Weddings are a big investment, and not everyone feels that they can afford the wedding they've always dreamed of, but there are many ways to make your money stretch further, by making clever decisions and small sacrifices that you won't even notice on the day. I once planned a wedding for a family member who had a 10k budget. This didn't include attire or rings, but the rest was used to get the very best value for money, and here's how...
Venues often take a large chunk of the budget, but there might be some alternatives you hadn't yet considered. What about a church, school, sports or village hall? It may not sound particularly glamorous, but if you can save a lot of money on your venue, then you've got more to spend on decorating it, and I certainly know in the Surrey area there are some beautiful hidden gems. Ideally a venue that's a blank canvas is easier to dress. If a hall has a patterned carpet that you hate, or a bunch of hideous paintings on the walls that can't be taken down, then there's not a lot you can do about that. It's probably not going to work for you, so don't let the low price completely blind you because it will cost a lot more to try and hide those issues.
For the wedding I planned, we hired one of the local rugby clubs. It had been recently reburbished, and had beautiful beams on the ceilings. Other than a few framed rugby shirts, it was a perfect black canvas, and even had a balcony overlooking the rugby field where the sun set. The cost was 12% of the overall budget, which left plenty still to play with.
It's definitely worth asking your venue if they do food. It tends to be pretty good, and brilliant value for money at some sports clubs and village halls. A three course, plated meal may be a little harder to come by for at a low price, but a buffet style menu is definitely the way forward. Perhaps consider a BBQ or a hog roast with some salad options. You generally won't find guests complaining about a buffet as they get to choose what and how much they eat. Another tip for this is to provide a variation of sauces! Sounds odd, but everyone has their favourite sauce to put on everything, and a bit of ketchup and mustard can transform a hotdog for some people, so buy a couple bottles of each popular sauce and you're bound to please most people.
When you're trying to save money, you want to choose decor that's going to make a big impact. I've mentioned before, that having decor hanging above head is a great way to dramatically enhance a space. A few examples include festoon lights, paper lanterns, fairy lights, or faux wisteria. It instantly adds depth to the design of a room and doesn't have to be that expensive. Logistically, it may not always be an option, but usually, there is a way.
I think that most couples turn to DIY thinking it will save them a fortune, and sometimes it can, but you really need to do your research first. Factor in the prices of all the materials you're going to need, and consider properly how much of your time it's realistically going to take - 9 times out of 10, you should probably double or even triple your estimation!
I think it's also important to consider what NOT to waste your money on. For example, hiring in beautifully cut wine glasses or cutlery is really not a priority. As much as I love charger plates, they're not going to make enough of an impact to be worth spending on. I suggest adding a sprig of foliage or a herb such as rosmary to each place setting, which will add a bit of vibrancy and bring it life. If the venue doesn't already own beautiful chairs, hiring them will probably cost too much, but buying or renting chair covers is a more affordable option. Chair sashes are definitely worth investing in if using chair sashes, as they will instantly add interest and can be used to pull your colour scheme together.
The best way you can save money on your stationery is to keep it simple. The more intricate you make it, the more it will cost. It's one of those aspects of a wedding that can be such a lovely touch if you have the budget to spend on it, but if you don't, it's not something your guests will necessarily miss. So keep it simple, don't worry about gold foil font or ribbons or wax seals. Choose a simple design and ensure all of the important info is on it.
If you're not particularly creative and don't fancy DIY, then places like Etsy have pre-designed templates that you can download for £2 - £15, ready for you to edit with the correct information. Then simply get it printed!
The chances are with a £10k budget, there sadly won't be room for a videographer, but having a professional photographer is a must. Your photos are the only part of your day you get to keep forever (other than perhaps your dress that will gather dust in the loft for years). Make sure you come away with some beautiful photos to frame and show the grandkids in years to come.
I definitely believe in quality over quantity, so if there's a photographer you think may be too pricey, ask if they do packages for a half day or even a few hours if you have to. Capture those vital moments during the ceremony, newlywed and friends/family shots during the drinks reception, and then perhaps some of your venue and decor. It's not essential to have getting ready photos, or pictures of the wedding breakfast or party, but don't go without any special pictures of your gorgeous selves.
Now of course, you can cut this out all together if you really want to and play a playlist from a PA system or the venue speakers, but I would highly recommend having live entertainment if you really want to highten your guest experience. When you're looking for live musicians on a budget, it's best to look locally. Going through an agency is the safest way to hire your entertainment, but often you will pay around a 20% agency fee on top. I bet that if you started looking at the musicians playing in some of your local pubs, you'd be surprised at the talent you discover.
Ask friends and family for recommendations. Chances are someone will have a friend who's in a band or a duo as a side job and are insanely good! Take it from a singer who knows all of the amazing musicians in her hometown. You shouldn't have to look too far before you find a good fit for a great price.
Ultimately, there will be things you wish you could afford to have on your wedding day that just aren't quite realistic, but honestly, it won't be missed on the day. So long as you ensure you provide good food, drinks are topped up, guests are entertained, and you have some lovely photos to take away from it, then you won't need to worry about having any complaints.