Bridezillas are wasting thousands: you can have a fairytale on a shoestring

Pendennis Catle keep

A new study has revealed that women hold the purse strings when it comes to planning a wedding, and as a result they spend 50% more on themselves than they do on the groom.

The research, by Amigo loans, found that on average brides spend £6,000 directly on themselves - covering everything from the dress and shoes to the hair and makeup, the flowers, and - of course - the ring. Meanwhile, the groom splashes just £4,000 on himself. It's no surprise that separate studies show the average cost of a wedding has topped £20,000.

This is a horrifying amount of money to spend on a single day. Brides tell themselves that they want to have a magical fairytale day, and that money is no object.

In reality these are two very separate decisions.

Magic on a shoestring

It's perfectly possible to have a magical wedding and feel like a million dollars, but spend less than a third of the average wedding budget. We reveal the seven secrets to magic on a shoestring.

1. Choose your venue ruthlessly
You want magical, and yet affordable, so how about a castle? English Heritage has some surprisingly affordable deals and, for example, you can get married and have your reception in Pendennis Castle in Cornwall for just £1,700.

Keep exterior

2. Stay flexible
Part of your venue choice should be about flexibility. Fairytales on budgets mean negotiating to use a cheaper caterer, doing a deal on corkage - or better yet, finding a venue where you're not charged corkage at all.

3. Decide what's important to you
You don't have to have everything. You don't have to cut everything to the bone either, but decide what will really make things magical for you, and spend your money there. If you don't really mind about a silver-service meal, then have the food served in serving dishes on each table for a fraction of the cost. If you're not concerned about favours, then save your cash. And ask yourself if you really need those chair covers.

Finally, you may well want a photographer, but do you need one for the whole day, and then do you need to pay them for a couple of days putting a swanky album together? A half day, with an online gallery could save you over £1,500.

4. Buy secondhand
If you want a posh designer dress rather than one from the high street, that's possible - as long as you are prepared to buy second-hand. In reality, this dress will have been worn once, for less than 14 hours. There must be high street dresses that have been tried on for longer periods than this. You can try everywhere from preloved and eBay to Oxfam's specialist wedding dress shops, and pick up a £2,000 dress for £300 - like the one below.

You might be tempted to buy a knock-off version of a designer favourite online, but stories of endless disappointed brides who paid hundreds of pounds for a dress disaster will hopefully be enough to put you off.

Wedding dress

5. Use what you already have
If you want the perfect wedding, then the chances are that this isn't the first time you've wanted something perfect, so take advantage of the wonderful things you already own. If you already have lovely jewellery, do you need a brand new ring or necklace for the wedding? And as for shoes - surely everyone already has too many of those.

6. Use your imagination
If you spot something beautiful and want to buy it, stop, and think of a cheaper way to do it. Ikea and the supermarkets are a surprisingly affordable source of everything from tissue paper for garlands to hurricane lamps, candles, and sweet jars.

Sweet jars

7. Be prepared to get your hands dirty
You don't need to be having a rustic wedding in order to get stuck into craft. There are all sorts of crafts that can look incredibly expensive, but cost very little. The floral decorations below, for example, cost less than £10 each after a hunt in Tesco and a few hours of craft. The ivy-covered pillars behind, meanwhile, cost £6 for the lights, and half an hour of snipping ivy from a friend's back garden. This kind of approach can be so much more personal too - as the paper flowers were made from the bride's favourite book.

Paper floral centrepiece

£20,983 wedding: where the money goes
See Gallery
£20,983 wedding: where the money goes

This is the biggest expense, and accounts for 16% of everything couples spend on the wedding. There are endless dramatic places to splash the cash, and if you want to get married in a castle, on a beach, or in a major historic property, it’s all perfectly possible - for a price.

However, there will be those who wonder why the wedding can’t take place in a church or a smart registry office - and the reception in a village hall. These places certainly exist, and could cut the venue hire cost down to a couple of hundred pounds.

It’s not hard to see why couples fancy blowing a fortune on an incredible holiday, but it begs the question of whether it’s such a practical idea.

There’s no earthly reason why two such enormous costs have to be bunched together like this. Surely a wiser approach would be to get married, and then start saving for a great holiday. You don't have to be on a white beach in the sun for it to be romantic or memorable.

This is a huge sum for feeding a few people, and is often the result of the fact that when you are booking a venue, you will be tied into using their caterer.

It’s one reason why a fantastic way to cut costs is to find a venue that lets you do it yourself. That way you can choose between setting out a cold buffet in the morning on a shoestring, or hiring in a cut-price catering option, like a gourmet burger or pizza van.

This includes the cost of an engagement ring and two wedding rings. There will be couples who argue that this is something that you’ll wear every day for the rest of your life, so is worth investing in.

There will be others who highlight that by shopping around you can get the lot (including the obligatory diamond) for less than £400, and anything else is pure vanity.

This includes a heart-stopping £1,098 for the bride’s dress. Just to be clear, that’s a grand for a dress you wear once.

There are hundreds of second hand dresses on sale on sites like preloved if you’re after the big meringue, or you could get one made from scratch for a couple of hundred pounds. Then if you sell it on again afterwards, your dress could cost you less than 20% of this insane figure.

If you’re stuck buying the overpriced booze offered by a posh venue, you’ll easily bust the budget, and if you bring your own to a venue like this they’ll sting you for corkage instead.

A much better idea is to find somewhere that lets you bring your own - and after the first few drinks, ask a local pub to run a bar for you.

The argument in favour of spending a fortune on photos is that this is one aspect of the day that really will last, and if you skimp on the photographer, you won't have a beautiful album to linger over for decades to come.

That said, you'll probably have one hour of looking at your best during your wedding - from when you walk down the aisle, to the moment you have finished taking the obligatory formal photos. There’s nothing stopping you bringing in a professional for that hour, and then setting up a Facebook page for your friends to post all the photos they take throughout the rest of the day and night.

The live band feels vital for some couples, but ask yourself, when was the last time you were blown away by the live band at a wedding?

A far cheaper option is to make your own disco. It’s easy enough to hire some speakers and lights, switch it all on, plug an MP3 player in, and get your favourite music all night for next to nothing.


How to Organize a Fairytale Wedding
Read Full Story