Your wedding day might be the best day of your life, but it is also likely to be the most expensive.
The average wedding in the UK costs £18,000, according to Hamish Shephard, founder of wedding planning app, Bridebook. He estimates that couples spend one third of this on the venue, one third on food and drink and the rest on everything else (entertainment, dress, decorations, etc).
Wedding costs saw a steep decline in the past year; on average it cost £10,898 to get married in the UK in 2020, compared to £16,005 the year before, according to Bridebook’s annual wedding report. This is due to the smaller guest numbers and limited celebrations.
However, even as we adjust to life after lockdown, we don’t have to return to uber-expensive weddings. In fact, it is perfectly possible to have a luxury wedding on a budget. So we have spoken to the experts to find out ways to cut costs, and compiled a guide to how to find an affordable venue, dress, flowers and any decorations you can make yourself.
How to save money on a luxury wedding
Go out of season
“The number one way to save money on a wedding is to get married mid-week rather than on the weekend,” Shephard says. You could save more than half of your venue costs. If you’re happy to move your date out of the summer season, you’ll save even more. “A Thursday in March can quite often be 70 per cent less than a Saturday in June,” he says.
Invite fewer guests
If you invite hundreds of guests then, naturally, the wedding costs are going to pile up as you will need a larger venue and more food and drink. One solution could be to have a very small reception of, say, 15 guests. Shephard recommends “an incredible tasting menu at a top restaurant” for luxury that you can afford. If you do want a large number of guests, he again recommends an off-peak season wedding.
Sometimes risk pays off – quite literally. “Some venues have cancellation lists – so if you are willing to plan your wedding in a shorter time frame, you could save thousands on your celebration,” explains Charlotte O’Shea, founder of UK wedding planning resource, Rock My Wedding.
Hire your own caterers
“Venues that provide a blank canvas – called ‘dry hire’ – and enable you to hire your own caterers can often be more inexpensive than those that offer the full package with in-house minimum spend,” explains O’Shea. “That way couples can negotiate on their food and drink costs.”
Save on food
If you want to save money on catering, scrap the three-course sit-down meal. You could have two courses and then have the wedding cake as dessert, as O’Shea suggests. Alternatively, Shephard recommends sharing plates or street food trucks as a way of cutting costs.
He also recommends high tea, for a luxurious feel. “You could get married at one of the best venues in the UK and do a high tea as your wedding reception – we’ve seen this quite often, a gorgeous afternoon tea at a stunning venue mid-week, you’ll be able to do that for often well under £10,000 and potentially considerably less than that,” Shephard says.
If you are able to bring your own alcohol to a venue, you will save a lot of money (although you’ll still often have to pay some corkage towards the glassware and serving). Shephard recommends buying your alcohol in the Christmas and Bank Holiday offers. “If you buy all your champagne then you can often save over £1,000,” he says.
Don’t get married in London
Perhaps unsurprisingly, London is the most expensive in the UK for getting married – the average wedding in 2019 in London cost £19,086, but Shephard says London weddings can cost up to £38,000.
Instead, swap the big city for a manor in the countryside. The cheapest place to get married is in the North West England, where the average wedding in 2019 cost just £12,419 (and £8,965 in 2020). Other more affordable spots in the UK include the East Midlands, East of England and Scotland.
Keep it in the family
Where possible, “seek out family members and friends and utilise their skills,” O’Shea recommends. Perhaps you have a graphic designer in the family who could design invitations, or one of your bridesmaids is incredibly talented when it comes to hair and makeup. Maybe someone in the family even has a vintage car that could get you to the church.
“Luxury doesn’t have to be the antithesis of DIY,” Shephard adds. “Having a family friend make you a beautiful summer fruit wedding cake with strawberries and everything falling off it can be absolutely amazing.”
Best venues for a luxury wedding on a budget
The average cost of a wedding venue is around the £6,000 mark. With that in mind, the following are some of the best luxury venues that you can hire on a budget.