your guests (and you’d be surprised by how many turn down a slice on the day) and only order cake to serve that number. If you want a tiered cake, ask the baker to use “fake” layers. Here, polystyrene rounds are decorated alongside the sponges, and your guests will be none the wiser. You could also serve slices from a cheaper sheet cake as one of your cheap wedding ideas.
If you have the skills, bake your own cake. Choose a simple design, like a semi-nude cake with fresh floral accents.
The biggest savings to be made on the entertainment front is not to have any! That doesn’t mean you can’t dance and celebrate; you’ll just need to compile your own playlist, which is easily done on a phone app such as Spotify or Apple Music.
If you want to hire a reasonably priced DJ, ensure you get precisely what you want by finalising your song choices with them. Don’t be afraid to give a young, up-and-coming DJ a chance – just ask to listen to one of their sets first.
Hair and Makeup
If you have someone in the family or your circle of friends trained in hair or makeup, see if you can call in a favour. Get in touch with your local colleges that run hairdressing and beauty diplomas to see if there are any students needing a case study. Or, brush up on your own skills, following online tutorials and getting lots of practice in and be your own stylist on the day.
Now is the time to call up that friend with a swanky car because forking out for wedding transport during the cost-of-living crisis is an expense you can happily avoid. There may be a friend of a friend who owns a classic car who’d love the opportunity to show off their prized possession – so offer to fill up their tank and still arrive in style on a budget.
Wedding flowers and decorating the venue
Make friends with your local florist and work out which blooms are the cheapest. Less really can be more, with a simple bouquet allowing the wedding dress to be the star of the show. If you’re marrying in the spring or summer, a posy of freshly picked wildflowers creates the dreamiest aesthetic alongside a vintage or boho dress.
You’ve already thought about choosing a venue that needs minimal additional perking up with decorations. But if you want to add more, get creative and make your own decorations and centrepieces for a crafty cheap wedding. Pinterest is overflowing with ideas, from paper crafts to candles in decorated jars – you can create a romantic ambience on a shoestring. Steer clear of additional fresh flowers for your tables and turn to second-hand centrepieces to save money. If you have friends who married over the past few years, ask to borrow the decorations they used. Glowing candles and soft white fairy lights alone can set the scene for a magical evening celebrating your marriage.
Unless you’re willing to make your own favours, for example, packaging up homemade decorated cookies, chocolates or fudge, don’t worry about giving out these little bags of gifts – they really are an unnecessary expense when you’re on a tight budget.
Capturing the day
Everyone deserves to have their wedding day captured, and the cost-of-living crisis shouldn’t get in the way of that. Photographers and videographers are a significant expense; not everyone is lucky enough to know someone who can offer “mate’s rates”. Enquire about an hourly rate for a professional, avoiding the need for a full day’s service. If you can’t call upon a professional, contact a local photography club to see if anyone is willing to help you out.
If you don’t have a designated photographer or videographer on the day, not only ask a guest to attempt to take formal snaps and footage but ask everyone to get their phones and cameras out to capture moments across the day. Candid, natural shots often become the ones you cherish the most.
Print your own wedding invitations and craft bespoke thank you cards for your wedding on a budget. Let online hobbyists inspire if art and graphic design isn’t your wheelhouse, and to save even more pennies, hand deliver as many as possible to save on stamps.
If you’re still keen to cut back costs further, have a read through these helpful suggestions:
With a bit of forethought, focusing on what means the most to you as a couple and with guests who love you no matter how pared-back the event, a low-budget wedding will be just as emotive, memorable and fun as a luxury one.