Ask Us…The B Word.

Yup. BUDGETS. I know. Scary biscuits. If you were ever, or indeed are, a member of that well-known wedding forum, you’ll know how irrational and downright horrid people can be when the topic of money is raised. It’s a sensitive subject, yes. One that needs to be treated with respect, absolutely. But not something that we shouldn’t talk about. Thankfully, you lovely lot seem to have the same idea, as it was AOW reader Esme who e-mailed us with the subject title ‘Money’. She told us a little about her (utterly stupendous sounding) plans and asked what our thoughts on spending were. This is the line that stood out for us,
‘We’re paying for 95% of our wedding and have saved like mad things for almost a year, which is great and I’m so proud of us. But, I look at the balance we have in our saving account right now and can’t help thinking that we could have the most amazing honeymoon with that money.’
And we thought we needed to deal with this subject,because I know we both had the same worries when planning our own (hugely different) weddings. So here are our takes on it….
My first thought was that Esme and her man SHOULD be blo*dy proud of themselves-all that saving and hard work! Second though, was the thought that it would be really sad if all that money was spent and Esme looked back and regretted it. This was what I said to her, that she had to truly believe that she would only feel proud and joyous looking back on their day. Otherwise, yes. It is a waste of money.
And this is what I truly believe. Whatever your budget, be it less than, more than or spot on the expected average for a 2011 wedding, if you regret spending the money, then what was the point? If, no matter how many £££s in your pot, you spent your money on those things that you both loved and truly wanted for your day…you won’t regret it. (Unless you put it on a credit card. I won’t apologise for this opinion, it’s the one thing that makes me behave irrationally and horribly when it comes to wedding spending. Debt. Euck.) And Esme and her fella are definitely spending on the things that matter to them. They’ve got some awesome touches planned for their day that will really make it theirs and are also managing to save elsewhere by borrowing mini marquees from strangers bloggers! It’s going to be stunning, folks.
That’s how I’m able to look at weddings that have had vastly differing amounts spent on them and see the beauty in each and every one. You can tell whether the couple are happy no matter how much they spent, whether or not they married in a castle or a registry office and whether the dress was designer store or charity shop. Ultimately, the couple in question are the ones who have to care about how much money is spent and what it’s spent on. No one else.
My other bugbear in relation to wedding budgets is what a ‘small’ budget wedding looks like. Does anyone know? Does it look like this?

Our ridiculously beautiful family and friends at our ‘low budget’ wedding. Captured by Mr. Fazackarley
Because I look at that picture and I see nothing but love, happiness and a whole lot of stupidly good-looking people. All for less than £1500. Which brings me to my final thought, which is aimed at all planning brides, whatever their financial situation. Never be ashamed of your budget, no matter how many zero’s are at the end of it. Being ashamed of the amount you have to spend will bring you as much regret as spending on things that don’t really matter. And that’s me.


Ok….having spent just a tad more than Aisling and Phil did (not that this is a competition on who can spend the most/least on their wedding, we love all budgets here), the first thing I have to say is I am in total awe of Aisling’s wedding budget. It just goes to show that you can have a totally magazine and blog worthy wedding (they are *queueing* up to feature her wedding, believe me), and still spend less than a lot of people spend on their dress alone. Ok. Right, glad I got that off my chest. On to the answer for Esme…

I don’t regret the money that we spent on our wedding day, and I’m not sure many people do actually look back with regret on their wedding day.

What I do think can end up happening though, is when you look back, after the event, you can see the true value of the things that you felt that you ‘absolutely must have’ when you were planning. You might realise that the obscenely expensive cake/shoes/chocolate fountain that you felt you couldn’t do without actually weren’t all that necessary.

Alternatively though, you could look back and think that that was the best money you’ve ever spent, and you’d pay it all over again just to get to stare all day long at such a thing of beauty.

And that’s the thing. Only you can know what an item’s true value is to you. This is not something that you should be swayed on by relatives (unless you know that you will look back and know that you did the right thing by spending that money to make certain people happy),and definitely not by magazines or blogs, who, lets face it, have it in their interest to sell you things.

Spend (what you can afford, obvs) on things that make your heart sing, and that you know will make a difference to your day. Use suppliers who you have a good gut feeling about and who you know you can trust. Analyse things that don’t make you happy, and work out why. Is it a price issue? Is it that you just don’t love it? Maybe it’s that deep down you know you might look back and regret spending that extra £5,000 on having your dress fitted with twinkling fairy lights? Make sure that you don’t confuse excitement with true heart-singing happiness. Take your time to make decisions.

If you need to have things for practical reasons, like toilets, or chairs, they’re not likely to make your heart sing. With these, choose what you know you need, and what fits in your budget. Don’t let the salesman sucker you in with his description of luxury toilets with bespoke seat-covers and bidet settings (unless,of course,that’s what floats your boat? If so, go ahead). And don’t regret these things – toilets and chairs are pretty necessary at most functions.

So there you have it. I *think*, that if you follow those rules, you’ve got the best chance of standing at the edge of your wedding with your new husband, looking on at your friends and family having a wonderful time/looking out over Vegas from your hotel room that came with your elopement package/insert your wedding here, not regretting a single bit of it.

So, what do you think? Does anyone else have any advice for the lovely Esme?

Categories: Ask Anna, Ant and AOW, Money and Career
15 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    We came in under budget. If we had wanted to, there was probably another 10k from my parents that we could have spent. Am I sometimes appalled when I think that we spent as much on a wedding as my clients make in a year? Absolutely. Am I always fiercely grateful to our parents for letting us throw such a fantastic party? Yes! Do I have any regrets? Yes. We didn't spend enough.

    What I mean is this: we tried to spend money in a way that made us feel financially comfortable. My number one regret is not hiring a Day Of Coordinator. I let my husband talk me out of it because he thought it was a silly expense. In the end, we both felt terrible about how badly we abused our friends. (One of whom got poison ivy after helping us set up.) For us, a big factor in wishing we had spent more is that my parents were willing to pay more, but did not give us a lump sum from which we could keep the excess. So there was no benefit for us from saving by scrimping on things like help. Yes, a DOC would have been expensive, but would have been worth it.

    I think in the end, I also wish we had rented a photobooth instead of DIYing it. Our photobooth took up every evening we had in the weeks before the wedding, and it still didn't work right. If we had spent $800 instead of $200, we could have had a professional photobooth and a whole lot more free time, but at the same time, I'm intensely proud of what we built.

    In the grand scheme of things, I'm talking about spending an extra 2k on our wedding, which we had in the budget. I also would have made sure to get a second shooter. Our photographer missed a lot, and we have no pictures from the cocktail hour, and few of the guests during the ceremony, and there aren't pictures of all the guests during the reception, because one person can't be in two places.

    If we had paid for our wedding ourselves, I don't think we would regret at all what we spent our money on, but I probably also wouldn't regret not spending more the way that I do now.

  2. Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    E- a fantastic comment and excellent point of view.
    I think because we didn't spend thousands, my 'regret' thinking can sometimes come across as 'don't spend if you'll regret it' when actually what you've said is spot on-you shouldn't try to *not spend* if you'll regret that too.
    Thank you for your comment, and your wedding sounds as though it was wonderful-I hope your friend didn't suffer too much with the poison ivy!


  3. Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    E great point, exactly what I was thinking actually.

    I also had very generous parents who wanted to pay for my wedding. And we were really truly grateful and still are, but a budget figure was never mentioned. It was all vague and a bit have what you like but I knew there would be a cut off point somewhere. As a result I didn't want to ring my parents dry and consequently made things and decided against things on the basis of cost and because I didn't want them to think I was taking them for a ride. I didn't want the guilt afterwards.

    I don't have the guilt but like E I have regrets about not spending that little bit extra to get exactly what I wanted. Just little things about the photographer and maybe the stationary, although I am so proud we made it all ourselves.

    You know in your gut when you make a decision and if it is a send your heart a flutter or a sensible level headed one. Neither are wrong. But if you could afford to set your heart a flutter then I would say go for it because otherwise there might always be a little regret there.

  4. Katie
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I do not want to criticise anyone who might read this, as we all have different priorities, but I could not get into debt for a wedding.

    I have loved all the weddings I have ever been to. A good friend from university, got married last autumn. In the pub the next day we were chatting about weddings in general, and the b word came up, and the couple said they'd spent 5k on their wedding, which was an amount they could afford and felt comfortable with. My budget is significantly larger than this, but it did make me question some of the expense, as a guest I loved their wedding. They had lots of delicious food and drink for 50 guests, and the day was filled with laughter. It was very relaxed and informal, with games instead of speeches, and the bride wore flip flops.

  5. Katie
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I'd just like to add, by love all weddings I have ever been to, I mean from posh country houses to reception in local pub or village hall. For me, a party full of friends family and booze, is always fun. I genuinely love weddings.

    I do not like the turning a wedding into a competitive sport, whether it be by who was the most frugal, or who had the most extravagant wedding.


  6. Esme
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    It's really interesting hearing comments from brides who had financial help but still had regrets. It's an odd one, isn't it? You know that they want to help, but you're an adult who pays for most other things yourself AND you have clear ideas of what you want.

    The main message I'm going to take from this? Choose things that make my heart sing. Fab girls, thank you.


    P.S. Shall I send you some pics after the big day?

  7. Abi :)
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Oh Budget…

    Before I got engaged I had a very very fixed idea about what would be a reasonable amount of money to spend on a wedding.

    Now, 5 months in, with a guest list of 120 family and friends (he has a huge but very close family, I have a quite a lot of friends pretty close friends) my initial budget kind of went out of the window when I started to discover how much harder work it is to feed 120 people yourself! In the end we have booked a fab barn with Caterers who will organise everything including BBQ and evening grub…
    The biggest expense is feeding people. But I would rather have as many people as we can (oh being a people pleaser is pretty crappy right now)

    Thankfully, we had stashed a bit of cash away in recent years and we are saving hard as there is no way I want to get into debt for this. Plus both sets of parents will be helping in someway (not sure how just yet)

    However, there is a part of me that feels really silly for spending what I consider to be an awful lot of money on ONE DAY! But I can see how the costs rack up:
    'Oh but this dress is only £500 more'
    This photographer is only £200 more
    Maybe we should have canapes??
    etc etc

    And I look at weddings like Aisling and I think 'that is what I have always wanted to do' but I just dont have the balls, tenacity, organisational skills, garden/land, faith in British Weather behind me. Plus my boy is more traditional than I realised and wants a bit of a 'do' (Catholic family… and we're having a civil ceremony….)

    Oh sorry that was an essay… guess I felt like pouring my heart out a bit today…

    Weddings hey, they look so simple in magazines, blogs, films… not so much in real life

  8. Rebecca
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Oh golly. I run from thinking 'i wish our wedding could be that cool and outdoorsy' but then I think that it's just not us. That I'm not that brave. That if we did, it wouldn't be 'us' and that is ultimately what we want, an extended version of us. Simply we are traditional with a capital T and whilst I'd LOVE to attend a quirky vintage/1920's/mod wedding, you only get one wedding so it's got to be right. And I agree that sometimes blogs have a vested interest in brides spending money. But also in pressurising brides to come up with the coolest newest thing or gimic.

    We've tried to be sensible. I'm doing the flowers, my aunt is helping with the cake and my friend is doing our invitation suite at cost. We are splurging on a photographer and the dress but we're making that cost up somewhere else.

    What I will say on debt is….that it too is personal. If someone earns £100,000 a year (I wish!) then £5,000 on credit is nothing and could be paid off quicker than you can say five thousand. But if you only earn £20,000 then £1000 is LOADS. I don't think it's right to berate people for having their parents pay, or having x budget, so why do it to couples who finance their day in their way.

    Fantastically written article on a minefield subject. FAB

  9. Posted April 14, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Look at us all being so reserved about this. Esme, want my opinion?

    This is your wedding, if you'd rather have a cheaper wedding and have more pennies for a honeymoon, do it.

    Nobody can promise you won't regret spending more or less than you do, we are contrary beings. We think we know what we want until we decide we want something else.

    The best I think you can hope for is to be at peace with the choices you make and stick to them or make a conscious choice to change them – it's not too late x

  10. Posted April 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Lucy, you are so spot on (of course).

    My biggest regret, budget-wise? Spending £35 on crappy paper bunting to brighten up the entryway of our reception venue in a last-minute panic that people would be somehow offended by its golf-clubbiness. It was a golf club. No amount of paper bunting would have made it look like anything other than a golf club. It was such a waste of money.

    It wasn't the amount – £35 isn't exactly a fortune – it was the fact that I panicked, and spent money on something without thinking whether we really needed it. Our budget wasn't tiny (Aisling – £1500???? I am in awe!) but it was quite tightly controlled and I think I was just more irritated to think that I could have spent that money on something else.

    I'm going to put my neck out and say that there will always be SOMETHING you would have done/spent differently. But at the end of the day – oh god I feel bad saying this – the wedding isn't THAT big a deal. By which I mean, ask your granny how much she spent or what she spent it on and she probably won't remember – she will remember 50 years of marriage, not that one day. And over time, any regrets will fade, and be replaced by new ones – none of us is perfect, we will all make many mistakes as we go through our lives. So, as Lucy says, all we can do is make peace with our choices, or make the decision to change them.

    Sorry Esme, I don't know if that huge waffle was helpful at all – probably not. If a wedding is just one day, a honeymoon is just a lovely holiday – a special one, for sure, but a holiday nevertheless – so you just need to do whatever feels right for you and your fiance. From what I know of you, and your wedding plans (I'm assuming this is the same Esme?!) you will have a fabulous, wonderful day, whatever you decide.

    (Oh, and I'm re-using that paper bunting for my Royal Wedding Extravaganza, so maybe it wasn't such a bad buy after all…)

  11. Posted April 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Oh and yes, definitely send pics after the day!!

  12. Posted April 15, 2011 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    I completely agree with what everyone else has said. One thing I would add is: Know your budget from the start and have an overall figure you want to aim to be close to. This way you're much more likely to actually spend what you can/want to without the extras all sneaking in and whittling away your honeymoon money!

    We had our budget and we adjusted some areas which we realised were going to cost more and some which we did ourselves or got for a lot less. Our budget also helped us make decisions, like guest list decisions. We just couldn't afford to have lots and lots of people so we stuck to 64 people and worked our list size on our budget.

    Esme – Whatever happens hope you have an amazing day and would love to see your pics!

  13. Esme
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the great advice guys. And Kirsty, yes it's the same Esme :o )

2 Trackbacks

  • By 14 Sleeps…. on February 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    [...] a friend of the blog for a long time and we like to think that we helped her a *little* with her budget-guilt-dilemmas. All that aside, she’s the sweetest. most genuine person you could imagine and in 2 weeks [...]

  • By Any Other Photo {Kirsty and Fin} on February 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    [...] kind of way. If you’re going to spend a small fortune (whatever your budget may be) and all that time (again, it’s all relative, but I can tell you that seven months felt [...]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

More here.

image by Lucy Stendall Photography

Find me a random post