By Jenny Updated 12 Feb 2015
It's meant to be a fairytale day - but the cost of the cake, venue, dress and all the little special touches can really add up.
- 1 Finding the ring
- 7 Need cash? Flog your stuff
- 8 Should you borrow to pay for the wedding?
- 12 Receptions that cost less than Ј1k
- 15 Must-ask venue questions
- 21 How to buy a second-hand dress
- 28 Plan your day with FREE tools
- 31 Free DIY invites
- 34 Cut the cost of booze
- 40 Tips on asking for cash
The proposal - how to find THE ring (after finding The One!)
OK, so you're ready to pop the question - first, you have to find the ring. Jewellery advertisers would have you believe the rock should cost two months' salary, yet whatever your budget, you can still get your bling for less ker-ching - and you could even find some gems on eBay* .
Cheap jewellery quarters
Londoners and Brummies can take advantage of precious metal dealers on their doorstep. The UK has two world-famous jewellery districts: Hatton Garden in London and Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter .
These are full of hyper-competitive specialist merchants, which deal in bulk and are usually cheaper than normal high street shops. Haggling's a must - see our Haggle on the High Street guide for top tactics.
Pick up a second-hand sparkler
Vintage rings can be gorgeous, as well as thrifty. Don't think second-hand means second-rate – Kate Moss, Scarlet Johansson and Lara Stone all sport vintage engagement rings on their fingers.
You can find some real gems in vintage and antique shops. It's also worth hunting on eBay*. though read sellers' feedback carefully and ask lots of questions (more help in Ebay Buying ). One thing to watch out for is loose stone settings – fix these before wearing or it could kill the romance.
A much-loved family heirloom can have more significance than a new ring – and best of all is free. So ask family members if they can dip into their jewellery boxes for hand-me-downs. You might get lucky.
Trade in Tesco points for Goldsmiths vouchers
Spend Tesco points in-store and they're worth 1p, yet convert them to Boost vouchers and the value can triple. One reward up for grabs is Goldsmiths vouchers.
Every Ј10 Clubcard voucher gets you a Ј30 Goldsmith voucher, so a Ј600 ring costs Ј200 in Tesco vouchers. Rings from Goldsmiths start at around Ј200, so doing this can seriously shave pounds from your budget. See the Boost Tesco Points guide for a full how-to.
Check diamonds carefully
If you're buying a diamond ring, it's worth noting that the quality and look of diamonds can vary (even in the same range). So always check the ring for yourself if you can.
There are some helpful MoneySavers in the Weddings forum - see the engagement rings thread for more on how to buy and what to look for.
Don't forget to insure your ring
It's easy to forget you may have just added a few grand to your personal belongings. Call your insurer and check your rings are covered - you may need to add a separate policy for it. See the Cheap Home Insurance guide for full details.
The perfect day doesn't mean spending loads
Too many couples work through a wanna-have list – a film star dress, flowing champagne, platinum rings, a five-star honeymoon. Only then do they ask how they'll pay for it.
One disgruntled father told us: "I asked my daughter what her budget was. She asked me, 'Dad, how can I work out my budget until I know what I want?'"
So, instead, ask "what can we afford to spend?" Then work out how to have the best do possible within that budget. A picnic in a park with close friends can be just as magical as a blingy bash for 300. Use our Free Budget Planner to help.
Before we get too far into this, and you skip straight to this guide's bargain-grabbing section, it really is worth pausing to think about the financial effect of your celebration.
As Martin says:
While a wedding is a wonderful dream day, it's important to remember that one of the biggest causes of divorce is debt and financial worries.
If the cost of your wedding leaves you financially crippled and in debt for most of your married life, it's a pointless waste.
Get max interest on your wedding savings
If you're saving up to get hitched, or perhaps your parents have given you some money, make sure you maximise the interest.
The best bet's an easy access account, which means you can easily withdraw the cash when needed. Yet many people avoid cash ISAs, wrongly thinking their money is locked in.
Every UK citizen over 16 gets a cash ISA allowance, which lets you save Ј15,000 each year safe from the taxman. Use it up first to max your rate.
You can withdraw it at any time (provided it's easy-access), but you just can’t then return it to your account. For example, imagine you put Ј14,000 in this year’s cash ISA, leaving room for Ј1,000. If you then withdrew Ј2,000, that’s irrelevant – you can still only put another Ј1,000 in. But if you're spending it anyway, this won't be a problem.
Don't let the bank steal your wedding cash
‘Setting off’ means banks can swipe big money from our accounts without permission. So if you've a loan or credit card debts, be very careful about other people, such as your parents, giving you cash to fund your wedding.
This outrageous law allows banks to grab cash from your account to repay debts without permission and without telling you. See the Setting Off guide for the full legal info.
This wrecked wedding story sums it up.
How one bride's wedding day was ruined
No tale more gut-wrenching has landed in our mailbag than that of poor Peter Wilson, whose generous wedding gift to his daughter was then thieved by her bank to ruin her cherished day.
The proud father had saved up Ј12,000 with his local credit union to give a cheque to his daughter towards her day.
Two days after it went in her Northern Bank account, the bride-to-be's white day turned black, as she was horrified to see Ј6,000 had been lifted to pay off her credit card debt elsewhere with the bank - even though a repayment plan was already in place.
Peter told us his daughter was inconsolable, adding that for the bank to do this and ruin her wedding day was despicable.
"We told the bank that credit union officers would sign a statement to say that the money was ours, but it still refused to refund the money," he added.
Play the wedding prioritisation game
Once you know your budget, the aim’s to work out how much you can actually afford to spend on different areas and prioritise what’s important to YOU.
Write down all the things you need to spend cash on on a different piece of card – from cakes to cars, rings to registry office fees. Always keep in mind that you don't need to stick to convention or have everything you're told you need.
Discuss what’s most important to both of you. You may fancy a funky themed wedding cake, but would you prefer a honeymoon abroad? Or a professional photographer? Remember, venue costs are likely to account for about one third to half of your budget.
Being aware of how you can trade one item for another helps you see how far your budgeted cash will go. If it doesn't go as far as you want, you need to change your list - but not your budget.
The end result may be that you can't afford the wedding you wanted. But at least you won't spend what you can't afford.
Got a top tip we haven't
listed? Add it to the Cheap Weddings forum discussion.
Everyday savings help towards the big day
Small sacrifices can boost your wedding coffers. If your big day is a year away, cut out something today that you buy every day. If you cut out Ј2 on crisps and Coke each day, you’d have 365 x Ј2 to spend, making Ј730.
Try our Demotivator tool, which reveals your annual spend on coffees, snacks, cigs, mags and other discretionary purchases to help you cut back.
Need fast cash for your wedding? Flog it!
If a few quid more in the wedding fund would really help, get flogging. Selling via eBay usually pays best. Our 40+ eBay Selling Tricks guide offers a crash course, from cutting eBay fees by tweaking start prices and using no-charge listing weekends to adding extra pics with special tools.
Prefer speed and ease rather than getting the top price? Several sites let you enter details, they offer a price, and you post the goods free. See our Flog It guide.
Also consider setting up a specific bank account to pay your earnings into. That way you'll see the wedding cash pile up, rather than just disappearing into your current account. See the Top Savings Accounts guide for best buys.
Should you borrow to pay for the wedding?
If you can possibly avoid it, don't borrow for the big day. Leaving yourself in debt at the start of your married life is not the best idea.
Having said that, a wedding is a major expenditure, and like buying a house, many people simply cannot afford to do it without a loan. The difference here is afterwards there are no bricks and mortar - only memories - to keep from all that cash.
Never borrow more than you can afford to pay back within a year
We can tell you not to borrow till we're blue in the face. But if you ignore that, at least do it the cheapest way. Ask:
Can you afford the repayments?
Can you pay them back in a year or less?
Have you planned the expenditure so you need to borrow as little as possible?
Are you borrowing the cheapest possible way?
If you have to borrrow, use the longest 0% SPENDING credit card possible, and always repay in full before the cheap rate ends, or rates rocket.
Avoid dangerous high cost credit, including payday loans. With APRs of up to 6,000%, these are the Mac Daddy of loans to avoid. There are now some longer-term 100%+ loans too (ouch).
Protect your wedding expenditure
Sadly, firms go bust. Often wedding suppliers ask for a deposit far in advance, so if the worst happens, it's a nightmare.
However, Section 75 laws mean if you use a credit card (not debit card, cheque or cash) to pay even partly for something costing between Ј100 and Ј30,000, the card company's jointly liable for the whole amount.
Better still, even if you only pay a deposit on the card, provided the goods cost over Ј100, the card company is liable for the ENTIRE amount. If the firm goes bust, you can get redress from the card firm instead, giving you valuable extra protection. (Only do this if you can clear the card in full each month to avoid interest though).
Section 75 doesn't apply to purchases under Ј100, but there's still an option which can help if you use a Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit card, or any debit or charge card. If the goods don't appear, you can ask your bank/card provider to reclaim the cash from the seller's bank, so long as you complain within 120 days of realising there’s a problem. See the Chargeback guide for full details.
Use Martin's Money Mantras and DON'T overspend
It's easy to get swept up in the romance of the moment. To keep you disciplined, use Martin's Money Mantras.
Different scenarios require different approaches, so there's normally one mantra for those who are skint and one for those who aren't. Hopefully any spending should be within your wedding budget, so we'll assume you're not skint. Before you buy anything ask yourself:
- Will we use it?
- Is it worth it?
- Have I checked if it's cheaper elsewhere?
If the answer to any of these is no, don't buy it!
The most important question here is "is it worth it?" While you may use something, could the wedding cash be better spent on anything else? Are stunning Ј250 heels that’ll be used once and then packed away worth it if the same money could buy other items which will be used more often?
Get free mini Money Mantras to print and put in your wallet as a reminder.
Bag 5% off all your wedding shopping
Cashback credit cards pay you every time you spend on 'em. The idea's you grab one, then set up a direct debit to repay in full every month so it's interest-free. If you've a good credit score, the American Express Everyday Platinum* gives new cardholders 5% cashback (max Ј125) for three months (and 1.25% after).
Always set up a direct debit to repay in full so you avoid interest, or it's 19.9% representative APR on purchases. Full help and best buys in the Top Cashback Cards guide.
Party for less - receptions for less than Ј1K
Holiday Inn, Old English Inns and Britannia hotels have Ј999 wedding packages - fab if you're on a tight budget and have a limited guestlist. The key is you know what you're going to pay from the outset.
Holiday Inn offers a buffet for up to 30 guests, a wedding ceremony and planner and overnight stay for the happy couple. Packages start at Ј999 at selected hotels - for more info, ask your nearest Holiday Inn. (It costs Ј25 per additional guest.)
Old English Inns
The Old English Inns Grand Wedding Package offers a three-course sit-down meal, including wine and a glass of bubbly for up to 50 guests - all for Ј999.
The offer's valid Sunday to Thursday (Friday and Saturday cost more). Look through the list of 40 participating Old English Inns and call quoting the offer.
The Britannia Hotels Ј999 deal includes Buck's Fizz, a three-course meal for 50 guests, evening buffet for 100 guests and room hire.
The offer's subject to availability and is not offered at all its hotels - call Britannia Hotels* to check. Some higher-end branches charge Ј1,499 for the same package - see full details* .
If you want an affordable, simple affair with some basic food and drink, it won't be easy to organise it for much less. If you're worried it's going to look 'cheap', then take a look at some MoneySavers' feedback:
We had our wedding in October at Holiday Inn with this special offer. It was amazing. The staff went all out and bent over backwards to give us our fairytale wedding!
We had a red carpet on arrival from the church, the hotel provided a toastmaster, the service staff were fantastic and if guests wished to stay over they had heavily-reduced rates too. All in all I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone wanting the perfect wedding day!
I booked the Old English Inn deal and got wed last weekend. I have to say the whole day was fantastic and would def recommend it to others. I really didn't feel like I had cut any corners and honestly don't think the wedding could have been any better had I spent thousands and thousands.
I had an Old English Inns package for Ј1,000. While you can't dispute it's good value, I had a few issues on the organisation. At least if you do it yourself, you organise it, choose food, drink, etc.
You are restricted to their menu choices, their food packages, and their disco, which plays their music. That said, if you did do it yourself, it would be more hassle and could end up more expensive.