photo by ashleyyoungphotography.com (used with permission)
A very special friend of mine recently got engaged and the excitement around this event got me thinking about my own wedding planning and inspired me to write this post. I’ve been married for coming up to four years so (in my opinion) recently enough to still be ‘in touch’ with what wedding planning involves, but long enough ago to be able to reflect on the experience with more of a level head. Not that I was a total Bridezilla at the time (I don’t think!) but there may have been a couple of ‘over-reactions’ in the process of planning the wedding! I think that whatever your budget, managing the financial side is a tricky business so if I could offer five pieces of advice to those about to start their own planning these would all bear in mind saving money; and here they are! (Of course, weddings and therefore wedding planning is not a ‘one size fits all’ affair so everyone will have different tastes, preferences and ideas but this is just the opinion of a non-expert!)
Almost as soon as I got engaged, I signed up to the the website hitched.co.uk. My sisters made fun of me for it (what else are sisters for?!) but I am so glad I did. The website is packed full of articles, lists of suppliers and other sources of inspiration but most importantly for me at the time, there is a forum. Here you can post questions and immediately be answered by fellow wedding planners and professionals alike. If it wasn’t for the forum, I don’t think we would have found our venue. After feeling underwhelmed with the venues I had already looked at, I asked for suggestions on the forum and was recommended Cooling Castle Barn. As this venue does not advertise, I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise. Some suppliers who post on the forum also offer discounts to those who are members.
2. Be flexible
We had found our dream venue. However, having a wedding there on a Saturday in Spring/Summer would have cost more than our total budget. So we got married on a Wednesday in June, and this cut our venue costs by more than half. There will always be people who raise eyebrows when they find out the wedding is during the week, but we found that if people really wanted to be there, they made sure they were! Winter weddings, ceremonies that start later in the day, or last minute bookings will all cut costs, so if you can be flexible, it will definitely save money.
3. Use your friend’s or family member’s skills
I mentioned in passing to a couple of close friends that I loved the idea of a sweet buffet, but they were expensive and I didn’t think our budget would stretch to it. “We will do it for you!” they said. I immediately knew I could trust them to do an amazing job, with their creative minds and eye for design and detail! So, as their wedding present to us, they organised and set up a sweet buffet and it went down a storm. In other words, if you know people with skills, use them to save you money and add a more personal touch!
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount
I hate doing this. Maybe it’s the British in me, but haggling just doesn’t come naturally! However, something came over me when I was planning the wedding and I asked every supplier for a discount. This included the photographer, florist, jeweller, hairdresser and even the wedding dress shop. And guess what?! All except one supplier agreed to a discount. I wish I’d kept track of how much of a saving this added up to, but needless to say it was definitely worth getting over my fear! I suppose the wedding business is so competitive that most suppliers are willing to cut their prices a little to keep the customer. Obviously how you ask is bound to make a difference, so below is the phrase I used in a lot of my emails (adapted where necessary) when approaching the subject (yes I still have my ‘wedding planning’ folder in my hotmail account!)
“Thank you for your quote for xxx. I am very interested in your services and love the examples of your work on the website. I appreciate your prices are already competitive, but budget is an important factor for us (as I’m sure it is for most!) so any discount that could be offered would be appreciated. I will of course be happy to recommend your services to friends and family who are planning their weddings.”
This sounds obvious but I still think it’s really important! When you read wedding magazines or websites there seems to be a standard list of things you ‘should’ have at your wedding, but in reality all you actually need is someone to perform the ceremony, a licensed venue and witnesses! Technically everything else is down to personal preference. So I found it really useful to write down everything we wanted at our wedding. Then we decided which of these things were the most important to us and therefore worth spending a higher proportion of our budget on. This is where every couple will be different but it really helped us prioritise our spending. Maybe you are a creative person and big into photography so are happy to spend more than the average couple on the photographer. Maybe flowers are your thing so you don’t want to skimp on the florist. Maybe you are huge foodies, so the catering is where you want to splash the cash. Whatever your preferences once you have decided what is most important, those things that you want to spend less of your budget on, or leave out completely, will naturally fall into place. For us the food, outfits, hairdresser and make up artist (well the last two were just for one of us!) came out on top, so we decided to go for more budget friendly options when choosing a florist and photographer, and we skipped the videographer completely.
I got married in Kent, so if you would like any recommendations for suppliers let me know in the comments 🙂