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My 13 lucky rules to beat wedding costs

Dogs getting married

So you pop The Question. The victim says yes. Congratulations! You’ve just entered… the wedding industry. But are you prepared to play by their rules? Here’s how to dodge the marketing tricks…

After getting engaged I soon discovered the wedding industry is composed of traditions no doubt invented by some slick marketer in 1963.

‘The Rules’ say daring to get married within eight months of proposing is too soon – unless you pay extra. I soon tired of The Rules, so I’ve written some of my own:

1. Never mention the ‘w’ word (and no, I don’t mean Which?) if you can avoid it – many businesses up their costs immediately if you do. The traditional fruitcake with icing can easily be £350 for 70 people. We’re getting our non-traditional cakes, with room for a couple of my model cars, made by mums who do it as a sideline from their kitchen for far less.

2. Everything can be bargained for. I knocked £45 off our £300 hire bill (for those handy extra fridges you find out you need) by even the limpest form of haggling. ‘Is this the best price you can do?’ I enquired. My toes curled; it’s horribly un-British. Do it anyway.

3. When you’re buying goods rather than services, hunt down businesses going bust. In a recession there are sadly plenty of these. So we got the booze from an Oddbins that was closing that day – half price.

4. Special offers are your friend – but lie in wait for the best of them. We got the fizz from Marks & Spencer, arguing (I’ll never straighten my toes out again) for the previous day’s offer to be reinstated as we’d been promised. £200 instead of £450. Boots got our vote for the disposable cameras as they were two for one.

5. Be aware of inherent quality versus perceived quality. For a simple ring to be made for me the costs were roughly: £250 for silver; £750 for palladium; £1750 for platinum. Palladium and platinum look exactly the same – but I opted for silver. The jeweller we chose talked knowledgeably about what we were getting and didn’t steer us up the price scale.

6. When twiddle after tweak gets piled on, it’s your job to call a halt. We got a little carried away with our florist and now we’ve had to say ‘Sorry, this is overbudget’. So we’ve wasted her time and ours in having to backtrack.

7. Ask for things to be chucked in for free – or at least check they will be. We’re promised more fruit baskets than can possibly be healthy for our honeymoon.

8. Small suppliers are often the best, so long as they know their stuff – something you need to get evidence of somehow. We’re very glad we auditioned our magicians.

9. Get decent wedding insurance as soon as you start shelling out for stuff. If your venue goes bust or a supplier lets you down you won’t have to panic about being out of pocket.

10. Think about getting a credit card that gives you cashback. You get Consumer Credit Act protection under section 75 as long as what you buy is worth between £100-£30,000, and you’ll be spending more than you ever wanted to so the cashback could add up to a couple of hundred pounds.

11. Accept you’ll go over budget – probably by about 15% if you’re not going bonkers. But don’t let ‘budget drift’ set in. Keep on thinking ‘what will this actually get us?’ and ‘do we really need it?’ Beware a predilection the wedding industry seems to have for quoting without VAT.

12. If you can, get a venue which you can control more and feel comfortable with. For the reception we’re very lucky (if it’s dry) to have my parents’ garden. If it’s raining then we’re in the world’s smallest marquee/tent.

We found mainstream wedding venues to be eye-wateringly expensive and incredibly rigid. There was the venue that had ‘our’ day planned out down to 15-minute time slots – not because they’d done exhaustive prep, just because they’ve got everyone’s day planned out to 15-minute slots. The same 15-minute slots. There was also the venue, in a pleasant enough Leeds park, which wanted more per head for food than Claridge’s does à la carte.

13. Go with the people you feel good about, the ones you trust to do a good job. We’re buying into our cake ladies and our jeweller because of who they are, not just what they make. Instinct works.

I hope some of what I’ve learnt helps you from falling into the wedding traps set to spring on you. Or perhaps you have some well-learned lessons of your own to share?


Disclaimer – No dogs were made to look ridiculous during the creation of this feature.

Don’t get married or have children. Brothers and sisters can help with this duty. Supporting everyone else’s children during your working life will cost you a fortune in taxes but it avoids big bills such as the cost of a wedding.

Sorry for the facetious comment. I’m all for people getting married, especially if they are going to have children. The price of weddings is getting out of hand, so good luck to Richard and everyone else who is trying to find ways of cutting costs without spoiling a special day.

I’ll bet that lots of people avoid getting married because of the cost, and that’s a pity.

It’s certainly one of the things putting me off – there always seems to be something more pressing to spend the money on!

Your first comments may be a little facetious, but there is some truth in it! Nick Cheek started a Conversation a while ago on this topic – ‘Best money-saving tip ever – don’t have children’: https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/best-money-saving-tip-ever-dont-have-kids/

I’m with you wavechange – don’t get married. But I’m bookmarking Rich’s top tips just in case I say ‘I do’.

some excellent tips there, especially never mentioning the ‘w’ word and number 13, go with your instincts and people you can trust.
every business wants to do things for you because it puts money in their till.

2 tips i would add, buy local where ever possible – less marketing and lower costs and negotiate a room discount when your wedding guests stay in their hotel.
we got our local hotel to drop the room prices by 20% and they knocked £300 off the catering as we filled their hotel up for the weekend

Sophie Gilbert says:
31 May 2011

When my husband and I got married the only thing we splashed out on was the venue for the ceremony, ie the best room our local authority had to offer, very high ceiling, wooden panels, overlooking a cathedral on a cobbled square in the old town. No meringue wedding dress, no monkey suit, just one wedding bouquet kindly bought me by my stepdad, and our wedding rings are my grand-parents. Afterwards we had an excellent meal at a restaurant nearby, and when I booked the table for 14 people, I followed Richard’s rule no 1, I didn’t mentioned the W word and we paid normal price for their excellent a la carte menu. We did tip the lovely waiter handsomely though! A perfect day.

Gimcrack says:
31 May 2011

We cut down on the cost of booze by asking friends to bring a bottle to the reception, as they would with a party. The bouquet was only a fiver, after popping down to the local florist on the day of the wedding and asking what they could do. We also changed some of the ingredients in the food to cheaper options to cut costs and the suit was hired and the dress made by a friend.

Didn’t Which? do something on how venues hike up costs when you mention it’s for a wedding?

Great tips! Friends of mine got married last year and asked us all to bring two bottles of booze instead of a present. We also all had one job to do, so they hardly employed anyone. It was lovely because it was such a community event and everyone felt a real part of it.

Yes, Which? did research this topic last year – the link is above in the useful links section, but here it is again if you missed it: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2010/06/paying-the-price-for-getting-married-217588/

Hannah says:
1 June 2011

I have just set my date for my wedding and have been overwhelmed at how much EVERYTHING costs. Marquees, food, clothes – it’s all crazy money. Would seem the wedding industry is the racket to get into in order to get super rich. Am going to try hard to buy local, look for mega-deals, quibble and negotiate (toe-curling indeed!) and stay calm. If I can pull this off on/or near budget then it will be quite an achievement!

UAGAUG says:
2 November 2011

If you are of the age when all of your friends are getting married it could be a good idea to club together and buy a marquee between you all. Hire of a marquee is only slightly less than the actual purchase price for a new/used marquee. When these costs are shared between 3/4 weddings it offers a great saving. Remember you will all own the marquee afterwards so you could sell it on, or start your own informal marquee hire company 🙂

Jessie says:
18 November 2016

re: cakes someone put us on to the special events Marks and Spencers cakes. You can stack them in exactly the same way as a normal wedding cake, and decorate it as you like. They taste fantastic and are quick and easy to get.