How to throw a memorable wedding celebration on a budget
5 min | 17 April 2023
Engagements and weddings can add up to a small fortune. We share alternative celebration ideas so you can save money without skimping on romance.
Getting married can cost couples a serious bundle of cash. The average cost of a wedding and honeymoon in the UK is an eye-watering £31,974.
Wedding celebrations are all over social media and there are seemingly endless wedding-themed TV shows fuelling lavish expectations that might cost more than a deposit on a two-bedroom flat.
And it’s not just the wedding couples have to think about, but the proposal location, hen and stag weekends – and don’t forget the honeymoon.
Here are some suggestions to help create an event that is fun and unique, and leaves you the breathing space to help you save for other important future expenses.
First, the ring
How much should you spend on an engagement ring? The old advice on purchasing an engagement ring was to spend one to three months’ salary – however, this adage was created by a diamond retailer, which had a vested interest in getting couples to buy expensive rings. In today’s money, the average monthly salary is £2,607, which means paying £7,821 if you want to stick to the 'three-month' rule.
There are lots of ways to keep the costs down – or even avoid opening your wallet at all. First, is there an heirloom or heritage ring in your family or your partner’s family? Maybe a relative would be happy to give you a ring that has sentimental or emotional value.
Or perhaps you could spend a day visiting antique markets? You could get a unique ring for hundreds, rather than thousands, of pounds.
If you’re buying a new ring, remember that rubies and emeralds can be cheaper than diamonds, and just as stunning. Paying with a cashback card could get you some free cash in return. If you need to borrow to buy, make sure you explore the best way for you to do so.
Spending money on a plush proposal is not everyone’s style or in everyone’s budget. What matters is tailoring your proposal to your partner – are they the sort of person who wants to be asked in public or would they prefer a treasure hunt at home?
Thinking about the engagement party, stag and hen nights (or weekends), why not combine the festivities into one big celebration? You could even create an engagement party gift registry for those not attending the wedding.
The big day
Inviting only your nearest and dearest to your special day will keep a lid on costs. Cast your net wide when researching reception venues. One idea is to look for beautiful registry offices and then go for dinner in a private room at a venue. Schools, universities and community centres can make great venues and be cheaper than your typical hotel or marquee. A friend’s garden or a wildflower meadow could be a lovely al fresco choice, just make sure you have permission and don't ruin it for others (check out The Wildlife Trusts (Opens in new window) to find a meadow near you).
Make sure you include any hidden costs: does hiring a marquee in a friend’s field really work out cheaper than renting a function room in a pub? A marquee could cost about £2,000 depending on size, but you’ll need to hire furniture, staff and portable toilets too. Also, look at last-minute places: cancellations on pre-booked weddings can be a great way to save money, even if you don't get to choose everything.
Pay attention to all the extras that can eat into your budget. If you know someone with a classic car, perhaps ask if they’d like to be your driver for the day in exchange for a lovely meal. Hiring a luxury model from a local taxi company rather than splashing out on a limo can also be an option.
Other cost-saving ideas could include curating a fabulous playlist rather than hiring a band, perhaps you can ask your guests to suggest a suitable song when they respond to confirm their attendance. Think about what you can realistically do yourself, especially if you learn new skills like flower arranging.
Talented friends could bake the cake and take photographs. Any help you receive from family and friends can be their wedding gift to you.
And what about the dress (if you’re having one, of course)? Borrowing, hiring or buying second-hand could make your money stretch further. Or you could buy a simple dress and add embellishments.
Cut the honeymoon costs, not the romance
There are numerous ways to be cost-conscious and still have a spectacular honeymoon. Look at house-swap sites, consider glamping, use air miles, take advantage of any travel discounts.
Ask wedding guests to contribute to a 'honeymoon fund' rather than giving a present. If you want some luxury, only upgrade your flights one-way, or stay in the oceanfront villa for just one night of your trip.
Consider a mini-moon. A weekend trip to the Lake District or Cotswolds could be just the tonic after the festivities. And then you have time to think about your financial priorities for your new life together, whether that’s saving for a house deposit or a far-flung honeymoon – and with all the money you've saved, maybe you could even afford both!