Cut wedding costs by 75% without trying

Slash the cost of a wedding by 75% without trying - or by 95% with a bit more effort

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A4PHY1 Bride and groom breaking piggy bank

The average wedding officially costs more than £25,000, according to Brides Magazine. It's difficult to imagine how this could be possible, but it goes on to itemise the individual costs and they rack up astonishingly - from almost £3,000 for the wedding venue, to nearly £4,000 for the catering. The good news is that none of this insane excess is actually necessary, because you can easily cut your costs - without compromising on the wedding you want.

I'm getting married this year, and have learned the seven secrets to beating the monster wedding budget.

1. Make the hard decisions first

Spending £25,000 is easy when you spend a small fortune on all of your guests, and then invite the world and his wife. If you want to keep the costs down, you need to make a choice at the outset: do you want to be able to spend more per head and invite fewer people, or do you want everyone there - and as a result are happier to work harder on the budget per head? Once you have made this decision, it will drive everything else.

2. Pick your wedding venue very carefully

Your choice will have a massive impact on your budget. If keeping the costs down is key, then the price of the venue itself is only one of a handful of vital considerations. You also need to look at the flexibility the venue offers. If, for example, they let you pick your own caterer, supply your own alcohol without corkage, and book your own entertainment, then you can pick the options that suit your budget. If it all comes with the venue, then you're at their mercy.

It's also important to look at whether you can have the ceremony and reception in the same venue - which is far more cost-effective than looking two venues. And finally, consider whether you want an attractive location - or whether you will go with something simple and decorate it yourself.

3. Decide on what is important to you

The survey reveals huge sums are being spent on all sorts of things you may not care about at all. The photographer costs an average of over £1,000, the flowers £638, the cake £300, the bridesmaids' outfits £436, the Bridal party morning makeover £301,and the entertainment £773. At the outset you need to decide whether any of these things are really important to you. If not, then either scrap them or opt for a low-budget alternative.

For my wedding, for example, have opted for playlist on an iPad and hiring an amplifier and some lights, for a fraction of the entertainment cost. The bridesmaids dresses, meanwhile, are nice high street dresses, the bridal party will be doing each other's makeup and hair, and we have decided that our venue doesn't need much decoration or flowers (more of which later). You don't even have to have a photographer, as there are free websites which let your guests upload and share photos of the day.

4. Shop cleverly

The simple rule of thumb is that there's always an amazing and award-winning option a mid-range one (which means a bit of compromise), and a low cost one (which is often more work for you). Before you buy any services, decide which option you are prepared to go for.

With the photographer, for example, a high-end shoot with a couple of photographers and fancy albums will set you back £2,000, a mid-range deal without the fancy album and with fewer hours shooting can cost as little as £500, and getting friends and family to upload all the photos of the day to a website (and making a point of asking talented friends to take plenty of pictures) costs nothing.

Likewise with the caterer, if you have flexibility, you can opt for a swanky package. Alternatively, you can call and discuss the options, which will let you set a budget and then see what they can offer for it. By careful menu selections and opting for a table buffet, we have a brilliant menu for £15 a head. Add in wine bought during a supermarket 25% off promotion, and that's all the food and drink (including a snack for late night party-goers) for £20 a head.

If you want to cut costs even further, you can ask clever friends to bring dishes to share, and either operate a BYOB policy, or hire a company to run a paid bar all night.

5. Buy second-hand

This is particularly worthwhile for big costs like the rings and the wedding dress. The survey found that the average bridal outfit costs more than £1,500. However, if you search on sites like Preloved, you can easily snap it all up for £500.

The rings, meanwhile, can be had at a massive discount. The survey found an average of more than £3,000 for the engagement ring and £800 for the wedding rings. Shopping around can bring the total closer to £1,000 for them all, while second hand bargains can bring it down to £400. Just to be clear, this doesn't mean compromising on quality.

6. Get a little help from your friends

Talented friends can save you a fortune. Before you buy stationery, check if you know someone who can design something you can print off yourself. Also think about whether you know any clever florists, cake bakers, photographers or dressmakers. They could all save you a packet.

Even if your friends can't help with the practicalities, you can ask your wedding guests to fund your honeymoon. Asking for honeymoon contributions as a gift is quite normal now. The survey found that the average honeymoon costs almost £4,500, and while you're unlikely to get all this from your guests, you can fund a getaway for the two of you.

7. Use Pinterest the right way
There are millions of people using Pinterest to boost their wedding expectations, and collect pictures of an enormous number of extravagances that they expect on the day. This is clearly not the way to use Pinterest to save money.

The best way is to use it to generate ideas for cost-effective and clever solutions. I found, for example, a way to make paper roses from old books, and have made bouquets for myself and all my bridesmaids - plus table centrepieces - for a total of around £50. Similarly, I tracked down a way to make cake stands from old records, so have a selection of cake stands for less than £1 each.

The survey
Wedding venue £2,790
Reception venue £3,919
Catering £3,959
Photography £1,046
Flowers £638
Cake £300
Entertainment £773
Bride's outfit £1,677
Stationery £271
Bridesmaids outfits £436
Mother-of-the-bride outfit £349
Groom's outfit £439
Beauty £301
Engagement ring and two wedding rings £3,846
Other wedding jewellery £176
Honeymoon £4,413
Total £25,333

My mid-range solution
Joint wedding and reception venue £3,000
Clever catering £2,000
Photography £500
Flowers £50
Cake £100
Entertainment £150
Bride's outfit £400
Stationery £50
Bridesmaid's outfits £100
Mother-of-the-bride outfit £0 (she has plenty of beautiful dresses already)
Groom's outfit £0 (he already has a nice suit)
beauty £0
Engagement ring and two wedding rings £400
Other wedding jewellery £0
Honeymoon £0

£6,750

The lowest budget options
Wedding in a church and village hall £300
Catering by friends and hiring a paid bar £400
Photography by friends £0
Flowers £50
Cake by friends £0
Entertainment £150
Bride's outfit (high street dress) £150
Stationery (emails) £0
Bridesmaid's outfits (no bridesmaids) £0
Mother-of-the-bride outfit £0
Groom's outfit £0
beauty £0
Engagement ring and two wedding rings £400
Other wedding jewellery £0
Honeymoon £0

Total £1,450

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