AOW A-Z of Getting Married – Z is for Zilch (wedding planning on limited £)

The AOW A-Z of Getting Married is a resource for brides (and grooms) to be.  It’s a welcome piece of sanity in an industry-saturated world where people are bombarded with what weddings they should have, what they should act like, and how a bride should feel.  Created by the team behind Any Other Woman, this A-Z is the first collaboration of its kind, bringing together posts from readers across the AOW community filled with advice, wisdom and experience from sane, smart, real women, many of whom have been there.  From wedding planning to family trials to breaking taboos, no topic is out of bounds.  We are honoured and excited to run each and every post, and we learn from each and every one of our readers.

To help the A-Z become an even better resource, please leave your tips, advice and comments below.

Z is for Zilch (Wedding Planning on Limited £) by Lucy James from Bigger Diamonds for Less


After the excitement of getting engaged starts to subside, it’s time to start preparing for your wedding. Your wedding budget can play a large role in whether the excitement continues or quickly disappears. But budget concerns don’t have to take the fun out of your wedding preparations. There are plenty of ways to cut corners without having a wedding or reception that looks low-budget. Cost-effective and low-budget wedding planning isn’t one in the same. Follow these 10 budget-savvy wedding tips to have the wedding of your dream without having to face years of debt repayment.

Get Married During the Off-Season. Wedding season peaks during the months of June and October, causing the price of most anything wedding-related to go up. Get married in November, January and March for the best prices.

Prioritize What You Want. Knowing what’s important to you will help you budget your entire wedding. Maybe you want a specific reception venue but can cut costs elsewhere by skipping the limo. Sit down with your partner and decide what you want to budget for and what items are non-negotiable.

Alternative Dress-Buying Ideas. If you go to a bridal shop, look at last season’s dresses or off-the-rack gowns. Alternatively, you can buy a beautiful gown at a lower price on sites such as Etsy. Wearing your mom or sister’s wedding gown is also an option, leaving you with only the alteration costs to deal with.

Do-It-Yourself. Cut costs by making your own invitations. Get crafty with friends and create your own reception centerpieces. There are so many DIY opportunities for budget-savvy weddings; incorporate a few into your plans to save hundreds.

Barter and Trade. Long ago, bartering was the way people conducted business. If you have a skill or talent that would benefit another business person, you can barter for your wedding photography, your cake or even your flowers.

Reception Location. Scheduling your wedding during the off-season can definitely slash the cost of a reception venue. But there are other cost-effective options, such as your church basement or a large tent in your backyard. Likewise, having your reception in the afternoon instead of the evening can also help you save.

Repurpose, Reuse. Make table centerpieces out of old mason jars filled with beads and candles. Borrow your friend’s cake topper, instead of buying one. Repurpose as much as possible so you can allocate your budget for the bigger things.

Save Money on Liquor. A reception venue that offers a cash bar generally charges a pretty high price for liquor and bar services. Select a venue that will allow you to bring your own alcohol and ask a friend or family member to lend you their bartending talents.

Buy What’s Necessary. Cut back on vendor costs by hiring your photographer only for the important parts of your wedding, rather than having him or her follow you the entire day. Save on flowers by using helium balloons to decorate and only purchasing the bridal bouquet.

Save Money on Food. A lunchtime reception will result in a lower food cost than an evening affair. But if you have a family or group of friends that knows how to cook, you can also have a potluck buffet and save hundreds off the food bill.

Careful use of these tips will allow you to enjoy your wedding without the pressure of mounting debt. On your special day, the only thing you should have to think about is meeting your loved one at the altar. Plan a wedding to remember with these budget-savvy tips and no one but you will know how much you’ve saved.

Categories: A-Z of Getting Married
9 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted February 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I could talk about this all day! These are great tips. Initially we had less than £1k budgeted for our big day so we planned everything on a (relative – still sounds like a lot of money to me) shoestring. Bringing your own booze is a godsend but if you find the right venue then a cash bar doesn’t have to be expensive. We hunted down a dance studio that rented for functions in a not-too-classy part of town -the bar prices ended up being lower than in the pubs nearby. They’d never done a wedding party before – lots of our suppliers were local and hadn’t – it pays to be canny as these businesses will be keen to impress and are less likely to charge you silly prices (or “wedding tax”). Watch out with contracts and stuff though – some mom and pop operations might not be so slick so it pays to be REALLY clear about your specifications through the planning process. Getting everything in writing is a good idea – we didn’t and nearly came unstuck!


    • Posted February 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      agree with everything Penny said. We were on about the same budget and hired out a little bar/room thing that never normally do weddings. They were happy for the extra money from a day they wouldn’t normally open but at the same time I’m sure they had no idea how much a wedding hire usually is. They let us buy all the food and then they just cooked it for us! and we did our own cocktails and wine.

      definitely worth hunting around to find somewhere and then just ask them! No harm in asking..

  2. Posted February 20, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    I think the big thing with budget weddings is be prepared to compromise and prioritise, whether that’s with yours (and realistically friends and family’s) time, stress, location, length of wedding, number of guests, type of food, quality and quantity of services and products you buy. I don’t mean that in a negative way, I love budget weddings, I chose one for my wedding, and they are beautiful and full of love, you’ll have a great time. But everyone needs to be realistic and relaxed about what matters to them and what doesn’t and then do stuff about that.

    We had a budget wedding far less than the national average and I know what things we didn’t have. They were obvious omissions, I’m sure some people would be outraged, but we did it so we could have the things we wanted which do cost money like food, drink, and photos. I think where people can come unstuck is feeling that they can have everything in that ‘average wedding budget’ without the price tag and without compromises. I think you’ve hit some of the really big ones in this post. Just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean that you can’t have something at full price. It just probably means you can’t go and do that for every aspect of your day.

    I could write a whole post on ‘wedding tax’ and why I think it doesn’t exist. Some things might be too expensive for a couple’s budget like a country house venue but price and value are different concepts. I’ve been to plenty of country house weddings and they are so different from at home weddings, polished, refined…you know what I mean.

    Suppliers can and will say no if requests to offer their usual service for a price determined by the couple are insulting. All I’d say as a supplier who is approached by couples on budgets (who doesn’t have a budget for their day anyway?) is that the way it is approached is make or break. These suppliers are often small businesses, mostly one man bands, they are just people with feelings not faceless corporations. Their prices aren’t plucked out of thin air, it is based on what they need to earn to run their business and they are entitled to be paid what they ask without challenge in exchange for their qualities service and experience. And independents do really seem to bear the brunt of this, few people get a discount on their shoes, their bridesmaid dresses from the high street or the price of the wine they buy (although we got some amazing supermarket deals by being ruthless and waiting for multiple discounts rather than buying when we needed it but that’s another story!) but somehow its ok to beat down the little guy? It’s like wedding bullying isn’t it?

    It is hard to compromise and its not for every one, but if you can compromise and for example hire your photographer for fewer hours be prepared to hold your wedding on a day they wouldn’t otherwise get a booking. If flowers are really important to you but you don’t want to spend on table arrangements have a big arrangement in a prominent place ie. behind your seats at the reception where everyone will see and admire them and they’ll be on lots of your photographs. If you want waitress service rather than DIY you could have a cake and champagne reception instead of a meal. If you love fancy cakes but can’t afford one portion per guest, order a smaller cake for cutting and tray bakes of the same flavour to serve to everyone.

    And for those that can’t compromise, there are suppliers at every price point, so you can reign in your budget on things that don’t matter so much to you or really try and have everything but pay less. But I do believe that the old ‘get what you pay for’ can go as easily for weddings as other things in life…

    • Posted February 20, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      again, completely agree. We knew we weren’t going to be in a castle or a country house or even a nice restaurant so then worked on what we could have- the place we found hadn’t done a wedding before and didn’t usually open in the day so the hire and bar money they made was just a bit extra for them and they were happy to have us – we were out by 6pm. So you can definitely find solutions if you hunt them out.

      We would never have asked for a big venue to do us a deal that was totally unrealisitic- we had to go and find an alternative. So, that’s a really good point you’ve made about the independent suppliers.

      • Posted February 20, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

        The kind of venue hunting you and Penny did is the perfect example of being creative with your budget. And I bet they loved making a fuss of you and making you feel special which money can’t buy.

        • Posted February 20, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

          Yes yes yes… if there’s something you desperately want then you need to think about where that cost is coming from and the reasons behind this, and that particularly goes for independent suppliers who are putting a huge amount of time (and heart and soul) into providing the service. If you still really want it, then you have to be prepared to give an acceptable price and cut back elsewhere. Where there’s a will there’s always a way.


    • Posted February 20, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      What you said about independent suppliers…just YES. I’m printing this comment L-Sten.

    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      You already know this comment is epic. I wish you’d written a post on this to stop the big-budget small-budget DIY no-DIY over-spend under-spend guilt!!!
      Thanks Lucy xx

  3. starlet_haylz
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Great post but from our point of view a large tent in your backyard is not necessarily a low cost option, I made that assumption to start and swiftly learnt otherwise – in our case anyway!!

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