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How much should a wedding cost?

wedding costs

The average UK wedding in 2017 costs £27k. Is it too much to spend on one day or is it unrealistic to think you can do it for cheaper?

Recently I got engaged and now I’m planning a wedding, I’m quickly discovering the staggering costs involved.

In case you missed last weekend’s news, Pippa Middleton (the older sister of the Duchess of Cambridge) married James Matthews. According to Bridebook, the wedding cost at least £250,000.

Now, unless we win the lottery or rob a bank, our wedding won’t come close to that figure.

But I’m beginning to realise that, no matter what I do, our wedding is still going to come with a fairly hefty price tag.

As one newlywed recently informed me: ‘Everything costs £1,000, except the venue – that’ll be £10,000…’ and it seems they were pretty much bang on. Yep, in 2017, the average cost of a wedding in the UK is £27k and more than £38k in London.

Big day costs

I hope I’m not the only one who thinks £27k is a lot of money to spend on one day. But there’s so much to think about and so much to pay for.

Not only is there the cost of the venue, there’s the ceremony, food, booze, flowers and decorations, entertainment, dress, suits, rings, photographer and God knows what else I’m failing to factor in. Oh, and the honeymoon – that might need to be a staycation at this rate!

In fact, according to MoneySuperMarket research, couples are applying for more wedding loans than ever, with an increase of 53% in applications for £30,000 or more, compared to the same period last year.

Bridal bartering

While we’re not planning to take out a loan for our big day, we’ll certainly have to tighten our belts to save for it.

I can’t help but feel that it’s all a bit of a money spinner. We’ve identified our preferred venue – and both sets of parents approve (phew!) – so before we press ahead and pay the deposit, I’m going to test out my best haggling skills. I’ll let you know how I get on…

What do you think to wedding expenditure in 2017? Have you got any wedding savings or haggling tips? If you’re married, how much did your own wedding cost? Or have you contributed towards the cost of someone else’s big day?


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This comment was removed at the request of the user

Congratulations on your engagement, Lauren.

I object to the commercialisation of Christmas, so I’m very unimpressed by the costs of marriage. As a single person, I don’t think I’m going to face the challenges of getting married. Unless the newlyweds will be going back to their own home after the ceremonies, perhaps it would make more sense to put the money towards a mortgage and get onto the housing ladder. Borrowing money seems to provide the opportunity of being in long-term debt.

Like Duncan I’m concerned that some will have no chance of a grand ceremony even if they would like one. But we live in a society where some are more privileged than others because they have been born with rich and generous parents and families. I’m old fashioned and believe that marriage provides a better environment for children and it’s sad that people have been conditioned into believing that if they are going to get married, only the full works will do.

I’m not surprised to learn about wedding loans because so many are conditioned into accepting that debt is normal. Most students graduate in debt thanks to student loans. Maybe it would be better to pay their fees and recover them later, but that’s off-topic.

I wonder if couples should pay less attention to the wedding itself and more to their anniversaries, marking the achievement of happy years together.

You could always go abroad and get married somewhere romantic and have a party to celebrate when you return. It would save an awful lot of stress and money.

I’ve been to a very nice wedding reception in a village hall with family doing the catering and providing the drink, making the cake etc, after a registry office marriage. There is absolutely no need to spend a lot if you choose not to.

In a world of differences in wealth there will inevitably be different ways of having such a celebration, and that is entirely up to those involved to decide. A wedding is a big milestone in many people’s lives and they may want to make it a day to remember. Up to them – just like whether if you go on a cruise you choose steerage or the “owner’s” suite. We have to resist the envy that occurs when we see people better off than us, and realise you don’t have to have or spend loads of money to have a happy life.

I have not been to a wedding where the family has provided much more than the cake and decorations but at other events the food is usually much better quality and it’s more personal. Employing commercial caterers means that a significant amount of the budget goes to pay the organisation that provides the food.

I think it is plain stupid to spend extravagantly on weddings and have not a whit of sympathy for people who do. What is apparent is there is an entire industry and the media seemingly hell-bent on normalising weddings as a justifiable reason for getting into debt, or spending money that could be more usefully spent on a capital asset or added to savings for a future event.

” Statistics show 42 per cent of marriages end in divorce, and 34 per cent of married couples divorce before their 20th wedding anniversary. However, a study from Relate found 87 per cent of couples said they were in a good relationship, and that half rarely or never argued. The statistics show that many couples who were previously in good relationships end up getting divorced within 20 years of their nuptials.

Relate counsellor and sex therapist Peter Saddington has given the nine most common reasons for divorce he sees in couples.
1. Money problems
Problems can arise when it comes to money if husband and wife have different value bases, for instance, if one person likes spending money freely and the other is more frugal and prefers saving. ”

By many peoples standards we are well-off but then when we were poor we had a Registry wedding and a meal for the immediate family at a local hotel. If it were over £1000 , accounting for inflation , I would be surprised. It is being careful with money by habit that has meant we have never paid large amounts of interest to the banks.

Being tight with money is not to be deplored but a realisation that money is hard to come by particularly even if you do live in a work hot-spot.

One wonders how far these cost of wedding figures are inflated by ethnic traditional weddings which are hugely elaborate BUT do often involve serious cash gifts to the couple from relatives and friends. So it may be very expensive indeed but the net benefit may be substantial.

I’m unsure why people are still getting married.

There is something tastelessly competitive about wedding arrangements. The same is happening to high school proms. I dislike seeing wealth flaunted and am deeply saddened to realise that a lot of the extravagance is funded by debt. The ostentatiousness is one American import I feel we could do without.

Conversely I have no objection to arriving in style. The Pippa Middleton wedding seemed to feature an endless fleet of vintage and classic luxury cars. Others splash out on horses and carriages. A relative had a London Routemaster bus with special destination blinds and route number.

Perhaps one indulgence is sufficient – a lot of money can be saved by not having superfluous seat covers, fancy drapes, and elaborate garlands and bows all over the place.

In our family the generation below us does not seem to be inclined to get married so no upcoming celebrations for us.

Some people think it’s the bride’s big day; it is not – it is her mother’s.

Best Wishes, Lauren. Cheeky question: Will your next Conversation be on Best Buy layette sets?

Well, as you seem intent on this course of action I thought I’d provide a choice of wedding traditions.

Marriage for love is a very recent phenomenon; for most of recorded history it’s been essentially an economic and military / strategic union. In past times there were common elements: gifts, which included rock, horses, saddles, (Ørnulf Hodne recounts an example in his book Kvinne og mann i norsk folkekultur [Woman and man in Norwegian folk culture], in which the bride was “bought” for all the granite that lay six meters below the Tisleia river) and of course, the often mandatory chastity belt.

In ancient times the bride was often given three gifts: the first on engagement, the second on the wedding day and the third on the morning after the first night, a tradition now somewhat superfluous. In many Greek weddings it’s still accepted to pin money to the bride throughout the night (suppose it ensures she sticks around at the reception, anyway). Jewish weddings always have a lot of broken glass involved, for a variety of reasons. But both Jewish and Greek weddings are lots of fun.

In Gaelic wedding ceremonies when a bride entered her new home, by custom her mother-in-law would break a cake of bread over her head, as a token that she would take over as the woman of the house. Best to hope she wan’t adept at making rock cakes… But in the 12C marriages in Ireland were only for a year. They also prohibited the obese, infertile and impotent from marrying.

In ancient Abyssinia after the first night the bridegroom would emerge with a filled cup. If he and the Bridegoom’s father drank it, everything was fine but if he poured it out it was proof that the Bride wasn’t good in bed – or cave – and the marriage was annulled.

In the Northeast corner of Russia the Kamschatkadal (Kamchadal) demanded the Bridgroom would be sold into a brief slavery to her parents. If her parents were satisfied with the work, they’d give permission to marry the girl. This meant the Bridegroom had to find her and and strip her naked.

Swedish weddings involve the Bride attempting to see her husband on the wedding day before he sees here; that way she’ll be in charge of the marriage.

In Colombia the groom’s best man follows the couple into the bedroom, waits until they’re under the covers, beats his friend with a whip and yells, “Look at each other, kiss, and embrace! FAST!” In old Colombia, the whip-man follows the couple to their marital hut and yells at the groom, “TAKE THE WOMAN!” and then beats him with a whip. Can’t help the concentration…

British royal marriages involved the first night surrounded by the Privy Council, taking detailed notes as events unfolded. Gave new meaning to making sure the entry was accurate.

I looked up wedding traditions in the UK and it mentioned that the bride throws the bouquet of flowers. I’m sure Lauren will be happier with this tradition. 💐

I believe originally the tradition required that only marriageable [nubile] women were assembled in the throng to catch the bouquet, with a little contrived jostling taking place to ensure the ‘right’ girl got the prize as the sign that she would be the next lucky lass of the village to take the bridal path. I seem to recall that was one of the ironies underlying Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Nowadays the bouquet ritual seems to be a mad free-for-all involving all available female folk be they maidens or matrons.

Congratulations, Lauren!

We got married for £1,500. “Seconds” engagement ring at John Lewis, my grand-parents’s wedding rings, wedding bouquet bought on the day at the local florist’s, black cab to the registrars office (splashed out there, it was the best room in Lothian Chambers, Edinburgh), outfits (not wedding) at Monsoon and M&S, lunch including wine and champagne for 14 at a local restaurant (we didn’t tell them what it was for when we booked the table), honeymoon on the Isle of Mull. Happened to have St Giles chiming 2 o’clock when the ceremony was over and a piper busking nearby, so that was thrown in for free.

A female’s day? I had never seen my husband so happy. It was both our day. The best thing I’ve ever done in my whole life.

A wedding is one of the most personal events in a couples life. Why should any of us wish to pontificate on how much they should choose to spend (or not) on the occasion?

I suspect the point is not to pontificate but to assess whether wedding arrangers are becoming too greedy .

It is the families (traditionally the brides, but more usually the prospective bride and groom) who decide what sort of a wedding they want. There are then no end of ways to arrange it and that is their choice. if they want to hand it over to a professional arranger for a fee then again its their choice. Its not quite like a funeral where the whole process and costs seem much more opaque and more worthy of this sort of discussion than a wedding. We each decide how to spend our money, whether it is on expensive holidays, houses, cars…..and we all sometimes make a choice others might disapprove of. But we live by our choices.

@Laura, I am sure you are a sensible bride-to-be and know how to deal with your finances to achieve the ends you want. Congratulations on your engagement and I wish you every happiness.

It is too late now but I gather Dubai is a very good place to get an engagement ring made.

As long as you Dubai the ring and don’t use credit.

Delete ‘you’. I should not attempt humour early in the morning.

I find it curious, Malcolm, when you say “We each decide how to spend our money, whether it is on expensive holidays, houses, cars…..and we all sometimes make a choice others might disapprove of“. Not simply ending a sentence with a preposition (although that does hurt) but a statement of the blindingly obvious which seems to miss the presumed point of the topic. Surely this is not about whether anyone disapproves or not (other than one or two have made that clear) but more about how Lauren can save a few bob on the big day?

I fear that Lauren may give someone the idea of selling budgeting spreadsheets for weddings. 🙁

For many hotels and other wedding venues these events are their No.1 profit stream but they are at risk of milking the market. Having said that, they are dealing with a market that is highly suggestible and afraid of appearing parsimonious. Because it is such a lucrative business many more places are developing that aspect so that supply and demand will eventually become more balanced such that extortionate prices might be moderated in future. Charging £20 corkage on a £5 wine is exploitation and since it is possible that you might need more than one bottle, Lauren, it might be worth seeing if you can come to a more favourable arrangement or just walk away.

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As an example of cultural norms:

“But the time when parents controlled everything has long passed. Parents might still be there to oversee preparations, but in the end it all boils down to the couple themselves to create their ideal modern Asian wedding. So what is the budget for such perfection?
According to a DESIblitz poll, 39 per cent of people are willing to spend between £30,000 and £50,000 on their dream wedding.
24 per cent of British Asians opt for a lower price range of between £20,000 and £30,000 while an impressive 22 per cent are willing to spend between £50,000 and £75,000.
It seems that the tradition of the local community hall wedding are no longer acceptable, as only 6 per cent of British Asians would spend less than £20,000 on a wedding.”

As mentioned previously some communities actually provide cash gifts so one must not take this events out of this context. For a couple to go into debt without this background support I think a bad thing.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

Generalising is fraught with difficulties. While some UK Asian families mighty be well-off and can afford lavish ceremonies [and I have been to a few], I expect the overwhelming majority of Asian families are in the lowest income quartile. That’s not to say they don’t give their brides a fantastic wedding but the expense is relative to their means, so humanity, goodwill and spiritual providence prevail over more mundane considerations.

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Duncan – I don’t know why you are having a go at me. I have not seen what you originally wrote and which has subsequently been removed by the moderators.

My comment above was not solely in response to yours except your first sentence where you say a “large majority” of the Pakistani/Indian population own businesses, which I do not think is remotely true. Even many that do own businesses are struggling financially since the market they predominantly serve is poorer than average. I was also reflecting on the poll referred to by Patrick T [on the money spent by the Asian community on their weddings] which I feel is unreliable since I would question whether the selected demographic is truly representative of the Asian population throughout the UK.

And I’ll thank you not lecture us [your final sentence] on the payment of interest which has nothing to do with this topic.

It is a feature of this site that the sequencing of comments in the sub-threads can lead to unfortunate juxtapositions.

I thought the cost of Asian weddings was a fair point in the context of this Conversation, Lauren; reference has previously been made to Greek weddings and other cultures’ traditions. I have added a few words to my comment above to reinforce its relevance.

In our part of England very few young couples can afford to pay the preposterous sums quoted but marriage remains a strong tradition. I am sure the weddings are none the worse for it and that everyone has a day to remember. There are expensive weddings, and wedding shows take place at big hotels around the county where brides and grooms are led into temptation by mercenary wedding arrangers who keep suggesting more and more “must have” accoutrements that, to my mind, distract from the couple’s paramount commitment to each other rather than the whims of decor trends and marketing and the need to put on a show. I must admit I prefer a simple country wedding with a minimum of commercial artifice.

I see this as a part of a much more general problem caused by social and peer pressure and high pressure marketing. Look at the way marketing is currently working on pushing people to change their phones yearly and extract more money for the privilege. The received wisdom seems to be that people should shop around for the best value for money for their wedding day but forgoing some of the frills seems a better way of saving to me.

Jame says:
29 May 2017

I’m getting married in a few months, and so far we have the total cost at around £6,000. After putting all our money into a deposit last year, it seemed to make sense to just have the wedding at home! We have a van coming to do the food, will get the wine from Aldi and create a Spotify playlist for music. The only problem is that we’ll have 2 families staying with us, which might get a little cramped…

I think you are doing the right thing, Jame, and I hope you all have a jolly good time and a wedding for you both to remember for the rest of your lives. I am tempted to ask why these other family members cannot make their own accommodation arrangements for a couple of days instead of adding to your costs and pressures. I would value that as much as the silver fish server you’ll no doubt be given.