The Wedding Budget Dilemma - when to spend & when to splurge

There's no getting away from it, you can't necessarily have it all - but your wedding can still be fabulous

wedding Budget dilemma

What’s important to one couple may not even make it onto another’s wish list so, before you part with any money, make a list of what’s really key to the look and feel of your big day. Once you’ve allocated cash to your must-haves you can see what’s left in the pot and where you’d like to spend it. There are no hard and fast rules but, as a starting point, here’s our top tips on where you can save some money without your guests missing a thing.

SPLURGE: Canapés
Weddings often start early and finish late so your guests will appreciate nibbles to go with their welcome cocktails, while you’re likely to be off having your photographs taken. Make sure you offer good-quality bites – and that there’s enough to go around.

SAVE: Dessert
The wedding cake, especially a non-traditional and flavoured one, can easily take the place of dessert and is often cut and served with coffee. Dessert tables are popular – again replacing the dessert course – allowing guests to choose between macarons, biscuits, sweets and mini pastries.

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SPLURGE: Your shoes
There’s nothing like a pair of show-off shoes to make you feel glamorous. Many brides invest in footwear and compromise on the price of their dress – shoes are that important to some girls. But if you pick a style in a neutral shade you can always wear them again for future special occasions.

SAVE: The veil
You may feel a veil is a must for your ceremony, but it may be discarded as the day progresses. So stick with a simple design and minimal embellishment to keep costs down. 

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SPLURGE: The bouquet
This is a key part of your outfit and if you want to carry a big bunch of English roses, go for it. You can cut the cost of your maids’ posies by using cheaper blooms in the same colour. 

SAVE: Flower girl
Have your little maid scatter dried or fabric petals down the aisle ahead of your entrance as an alternative to her carrying a pricey posy or pomander.

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SPLURGE: Your dress
You have to love your wedding dress and although this doesn’t mean anything goes with the budget, your dream dress is definitely a splurge. Maybe look at cheaper fabrics, or something similar with less beading, (they all add to the price). Or see if your favourite designer has a sale coming up where you can pick up a bargain.

SAVE: Hair & make-up
A lot of girls feel they have to become a different person on their wedding day, but it’s much better to aim for the very best version of the usual you. Think about doing your own make-up and getting a local salon to do your hair. Or sound out a talented friend with wedding-worthy skills.

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SPLURGE: Photography
You’ve planned this day for such a long time, you definitely want a top-notch record that you can treasure. This is one area where having a talented friend snapping away may not work. Ideally, your photographer will have an assistant to do some candid reportage shots of your nearest and dearest, while the more traditional line-ups and must-take shots are being covered by the main photographer.

SAVE: Favours
There’s so much more choice these days than just sugared almonds. How about making a donation to your favourite charity on behalf of your guests? Let them know what you’ve done by leaving a note on their plate about it.

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SPLURGE: Late-night snacks
If you’re having more guests in the evening, or the wedding breakfast is going to be early in the day, treat everyone to some after-party treats – mini fish and chips, little burgers, bowls of mac ‘n’ cheese and tartlets packed with fruit and cream. Not a necessity, but your guests will love you for it as they dance the night away.

SAVE: The bar
An open bar will take up a big chunk of your entertaining budget and these days it’s quite acceptable not to offer a free for all, so don’t worry about appearing stingy. Offer wine, beer and perhaps a signature cocktail that matches your colour theme and named after the two of you.

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SPLURGE: The main course
What you feed your guests is always one of the most memorable parts of the day so you want to impress but control costs, too. Chat to the chef or caterer about adding wow with the way food is served – beef on wooden boards, whole chickens in the centre of the table for guests to carve, food stations loaded with different food on a theme, etc.

SAVE: The first course
If you’re serving substantial canapés, then people don’t really need a fancy starter. Interesting soup with great bread in the winter and a seafood cocktail in summer works just as well. 

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SPLURGE: Wow cakemaker
Your mum might have a friend who makes nice cakes, but do be sure you’ve looked at all the options. The cake plays a big role on the day and is always a focal point of the reception, not to mention your big cake-cutting moment for the cameras, so it’s worth hiring a professional cake maker.

SAVE: Lots of real tiers
A six-tier cake looks expensive, because it is! Order a cake with fewer layers or, if height is a must, ask your cake maker about icing some false tiers with just a real top tier for cutting. The actual cake will be waiting in the wings, already cut, to serve to guests as soon as the cake-cutting ceremony is over.

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SPLURGE: Centrepieces
The table centrepieces at the reception add to the wow factor, especially in a plain room or a venue with high ceilings when you need something tall on the tables. Chat to your florist about ways to keep the number of flowers down, maybe incorporating interesting (and cheaper) foliage, feathers and branches to add impact. 

SAVE: Ceremony flowers
Use ribbons to decorate the chairs or pews. Save your flower budget for one impressive display next to where you will be standing to exchange vows,
and where all eyes will be focused.