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Planning a wedding can be the happiest, but most expensive time of your life. Although the average cost of a wedding in the UK is down for the first time since 2012, the numbers are still high enough to make you want to hyperventilate into a paper bag.

Fear not wedding planners! You can still have the wedding of your dreams without forking out thousands of pounds and turning into a stressy nightmare.

We spoke to thinkmoney couples, from those who are decades into wedded bliss, newlyweds and those approaching the big W. We wanted to know their favourite tips to reduce wedding expenses, and there are plenty of hacks we think you’ll find helpful.

So without further “I do” (wink wink), dig into our cost-cutting suggestions!

Let’s get organised

Set yourself a budget before you start shelling out money. Make a note of all your costs starting with the essentials, and work your way down to the small stuff like cutlery and pocket squares. That will help you to prioritise where your money should be going.

“Having a figure in mind from the outset helps you rein yourself in,” said Laura N, who is planning her wedding in Croatia with her fiancé, Callum.

“We created a budgeting spreadsheet, and I have a Trello board with various lists and cards that have specific due dates so I don’t forget anything.”

Danielle is due to marry her partner Mike in August 2019. She advises to be careful of the small costs, as they start to build up. She said: “Streamline your ideas to what you need and what will have an impact. If you don't love it and it won't make an impact, don't waste your money.”

It can be worthwhile looking at wedding planning sites to help you to make savings. Chris and his wife Emily used planning website The Knot to put all their info for guests in one place. Having everything easily accessible online meant they saved money on posting invites, and saved a few trees as well!

Getting a thinkmoney Current Account can help you to organise your finances on the lead up to the wedding day. Because money for your bills is held to one side, you know that anything left on your card is for you to spend. That way, you know that you can afford to buy those flowers you really want.

Take your time

Your wedding day should be the happiest day of your life, so put the time into it that it deserves. Panic buying leads to your budget going out the window, and money wasted on lost deposits.

“Try not to make decisions on a whim,” said Laura N. “It’s easy to fall in love and want to book something immediately, but try to walk away. Think about whether you can afford it and view some other options before reserving.”

Danielle agrees, as she changed her mind about her photographer and décor after she’d paid a deposit. “Don't jump in all guns if it’s years away. Take your time to choose, as your taste will change over time.”

Save the date

Did you know that it’s more expensive to get married at the weekend? “If you’re trying to keep costs down, try and get married mid-week,” said Danielle. “Yes, family will need to book time off work, but it saves a fortune.”

Chris saved thousands by booking his wedding on a Friday, which he thinks made for an amazing atmosphere on the day. His guests could enjoy the wedding, and still had the weekend to look forward to.

Winter weddings also have a tendency to be cheaper, as it’s a less popular time of the year. Less competition and more availability means you can try to push prices down.

Be brutal with the guest list

Your list of invitees can be one of the biggest challenges when it comes to wedding planning. But you need to be strict if you want to save.

Agree with your partner about where to cut off family invitations, and stick to that decision! There’s also nothing wrong with making the choice not to invite children to the wedding. Just make sure you’re applying any age rules across the board so nobody can be offended.

These choices seem cut-throat, but as Vicky explains, remember that you are paying for each guest. “I started looking at people as money,” she said. “If I haven’t seen you in over 12 months are we really that close? Remember it’s your day, do it exactly how you want to do it.”

If you can, DIY!

Are you a dab hand at design? Or fancy finding your inner florist? Almost all the couples we spoke to said that one of the simplest ways to save is by doing what you can yourself.

To have a wedding cake made, you’re looking at around £300. But if you buy a couple of cakes from your local supermarket and decorate them, it’ll set you back far less. Or you could switch it up and bake cupcakes instead.

Laura M, who said “I do” to her partner Caz in September 2017, said: “We made a lot ourselves. Invites, the seating plan, table decorations. We got artificial flowers that were absolutely stunning and much cheaper than real ones.”

Chris said: “We made a lot of the decorations, including confetti which is the one things I wouldn’t recommend. It took ages!”

If you can’t, rope in your friends!

If your friends and family are stuck on what to give you for a wedding present, ask them to lend you their skills. Laura N managed to save around £800 by asking one of her crafty bridesmaids to make her bouquets and table décor.

Khryscilla, who is planning her wedding to fiancé Cai, recommends asking students to help out with photography and music. You’ll pay less than you would hiring a professional, and they get to add something to their CV. She said: “You know they’ve been trained to do the job and they’re far cheaper.”

Take advantage of high street and online shopping

It’s not much fun scrambling through sale rails, but taking your time to look at what’s in your local high street can turn up some bargains. Skip the pricey bridal shops and pick up outfits from outlet villages or charity shops.

If you can’t face talking to other humans, have a browse on Missguided and ASOS. They have their own wedding lines that are perfect if you’re on a budget. Laura N said: “I got my bridesmaids dresses from ASOS. They were £60 and had a 20% off deal running, so got them for £48 each.”

Try sites like eBay and Etsy for the more personal touches and things you want to buy in bulk. Vicky, who’s been married to Lee for 12 years, recommends giving eBay a go. She said: “It’s where I got all my wedding stationary and favours. There’s some really talented people on there and they don’t charge the earth.”

You can also find real gems on sites like Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. People sell barely used wedding gear at a huge discount, just because it’s taking up space in their loft. If you decide to buy something from an online marketplace, read our guide beforehand to make sure you’re staying safe.

Can you get a discount?

Shop around, haggle and never take the first offer that you’re given. One of Chris’ tips was to not mention that it’s your wedding. Quotes shoot up as soon as businesses realise the booking is for your big day!

When Laura N bought her husband-to-be’s suit, she ended up getting a ‘refer a friend’ discount code. The best man then used this for money off his own suit.

She said: “If you have any student friends, see if they get discount. One of my friends is doing a Masters at the moment and gets 15% off at Oliver Sweeney. We used that to get £37 off a pair of shoes.”

On the menu

Having a sit down meal can be expensive, and might not fit in with what you’ve planned for the day. “We reduced our wedding package by just having a buffet in the evening, as we got married at 4pm,” said Laura M.

Check with your venue to see if you can pay corkage and bring your own booze. Rachel and her husband Christian managed to save around £7 per bottle of wine by paying corkage and haggling with suppliers.

Khryscilla was shocked at how pricey her quote for alcohol was from her caterers. She said: “It’s working out cheaper for me to drive to France and buy wine for the wedding there than to pay for wine from the caterers.”

Home or away?

A survey by Mintel showed that the average cost of a wedding abroad is £6585. That’s nearly £13,000 cheaper than the average UK wedding!

Dani got married at her favourite beach bar in Essaouira, Morocco. She said: “It saved us a lot of money in the long run. Everyone you really want to come will come, and you don’t have to invite the extended family!”

After struggling to organise her wedding, Megan and her husband Daniel made an impulsive decision. She said: “I saved money by running away to Barbados! Spent way less and it was about the two of us having a perfect day, and not everyone else.

“We were already going on holiday there and everyone was faffing about our date. My parents got over it eventually!”

Don’t forget why you’re having a wedding in the first place!

Sue, who celebrates her 30th wedding anniversary this year, summed it up for us. She said: “Don’t forget what it’s all about - the love and joining together of two people. You can spend thousands of pounds or a few hundred, as long as you’re happy and you’ve got everyone you want around you.”

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