We all know that weddings can be very expensive if you get carried away, but there are ways in which you can save money and still have the most amazing day. So here are 8 Money Saving Tips for your wedding from The Man in the Red Coat to help you save money for the things you really want to spend your or your parents hard earned cash on. (Namely the honeymoon!)
I have worked on weddings from under £5000 to if you believe the press reports, £5 million – yes that amazing wedding at Blenheim Palace 18 months ago. Now clearly for the latter it was not so important to save money, almost the opposite, however, there are ways to still have an amazing day by being sensible about how you spend.
First you have to set a budget. You will then need to go and get quotes from your preferred suppliers and if you are lucky that is all you need to do. However, invariably you may need to go and get more quotes from more suppliers or go back to the originals to see how sharp their pencils are. Mine is pretty sharp by the way!!
So let us begin with the big items. The venue and then the catering.
As regards your chosen venue you may find it a little out of budget. However, if the venue is really important to you, you may wish to reconsider the preferred date for your wedding. You do not need to get married at the weekend or even a Friday in midsummer. A midweek day in January, February and March whilst potentially a little colder, will be a fraction of the cost and as such your preferred venue may suddenly appear under budget. (This can apply to other suppliers too!) So my advice here is spend a little more on clothing material and get married in the first quarter of the year. When you also consider that this is the United Kingdom and if there is one thing you can never rely on, namely the weather, it really doesn’t matter when in the year you get married as nothing weather-wise is guaranteed. So this has to be the biggest saving there is.
Think very sensibly about the timing of your event. Now if you are Hindu then chances are you will need to provide constant food pretty much all day! From breakfast before the arrival of the groom through to a little appetizer post dancing at the end of the day, but is this really necessary?
An English/Jewish/Greek/African wedding normally takes place early afternoon, followed by a short reception and a wedding breakfast. Many now save a bit by keeping the numbers down for the wedding breakfast and inviting many others for the party after it. This is good. You do not have to even feed the later arrivals, however it is courteous to let them know they may wish to eat before they arrive. (Say “join us for light refreshment and celebratory cake” on the invite. That tells them what they are getting, so they can make up their own minds.) This works well if you have not already eaten the cake as the desert course, which is another neat saving. You have cake, it needs eating, so why not as dessert?
So if the cake can be desert, then canapes can also be starters. Again if serving canapes as starters it is courteous to tell people that is what they are, as many don’t eat canapes, saving themselves for the wedding breakfast. They might get a little disappointed if they have not eaten their starter without realising. Due to the fact that we “do not need to eat for England” this option has become quite fashionable and I have to say I have never heard a complaint yet.
Please note that I understand that with many cultures the food is more important than anything else and in the case of a Muslim Walima or Nikkah then it really is all about just how many people can be fed.
If the wedding breakfast is a very early one, around 3pm, but the party is going to go on until after midnight, more food may be required and invariably a snack-like buffet is normally most welcome. Whilst not the cheapest option, something like a hog roast is very popular. Obviously this type of food is not welcome at every cultures wedding! However, if the budget looks like being stretched by this extra food, you may wish to delay the start of the whole wedding so the timings shift to a point when only one meal is required. That also can just be a hog roast or similar and buffet service – you don’t always have to silver service at table to enjoy a good meal!
I have had the pleasure of working in some of the most wonderful venues. Many have their own decorations that can be utilised. Some need very little anyway, Great Fosters springs to mind.
However, if décor is really important and you have a limited budget then my first comment would be to head to your local Hobby Craft. This vendor is a treasure trove of useful ideas at sensible prices. There are so many wonderful things to checkout, especially if you are creating the design and atmosphere yourself.
You will need to think of your table plan – that in itself can be part of the decoration, and my advice on them as with the table decorations is to keep them simple – they really do not have to be OTT and they especially need to be easy to read. With respect to the table decorations I have been to many weddings where you just have no room on the table because of the size of the decoration, and quite often they are so large nobody has any idea who is actually sitting on the other side of the table, let alone get a view of the top table. So keep them simple too and low lying.
As for the guest book. Again Hobby Craft has some great ideas and if you want to mix entertainment with this, then a photo-booth with a book is a great idea, though it may not be saving you money.
These really can lift a room and believe it or not you do not have to spend £120k, plus designer costs,on them,as was rumoured to be the case at Blenheim. Be frugal and make them double stint. You can bring them from the Church or move them between rooms where any ceremony is to take place into where the wedding breakfast is being held. – Get your money’s worth. Flowers can really eat into a budget.
A DJ will always be cheaper than a band (unless you know one or are part of one.) However, you must allocate money for either in the budget, because trust me a set of speakers and an I-Pod with a playlist, rarely work at getting a party going. The reason is a good DJ will work out what works with a particular crowd. If it is only your playlist, invariably there will be some who do not share your taste in music. So be prepared to at least spend a little money on either.
The other form of entertainment that costs very little is if you can arrange your own flash mob. Very often done as a surprise by relatives and whilst it does require rehearsal time, it otherwise costs nothing providing 10 minutes of often shock and hilarity, as well as being very memorable.
Always a tricky one this. If you are heading to a church/synagogue/gurdwara then the Bride and bridesmaids need delivery and then after the ceremony the Bride and Bridegroom need conveying to the reception. Wedding Cars cost money. So ask your friends and family first if anyone has something slightly unusual. A Rolls or a Horse and Carriage is very nice, but someone may have an old Morris Minor or MGB lurking.
However, if you are at a venue for a civil ceremony, then actually a car is absolutely not necessary. For the Hindu’s and Sikhs among you the bridegroom can be carried on the shoulders of his groomsmen. (Assuming he is not 120kilos!) For the Muslim’s you just need an entourage, may be “Reservoir Dogs” style! However, I always recommend that the bride is on site locked away so she avoids lateness. I have had a bride get stuck on the M25 and miss her own ceremony, or she would have done if we hadn’t managed to obtain more registrars and rearranged the whole afternoon. Have you ever been to wedding where you took the pictures and ate before the marriage ceremony? I have! So if the bride is ahead of the guests, she does not need special transport!
For a bride and bridegroom it is always a good idea to visit at least a couple, especially if there is one being held at your chosen venue. You can get an idea of different décor as well as the prices. Additionally you can get great ideas for the whole day and also realise actually what you do not need. I have yet to do a wedding fair myself as a supplier, relying on my website, some social media and most of all referral and recommendation. (This is only because having a family, time is very precious to me and if I do get a free weekend I like to spend it with them!) However, it is good for meeting suppliers face to face. It is always better to have two or more senses when meeting people rather than just the one you get on a telephone. (It is why I always recommend a Skype or WhatsApp call before finally signing – the relationship has to work both ways.)
Planners and Facilitators
Time is precious. It also has a cost as my agent/manager is always reminding me. Wedding planners can save you a lot of time, but then they will charge for their own! However, they will do things much quicker than you and so it really can be worth it.
As for the toastmaster, especially if they are a good one, their experience will help you plan if you are doing it yourself. They can help with your speakers – or at least I do – but on the day they can make sure you get value for the money on almost everything you have spent. If things run late, then value for money rapidly goes out of the window. You have invested much in the amazing celebration, and other than the venue, the food and the entertainment will be the highest costs. With a good toastmaster controlling the timings and getting everybody in place, on time, food will hit the table at the right temperature in the best prepared condition. Then consider if you have a DJ or band to play for 3 hours at the end of your celebration. Just for example they cost £750 – that is £250 per hour of entertainment. However if they only get to play for 1.5 hours that is £500 per hour – suddenly they don’t seem such good value for money. So if you have to spend it, make sure you get value from it.
Both the planner and toastmaster come with a cost. I can’t vouch for the planner, but I can for what people say to me. “Everything ran so smoothly”, “we couldn’t have done it without you”, “you made us feel completely relaxed”, “you were the glue that held it all together” and “you were without doubt the best value thing we spent our money on”.
It is your money, so make sure that you enjoy the party as much as your guests. The Toastmasters phrase is “it is unlikely that you will remember a thing I said after your wedding, but hopefully you will always remember how I made you feel”.
So if you are getting married this year I wish you a wonderful celebration, in great surroundings and with great company. However, from what I have said you may be deferring you wedding until next January, in which case I wish you all the best for next year!
James Hasler is a professional event/conference host, moderator and facilitator. He is also a Master of Ceremonies, Charity Auctioneer and Voice of God and is well-known as The Man behind The Man in the Red Coat, a Professional Toastmaster. He has facilitated events all over the UK, as well as throughout Europe and the United States.
He also coaches public speaking and works with those who wish to gain greater confidence in front of an audience or camera.