Monday, 28 September 2015

Surely you can't have a wedding with 120 guests for £4,000!

In case you haven't heard (although I'm sure you all have by now!), I got married in May. It's been a big reason why I've been so quiet on the blog this year. The engagement was short, which I am very glad about for many reasons. One side effect of this was that it took a lot of time and energy, both physical and emotional. That plus a very intense month at work straight afterwards has meant that I've been unusually tired. Whenever I recover a bit of energy I try to do all the things, leading to me getting tired again. I'm trying to use the last quarter of this year to break that cycle, be kind to myself and realise that sometimes plans and ambitions need to be postponed for the greater good. A clear sign that I need to be kinder to myself is that I've been ill twice this year with colds. I'm lucky enough to have a very good immune system, so getting ill at all is an unusual occurrence.

We had a relatively inexpensive wedding, although spending £4,000 on one day was a fair bit of money for the two of us! I thought I'd write this post because not only did we only spend that much, but we did it while having nearly 120 guests. Pretty much any blog post or wedding article about spending less on your wedding was all about how you absolutely have to cut the guest list. Those who didn't have to cut their list down usually had a reception venue they could use for free or for a very low cost. Our initial guest list was just over 200, we cut it down to around 150, but that was essentially as far as we were willing to go.

So how can it be done?

  1. Make a list of the non-negotiables. What do you absolutely need and want on your wedding day. Then get a rough idea of what these will cost. At this point you may discover you can't fit it all into your budget. We had a second list of things we'd like to have at the wedding if we had money left over - some of the non-negotiables might actually fit on this second list. Be realistic. If you absolutely must have your wedding in a castle or stately home, it's not going to come cheap. 
  2. DIY what you can. I made the bouquets, grew the table centrepieces (although I wish I'd grown something else as I think the cornflowers didn't work!), we bought the salads for our hog roast from Waitrose and Marks and Spencers, my Dad DJed using a Spotify playlist, and my parents, uncle and aunt sorted out the drinks for the bar. They then ran it on the night. 
  3. If people offer to help, or to pay for things as a wedding gift, say yes. This does come with a few provisions: if you suspect they may not fulfil their offer, if you want that specific thing done a certain way, or if you think the fact they're helping you out will cause issues after the wedding, try and find a polite way to say no. We were very lucky and got a lot of help with things, significantly reducing our costs. We got help with:
    1. Our photography. I was lucky enough to have a friend just starting out whose prices at the time were a lot less than she's worth. One of my bridesmaids offered to pay for her to be our photographer. Our budget would have been £5,000 if we'd been paying for that. 
    2. My aunt sorted out our wedding cake and paid for that as a wedding gift. 
    3. My other bridesmaid did our invitations and order of services for us, again as a wedding gift. 
    4. Many of the decorations were made and bought by both bridesmaids. I'm very lucky to have some very talented, knowledgeable and creative people in my life!
    5. My parents paid for the alcohol for the bar (which was a pay bar, but at significantly reduced prices), the table cloths and the chair covers. 
    6. People were absolutely wonderful in helping us source suppliers. Often they'd here the resigned exhaustion in our tone of voice or typed words and offer to take the weight off for a while. It was a huge help and allowed us to have a few evenings off from wedding related stuff.
  4. Beg, borrow and steal what you can. Ok, don't steal, but borrowing things is great if you can. You may know friends who are already married who have a load of props for a photobooth, or who have things you can use as centre pieces. Ask them if you can maybe use their stuff. As an aside, I have many, many meters of bunting I'd be happy to lend to anyone!
  5. Let go of any expectations you or others might have about what a wedding needs or must look like. This was the most difficult part for me. All around there were pictures of beautifully designed and decorated weddings, in lovely reception venues. We had a venue that was high on the practical, low on the pretty. I kept tallying up how much people were spending to attend our wedding vs how much we were spending per head. I had to stop myself from mentally apologising to our guests because our wedding wasn't value for money. I felt guilty because we couldn't afford to spend much. I felt guilty because people were doing so much to help us out, buying things I felt we should be buying. I've since realised that:
    1. Weddings are not about 'value for money'. No one tallies up the what the wedding costs vs what they spend. They're there because they love you and want to spend the day celebrating with you. After the fact we were told by several people they had a lot of fun. We were asked if we could please do it again sometime soon. One of Corey's friends came up to him and said this is the exact kind of wedding he'd like to have (his girlfriend politely reminded him this requires a proposal of some kind first...). 
    2. People offer to buy things and help because they love you, because they know you don't have money to spare, and because they want you to have the best day you can have. I had two meltdowns during the engagement process, and one was because I didn't realise how much people loved the two of us. If you saw that blurting out of emotions and words on twitter a few months ago, I apologise...
I can't imagine that sticking to any kind of wedding budget is particularly easy. There will always be things that you want to do or buy that you can't. It is particularly difficult when you have such a tight budget, but it is doable. Think outside the box where you can. Our hog roast was supplied by a local butchers. The only reason we found him was because Corey's parents rung him up. Pintrest has plenty of ideas for how to decorate a room on the cheap. Decorations can be bought on Ebay. Expect to spend a lot of time sending emails and ringing people to find out the cost, only to say no thank you when it's too much. 

Do I wish we had a little bit more in the bank? Of course I do, but I don't regret doing things the way we did. We could have had a two year engagement where we saved for one year and planned for the other, but we'd rather put that money aside for a house. Besides, it was absolutely lovely to be able to look around the room on our wedding day and know that it was a real community effort. 

Photo taken by Take Aim Photography
That's my manager with the pint in his hand in the background. He bought me my first Jager Bomb that night. It will also be my last...

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