Do you know how much a wedding costs? Chances are, unless you've actually planned one, you’re blissfully unaware. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but the average cost of a wedding has now hit a frankly terrifying £27,000. Nope, we’re not kidding.
As a generation that has faced a recession and the rising price of, well, pretty much everything, most of us are gradually coming to terms with the fact that we’ll probably never be homeowners (or at least not for a while). So what is it that makes people feel the need to spend so much on their big day?
Is it to make sure their guests have a good time? Is it because they think that the more extravagant the wedding, the more successful the marriage will be? Or is it perhaps down to the influence that social media has on our lives? From bloggers to celebrities, we’re constantly inundated with pictures of the lives of others, and it’s only natural that we feel the need to live up to at least some of the expectations set out for us.
Take, for example, the royal wedding. Obviously we’re not quite royalty, but the amount of Harry and Meghan-style wedding inspiration we’ve been subjected to since the engagement… well, if you happen to be planning your day alongside the royal couple, then we can only imagine you must be feeling at least some kind of pressure.
Now, what if we told you that you could throw an amazing wedding for less than an eighth of the cost of what Meghan and Harry are rumoured to have spent on sausage rolls alone? Molly Pitt's wedding to husband Ben at Trowbridge County Hall in Frome last year, followed by an afterparty in a local field, cost a grand total of £3,000.
"When I first started planning our wedding, I was so shocked by the amount of pressure surrounding Every. Little. Detail. You want to be able to please everybody and have things the way that you’ve always imagined," Molly explains. "But we’d just finalised buying a house at the end of September after getting engaged in the May, so a lot of our spare cash went towards the deposit. We also aren't very extravagant when it comes to spending on regular things, so we just couldn't face spending so much money on a day that turns into a memory. At the end of the day, it's a marriage not just a wedding day."
It’s inevitable that you’re going to have to fork out somewhat on the essentials – food, a venue, and whatever else is important to you. But vendors can smell a marriage from a mile off. When getting quotes, simply holding back on telling them it’s for a wedding can end up saving you big bucks. "A couple of times I used 'event' rather than 'wedding' to try to compare prices," Molly says. "It's crazy how much companies can put prices right up for a booking during peak wedding season."
There are a number of other ways that you can keep from overspending for your wedding day. Don’t believe us? Molly’s living proof that you don’t have to splash the cash in order to have an incredibly fun day…
Hair and makeup
Everyone’s different and for some, paying to have their own personal glam squad on their wedding day to save them getting flustered when their cat-eye looks more dog-eye, is totally worth the spend. But it could also be a major saving area.
Molly: "Most women do their hair and makeup on a daily basis now, right? I get that some worry about the staying power, but for me, investing in a good setting spray that I’d use again and practising a YouTube tutorial a few times made more sense than paying an extortionate price for hair and makeup that doesn't make you feel like you. Obviously everyone is different, as is the vibe of how you want your day to go, but to me, it was such an unnecessary expense."
Ah, food glorious food… there’s no avoiding this one. But there is a way to keep it low-key. We all want our guests to feel well fed and watered, but splurging on some fancy pants three-courser isn’t necessarily the way to do this. How many weddings have you been to that, while very lovely and you were totally happy for the couple, were, for a lack of better words, pretty f***ing boring? Standing around for ages, starving because you probably didn’t have breakfast (rookie error), only to be faced with a tepid hog roast. Ungrateful, yes – but pizza and beers will do most people just fine!
Molly: "We catered for 80 guests for lunch with a 'posh picnic' menu. There were huge bowls of various salads, vegan dishes and homemade scotch eggs! Not a single person had special treatment regarding preference – we made good food for everyone. We had all hands on deck the day before, chopping tomatoes and putting dishes together. All we had to do was pay for the ingredients. There was also so much food left over from lunchtime that we ended up whipping it back out later, firing up a barbecue, and creating 'gourmet' burgers using the vast amounts of cheeses, chutneys and amazing salads!"
Food’s significant other – this will no doubt be another key factor in how content your guests will be on your wedding day, if that’s important to you. An open bar will end up with a pretty hefty price tag – even the cost of after-ceremony fizz, drinks for the toast and table wine all adds up! Buying booze in bulk and looking for a venue that allows you to bring your own will result in major saving.
Molly: "We provided bottles of wine on the tables for during the lunch and a good lot of fizz, but we’d written on the invitations to BYOB. My family was a bit sceptical about this, as they thought it was cheaping-out your guests, but the idea was very well received! That way, people were able to spend exactly what they wanted on booze, rather than paying loads for a pint. My dad made us a bar and some 'beer baths' so that guests could put their drinks in and take what they wanted out!"
The customary thinking is that your invitations set the tone for your day – they’re the first glimpse into your wedding. But is that worth the (often very pricy) cost of bespoke invitations, plus postage? These days, a DIY job or even e-invites will save a big chunk of your budget. Plus, your friends and family know you – ‘setting the tone’ just seems a little bit old-fashioned, in our books. Like, if they didn’t like the ‘tone’, would that mean they wouldn’t come? Err, we don’t think so…
Molly: "I think couples pay far too much for a piece of card that is, one day, just going to go in the recycling bin. I designed and produced all of ours myself for about £3. Yeah, they may have been a little flimsy, but I couldn't bring myself to spend nearly £200!"
Photography and videography
Having epic, super arty photos, or even a short, edited video of your wedding day definitely has its merits. It all depends on what’s important to you, though. If you’d rather cut costs elsewhere so that you have a video of your day that’ll last a lifetime, that’s totally fine. But you might be surprised to discover how many talented friends you have that would love to step into the pro-photographer shoes for the day. Setting up a website where guests can upload their photos, or an email for them to send them to is another way to get your guests involved and have amazing, candid photographs.
Creating your own photo booth is another way of making sure you get a lot of memories, without having to pay a penny. Use a digital camera that has a timer option, position it on a tripod, then leave a big box of props – think big frames, wigs, masks, fake moustaches, anything drunk people will find funny (if you don’t have any, guaranteed your local charity shop will have some gems) and ta-dah!
Molly: "We’re super fortunate to be surrounded by so many people with such creative talents. I was really put off by posed photos; we almost didn't have a photographer at all. Luckily, Ben had asked his talented cousin and a couple of our friends to bring their cameras along and snap away. Some of the photos are just incredible. We also had an Instagram hashtag, so we could look at our wedding from our guests’ perspectives."
You might be surprised at how expensive a DJ or live band can be – or at how drunk people don’t tend to notice how much effort you’ve put into planning the night’s entertainment. If you’re not huge on this aspect of other people’s weddings, then creating a playlist to plug in and leave on will more than suffice. You could even ask your guests to send a song request along with their RSVP – it helps you out, and there’s guaranteed to be at least one person whooping and occupying the dance floor for every song.
Molly: "As a couple, we’re all about music. We compiled our three-and-a-half-hour playlist on Spotify of songs we love. One Friday evening, we started drinking at around 8pm and, as we continued to drink, added to the playlist what we thought we’d like to listen to, the more drunk we got. By the time we got to around 11pm on the wedding evening, there was a full-blown '90s rave, which then wound down into the last three songs – "Heroes" by David Bowie, "Purple Rain" by Prince and finishing off with "I Am The Resurrection" by The Stone Roses. I've had so many people ask me for copies of the playlist!"
While, undoubtedly, your venue is going to be one of your main costs, the decoration could be a DIY job. A huge flower display might seem like an absolute necessity (even if it is just for the ‘gram) but believe us, no one will miss it if it isn’t there – you included. Making your own decorations out of cost-effective materials (think paper cranes, painted balloons, garlands and so on) can be a fun activity to do with your bridesmaids. Tiring, yes… but fun.
Molly: "I ordered about 80 rainbow-coloured paper pom-poms from eBay and an entire width’s worth of silver tassel curtain. We hung the pom-poms from the ceiling and the silver curtains just looked amazing when the disco lights hit them in the evening. We also borrowed about 200 metres of fairy lights from my workplace."
This is a bit of an awkward one – you want your girls to adhere to your style board, but you also don’t want to have to pay too much for their dresses. You also want them to feel comfortable and confident in whatever they wear. It’s always going to be tricky. But relinquishing a bit of control and letting your bridesmaids choose their own dresses can actually lift a huge stress off you – and off them. Maybe suggesting a colour scheme and vibe, then leaving the rest to them is a way to have the best of both worlds? Plus, they’re your best friends – they’re not going to want to cause you any more stress than is necessary... right?
Molly: "All of my girl gang were happy to buy their own outfits. That way, they knew how much of a budget they could afford. They’re also insanely different, body- and style-wise, so it would have been a real shame to put them all in the same dress. I gave the girls a colour I had in mind and left the rest to them. They looked absolutely stunning in their own individual ways. I couldn't have done a better job myself."
Whatever you decide is important to you on your wedding day, that’s where you want to spend most of your budget. Because making decisions based on what other people expect, or what you think you should do, isn’t going to be the reason you remember how special your day was. Plus, the people you invite are there because they love you and want to see you happy – and, while making sure everyone has a good time is important, ultimately, what you and your partner want out of your day is the main thing to consider.
Molly’s cost breakdown:
The ceremony: £600
The marquee: £1,250
The outfits: £270
The food: £400
The drinks: £150
All the other bits: £330
The marquee: £1,250
The outfits: £270
The food: £400
The drinks: £150
All the other bits: £330