How to Plan a Wedding: The Budget

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Toni & Colin spent just £3000 and their wedding was flipping amazing!

Regardless of how much you have to spend, planning an amazing wedding is completely possible. If you’re cleaver with your choices and make smart decisions, you’ll be surprised how far you can make even the most meagre of budgets go.

While crunching numbers may be way less fun than, say, dress shopping, having a hold on your wedding finances will make things much less stressful overall and will help you to keep things in perspective. Yes, that Vera Wang one of a kind gown is incredible but do you really want to spend 90% of your entire wedding fund on it?

Most importantly though, having a budget protects your future. After all, you’re planning for a marriage here, not just a wedding, and you really don’t want to start married life under the shadow of a massive post-wedding debt.

First things first, sit down with your fiancé and discuss what you can afford and how you’re going to pay for the wedding. If your parents are helping you out then you should include them in this too.

Although you might see this as ‘your big day’, your parents have probably been dreaming about this since you were born. Especially if they’re paying for or contributing in any way, you should include them in any major decisions. It’s unlikely that they’re going to write you a blank cheque and not see you until the day.

Ask your parents which parts of the wedding they’d like to be involved in. My mum really wanted to be included in the picking of my dress for example but wasn’t really bothered about the stationery. To make it easier and to avoid the ‘too many cooks’ syndrome, do the research yourself and then present them some options when it comes to selecting things (“We’re thinking about these three photographers at these prices. What do you think?”)

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Start a savings account. You’ll be surprised how quickly it can build up. If you have a year long engagement and you save just £10 a week (that’s three cups of coffee shop coffee) in 12 month’s time you’ll have an extra £500 to spend! That could be the difference between your dream photographer, that incredible wedding cake or the most extravagant and beautiful shoes you’ve ever owned!

You should also think about how much you actually want to spend. Maybe you can afford a bigger wedding, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend everything you have. It might be better to pull back a little and save a nest egg for starting married life with.

The next thing you should do is to sit down and write down everything that, in an ideal world, you’d like to have at your wedding.  Figure out how much these things are going to cost and then decide which of those are non-negotiable. Also consider what can be cut, DIYed or you might only have if a cheaper alternative can be found.

Below is a very rough guide of the average costs of certain things. I got to these numbers by speaking to various people in the UK wedding industry. Yes, you can spend much more or much, much less on some of these, but by having an idea in your head of average costs when hiring a professional you’ll be much better equipped when planning your budget.

My research showed that in the UK, the average cost of the main areas of wedding expense were as follows:

♥ Photography £1200 – £2000
♥ Videographer £1000 – £2000
♥ Flowers £1000
♥ Stationery £1000
♥ Wedding Dress £1000 – £2000
♥ Engagement Ring £2500 (!!!)
♥ Wedding Ring £400 – £1000
♥ Band/Entertainment £600-£1500 (depending of numbers of band members)
♥ Catering £25-£50 per person
♥ Make Up £200 (bride only + pre-wedding trial) +£50 extra per bridesmaid/ Mother of the bride
♥ Hair £150 (bride only + pre-wedding trial) +£50 extra per bridesmaid/ Mother of the bride
♥ Cake £350
♥ Wedding Planner – Approx 10% of your budget (full coordination) £650 – £1000 (on the day styling/ coordination)

You’ll notice that I haven’t included venues because this can vary so wildly depending on what you have. Exclusive hire of a stately home or hotel could set you back upwards of £30,000 whereas hiring a village hall, restaurant or bar for the evening could be as little as a few hundred pounds.

As you can see, this can all really add up quickly! When we did this for our own wedding we decided that we wanted to scrimp on things like stationery (we made our own) cake (my mum made it) and flowers (they’re gonna die anyway, right?) We also didn’t have a videographer but I really wish we did now. By cutting these things that we felt were less important we had more money to spend on the things we really wanted – a great venue, delicious food, lots of booze, and amazing photographers.

So don’t be afraid of the dreaded ‘B’ word. If you let it, your budget will be your best friend when planning your wedding. It will keep your head in check, but more than that, help you to plan a dream wedding that you can actually afford!

This is part two of a ten part series on how to plan a wedding. If you missed last week’s edition, The Timeline, be sure to check it out too. 

Next week we’ll be covering how to pick and secure your wedding venue. See you then!

Supporting Cast

29 comments

  1. Wise words! It is a great idea to get real about budget asap once the engagement has been celebrated :) Good move for healthy future relations all round!

  2. You’ve absolutely got to get real with your budget! I’ve only today been speaking to a bride who really wanted to book me, but had absolutely no idea about the cost involved (and I certainly do fall into that ‘average’ price bracket).

    One of the most political areas of a wedding, I’ve always found, has been the guest list – and this is where costs really stack up, as you’re effectively buying a rather expensive meal for what could turn out to be hundreds of people. Parents often have a ‘must’ list from their side of the family to invite, but they can often forget that every extra person can be another £100 on the budget (or more!) I think it’s wise to be absolutely up front with these costs when you’re looking at your guest list with your parents, so they appreciate that inviting all those distant cousins who you haven’t seen since you were a child just might be adding thousands to the bill!

  3. Karen Evans

    We aimed for £2000 and looks like it’s gonna hit around £2600…… (Inc honeymoon) We are asking for donations for presents so that should bring us back within budget. Anybody we knew who had a skill, we contacted. Band, DJ, MUA, hair & photographer… All done with either mates rates or as present. eBay is a godsend & my engagement ring was £70 5 miles down the rd! Some jewellery shop do 0% credit in rings so that spreads out that budget. By contacting a local pub, having it on weekday we are feeding approx 80 for £650… Who doesn’t love a good carvery roast (even let us have their 2 for 1 offer!) everything else is homemade of off free local wedding sites…. Just a day of us, fun, friends & good music. It can be done!!!!
    Who needs a mountain of wedding debt when u have enough life debt??!!!!

  4. Good article. We did our wedding for approximately £6,000. That included the whole wedding party staying at the wedding venue for a week and our back packing honeymoon to Australia and New Zealand for 4 weeks!

  5. @ Lizz – wow, that’s amazing! Our budget is around the same… although it doesn’t include a week of accommodation! I’m very impressed.

    @ Kat – Great post and perfect timing for me. I’m getting married in August and have been sticking my head in the sand a bit, now it’s the New Year it’s all go, go, go! Are you going to cover the subject of free bars?

  6. Alan O'Brien

    I’m so glad you valued photography as part of the budget. Someone once said that you’re only left with two things after your wedding, Memories & Photographs. Flowers etc all fade away after the big day.

  7. Other people’s experiences of them I guess. The costs, the pros and cons, are they worth the money for an amazing party atmosphere or does everyone just go to sleep at 9pm… Are people still having them or is it just an old fashioned tradition? (Don’t worry, I can hit some forums after this ;-)) Personally, I’ve been to 10+ weddings and only 2 of them had a free bar. It seems they are a dying breed. Within our budget we’re sacrificing on other things (email invites to save on stationery, less flowers, non-traditional wedding cake, a “party” venue rather than a “wedding venue” etc) in order to provide a free bar for our guests. I hope it’s the right choice!

  8. Sound advice! The last thing you want to do is regret overspending afterwards! I still don’t regret the £6000 we spent, not too much and I don’t feel we went without anything

    One thing I would say though, photography is really really worth every single penny we almost made the huge error of not hiring a pro but so so so happy we had Sassy (assassynation.co.uk) The photos are whats left once the cake is all gone ;o)

  9. It’s so nice and refreshing to see realistic figures! (except the engagement ring?!) I paid no where near that :P hehe
    I’m going to my barber on the morning of my wedding day to get my £15 pompadour!

  10. Hey Hayley, I’m not sure how this fits with your situation but my partner and I have decided NOT to go with a free bar. This goes against what I’d like, ideally (I’m from the North, it’s the norm to have a free bar – vast generalisation alert -) BUT as we’re getting married in London, where we now both live, and 95% of our guests live in London, they only have to pay the price of a travelcard to get to us. As opposed to the hotel/trains/even flights I’m paying to go to the seven other weddings on the cards this year.

  11. Excellent advice. I totally agree with sorting the budget out early on. I also wanted to put a word in for value for money on photography. My number one priority was capturing the day (having great memories of all the cash you’ve spent!). We had sassy shoot our wedding too as Laura above did., if I were to apply the same calculation as I do when justifying a dress purchase to my lovely hubby – I.e cost per wear -I look at those pictures very very often and therefore if you worked out the cost per picture I bet it wouldn’t come to much at all. I know some people are on a tight budget so your advice about saving for a bit longer or cutting out something like the cafe coffee is justified to get the day you want.

  12. Oops, meant to add: so, fingers crossed people are happy with just having free wine for the toasts, with the meal, and as a post-ceremony sweetener, and can hit the bar with their own pennies for any extras. We had to think long and hard about it, mind. But this is what we think will work for our situation, our budget, and our brilliant, boozehound, pals.

  13. Just wanted to add a little advice specifically about photography budgets (being that this is something I come across quite frequently). If you have a limited budget, my suggestion is to whittle down the number of hours of coverage that you need, rather than going with a photographer that charges less so you get more coverage time. It can be the difference between having 3 hours of stellar photos, and 8 hours of photos that make you cry. Whenever a bride comes to me with their budget, I tell them to really sit down and figure out what they want coverage of. If they’re interested in telling a romantic story, then getting ready, ceremony and romantics are important and then you can let your friends iPhones rule the reception. If your crew is know to party and it’s important to capture you with your friends on the dance floor, then maybe scrap getting ready and focus on ceremony and reception. The key is to really get clear on what you want out of your photos and then use your budget to guarantee that you’ll have great photos of the most important things to you. Photographers who’s rates seem too good to be true are 99% of the time just that.

  14. Emma

    Is that stationery figure of £1000 really correct?! I’m not buying cheap invitations at all but I think I’ll be done for under £300… Unless ‘stationery’ covers a whole load of stuff I haven’t even thought about yet haha…

  15. Post author

    Hey Emma, apparently so, hence why we designed and printed ours ourselves! But yeah I think it includes the full wack – save the dates, invites, table names, menus etc

  16. Hey George, thanks for the comments and glad to hear you have boozehound friends too! ;-) Our wedding is in the Netherlands, so that’s already a big ask (the poor ducks HAVE to go to Amsterdam for a weekend!) Also, in NL, you don’t bring your own booze to a party – you bring a gift/put money in for a group gift, so it fits in with their traditions too. Totally get your decision with your friends mostly in London, makes sense. Hope it goes brilliantly for you and your partner!

  17. Shakira

    Great article! We are getting married at the end of May this year and have been trying very hard not to spend silly amounts of money – even though we want a fantastic wedding day, it seems illogical to us both to blow a huge amount on one day for the sake of it. Your list of average UK wedding costs made me breathe a sigh of relief as we seem to be well under these figures on almost everything. We never actually worked out a budget – I think my other half knows my ‘talent’ for bargain spotting! – but agreed that we would always consult before committing to the big buys. One of the things we didn’t want to scrimp on was the photography, and managed to get the photographer that we really wanted with the help of a very generous friend. I have the same view as you on flowers Kat – so I am making them all from crepe paper. That way the jars and flowers can be given to guests at the end to take home and we can keep a few too. Our invitations were designed by my illustrator brother and I, and printed for under £50 as I waited for an offer to come round from a printing company I have used before. I think everything we have bought so far has either been on sale or from an antiques/charity shop. Shop around!

  18. Sophie

    We’ve struggled a lot with our budget. We didn’t want to spend thousands upon thousands on a single day when we could have a kickass honeymoon. We hit on a beautiful venue, by the sea with everything included for £2000. I’m making the invites, and we’re pretty much making everything else. I think with everything included, we’re going to come in at £3,500.

  19. Sophie

    Oh and my Grandpa is growing my flowers and I’ll be learning how to make bouquets & buttonholes using online tutorials, ha!

  20. Alex

    THANK YOU for the averages–that has been by far the hardest part about putting together a budget, trying to figure out how much things tend to cost in order to figure out how much I can reasonably expect to pay and where to cut. Unbelievable I’ve never actually seen a price breakdown before now–for the most part I think I have been pretty good at guessing but for things like flowers or a DJ I’ve been clueless!
    It’s like talking about actual dollar amounts is taboo within the industry, people just talk about “keeping your budget in mind” or “staying on budget” without discussing the finer details of what to expect.

  21. Well done highlighting this topic!! It is one of the most common questions we hear as wedding planners and oddly, an area that is seldom discussed in any depth by the wedding media.
    Anyway, for those that are interested we have published a useful FREE, INTERACTIVE WEDDING BUDGET PLANNER / CALCULATOR to help you divide your wedding budget up into its separate required parts. Moreover, it also includes an extensive Suppliers Price Guide. You can find the resource on our blog: http://wedding-blog.absoluteperfection.co.uk
    Hope it helps!

  22. Sharon Mason

    As mine will be a second marriage (though my h2b’s first) and we’re in our 40′s/50′s, plus we don’t want much fuss we simply won’t be having a lot of the above… We are kind of going to get married without much of a wedding, so a registry office (a real cool, but quite a cheap one!) then going for something to eat afterwards (maybe a cream tea, or a Chinese buffet lunch, we haven’t decided yet)rather than having a reception. We won’t be paying either, if people want to join us they can, but pay £10-£20 for their own lunch plus any drinks they want on top….. We’re not asking for any gifts though as our home is already set-up! So a photographer, no more than £1,000 as we can’t afford more than that. No videographer at all. No stationary as we’ll invite our small guest list (less than 60) online or via e-mail/social media. No flowers whatsoever. I will carry a small but gorgeous bag (you can’t keep your lipstick in a bunch of flowers!). My wedding dress will be off the high street at no more than £250 (Phase Eight). I already have an engagement ring and my wedding ring shouldn’t cost more than £500 absolute tops… We may get tattoo rings instead though! As we’re not having a reception as such, we won’t be having entertainment – BUT we will be buying some props to play games outside! (They won’t cost much). So, no catering money – only our own lunch and that of our guests who are flying in to attend ( 2 couples). I would like my hair & make up done professionally, but I won’t pay for anyone else’s. My cake will be made by my lovely friend, who I will pay, but she won’t charge me silly prices. And lastly, I will plan my own wedding as I’m a grown-up who works full-time, studies a degree, runs a house, parents two teens and looks after 3 cats – so I’m more than capable of organising our marriage ceremony and a small celebration afterwards. Oh, I probably sound like the queen of mean but I just want to get married – I’m not really interested in having a wedding. A budget is still a good idea though, and I will be budgeting too ;)

  23. Sharon Mason

    Sorry to post again after such a long post already, but I forgot to mention I prioritised most of my wedding budget for the Honeymoon. We want to go to Santorini and it’s not exactly cheap! We know in our last years we’ll still remember that amazing view and that beautiful sunset, etc, rather than reminiscing how glad we were that Aunt Edna came to the wedding and moaned about the sausage rolls in the buffet!

  24. Jo

    We are under £800, how’s that for budget. After a death of a friend we knew life is too short and decided we just want get married. lots of handmade things, cake and flowers by Mom, dress £60, rings £50, photos by guests! ..we will still have a great day. Everything is set for next week and we’re happy, It may not be for everyone but it can be done :)

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