1) The wedding date. Obviously weekends are at a premium, and you can add on that little bit more in the summer months as well. Decide how important a weekend wedding is – in most cases it can’t be avoided, but it will have a significant effect on your budget when you realise how venues, photographers, car hire etc. all have increased prices for these prime days and dates.
2) The location. For both receptions and civil ceremonies in licensed venues, it pays to have a good look around before setting your heart on one. Compare prices for the room, the catering and the accommodation. Don’t be afraid to negotiate – remember, at the end of the day, you are business for them.
3) The guest list. Here’s a tricky one! We’re going to be mean here – now if you’re paying for the wedding yourself, only invite people you will be happy to see and share your day with. Imagine which of your friends and family will bring a huge smile to your face as you see them for the first time on the big day. If you only exchange Christmas cards and haven’t spoken to them in over a year, are they really worth all that cost?
When parents are involved with paying for the wedding, you have an obligation to listen to their requests. The best way to do this is draw up your own list as above and then allocate ‘x’ number of people to each set of parents. Let them make the hard decisions and it takes the strain off you. Don’t forget, for your sanity, if you have any family members you most definitely do not want invited, discuss this with your parents when giving them their list to fill. It’s always better to be open and honest from the outset.
4) The rings. Having your rings made especially for you may not cost as much as you think and you’re guaranteed something truly unique. If you want something special, discuss this with a local jewellery designer. If you have some ideas, sketch them and take them along – you’ll never know until you ask!
5) The dress. Magazines are great for ideas (or go to http://www.images.google.com and type in ‘wedding dresses’ as the search) – cut out pictures of your favourite styles and take them along to a few dress designers and get quotes for them making something similar. Ask for their advice when choosing fabrics that may still look fantastic, but may be more cost effective. As I’ve mentioned before, don’t be afraid to negotiate – especially if you have bridesmaids dresses or other outfits involved. Ever thought about Ebay? Most brides only ever wear their dress the once. If has has been professionally cleaned (costs about £120) then it should look just like new. It is not uncommon to see a £1,500 dress selling for £100 on Ebay. Factor in £150 to get it altered and £120 to get it cleaned and you’ll end up with a bargain! It can work the other way as well. A friend of mine bought a pair of new Jimmy Choo wedding shoes for £400, wore them once for her wedding and sold them on Ebay for £300 the following week. £100 cost for a pair of Jimmies!!
6) The honeymoon. As with any holiday, peak season will affect the price. You want a fantastic time and a holiday you will always remember – but don’t let that stop you from shopping around! There are so many travel websites offering amazing deals, that once you’ve decided when and where you are going, take the time to phone, visit or e-mail as many travel agents as possible to see what they can quote.
7) Photography & videos. Let’s start with photography first – you definitely get what you pay for, so my advice here for trimming costs is to spend time discussing what sort of shots you want, and exactly how many. Think about whether you want photos of the hours before the ceremony as well as the hours after. The fewer shots and less time your photographer is around, the cheaper it will get!
Video – do you really need this as well as the photos? If I’m being blunt, how many times will you ever watch this again in comparison to flicking through your photo albums. You will have to pay a fair amount to get a decent result so you could save the money here and get more photos instead.
8) Florists & Flowers. Fresh flowers are beautiful, but they also come with a hefty price tag and sadly don’t last much beyond the day. Keep flowers to a minimum but with maximum effect! Cut the costs by doing the flowers yourself, or if you have a family member who’s good at arranging, I’m sure they’d be happy to help out. You, or a relative could always attend a night class for flower arranging at your local college. Flower arranging classes can last anything from 3 weeks to a few months – depending on how advanced you want to get. Instead of table centres, try floating nightlights in glass bowls with scattered rose petals and just have one large floral centrepiece on your top table or cake table. How about tiny potted miniature trees or box hedges on the table centres – you could even weave miniature lights through them for a truly magical display.
9) Cake. Have you ever noticed how most wedding guests don’t get around to eating the cake? They’re usually so full after the reception meal that there’s just no room for cake! One option is to make your cake the dessert – and cut the costs of that third course. For this option, you may want to consider a more ‘dessert’ style cake like a croquembouche. Croquembouche comes from the French “croquant” meaning crackling and “bouche” for mouth. Thus croquembouche refers to the crackling in your mouth when eating this traditional dessert. The croquembouche is often the dessert at a French wedding. Alternatively, have a smaller cake with guests being served ‘fingers’ rather than slices with their tea or coffee.
10) Booze & Drinks. Unless you want a massive bill and a free for all, do not waste money paying for a bar. By all means go for champagne, wine and water but guests fully understand that you can’t be expected to pay for everything. If they want to hit the alcohol, let them pay for it!
And finally….although budgeting and cutting costs will always be an issue, don’t let it give you sleepless nights. Your day is supposed to memorable and enjoyable and not a financial nightmare, so get as much of the cost cutting and budgeting discussions out of the way very early on so you can enjoy the weeks ahead, rather than dread them.