16 Feb 2016
Champagne weddings on a lemonade budget: Creating maximum effect with a minimal cost
I’ve been in this business for five years now and seen every type of wedding you can imagine: from the hugely extravagant, to the cosy family gatherings. During this time, I have seen some seriously clever planning that has resulted in some great savings for our brides and grooms, and I feel that now is the time to share some of it with you all. This is going to be a fairly long post, so grab yourself a brew and we’ll get started.
You’ve got a sparkler on your finger and you cannot wait to get cracking with the planning, but before you go crashing into your venue of choice with a fist full of notes, consider wedding insurance. I know it’s not one of the exciting components of wedding planning, and I sure hope you never have to use it, but seriously give it some consideration. Policies start from £20 and cover you in a multitude of circumstances, such as illness and supplier failure (each policy is different so do check your terms before signing up). If you’re sitting here thinking, “how on Earth does this save me money?” then, trust me, it will do you a great service should your wedding be cancelled or something went wrong.
The rings that seal the deal. You want them to be special, and convey to the world your love and devotion to one another, but you don’t want to sell your house and first born child to afford them. I have seen so many brides use heirloom rings that belonged to parents and relatives, but brought them up to date by having stones replaced or even having them dipped in a different coloured metal. For example, you may not be completely enamoured by great gran’s yellow gold ring, but this can easily be dipped in white gold for a more modern look. Another option is to take your old jewellery and get it melted down and remoulded into a ring. KPR Jewellery in Formby, Merseyside told me about this years ago and I was blown away that something old could be turned into something new (all you need after that is your something borrowed and something blue!) This is surprisingly cost effective, and will save you a serious amount of money that can go back into the wedding budget.
Shopping for wedding attire is both fun and stressful in equal measure, so it is easy to become so exhausted that you just end up going completely over budget just to get it out of the way. I would absolutely love to tell you that I have a list of reputable replica suppliers that will smash out a Maggie Sottero dress for £50, but sadly, of all the brides I know who have purchased replica dresses, it really has been hit and miss. Some of them have been absolutely delighted with what they have received, whereas others have been sorely disappointed. The problem with replica dresses is that they can take months to arrive, and if you are not satisfied, it can cost up to £50 in postage to return it for alterations. If you have concerns, or know you won’t be able to afford to replace a replica should it not be up to scratch, then don’t take the risk. Every month or so we hear about new bridal outlets opening with dresses under £500, and many of them are absolutely stunning. It is also worth checking out wedding fayres as many suppliers will offer huge discounts on their display dresses on the day. However, if getting a traditional dress is out of budget, or your wedding is a little more low key, there is still a multitude of options available to you: The old faithful, Monsoon, still has a beautiful array of wedding dresses online, as do Debenhams and British Home Stores. Also, www.asos.com has recently released a fabulous range of bridesmaids dresses, many of which could easily be used as a wedding dress and cost less than £100. If you’re looking for a tea length/prom dress, Vivien of Holloway have some amazing dresses, all for less that £130. You could always add a bit of character by teaming it up with a colourful petticoat underneath. If you’re willing to be flexible, you will certainly find wedding dresses in non traditional outlets.
As for the gents, I cannot recommend enough the savings you will get from hiring the suits rather than buying them. Yes, I know, that is probably the most obvious thing I will state in this post, but so far I have not come across any other way to keep this particular cost down unless the men in your party own their suits already. The only extra piece I would add is that you should not be afraid to haggle: many suppliers will offer the groom’s suit hire for free if you hire a certain amount of suits for the rest of the party. If Moss Bros etc is a bit out of budget, try Debenhams and other high street retailers that have branched out into suit hire over recent years.
The Venue/ Venue dressing
The one component that will gobble up the majority of your wedding budget. In my experience, venues are all about the dressing: it is better to dress a budget venue well than have a high end venue and not be able to afford to do anything to it. Please be aware, when I use the term “venue dressing” I do not mean spending thousands on fancy lights and centrepieces, any venue can be made beautiful with a little effort and forward planning. Now, before you go on a DIY frenzy and blow your life savings at Hobbycraft, seriously consider how stressed you may (ok, most likely will) be the week before your wedding. Do you really want to be spraying mason jars with glitter two days before your wedding? Probably not, leave that to your suppliers, we get paid to be stressed for you! So, how do you keep your basic venue costs down? For starters, go to the venue itself and ASK! Venue pricing has become increasingly competitive in recent years, driving down the basic package cost for many venues. Before you write off your dream venue, get in contact with them directly rather than relying on internet forums and general assumption. I was pretty surprised to learn recently that The Vincent Hotel, a fabulous modern art deco venue here in Southport, has packages for 40 day/night guests from £2,400, whereas I would expect a venue of that calibre to start from £6,000. The moral of the story is it is always worth an ask. Whilst you’re at it, find out what discounts are available for weddings out of season and on weekdays: Friday weddings cost a lot less than Saturday weddings, and a Monday wedding in Winter is going to be considerably cheaper again. There are serious savings to be had if you are willing to compromise on dates.
If using a hotel venue is out of budget, then you could hire a function room, a church hall, or even use your back garden. It is so sad to think of all those beautiful church halls out there that are not being used for weddings since that sort of venue fell out of fashion. Despite the vintage revival of late, many of these stunning halls are still overlooked in favour of function rooms, which really is a shame given the space, blank canvas and acoustics these halls can provide. Not to mention, you can hire many church halls and function rooms from as little as £50 (some are even free if a specific amount is spent at the bar). Some of the most beautiful weddings I have attended have been in church halls, function rooms, and even gazebos at peoples houses. If you are a vintage fanatic then this type of venue is perfect for you as they can easily be dressed with bunting, home made decorations, and jars of fresh garden flowers. You can also keep costs down by opting for a dessert buffet rather than a full meal, or you can follow the American “pot luck” principle where you ask all the guests to please bring something homemade to add to the buffet. I will be the first to admit that some of these venues are not the most attractive outside, but once you are inside and celebrating with your guests, you honestly will not
If you are not the DIY type, or you simply will not have the time, then I would recommend doing some in depth research into venue interiors before booking. When you look at wedding venues online they are, quite understandably, shown in their best light, with chair covers and magnificent centrepieces. If you have your heart set on a hotel/specialist wedding venue, find out what the venue looks like “stripped down”, as you may be pleasantly surprised. Venues such as 30 James Street (Home of the Titanic) in Liverpool look absolutely stunning as they are, and you could get away with putting a large portion of your budget into booking it given you won’t necessarily need to do a lot to it. However, if you end up putting several thousand into a venue that needs a lot of dressing, you could easily fall down the rabbit hole of spending upon spending just to get it looking presentable.
If you have a small group of guests (less than 30), consider a restaurant wedding reception: many restaurants have private rooms that you can rent out (or are often free if everyone is eating) and provide a reduced price menu for larger numbers of guests. This option is ideal for anyone having a registry office wedding and who wants a small, informal gathering rather than a big do. There are some beautiful, romantically intimate restaurants that are ideal for this sort of thing, so it is certainly worth looking into for a modern, informal affair.
One last thing worth mentioning when it comes to venues is that it is always worth asking if they offer discounts with their affiliated suppliers: We currently offer discounts of up to 15% with The Royal Clifton, The Vincent, The Bold Hotel, The Prince of Wales Hotel, and 30 James Street. If your venue has a decent supplier list with reasonable discounts, you could end up saving a fair amount that could be used elsewhere in your wedding budget.
The Cake and the Flowers:
Of course, the cake! I’m not going to waffle on about cake for too long, as all the hints and tips I have on that matter were featured in my post last week. There are still some decent money saving tips to be had though, including having a (gasp) false cake. Please be aware that the majority of the cost of your wedding cake is in the decoration: the time spent making it beautiful far outweighs the time spent baking it, so if you were to ask us to decorate a dummy cake in full for you, the discount will be minimal. However, if you got lucky and came into our shop and saw a display cake that you like, then we can hire it to you for a small fee. You can then order some sheet cakes to be cut up for the guests once the cake is taken into the kitchen for “cutting” and your guests shall be none the wiser. This represents a huge saving in your wedding budget, but does depend on a display cake being available that is to your exact tastes. If you have your heart set on a real cake, you can still keep costs down by providing us with foam flowers to decorate your cake with. Foam Flowers by Joanne in Maghull have some beautiful arrangements and her prices are super reasonable. We are able to provide a stacked, plain iced cake for a lot cheaper than a decorated one, and we would never charge you to put flowers on your cake if you are providing them.
With regards to flowers, always shop around and check out small, independent suppliers. Ask what is in season when you are getting married, as importing flowers is always more costly than those available at that time of year. Also bear in mind that you will always pay a premium on flowers if your are getting married on or around Valentines/Mothers Day. This isn’t your florist shafting you, they are getting charged a premium by their suppliers at that time of year. Many florists also act as venue dressers, so do double check as discounts can often be provided if you are getting several items from one supplier (Fantasy Weddings opposite us is great for this sort of thing). Also, keep an open mind if you want to keep your costs down when it comes to flowers: I once did a wedding where the centrepieces and bouquets were all made of gypsophilia, which is relatively inexpensive and often used as a filler, but it looked absolutely amazing. Be straight with your florist, tell them you’re on a budget, and see what they can come up with. You may be surprised at what is available out there.
Photographers, favours, and other bits and pieces
Ok, I know, there are approximately 4.6 gazillion photographers out there and their prices vary wildly, I get that, so I am not going to bore you with details of how to sieve through them all. What I will say, however, is if you want to find a cheap, up and coming photographer, put down the bridal magazines and check out Facebook and Instagram. There are loads of incredible, young, vibrant wedding photographers who are bang on trend when it comes to pictures and editing, but they don’t have £3000 to publish an advert in Brides magazine. Plus, social media is an excellent way of finding out what their customers really think, whilst seeing clear examples of their work. Paused Motion in Merseyside and RBF Photography in Manchester are both outstanding examples of this. Get online and check out your local suppliers before forking out thousands to a national chain or franchise.
Favours: Easy peasy, and fun to make weeks before the wedding (as long as they’re not edible). Some of the best wedding favours I have seen are quirky items such as mini plant pots and seeds at a Spring wedding, and cinnamon scented bathbombs at a Winter wedding. Also, if you add name tags to your favours, they can double up as your place settings. If you need packaging or inspiration, wholesalers such as County Baskets are now open to the public. However, I would recommend that you make your purchases online as you will end up buying half of the warehouse and convincing yourself that £20 for a life sized wicker reindeer is an absolute bargain, even though you don’t need one.
Finally, wedding cars: if you really want to keep costs down, find out what your taxi firm has available. I have seen many couples hire a white Mercedes from their local taxi company: they often put ribbon on the front and, no they don’t turn up with taxi stickers on the side! This is a brilliant way of saving up to £1500 and will still get you to your venue in time for your big celebration.
I want to end this post by reminding you all that, whilst weddings are magical and most certainly one of the most important days of your life, it is, in reality, just one day. Now I totally understand people saying “well, it’s just one day so I need to break the bank and make the most of it”, and I think that’s great, you should do whatever makes you happy. But what really matters is the people who spend it with you, and that the people you love are there to help you celebrate your big day, be it in a castle or a caravan. The one thing I hear over and over from our previous couples is that the day just flew by, and that is true, it will be over before you know it. So don’t worry if you’re on a small budget or can’t afford what you thought was the wedding of your dreams, because when it comes to the day itself, it will be everything you ever dreamed of.
Have a great week guys.