Let’s have an honest chat about budget weddings: I asked wedding vendors and couples for their advice

 

I’ve been a wedding photographer for a decade and a half, creating fun, colourful and relaxed photos for lovely couples. I also got engaged recently, back in November 2023 on an amazing trip to Thailand with my partner Elliot.

It’s been super interesting to look at weddings from the planning perspective rather than the vendor perspective, and to figure out where we want to splurge and where we might be able to save a bit of cash.

Budget weddings are on the rise

As a wedding photographer, the last 4 years have been incredibly busy, especially with the backlog of weddings due to Covid. I typically tend to book on average 25 weddings per year, but the landscape of weddings in the UK is defo changing, thanks to the ol’ cozzie livs.

Engaged couples typically tend to book between 12-18 months in advance. This year, however, has been a bit funky – I’ve noticed that couples are enquiring for this year with sometimes only 4 months to go before their wedding date.

Many couples are also opting for much shorter coverage, like 1.5 hour packages or 4 hour packages, rather than a full day of shooting.

I thought it’d be interesting to speak to some other wedding vendors to see how things have changed for them recently, as well as talking to some wedding photography clients, to see if they have any budgeting advice for soon-to-be-wed couples.

 

Hazel, The Rainbow Celebrant

Hazel is a colourful celebrant based in Lancashire, whose main aim is to make wedding ceremonies super personal and filled with joy. No boring, unimaginative scripts allowed.

How are you finding the current climate is affecting your couples’ budgets?

With the cost of living crisis in finding this year has been incredibly tough for many couples already.
I’ve had several couples postpone until next year to give themselves more time to save enough to pay their suppliers, and multiple couples who are struggling so much they’ve had to cancel their wedding entirely.

It’s so heartbreaking to see the emotional toll that financial difficulties are having on engaged couples, and unfortunately it doesn’t show any signs of getting any easier.

Have you made any changes or additions to your services for lower-budget/reducing cost weddings?

I’ve started to offer payment plans for any couples who need a little more flexibility in their wedding payments. This might mean paying their deposit in smaller chunks to help them, but also know their wedding date is booked out of their diary.

I’ve also started offering a smaller package for couples who are struggling to afford the original amount agreed, but don’t want to lose out on a personal ceremony.

Worst case scenario I’d always be happy to work with a couple and negotiate a writing-only fee, and they can ask a friend or family member to deliver the ceremony written by me on the day.

Do you have any advice for anyone planning their wedding and worrying about budgeting?

Going forward, I think if you’re planning a wedding at the moment, my top advice is to create a wedding account and make monthly deposits to start building up enough money to pay deposits for suppliers you want to book.

I think it’s wise to have a modest budget that doesn’t feel like a stretch given your current finances, and expect your disposable income may get smaller if the cost of living keeps increasing.

It’s important to work out what aspects of the wedding feel most important to you as a couple, and these will be different for every couple.

Is it the ceremony? Is it the entertainment? Is it ensuring your day is captured by someone skilled, so you have photos to look back on for the rest of your life?

Pick a few key elements that you are happy to invest in to ensure your day is perfect, and then make a list of things that, whilst great to have if budget allows, you can make do without if need be.

Olive Owl Flowers

Sarah is a florist based in Wigan, creating beautiful flowerscapes and bouquets for weddings all over the north west of England and beyond. Her speciality is creating elegant wedding flowers with unique colour combinations.

How are you finding the current climate is affecting your couples’ budgets?

I have a real mix of weddings over the next 2 years, with some budgets being really strict and others wanting flowers to be the prime focus with higher budgets.

Have you made any changes or additions to your services for lower-budget/reducing cost weddings?

We have wedding packages available for just Wedding Party Flowers. So rather than buy the full floral service (bouquets, tables, backdrops, etc.) this option allows you to have super gorgeous flowers for just the bouquets, buttonholes, corsages, and flower girls & page boys.

Do you have any advice for anyone planning their wedding and worrying about budgeting?

To put the majority of your floral budget towards larger installations, and go smaller/minimalist on the tables to balance out the costs.

 

Katy and Matthew, married at Armathwaite Hall in July 2022

Let’s start with a brief summary about when you got engaged, and when you started booking things for your wedding

We started booking things before we got engaged, as it was during Covid-19 and everyone was re-booking their wedding. We enquired what dates were available, and they only had 2 suitable days left so we reserved the date.

The day we met the wedding planner we officially got engaged, as we didn’t feel like we could go without a ring on the finger.

How did you prioritise which wedding suppliers were the most important to you as a couple?

We already knew the venue we wanted, hence booking it before getting officially engaged, and we knew we wanted Lauren as our wedding photographer, having been former colleagues.

The evening ceilidh band, the wedding car and the decoration hire were the only decisions we had to make, as the flowers were homegrown and the cake was homemade.

Did you make any compromises due to your wedding budget?

No, luckily we have lots of talented people who helped us with cakes and flowers, meaning we could afford the things we wanted.

What advice would you give to any couples planning their wedding?

Understand what your budget means, plan well in advance, and make it the day you want. And don’t do things just to impress other people.

 

Emily-Kate and John, to be married in June 2024

Let’s start with a brief summary about when you got engaged, and when you started booking things for your wedding

We got engaged in June 2023 and we always knew we wanted a summer wedding. We knew we didn’t want to wait 2 years, so it had to be 1 year. So June 2024 was the date that got set.

We viewed one venue before finding Holesfoot and fell in love with the outside areas it offered. We didn’t even consider looking elsewhere. We booked it at the start of July 2023, about 3 weeks after we got engaged.

The rest of the suppliers we didn’t start booking until about 2 months later and have only just finished booking them, as we have been quite laid back with certain things. John has only just ordered his suit 2 weeks ago!

The main suppliers we booked asap (within 3 months) were: photographer, band, decor/florist, hair & makeup, cake (which is me so was easy to book) dress, sailcloth for the outside part of our wedding. We only booked our catering about 2 months ago – very last minute!

How did you prioritise which wedding suppliers were the most important to you as a couple?

The venue was our most important, for the overall feel of what we wanted the wedding to be like.
Photographer was next, as I love photography and knew I needed phenomenal photos.

I felt very lucky knowing so many wonderful suppliers from working in the industry as a wedding ring designer, I didn’t feel like I had to prioritise, as I knew from doing shoots who I would pick.

Did you make any compromises due to your wedding budget?

Yes – the food. We’ve decided to do a very relaxed-style meal because it was the most expensive part of the wedding.

Things like stationery and the signage for the wedding, I have done myself because they were simple things I felt I could do nicely.

We aren’t doing anything like favours as we both felt these always get left at weddings. I always wanted a photobooth, but simply couldn’t fit it in the budget.

We also aren’t doing bridesmaids or groomsmen so didn’t need the extra costs of these i.e flowers or dresses etc.

What advice would you give to any couples planning their wedding?

Enjoy the planning, don’t let it be stressful, and enjoy talking to potential suppliers and learning whether they are for you. Don’t feel bad if you’d like to book elsewhere or with someone else – wedding suppliers understand they are not for everyone.

Don’t let wedding planning become a chore – make it almost like a date night and something to look forward to when you have something to plan.

Remind yourself that this is your day, and not a spectacle for others. It’s a day to remember for the rest of your lives, and the enjoyment leading up to this day should feel equally as special.

 

Decide what’s most important for your wedding

Will you cut down your wedding guest list and venue to be more budget-friendly, or should you prioritise cutting down on your suppliers and specific things for your wedding?

It’s so easy to fall into the stereotypical plans for a wedding and what you should do or have… but if you aren’t fussed, don’t book it or do it!

While my partner and I have a pretty accurate idea of who and what we’d like for our wedding, we’ve not booked anything yet.

We both have totally different priorities (being a wedding photographer, you can imagine what’s at the top of my list!) so, we took a leaf out of Married at First Sight’s book on the ‘Values Challenge’.

We both made a list of our top 3 things for our future wedding, so we could try and understand where we can compromise. Our results were very interesting…

I prioritised the photographer, venue and having a celebrant-led ceremony, while my partner Elliot prioritised a larger guest list, food and a videographer. Elliot also said that a delicious wedding cake is really important to him, whereas the evening entertainment was much higher up on my list.

If you are obsessed with gigs and live music, of course it would make sense to prioritise booking a band for your evening. If you are a massive foodie but love street food, chances are you’d rather spend the money on a food truck than spending more on a formal 3-course sit down meal.

It’s all about finding the balance between the two of you, and deciding where you’d prefer to spend the money.

If you need a bit more help, I’ve got loads more wedding planning blogs to help you prepare for the best day ever, including 12 fab ways to have a more sustainable wedding (and save some cash too) and if you’re planning a small wedding, I shared some faves in 9 intimate venues for small weddings in the Lake District and Cumbria.

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