6 min read

How to have a dream wedding for less money

Hannah Patnick
5 June 2017

How much does it cost to get married in the UK? And can you have your dream wedding without breaking the bank?

According to a survey by Barclays, 40% of married Brits regret their wedding bill. And yet, the average cost of a wedding in the UK is currently an eye-watering £25,000.

But can you have a wedding for less than this? Or would cutting costs involve so much compromise that it would ruin your special day? With the summer wedding season underway, it’s as good a time as any to investigate.

How much do wedding ceremonies cost?

Wedding ceremony costs can vary quite wildly, depending on the type, day and location.

A registry office is by far the cheapest way to go. Costs vary from council to council, however, you can typically get married during the weekday for under £75. The cost can rise to upwards of £200 if you opt for a larger venue or want to get married at the weekend.

Religious ceremonies

A Church of England ceremony costs approximately £428. By contrast, some Church of Scotland ministers charge a fixed fee while others require a donation.

In both cases, the overall cost tends to be influenced by the location. Expect to pay more if you want to get married in a historically significant church or popular location.

Catholic ceremonies are usually against payment of a donation. Muslim weddings cost around £300.

Humanist wedding ceremonies can cost between £350 and £1,000 (although they’re only legally recognised in Scotland at present).

Choosing the right reception venue

The venue can use up to half your overall wedding budget. Ironically, it’s also where you can really cut costs without looking cheap.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Avoid saying “wedding”

Venues tend to charge a premium for weddings. You can typically get a cheaper quote by not mentioning it when you enquire. This tip also holds true for other aspects of organising a wedding.

  • Avoid Spring and Summer

These are the most popular times for a wedding. Expect sky-high hire rates, especially at the weekend. Typically, you’ll also have less room for negotiation.

  • Think outside the box

Pubs, restaurants and community halls can make great low-cost venues. You could also consider renting a holiday property. Or, if you’re lucky, a relative or friend may be willing and able to host.

Of course, you’ll need to strike a balance. If the venue is shabby, any savings may be outweighed by the cost of decorating it appropriately.

Feasting like royalty on a budget

The typical wedding catering bill is about £3,959. Again, though, there are several ways you can cut costs without sacrificing quality.

  • Hire a caterer separately

Food and drink usually cost more when they’re packaged with the venue. The venue may also be less flexible. Outsourcing the catering allows you to shop around for someone that’ll give you more bang for your buck.

  • Buy drinks in bulk

Drinks are often significantly cheaper if you buy in bulk from an off-licence chain such as Oddbins or Majestic. Some venues may charge a corkage fee. However, if you do the maths you may find it still works out cheaper.

  • Consider a smaller wedding

Venues and caterers typically charge per head. This means you could potentially make huge savings by hiring a smaller venue and inviting less people. If you’re worried about hurting someone’s feelings, you could use the venue’s size as an excuse.

Saying yes to the dress

Brits spend an average of £1,385 on the wedding dress. And the price can be higher - even upwards of £2,000 - if you want a bespoke or designer dress.

But you could get a stunning gown for much less online or on the high street. Asos and Debenhams, for instance, have wedding dresses priced under £100. You could also give Ebay a try. However, do bear in mind you’ll need to pay for postage and, possibly, import duty.

If you’re not superstitious, you could consider a second hand dress. Oxfam and other charity shops often have very discounted wedding wear. You may even find a gown for free on a website like Freecycle.

You can use these tips to make equally large savings on the groom’s suit, bridesmaids’ dresses and groomsmen’s suits.

Odds and ends - other ways to control costs

While the ceremony, reception and attire take up the largest portion of a wedding budget, other items can add up too.

Here’s a list of other expenses and some tips on keeping costs low:

  • Music

You can often get a much cheaper band or DJ quote by not mentioning the “w” word. You could also ditch them altogether and make your own Spotify playlists.

  • Invites

One of the easiest ways to dramatically slash your budget is to forgo paper invites completely. Send guests an e-vite or create a Facebook event instead.

  • Photography

Wedding photography can cost upwards of £500. You can bring this down without skimping by hiring a hobbyist or a pro who doesn’t specialise in weddings. Alternatively, consider creating a Facebook group or Twitter hashtag where guests can upload their own smartphone pics and videos.

  • Flowers

The local market or grocery shop are often much cheaper than wedding specialists. Or, if you have a green thumb, try growing flowers yourself. The Huffington Post also has a great resource on how to save money on wedding flowers.

by Hannah Patnick

In her previous life Hannah was a consumer journalist making primetime television shows. Now she's ClearScore's Content Producer. Amongst her many talents, Hannah is famed for her excellent tea-making skills.

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