Did you know that the average cost of a wedding in the UK in 2017 was an eye-watering £27,161? Despite years of austerity, this is the highest wedding costs have ever been, up almost 10% compared to the previous year.
With the costs of weddings creeping up and becoming more expensive every year, it goes without saying couples need to properly budget in order to keep a handle on spiralling wedding costs.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at wedding budgets, why they’re important and how to create one.
Planning a Wedding Budget
Wedding budgeting will force you to think about the cost that you will incur but, as with all budgets, you have to work with the funds you have available. The first step then is to work out the total amount you will have available, including, hopefully, contributions from parents. Once you decide on the budget, work within that.
The next step is to allocate a budget to each predictable cost. The simplest way to start this process is to break down the spending and allocate a sum to each area of the wedding, starting with the ‘big-ticket’ items. The largest wedding spends are typically: venue hire, food and drink, the bride’s dress, suit hire, photography, entertainment/music, flowers and the honeymoon.
You should then go into the detail and look at every single potential cost. So for the ceremony, for example, that would include the wedding licence, church fees, organist’s fee and more. Consider exactly what each category covers. For example, the bride’s dress could include the veil, jewellery, lingerie and shoes. And don’t forget the hairdresser fees. These comparatively smaller costs can quickly add up.
You want your gown to fit perfectly so put aside extra money for alterations you are likely to need. Be mindful that specialist dry cleaning for the bride’s dress can be costly, so factor that in too.
Opening a Wedding Fund Account
Once you have figured out the total amount you will have to spend on your big day, bearing in mind those often unaccounted for ‘extras’, consider implementing the following steps to help make your wedding budgeting stretch as far as it can, so that your bank account doesn’t stray ‘into the red’ before you’re even married.
It is a very sensible option therefore to open a separate bank account for the wedding fund. Another smart move is to sign up for a credit card that rewards you with air miles.
No matter what you set your wedding budget as, some unexpected cost will inevitably come along and derail your cost-savvy planning. With ‘hidden’ expenses inevitably cropping up, it’s always best to build in a contingency for the unexpected when setting aside cash. Call it a wedding slush fund if you like, but having a bit extra tucked away and outside of your main budget is very good contingency planning. If you don’t spend it then you can always use it on your honeymoon at the end of the day.
Contributions from Parents of the Bride and Groom
It’s highly likely that the father and mother of the bride and groom will be making a significant contribution to the wedding budget (in some cases they may be funding the whole wedding). It’s then prudent to sit down with both sets of parents and get a firm understanding of what they will be contributing before you start setting your budget.
Ideally, you will want to transfer funds from parents of the bride and groom into your main wedding bank account, as this will consolidate all funds in one place, leaving no room for error.
If this isn’t a possibility, then agree on a method for tapping into these separate pools of money. If this is the case, then agree for the parents of the bride or groom to pay for fewer individual big-ticket items rather than a multitude of smaller costs, as this will be far easier to manage. Also, make sure you keep a record (Microsoft Excel is probably the best way of doing this) of how much you’ve spent as you won’t have access to these bank accounts (well it’s unlikely anyway).
Look Out for Hidden Fees
When it comes to wedding budgeting, unconsidered extras are likely to rear their head. For instance, when budgeting for the flowers, think about the different requirements, including buttonholes and corsages, as well as floral arrangements for the ceremony and reception.
Building the budget is about thinking about what you both want on your big day. Remember, you don’t have to be tied to expensive traditions – they’re certainly not compulsory.
Prices for everything are variable according to season and region. Start asking for quotes as early as possible, and ask if the price includes VAT, which for most goods and services adds on another 20%.
Beware of hidden costs and read the small print on contracts. When you get a quote for the venue, be clear about what this includes. You don’t want to find extras charges you haven’t accounted for.
Check with suppliers whether their fees include travel expenses or whether you are expected to pay them. You may want to give a thank-you tip to suppliers such as the musicians, waiting staff or the fabulous wedding planner on the day, which should also be factored in.
Think About Ways You Can Save On Costs
There are numerous ways to save on costs for your big day and keep within budget. We’ve compiled the following list of smart ways to save money and keep within your wedding budget.
Choose a Cheaper Month to Get Wed
A big chunk of the wedding budget will be spent on the venue, so look for deals outside peak times. The most expensive time to get married in the UK tends to be from May through to October and the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Getting married on a crisp, snowy day in January can make an idyllic wedding setting that will cost you considerably less than a wedding in the likes of May, June or July.
Tie the Knot During the Week
Weddings held on a Saturday tend to be more expensive as this is when the likes of caterers, florists, venues and photographers are in biggest demand. If you want to cash in on the price difference, consider getting wed on a Sunday or during the week, when the cost of hiring venues and wedding suppliers are typically less expensive.
Beware of Corkage Costs
Be careful about corkage charges – if your venue is supplying the alcohol there’s no problem. But if you don’t like the venue’s wine list and you are able to supply your drink, check to see if there is a fee as corkage charges, particularly per head, which can be high.
Look for Wedding Night Deals
Some venues offer a complimentary wedding night for the bride and groom and discounted guest rates, particularly if the entire bridal party needs overnight accommodation.
Choose a Non-Wedding Venue
Rather than opting for traditionally more expensive wedding venues, look for alternatives to venues that cater solely for weddings. Consider hiring a pub or a restaurant for an alternative wedding venue that’s considerably cheaper.
Have your Wedding Abroad
Compared to getting married in Britain, the cost of overseas weddings is said to be around £6,585, which compared to the average UK based wedding cost of £27,000, is considerably cheaper.
Think about an idyllic part of the world you’d love to tie the knot and enjoy a memorable wedding that could be significantly cheaper than if you got married in Britain. Of course, if you are opting for a wedding overseas, your family, friends and guests will need plenty of notice about the wedding as it is likely to take up more of their time and cost them more in getting to an overseas destination.
Save on Decorations
You can save money on wedding decorations by picking a venue which already has décor that you love and reflects the style, tone and theme of the wedding.
Scrutinise the Guest List
You can also save money by going through the guest list and cutting down on guests neither you nor your partner desperately want to be at the wedding. A long list means higher catering charges and more postal costs for sending out save-the-date cards, invites and thank-you notes.
Stock the Bar Yourself
Drinks are invariably a big wedding expense but one that is also open to considerable cost savings. Instead of opting for a bar at a venue that charges the earth for drinks, save yourself a lot on money by purchasing drinks from a supermarket, or even a wholesaler, and stock the bar yourself.
Failing that, instead of having an open bar for the whole duration of the reception, only open it up at certain times, like during a free ‘cocktail hour’ or a ‘wine on the happy couple’ hour.
Do the Catering Yourself
Food is said to be the third biggest expense of a wedding. Like saving money on the wedding drinks you could save hordes of cash by doing the catering yourself. Get close friends and family to chip in with the preparing and cooking of the food instead of using caterers which can use up a large chunk of your wedding budget.
Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle on Prices
Wedding suppliers, caterers and venues are used to being brought down in prices and you, therefore, shouldn’t feel compelled to accept the first price you are offered by suppliers.
Put your best haggling head on and negotiate a discount or better price when you are booking a supplier. You may not get the discount you are looking for, but if you don’t ask, you certainly won’t get!
Make Savings on the Wedding Flowers
If you are getting married in a church or registry office, you could share the costs of wedding flowers with the couple whose ceremony is before or after yours. If this is the case, opt for a classic look that will suit both weddings.
Fake it with the Cake
It’s not necessary to have loads of tiers on a wedding cake. Instead, opt for a single tier and cheat by faking the rest of the tiers. The cake will still look good and no one will ever know. If you do go for a seriously tiered cake, serve it as a dessert; this will make a small difference to the catering costs.
Use Your Own Music List
Unless you are desperate to have a band at your wedding, a cheaper alternative is using a specially selected playlist on your iPod or other device for reception music. If you happen to know any DJs, ask them if they’ll play at your wedding (just make sure they’re going to play tunes that will appeal to everyone).
Look for Deals on Hair and Makeup
Having your hair and makeup done for your wedding need not be too expensive. Wedding hair and make-up is a competitive industry and deals are out there to be snapped up and taken advantage of. Do some research into wedding hair and makeup deals. There are lots of big-day beauty packages around which include pre-wedding hair and makeup trials.
Get Creative with the Wedding Preparations
When planning a wedding, it’s often the smaller things that can add up to topple budgets over the edge. Now’s the time to let your creativity flourish to make important savings.
For example, instead of buying expensive wedding invitations, why not make your own? Simply buy card, colourful pens and glitter and get creative by making your own invitations. Or, cheaper still, send invites via email, start a WhatsApp group for the wedding to inform people that way, or even create your own wedding app.
By the same token, if you can’t afford to splash out on expensive flowers for the reception, look for less expensive alternatives, such as putting potted plants with ribbons tied around the pots as wedding table decorations. Not only would such features be significantly cheaper than traditional wedding bouquets, but your guests will be impressed by such unique decorative features and your creativity.
Watch the Budget on Pre-Wedding Celebrations
Watch out for those pre-wedding celebration costs. It would be really tempting to blow some of the budget on an extravagant hen and stag do. Work out in advance who is paying for what and settle up-front for as much as possible to reduce the risk of people pulling out at the last minute, particularly if the celebrations are overseas.
Don’t Forget to Factor in the Honeymoon
Of course, just as pre-wedding celebration costs like the stag and hen dos need to be factored into a wedding budget, so too should the post-wedding celebrations, namely the honeymoon.
Heading off to sunnier climes as a married couple is one of the most exciting parts of a wedding but can also be one of the most expensive! In fact, honeymoons are the second biggest cost of a wedding, costing an average of £3,630.
If you can’t afford to splash out on a trip to Mauritius or the Caribbean, opt for somewhere a little closer to home and less expensive but that’s still bursting with romance.
If you’re determined to enjoy some sunshine and hit the beach on your honeymoon, the sun-kissed Greek islands make a fabulous honeymoon destination that won’t break the budget.
For an exciting and romantic city honeymoon escape, head to a vibrant European city that’s renowned for providing value for money such as Krakow in Poland, Vilnius in Lithuania, or Riga in Latvia.
Or, for couples on even tighter wedding budgets, the diverse and verdant landscape of the United Kingdom can provide romantic honeymoon memories, such as camping in Wales, hiking in Scotland or staying in a romantic seaside retreat in Devon.
With careful planning and an astute mind to seek out the bargains, there is no reason why you should be left seeing red with your wedding budget.