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How to have a beautiful wedding on a shoe-string

Totally skint but still want to have a smashing wedding celebration? Not a problem! Here’s some ideas from someone who got married immediately after graduation, on a meagre student budget ( and you’ll have plenty left over for the honeymoon you both dream of!).

Weddings nowadays can cost more than a deposit on a house, meaning that loved-up couples are having to save up enough cash before they feel they can afford to get married. Celebration planning can weigh heavy on your purse strings from the get-go, and often it feels like you’re being swindled – for example a normal iced fruit cake from the bakers: £40, but add the word “wedding” and they whack on a hefty price tag!

 LOVE really is all you need

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Love is more important than money. People aren’t coming to your wedding to check out expensive decor or fancy favours; they’re coming to watch their favourite people get hitched! It’s the little personal touches that make a budget wedding awesome. Don’t start your married life in huge debt from one day of shenanigans, make it a family affair filled with LOVE!

A little help from your friends…

If you’re really looking to save cash, it’s time to pull in some favours from the talented bunch of people you call friends. Fore-go gifts and ask everyone to bring a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to your big day. Our wedding would have been impossible without all the lovely people who contributed! Ask friends to collect jars for decorating, or postcards for Save-the-Dates.

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Mason jar decorating is a quick craft that even a pre-schooler could get involved with!

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Get creative! OhSoBeautifulPaper has some fantastic ideas!

Simple and effective signs can be hand-painted by friends and they create a gorgeous welcome for your guests like this one found on DecorCentre!

Got a friend who’d give Nadiya from GBBO a run for her money? Ask them to bake your cake or make a profiterole tower. Any arty people? They could sew you a few reams of bunting or decorate your place cards.

Find out if any of them have items you could borrow that fit with your theme. We had my teenage sister’s friends do all the music – DJ and a band for the evening; and we paid them in beer – on completion!

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FIMO wedding figures (made as a gift by me for a friend) on top of a personalised cake made by another talented friend!

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Even if you are not Little Miss Pinterest-perfect, the creative possibilities here are endless! You can hand-make invitations, decorations and favours. Technology has moved on a lot since I got married, and nowadays you can even make video invitations at a bargain price – saving on materials and postage! Win!

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Who knew doilies could be so handy?!

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Borrow items from friends and family to create the style you’re looking for.

Some friends armed with a little PVA and some glitter can create something utterly perfect!

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We love this simple but perfect alternative to a guest book. Lolly sticks can be picked up for a couple of quid, as can a blackboard! Easy!

Venue

Village halls and Scout halls are an excellent option when you’re on a budget, and these are so easy to turn into pretty, country wedding venues with a touch of imagination and a bundle of bunting! Think outside the box. If you know the rough location, ask around for advice – locals hold little gems of knowledge that they’re very willing to share! They might be able to tell you about the private room at a friend’s palatial residence, or a beautiful gazebo that’s only available three weeks a year. A good friend had their ceremony and reception in the upstairs rooms of their local pub, and the barman even played piano! We had our celebrations at a local company’s social bar.

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Haxby Memorial Hall, Yorkshire, is a perfect example of how you can make a basic hall into something extra special.

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These spaces tend to be blank canvases that with a bit of frugal decorating can totally transform a simple venue into something entirely gorgeous and stylish.

What to wear?

My super-talented step-Gran made my dress, based loosely on a Vera Wang design that I had fallen in love with! If you don’t have a seamstress you’d trust lurking on your family tree, or don’t want to risk commissioning a fashion student, you could find a vintage delight online.

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Oxfam have a huge range of beautiful dresses, and it’s becoming much more common to sell on gowns via eBay; so with a bit of research you can find your Dream Dress without so much as setting foot in an expensive wedding dress shop. Same goes for bridesmaids dresses – let them know your colour scheme, and go for a mix of styles that suit them. High street and charity shops are excellent!

Photography

If I were to do it all again, I’d make a giant chalkboard list of photos I wanted, and challenge my guests to take them on their swanky phones or digital cameras, or have a few Polaroid cameras for guests to play with.

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A photo booth is a great idea – and these are really easy to DIY! Get all your friends to loan you fancy dress stuff, make a frame, borrow a Polaroid camera and Bob’s your uncle!  A fantastic bit of entertainment for your guests and a brilliant book of memories for you!

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Get some props off of Ebay

If you want some romantic shots of you as a couple, just ask a friend who has a good eye – someone reliable! I genuinely don’t think you need a professional photographer because technology is so fantastic and people spend their lives taking photos now. I’ve looked at our semi-pro wedding album twice in 10 years! My favourite photo of us is one that a colleague took on her phone, and she had it put onto canvas for us.

Flowers

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There are courses available in bouquet making across the country…truly bespoke!

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Save a fortune by skipping the traditional florist route, we had friends and family – local to our home village – to grow sunflowers for us instead! If you can’t get anyone to grow flowers, or you’re short on time, see if they’ll help you pick your own at a local lavender or sunflower farm, or have a look at: Blooming Green Flowers. Also, double the use of your flowers – ask a friend to transport them from the ceremony to the reception.

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Every member of the family can get involved!

Food

Try not to worry about conventions and seating arrangements. Fish and chips from the local chippy always go down brilliantly. If you’re keeping it close to home, why not ask everyone to bring a dish and have a big sharing buffet? Or hold your own Bake-Off! You could have a giant picnic – even if it rains!

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Beautifully served fish and chips add a bit of British to a special day!

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Shared dishes and relaxed seating!

It really is all about the love.  Whatever your budget, you can truly have a beautiful celebration.  You just need to think a little more creatively when you can’t splash out! You’re special in your own way and everyone is there to celebrate with YOU not your bank account!

Picture Credit: Header Image – Don’t Pay Full

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Siobhan Strode
Siobhan Strode

As a regular wedding attendee Siobhan is our lady on the inside! Married for 10 years to her childhood sweetheart, she's an editor and brings her knowledge and skills to all things wedding related.