Whether you are the father of the bride or the bride and groom funding their own wedding; one of the most important factors of that special wedding day is making sure that it is affordable. There can be nothing worse than having money worries hanging over a special couple on their wedding day and with a few tips and tricks, the cost of the wedding day can be somewhat reduced from the £21,000 that it was estimated to be the average back when I got married in 2009.
There is no particular order to the different wedding saving ideas that are listed here, but they are my top tips on cutting the cost of your wedding, because my wife and I actually did some of these for our very own wedding as well.
Place Setting and Keepsakes
One problem of a wedding reception is the seating arrangement. Although that is not a wedding cost, actually telling your guests where to sit can be. Saving on the cost of buying pre-printed seating plans or cards can be as easy as buying in some quality ivory card and designing and printing them yourselves (or even using the office laser printer at work?) or cheaper still find influences in the nature around you. Finding a supply of good sized leaves and writing the names on them in gold or silver pen might add that personal touch to a table layout.
Likewise the seating map that your guests will use to find their seats could also be produced at home. Printing a table to a sheet of A4 or A5 card and mounting them can make a cheap alternative to paying for a company to place the names onto a pre-printed template. In both cases Microsoft Word has some simple but elegant borders, clip-arts and other tweaks that will allow you to create a high quality product.
Cheaper Alternatives to Wedding Cake
As much as everyone thinks a large multi-tiered fruit cake is a centrepiece, quite often the bride, groom and guests are still eating away at it a week later wondering whether it will ever end. Quite often the eating of the wedding cake is expected as a later course to the wedding breakfast or as something for guests to eat during an evening wedding reception which as food can be over-filling or dry and guests will feel less inclined to eat a whole slice. Something we did for our wedding was have a cheese wedding cake.
The far ranging number of cheeses that are available on the market means that there is always something for everyone and a core choice of a soft (brie, camembert), a hard or firm cheese (cheddar) and a veined cheese (Stilton) should please almost everyone. Wheels of cheese are readily available online or you can sweet talk your local supermarket deli counter. Something to remember though is that cheese is not always a hard cheddar, so care must be taken to make sure that it won't collapse. Placing a delightful creamy brie at the bottom might taste nice, but end up flattened if it is not reinforced.
If you are in the US, then you will probably be used to hearing about Cheese as a starter, in the UK as the finale to a dinner of many courses. In both cases you can fit in that all important wedding cake as a part of the proceedings; either cutting it between the wedding breakfast and the evening reception (for that all important finger food) or during the course of the wedding breakfast so that it can be served as a final course. One of the big benefits is that a cheese wedding cake does not even have to be individually portioned; a cheese board per table or a couple of cheese boards on the buffet means that people can take as much or as little as they like of the different cheeses on offer.
Another cheap alternative to the wedding cake is to buy basic sponges of your chosen variety in supermarkets and decorate them yourself. Making icing, marzipan or decorations is a cheap way of bypassing the cost of a wedding cake being.... a wedding cake - and we all know how much more expensive the word wedding makes everything. If making decorating a number of large sponges is not for you then a trendy new idea is to have cupcakes. Even making cupcakes is really easy and you can make them exactly how you want them and decorate them just as uniquely for your wedding breakfast or wedding reception using cheap ingredients readily found in any supermarket.
Buying Your Own Booze
Although many venues insist you use the house wine-lists, others will allow you to supply the wine and champagne for your wedding breakfast or wedding reception. There are a few tricks that you can use to make savings on the cost while keeping the quality. If you are lucky enough to be close to a French transport link, then buying alcohol in one of the big hypermarkets might pay dividends for the larger party, but there are tricks to doing it in the UK as well. Firstly consider the champagne itself; although a staple of celebrations, how many of your guests would actually be able to tell that what their drinking is in fact a much cheaper Cava or other range of sparkling wine? The only thing that makes genuine Champagne is the region of France that it comes from, so what is the difference apart from a name?
You must also remember that supermarkets are always having sales on wine and bubbly. If you have a favourite wine that you want for your wedding, then make that decision early on because there might be a time when a supermarket has a sale and it is a time that you can have a cheap stock up - just as long as you have somewhere to store it. If you are having your wedding breakfast or wedding reception in a location that does not usually cater for such events, then supermarkets also offer cheap (or free) glass hire. It might cost you buying a few crates of your wine at the supermarket, but it saves on buying one hundred glasses for every wedding occasion.
"Take Me To A Pay Bar"
We digress though as the next money saving tip is the pay bar. If you have an evening reception then the cost of subsidising the alcohol all night is going to end up extraordinarily expensive with guests who are more willing to have half a glass of wine and then forget where they have put their drink after a few minutes.
Most hotels will probably insist that functions - not just weddings - make use of their bar facilities, so why not allow the guests to pay for the drinks that they use. As long as your guests are aware that the drink is not free all night long, it is unlikely to seem unusual and the wedding will still be enjoyable regardless of who pays for that last pint of vodka and Red Bull.
Ditch the Dinner Altogether
More weddings are foregoing the formalities of the wedding breakfast and are opting for buffet style service for both hot and cold food. There is an immediate advantage of this that the staffing levels required for a buffet service are less than that of a formal sit down dinner, especially when the wedding reception is large and a possibility of needing one member of staff for either one or two tables. Most hotels will offer a buffet wedding reception cheaper than with table service and for the wedding party will offer a small bit of flexibility for that extra last minute guest should they turn up unannounced.
Buffet dinners can still be stylish affairs. Fancy a hog-roast? Far easier for the chef to carve if they are doing it from a fixed table, than bringing the trolley around to your wedding guests and risking covering them in gravy, or worse the hog itself. Not sure if the latest vegetarian fad has reached your friends yet? The buffet lets them choose what food they want.
It's Not Just About Having A Cheap Wedding
It's about making sure that your wedding is enjoyable and cost-effective. Money is too scarce to throw away on a pyrotechnic display that grandma finds too loud and offensive; and if your wedding guests do not eat cake, then do not force them to eat it, find an alternative like our cheese wedding cake.
Hopefully the money being saved can go towards the honeymoon.... or for the bride a little spicy surprise for their new husband on the wedding night. A wedding can be cheap and cheerful as well as a great day for everyone.