Wanna throw a kick ass wedding but have a tiny budget? Welcome to the club, amigos. Apparently the average cost of a wedding is £32,000! I know!! But fear not, after shooting more than 200 weddings I’ve seen loads of really easy ways to save tons of money and still have an awesome wedding. In fact, it’s the budget weddings that have been the most fun, for the couple and for their guests.
Just for you, I’ve done a bit of research and maths and I reckon if you do all of the below, you could throw a wedding for 40 people for less than £4k budget (including me as your photographer!)
Here are my top tips for throwing a wedding on a budget
If you’re trying to keep the budget down, keep the guest list down. Only invite people you really want to be there. You could always invite your workmates over later in the evening and ask them to bring their own drinks – like a house party when you were a teenager. It’s the food and drinks that hikes costs up, so the fewer guests, the less you’ll spend. If you wouldn’t buy a person dinner, why would you pay for them to come to your wedding?
Town halls are pretty cheap if you have your ceremony mid week and only have a few guests, two of whom will act as witnesses (I’ve been a witness as well as photographer three times now).
All a simple ceremony involves is saying you agree with what the registrar says and signing the paper that makes you a married couple (eek ok that’s pretty exciting!)
Your official ceremony doesn’t have to be any more elaborate than that, and you can do it on the morning of your wedding day, or any day before (or after!) Then you can have a big fancy ceremony literally anywhere you like, without the restrictions of the law saying you can only legally get married in certain places by certain people.
Having a “fake” ceremony is so much more personal and beautiful than a big production with an expensive registrar and it means you can do what you like, say what you like and have it last as long (or short) as you’d like.
Celebrants cost £350-£1200 and they’re often so worth it, but if you’re on a super tight budget, having a mate or a family member as your celebrant would cost the price of a six-pack of beers (just choose the right mate!). You’ll need to go to the town hall to do that legal paperwork, but go on a weekday and have just 2 guests (as witnesses) and it can cost as much as a round of beers.
£180 on the wedding ceremony
Back garden or field
Do you, your parents or close friends or family have a semi-decent sized house and back garden? If you’re not having too many guests (30-60) a normal house is perfectly fine, as long as you have a couple of loos and enough space for everyone if it rains (basic gazebos from Tesco are dirt cheap). I’ve shot weddings in big fancy back gardens and simple back garden weddings – you can do a lot with a back garden! Lay down some picnic blankets, and put out some chairs and tables – all of these are pretty cheap at supermarkets. If you don’t have a back garden to use, ask locals in your area if they have a field you can borrow – the extra costs would be a large marquee, tables and chairs, a van to transport everything and portaloos. And a few quid to bribe your mates to come back the next day to help clear up.
Aside from back gardens and fields, you could look into warehouses. I have a friend who got married in an old warehouse in London, and her 114-guest wedding came to £5k in total.
Village halls are a great option too, especially if they don’t do many weddings. So many of my couples have booked venues dirt cheap because the venues don’t do weddings yet.
Pub and bar function rooms, such as Oh So Social are great and cheap if they’re not a wedding venue – usually free hire and a minimum spend at the bar.
Some bars will let you use the venue for free if you spend enough on drinks, or you could use the local village hall. They’re super cheap – for example, Iford Village Hall in Sussex near Brighton is just £1500 for 3 days.
Why not think outside the box? You could ask your local brewery if they’ll hold your wedding – anywhere they can sell booze to you and your mates and wouldn’t normally make much money that day is worth asking. Sally and Leya had their wedding party at Beak Taproom in Lewes and it was so unusual and cosy and fun!
£200 on a back garden wedding at home, with a gazebo and seating
CROCKERY AND CUTLERY
A lot of blank space venues, such as warehouses in London, require you to hire/buy your own crockery and cutlery – instead of spending tons on plates, why not ask past couples to sell you theirs? Their wedding has been and gone and they’re left with 100 plates filling their spare bedroom. Get on the Rock n Roll Bride Facebook group and ask in there! I’m sure they’ll love you to take a few plates off their hands.
You could also just use your own cutlery if you’re having the wedding at home, or serve finger food only. To be eco-friendly while sticking to your budget, you can buy bamboo plates and cutlery.
£100 on plates and cutlery
If you’re having it all in one place, including getting ready, you can spend nothing on transport as there’s nowhere to travel!
If you’re getting married in London, having everyone (including you!) catch the Tube is so much fun and great for photos.
Hiring a wedding bus is very expensive and every single time my couples have asked the driver to take them to a certain place to stop for photos, the driver has decided last minute they can’t do it due to traffic. Every single time. It’s a nice idea to give everyone a bus tour of the city, but the buses are hot and stuffy and no one looks out of the window – everyone just wants to get to the venue so they can be comfortable, get a drink, go to the loo and mingle.
Fancy wedding cars are almost always not worth it as they cost a bomb and no one really sees it as they park out of the way and drop you off at the venue where everyone is indoors or elsewhere so they don’t see you. If it’s just a short drive, jump in someone’s car or get a normal taxi. Or walk!
£0-30 on transport
So many of my brides get their dress from Topshop or Asos! Asos have a fab collection, with most dresses around £200. And they’re actually even more beautiful than “wedding” dresses. Amber’s dress (below) cost £47.50 from Asos! Even better, Rachel of the Brighton powder paint wedding‘s dress was 19.99 from Zara.
£95 on a dress
Jeans, Converse, a nice shirt, funky braces and a bowtie will do the job. You can buy a cool waistcoat pretty cheap and that will set you apart from the other guys. Here is some suit inspiration and ideas for guys (and girls!)
£50 on braces and a bow tie
WEDDING PARTY OUTFITS
You don’t have to have a matchy bridal party – tell them to wear whatever they want (you can always give them a style or colour palette). Or have no bridal party at all!
£0 on wedding party outfits
If you’re having a floor-length dress no one will be able to see your shoes, so wear whatever you want! If you’re having a back garden wedding, barefoot or sandals (or barefoot sandals!) is a good idea, with Converse for the boys. For something extra special, why not both go for special wedding Converse or Doc Martens?
£182 for 2 pairs of wedding Converse
If you don’t want to do your own makeup, pop down to Boots or a department store and get a free makeup session the morning of your wedding! I wouldn’t mention it’s your wedding day, as tempting as that will be. If you like the lipstick, buy a stick and bring it with you to touch up. I mean, It would be rude to get a whole makeup done and walk away empty handed, plus you get a brand new lippie. Alternatively, book an appointment at the Mac counter for a bridal makeup session (90 minutes) for £90. They have 30 locations so it should be doable!
£90 on wedding make up
Hair is a great one to DIY as you do it every day yourself. However if you’re not comfortable doing your hair on the day, or want something a bit extra, it could be an idea to get a pro to do your hair. Ask your normal hairdresser what they can do for you – it’ll probably be cheaper if you can go to the salon rather have them come to you.
£120 on wedding hair
M&S do amazing cakes. I mean, everyone loves cake, but it’s not the reason your guests are at your wedding (ok maybe it is). Pop down to M&S and pick up 45 cupcakes for £75 or (and) a 12-serving rainbow cake covered in sprinkles for £25. Or there’s always the classic Colin the Caterpillar – they do a giant Colin that serves 40 people for £40.
I’ve found at about 90% of the weddings I’ve shot, when couples who cut and serve the cake after dinner, only about 40% of the cake gets eaten. Serve it right after the ceremony and you’ll have a 100% hit rate, making your investment worth it! M&S cakes taste great, look nice, and will totally do the job as much as a £900 specially made cake.
£40 on cake
Go to France! There’s a shop in Calais, France that will pay for your Eurotunnel ticket if you spend £250 in their shop – and they’ll have it all ready for you when you arrive. Alternatively you can get a decent bottle of wine from the supermarket for a fiver, especially if you buy in crates. If you don’t want to limit yourself to wine, buy a load of beers, stick them in a bucket of ice. Or tell your mates instead of getting you a wedding present, to bring a bottle of something boozy.
£250 on drinks
M&S does delicious fancy platters for around a tenner, and they’re super fancy too. They do afternoon tea, canapes, sushi, even dessert platters. Instead of canapes, crisps are cheap and always go down well – especially nostalgic ones.
£412 on food
Spend a few Saturdays lurking around the charity shops and junk stores seeing what treasures you can find. Anything that will work in your home afterwords is a bonus. Or you could save up jars and tins from your dinners, wrap some nice fabric around them and pop flowers in them.
For your order of the day timeline, why not rummage round the back of a local industrial estate and take a palette of someone’s hands? You can paint them rainbow colours and paint on the timings, then lean it up against a wall at your venue.
£26 on decorations
In my experience, the best favours are edible ones. Bake up a batch of cookies, freeze them til the day, and wrap them individually. Or maybe something cute and already wrapped like Tunnocks tea cakes. Below are Welsh cakes made by the bride’s dad.
£7 on wedding favours
If you want free invites, use Facebook and email. It also saves you loads of time and effort chasing RSVPs (plus don’t forget that each invite you post must include the cost of a stamp in your budget – that can really add up! It’s £68 in 2022 to post 100 invites). As for orders of service and other stationery on the day, we love to DIY using printed.com – you’re looking at under £20 to print 100 orders of service. Or just print one really big for people to see as they walk in!
£0-£20 on stationery
Instead of expensive photobooths, get an Instax camera and a few packs of film and some funny masks. Instead of a magician or guitarist or entertainer, set up a beer pong table and/or Giant Jenga. There are loads of cheap wedding reception entertainment ideas on this post!
£80 on wedding entertainment
Bands and DJs take up a hefty chunk of a wedding budget and while they’re super fun, if you’re on a tight budget, you might be better off hooking up an ipod to some decent speakers, which are pretty cheap to hire. A lot of my couples know people in bands, so see if they fancy playing a few songs, or if you used to be in a band (a lot of my grooms come under this umbrella!), why not reform for one night? It’s a great chance to have a break from talking to people 😉 If you want a DJ, a good budget option is hiring speakers and using a Spotify playlist.
£45 on music
Go on a 4am adventure to a flower market and buy a job lot! Hang them in bunches around the venue or pop them in vases – charity shops have loads and they’re always handy to have. Buttonholes only need to be a few pretty flowers tied together with string and DIY bouquets are fab. Or you could ask all guests to bring flowers instead of gifts, and to leave them on their table, like Jess and Ben did for their Pangdean wedding.
£100 on flowers
If you want a cheap holiday, go off season. There are some super cheap, awesome places to visit in Europe, and the Canary Islands are super warm in winter. Also, you don’t have to go on honeymoon the day after the wedding, you can go whenever you want – then you can get the best deals! You could even ask for money towards a honeymoon, so your mates are basically paying for it for you.
I know you know photography is super important and it’s probably going to be your biggest expense of the day. It’s worth spending more on photos because it’s all you’ll have left of the wedding day (apart from y’know, a marriage). So how do you get your dream wedding photographer on a budget? Getting married on a weekday can really help. We also offer shorter coverage for local weekday weddings in East Sussex, so you can get all the important moments covered, as well as a ceremony-first dance option so you don’t have to pay to have someone there the whoooole time. Save on all the areas on your wedding you’re less bothered about so you can afford your dream wedding photographer.
Here’s our pricing page.