I asked my Instagram followers for some wedding planning questions. I’ve answered them below, so if you’re planning a wedding, have a read and feel free to pop a question in the comments and I’ll answer that too…

Where do you start? It’s hard knowing what’s realistic. 

This is great question to kick off this post… the first thing Shane and I did was sit down and discuss what we wanted our wedding to be like. We discussed the things we wanted to prioritise and what we were happy to scrap. 

Next, we worked out what we could afford to pay. We knew we didn’t want to use credit to pay for our wedding so looked at what we already had in savings and what we could afford to put aside throughout the year whilst planning. I have a blog post that has a free downloadable planning sheet you could use to help work out what you want from your big day, you can read that post HERE.

As we knew our budget was on the smaller side, we started shopping for things on the highstreet and online, that meant we were able to get items far cheaper than going to bridal boutiques. I got my dress brand new from eBay and my bridesmaids dresses from BooHoo but you’d never know from looking at them.

All the outfits, accessories, shoes and flowers in this picture came to just under £600 thanks to some savvy shopping!

Did you have to compromise on anything that you really wanted because of the price?

One thing we wanted to do was to provide transport for our guests to get them from the register office to the reception venue. We liked the idea of having a vintage double-decker bus, we got a couple of quotes which ranged from £450 to £650! As it was only a four mile trip it seemed a waste of money and it would have meant we would have had to cut back elsewhere so we scrapped that idea.

In the end, we booked a few mini buses with a local taxi firm for £92. It wasn’t anywhere near as fancy as a vintage bus, but for a fifteen minute journey it did the trick;plus it meant our guests didn’t have to spend time and money booking their own. It definitely helps to prioritise what you want on your day because it makes it easier to know when you can make compromises.

Everyone getting ready to head to the reception venue

Did you provide confetti? I can’t decide if it’s worth it to get a nice picture.

I did buy confetti, I found a some lovely dried red petal confetti on eBay that came in individual bags and a box for just £9.99 including delivery. We had 60 guests and the confetti came in 35 small bags which was more than enough to get some great pictures. 

A word of warning though… real petals can hurt! A few of our delightful guests decided to pelt up with the confetti rather than gently tossing it up in the air as directed ! It resulted in lots of scrunched up faces in the confetti shots but I think it’s moments like this that make for special and funny memories.

Gorgeous confetti… That I was shaking out of my dress for the whole afternoon!

Did you do wedding favours and drinks?

We didn’t do wedding favours as such because we couldn’t find anything we liked; instead, we created a savoury snack bar. It cost £50 – roughly what we would have spent on favours – but it double up as food for the evening alongside the bacon butties and our wedding cake. People could help themselves to a pick and mix style selection of crisps, nuts, pretzels, Bombay mix and so on.

We did put on a selection of drinks throughout the reception as that was high on our list of priorities. We started with a Buck’s Fizz on arrival which was around a third of the price of a full glass of Cava. We provided a glass of Cava for the speeches and also put out 36 bottles of wine (18 of Merlot and 18 of Pinot Grigio).

As our venue was a pub, we just paid the regular bar prices so it wasn’t too expensive, our whole drinks package cost £883.95 (which works out at £14.73 a head for five drinks). If we were in a hotel venue it would have been a lot more. I have seen people book places like village halls and barns that allow you to provide your own drinks (some might have a corkage fee) and their drinks cost a lot less as they’re able to buy from the likes of Aldi or Tesco when there are offers on.

Our £50 DIY savoury snack bar and £60 cake

Gifts for the bridal party, parents and favours are all looking expensive. Any budget ideas?

We didn’t do gifts as such, we just did a small token gesture for our bridal party. I found some bargain cufflinks in the Debenhams sale costing £2 a pair so they were given to the guys ahead of the wedding to wear on the day. I also ordered some necklaces from Ali Express for the girls, they worked out at £3 for five necklaces on a little piece of card saying ‘Thank You for being my Bridesmaid’, they were also given in advance to be worn on the day. We had also payed for suits, ties/pocket squares, dresses, shoes and bags which everyone was able to keep afterwards.

As for parents, we paid for a takeaway a few weeks after the wedding when we all sat down together and looked through the wedding photographs, we then gifted them some framed prints of their choice. This was much more personal and cost effective than just buying a bunch of flowers to give them on the day.

I think it can all get a bit much with doing bridesmaids proposals, paying for outfits, hair, makeup, then gifts on the day, plus thank you cards afterwards. You have to draw the line somewhere so do whatever you’re comfortable with and can afford. More often than not, the gesture is appreciated regardless of the cost of the item. If you did want to do gifts on a budget, I have a brilliant trick for making a personalised gift box for under £10.

Ali Express bargains

What hidden costs did you come across whilst planning?

We didn’t know about having to pay £35 each to register to wed. Then there was the fact we had no idea how much alterations would be as there isn’t a set price, I rang a local alterations shop and they gave me some rough figures so I had an idea of the maximum price and that is what I factored in to our budget.

I would definitely advise you to do the same. So rather than writing out a budget with guesstimates, it’s better to ring around a few places and get rough quotes and work from the highest price, that way you’re more likely to come in under budget without any shocks. I think it is also important to ask vendors if there are any additional costs right from the start before booking. Ask if there are things like corkage fees and check if things like table cloths are included in the price as some venues charge extra for those things.

Before and after alterations – well worth £125

How did you look around for the best deals? For example, I’ve been quoted £100 for makeup.

When we first started planning we went to a few wedding fayres and found that some of the prices were extortionate! That’s not too say that they weren’t fair prices – £100 for a wedding makeup artist is pretty decent as I was quoted £100-£150. This just didn’t fit with our budget and I knew I would be able to get some of those same things cheaper by going to small, local businesses.

I got a quote for hair and makeup at my local salon and they charged a flat fee of £25 for hair and the same for makeup regardless of if it was a trial, for a wedding, bride or bridesmaid. I also booked a local cake maker and nail artist who both worked from home which meant their prices were far cheaper than going to a wedding vendor. The added bonus was that I didn’t have to travel far for any appointments as most were within a fifteen minute drive from my house.

My hair and make up was done by a local salon for £50. It lasted the whole day!

I’d love to know the one thing you’d recommend not to scrimp on.

It really depends what your top priority for the day is. For us, it was food and drink. We wanted to make sure guests were well fed with a nice selection of food and drink to wash it down with. Just under half of our budget went on that, but I would still say we got a really great price. Our venue was a local country pub and they charged us £20.95 a head for a three course, choice menu, all meals were made with fresh produce and tasted absolutely delicious as well as being amazing portion sizes.

I think ensuring you have a good quality photographer and/or videographer is also important, to scrimp on those things could compromise the quality of those keepsakes. Again, there are still ways to ensure you get good quality work without it costing a fortune, you can look for people just starting their business and building their portfolio. Our photographer was fantastic at what he did but had only been doing weddings for a year or so, so his prices were great. His prices have since increased so we got an amazing deal for booking early when his business was still growing.

The Pack Horse, Affetside

Did you find there were things that you just couldn’t get any cheaper?

I found it difficult to get a reasonably priced veil, even preloved ones were around £60. That’s a fair price, but I was wearing mine for around one hour at most. I looked on eBay but it was very hit and miss on where it was coming from and I didn’t want to gamble on the quality so I borrowed one instead! It was the veil my best friend – and bridesmaid – wore for her wedding a few years ago, so not only did it cost me nothing it also held sentimental value. There was a moment during the ceremony when it fell out of my hair, that same friend helped put it back in for me which was a lovely little moment!

I think there’s always a way to get something cheaper but it can come with a compromise. It might be making it yourself, sourcing something online, buying second hand or borrowing from a friend. Don’t feel guilty about spending full, or a high, price for something though. If it’s something you think will make your day extra special and can afford it then go for it!

My ‘Something Borrowed’ veil

Is there anything you wasted money on?

Yes!! Even with careful planning I think there will always be some items that end up unused or going to waste unfortunately. I bought my bridesmaids a shawl each in case it was cold, they only cost £12 but they didn’t get used because the weather played a blinder for us! We also bought some card invitations for £10 right at the start of planning, we used the save the date cards but when it came to writing the actual day invitations, I hated how scruffy they looked. Instead, Shane created a wedding website that allowed our guests to make their meal choices and RSVP online, we had all our responses back within two weeks! There was also a failed attempt at a ribbon wrapped hoop and chopping board to make a cake stand, that was another waste of a fiver.

Our wedding website – it was free and far easier than sending invitations and RSVP cards

What did the legal bit cost?

We had our ceremony at the local register office and it was an absolute bargain! £141 for the ceremony room, registrar and certificate plus £35 each to register give notice of marriage. Had we got married elsewhere it would have cost a lot more for the exact same registrar to attend the venue. Some venues also charge extra for use of their ceremony rooms even if you’re having a reception with them so those costs can creep up quickly. It’s well worth looking at a register office if you have one nearby.

The Ceremony room at Bury Town Hall – a bargain at £211!

Any unexpected parts of the wedding that were pricey?

I found all the beauty treatments came in quite expensive, I felt like I spent a month being plucked, buffed, trimmed, dyed and having things glued to me! I don’t begrudge the cost though because there wasn’t a chance I’d have been able to have done my own hair and makeup and it was nice having my lashes and nails done.

All those treatments and appointments also helped to keep me relaxed in the run up to the wedding. All the people providing those services helped ease my nerves, especially the lady doing my lashes… I ended up falling asleep whilst she applied them!

I went non-traditional with my wedding nails. They matched my artificial flowers and DIY bouquet perfectly and cost just £20!

Top money saving tip for weddings?

Forget about the gimmicks and make the day about you and your partner. Yes it would be nice to have a magic photo mirror, a live band, a characaturist, a string quartet, singing waiters, a candy cart complete with moving ferris wheel, fireworks, sparklers, alpacas, mini bottles of jaegermeister as favours… I could go on but I think you get the point.

If you want some of those things, that is absolutely fine! Have whatever you want but think along the lines of less is more, trying to have everything will overshadow your day and it could become less about you and more about the spectacle of the wedding. It’ll be the little moments that stick with you rather than the things you book, for instance one of the best moments of our day was when our guests started singing along to our first dance. Those are the moments you’ll remember forever.

Our first dance – Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars

I would also say, pull in favours from your nearest and dearest. We were kindly gifted an hour of singing from my best friends husband, he is amazingly talented and he kept our guests entertained whilst we went for photographs. We also used his PA system to host our own pub quiz that Shane and I put together ourselves and then later on we used it to play music rather than having a DJ. It was such a thoughtful gift that saved us hundreds of pounds and made our day even more special.

Lee Delaney – our friend who gifted an hour of his singing talents to entertain guests

If you have any bakers in the family, hairdresser friends or those who are talented at makeup, ask them for mates rates or see if they would be happy to gift you their services. It could ease the burden for them as they might otherwise feel obligated to give you a large sum of money as a gift.

If you would like a nosy at what my day looked like, you can see my wedding slideshow here. You can also see a full breakdown of costs here.

Thrifty Clair x