Frugal wedding planning: tips to plan home weddings on a budget
On the 9th of March 2015, my husband and I got married with less than £2,000 and it was a wonderful day. Having a frugal wedding didn’t take away from the beauty and fulfillment that celebration brought us. I can absolutely guarantee that you don’t need to spend tens of thousands of pounds for a one-day party. Read on to learn some budget wedding ideas you can take inspiration from.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
A few important principles
Before we dive into what I did, I feel like I need to set a few things straight, so that you, my dear reader, know exactly where we were coming from and how we made decisions.
1) The importance of subtracting.
As minimalists, my husband and I don’t believe in adding things to make them better. We actually took a lot of stuff out of the wedding in order to make it about the ceremony, the people present, and nothing else. We didn’t decorate the venue, we didn’t decorate our home where we held the reception, and we didn’t hire a band. Hell, we didn’t even send out paper invitations, everything was managed through phone calls and emails.
You can’t pull off a £2,000 wedding if you want to re-create a full-blown wedding by just looking for cheaper materials and suppliers. You need to be prepared to subtract: take things out of it, and focus on what really matters about a wedding. This brings me to…
2) The truly important things about your wedding day.
If you count on having the perfect dress/band/flowers/food/hair/make-up/ceremony and having a bajillion guests in order to have a good wedding, you are already setting yourself up for failure. Stuff always goes wrong, nothing is ever perfect, and in my very humble opinion, it can be a very superficial approach to a ceremony about love.
These are the things you should place value on to have a good day:
- You and your partner getting married because you love each other.
- People close to you being happy for you.
- Food everyone can eat.
- Having a good time.
That’s it. Everything else is fluff, and anyone trying to convince you to add to that list is either trying to sell you something, or is pretty ingrained in the idea of having to spend to improve something’s quality. This brings me to…
3) Money isn’t correlated to love.
If you are marrying someone, chances are it’s because you are in love with them, and you want to promise each other that you will do everything you can to make each other happy. Right? Cool. Well, let me say that everything else doesn’t matter very much. The amount that you spend on your wedding has nothing to do with the reason why you are getting hitched. Spending £3,000 instead of £50,000 is not a sign that your marriage doesn’t matter to you.
Some people may afford bigger parties with more invitees and fancier food in a much more luxurious venue, wearing a designer wedding dress – which is fine. Zero hate for those who choose to have this kind of wedding celebration.
I, however, actively fight against the idea that if you don’t throw your cash at all of the above, you are a lesser couple. How consumeristic is that? Let’s not fall into that trap.
The wedding is just one day. What your marriage will amount to in the end, is everything that happens after.
4) You will need to limit how many people are invited.
I know it can be very difficult to do this, especially if you have a numerous family and a big circle of friends. However, if you are on a budget, you just can’t invite everyone. According to what budget you have, you will need to decide how many invitations you can send out, and you’ll have to stick to that number.
My advice is to be very transparent about your decisions: openly tell people that you are organising the wedding on a strict budget and therefore you are limiting the invitations to very close friends and family. People should understand that not everyone is willing, or able to meet the costs of paying for 100+ people’s food and drinks.
This is what I did: I set a limit of 35 people for the ceremony (as that was the capacity for the venue) and 20 people for the reception at my place. I then invited everyone I knew to celebrate at our local pub on that same evening.
Wedding venue hire and licenses
What I spent – £307
- Marriage Licenses and booking fees – £82
- I booked the Bromley Public Hall on a Monday – £225
Budget wedding venue ideas
- Look up your local council or Town Hall: their ceremony venue is likely to be simple but very nice.
- Consider getting married on a weekday rather than a weekend, where hire costs spike.
Budget wedding dresses, rings, and clothes
What I spent – £295
- Wedding dress – knitted by a friend, £0
- Bolero sweater and bolero jacket – mum’s wedding present, £0
- Shoes – bought online, £25
- Groom’s suit, shirt, and tie – TK Maxx, £150
- Groom’s shoes – local shoe shop in Camden Town, £75
- Bouquet – Waitrose flowers, £20
- Wedding ring – I didn’t want one, £0
- Wedding bands – used the groom’s grandparents’, resize cost of £25
- Bridesmaids – they could dress however they wanted, £0
I was stupidly lucky with my wedding dress: one of my very best friends is an incredibly talented knitter, and offered to knit me the dress as a wedding present. How incredibly amazing is that? She spent almost a year working on it, bringing it to her workplace and knitting during her breaks and dead moments. Look how gorgeous it was! It was perfect for me and it fit like a glove.
Budget wedding dresses, rings, and clothing ideas
- If you’re not as lucky as to have a talented knitter as a best friend, you may consider getting your dress from a shop that sells cheaper options, such as Ever Pretty or JJ’s House. You are one google search away from finding good quality dresses and shoes for more than affordable prices.
- Honestly, you don’t even need to have a classic looking wedding dress. You can wear whatever you want, it’s your party. If you already own a dress you feel beautiful in, wear that one. Or put an outfit together by shopping from your vintage or thrift stores. You can definitely pull something off for less than £300 for the both of you.
- TK Maxx is always a great resource for bride and groom clothing: my husband and I always find a great bargain every time we wander in: that’s where we got his suit.
- If you want a designer dress but are unwilling to spend the full price on it, have a look on Bridal Village or London Bride UK: they sell high-end designer wedding gowns for about half their price. For me, their prices are still too high, but you might want to invest a bit more in the Perfect Dress.
- Grab a bouquet from a local flower shop or supermarket, that’s what my bridesmaids were tasked with on the day!
- Tell the groom not to purchase a super expensive wedding ring. There is really no need for a £2k engagement ring if it’s not in your budget. And if it’s important for you to have one, you are one Etsy search away to find an affordable ring that won’t break the bank.
- Same for wedding bands: we were lucky to inherit my husband’s grandparent’s wedding bands, which we only needed to resize. But you can definitely search for rings that are within your budget. Remember: how much you pay ≠ how much you love your spouse.
- Don’t burden your friends with the financial and mental stress of having to buy colour-coded bridesmaids gowns they’re only going to wear once. I told my mates they could wear whatever they wanted, and they decided among themselves to colour-coordinate, so that they would be wearing at least one baby blue item.
Wedding hair and makeup
What I spent – £50
- Blow dry + hairstyle – Hershesons ‘The Swank’ hairdo, £35
- Hair broach – Amazon, £15
- Make up – used what I had, applied myself, £0
Hershesons was a fantastic discovery: they have a blowdry menu of 10 hairstyles you can choose from, for £35. I chose ‘The Swank’.
For the makeup, I never wear a lot of it anyway, and I don’t like having layers and layers of stuff clogging my pores. I went with some light concealer, some mascara, and warm eyeshadow. I applied it myself, with a little help from my friends.
Budget hair and makeup ideas
- Find a local hairdresser that has a blowdry menu of hairstyles you can pick from, at a fixed price. In London you have Hershesons, and Blow Dry Express.
- Look up a hairdo on Youtube that you or your friends can replicate. For example, this one!
- Do your own favourite make-up with what you have, or look up a nice tutorial on Youtube, like this one!
What I spent – £0
Another stroke of luck for me! I had a wonderful photographer take my wedding photos for free, thanks to a happy coincidence. My brother’s friend’s girlfriend happened to be in London on the day I got married, and she volunteered to take pictures of the event at zero cost. So generous, and she is so talented! Her name is Elisabetta Riccio and she works worldwide: check her out here.
Budget wedding photography ideas
- Only hire a professional photographer for the ceremony, or for the reception, as opposed to for the entire day.
- Buy disposable cameras and polaroids for your guests to take pictures throughout the day.
- If you have a talented photographer friend, offer to engage them for the day, at a discounted price.
Wedding reception food ideas on a budget
What I spent – £630
- Held the reception at my place – £0 hire fee
- Food for 20 people from a local vegan compassionate caterer, Shambhu’s – £350 (highly recommended, food was delicious and delivered flawlessly)
- Wine, bubbles, drinks from a local shop – about £200
- Baked my own cake – ingredients for like £10
- Local pub for evening drinks – bought people a couple rounds, maybe £60
- Made my own Spotify playlist – £10 (temporarily bought a subscription to avoid ads)
Budget wedding catering ideas
- Look up small local caterers you can support, they usually offer better prices than more established top-end caterers.
- Consider using your own home, or a friend’s home, for the reception.
- Instead of having people buy you gifts, organise a wedding potluck, where everyone is responsible for cooking/baking/buying an item of food and/or drink.
- Bake your own cake (or cupcakes).
- Make your own playlists, or you can find readily made playlists on Spotify.
Other wedding costs
- Hen do: karaoke night + food and drinks: £500
I paid for the hire of a private karaoke space for me and my friends to get silly and drunk.
- Pre-wedding dinner for close friends and family: £150
Most of our friends and family travelled to London from Italy to attend the wedding. We made it very clear that we didn’t want any gifts from any of them, as the trip across Europe was more than enough for us, as far as love gestures go. We thought it would be nice to have everyone over for dinner for some panzerotti and pasta the night before we were getting married.
Grand total: £1,732
Not bad, eh? Granted, having a free wedding dress and photographer helped massively in being able to get married for under £2,000. However, you can find both of those things for under £500 if you are smart about it, and by following the tips above.
Final thoughts on throwing a budget wedding
We could not have pulled this day off without the kindness and collaboration of friends and family. They were fantastic, helping out from the beginning to the end, on anything from helping to set up our living room, to putting together my bouquet.
Here is some extra advice to make the day cheaper for you, and for everyone else:
- Don’t ask for gifts. I know, I know, it’s controversial: everyone wants presents. However, if you are planning a budget wedding, you should also offer for it to be cheap for your guests, too.
- Unless you are prepared to design them yourself, not sending out paper invitations is a big cost you can easily cut: use email and/or phone calls. It’s more personal, environmentally friendly, and most of the time those things end up in the bin anyway.
- Instead of asking for money/gifts, ask for your guests’ logistical support on the day. Everyone’s help is incredibly important if you don’t have an expensive wedding planner to take care of everything, and you’ll be busy enough without having to deal with the caterers or lay out the cutlery.
- Start preparing a budget from the day you get engaged: it’s the first thing you should do, before making any purchase or booking any venue. You need to know what you’re working with, and how much to set aside in the time that you have before the big day.
- Spirit > appearance. Everyone should come into that day with a feeling of joy and excitement for this very important promise you are making. How things look like shouldn’t rank high on the scale of priorities for that day. Your guests should be cheering you on, and contributing to you having the best of times. You should be focused on your spouse and on absorbing every moment, so don’t stress out about logistics. Who cares! It’s just a party! What counts is being together, being happy, and sharing a good life choice.