Budget wedding ideas: 57 expert tips on how to throw a cost-effective wedding

Did you know the average wedding in the UK costs around £21k? We round up the 15 things you can do to keep your wedding budget under control.

a back shot of a bride and groom on their wedding day

Did you know the average wedding in the UK costs around £30k? We've spoken to a variety of experts in the wedding industry for advice on budget wedding ideas and how to lower that eye-watering figure.

It's one of the biggest - and most expensive - days of your life. And sure, all brides and grooms want to honour those wedding traditions (opens in new tab) and pull off an elaborate affair that everyone will remember. But quite often enough, the matter of money leads many to cut corners. Compromises however need not be the case when it comes to planning your own do, as Sarah Allsop, creative manager at online party products retailer Party Delights explains.

"Due to social restrictions over the last couple of years, many couples have had to delay their weddings or have smaller gatherings than planned. This has led to a big rise in micro weddings and a trend towards DIY decorations, giving the day a much more personal feel," she tells us. "If you are thinking of having a micro wedding, or just want to plan your day on a budget, there are some clever tips and tricks to save on those big costs such as decor, lighting and of course that all-important wedding cake."

Budget wedding ideas - 57 expert tips

Budget wedding venues

1. Seek out cheaper venues

According to a survey by Hitched (opens in new tab), the average cost of a UK wedding venue is a whopping £7600. Get creative with cheap venue ideas such as village halls, open spaces or even an AirBnB.

Experts at Slater Menswear (opens in new tab) advise: “Sites such as Hallshire.com (opens in new tab), Venuescanner.com (opens in new tab) and Hirespace.com (opens in new tab) offer affordable wedding venues with everything from village halls and pubs to private rooftop terraces and converted barns starting from just £10 an hour. If you’re looking to save even more, having your wedding reception in a garden has become increasingly popular over the years. If a friend, family member or even you have a big enough outdoor space, ask if you could use the space for the evening to host the celebration.”

budget wedding

Credit: Getty

2. Book on a weekday rather than a weekend

Weekends may be the popular time slots for weddings, but they cost a lot more. Opt for a weekday, or if you want to save even more money, book your big day outside of the peak summer months.

3. Go all-inclusive

Check out cheap all-inclusive venues, such as Wetherspoons. Illy Goodall, Founder of and Wedding Planner at Illy Elizabeth Weddings (opens in new tab) says: “When sourcing a venue, try to source one that does everything in-house - including catering, furniture and the bar. Many couples have the misconception that going for a ‘dry hire’ venue will save you money, this just isn't the case. Outsourcing caterers costs more than in-house, due to needing to hire in kitchen equipment, crockery and staff.”

4. Have an intimate wedding

Less guests equals less cost! It may be tempting to invite everyone you know, but your bank balance won’t thank you for it. Be strict with your guest list and consider not inviting plus ones and children to keep costs down. You could also keep the day just family only and have a separate affair with friends.

5. Choose a registry office over a church or stately home

A registry office is the cheapest wedding option - they can come in for as little as £170, according to experts at Slater Menswear. This is considerably less expensive than hiring a sprawling manor house or estate. A church wedding is your second best option if you’re a religious couple and will cost just £512 if you marry in your home parish.

Budget wedding dresses

6. Shop the sales

According to Bridebook (opens in new tab), the average UK wedding dress costs £1,385. But you could save hundreds by shopping the sales.

Wedding planner Illy Goodall says: “Sample sales are great for reducing costs in this area, your local bridal boutique will often have sample dresses for sale at a reduced cost. Alternatively, attending wedding fairs is a great way to find sample dress sales.”

7. Hit the high street

Affordable high street shops such as ASOS (opens in new tab) and H&M (opens in new tab) have stunning bridal gowns in a variety of styles for as little as £27. Natalia Iachim at Discount Code (opens in new tab) says: “Over half of brides say that they regret spending so much money on their wedding dress.” So hit those high street shops.

8. Rent your wedding dress

There are plenty of options when it comes to renting a stunning dress, including Something Borrowed (opens in new tab) and ByRotation (opens in new tab). This is a great option if you want a higher end gown, but can’t quite afford the price tag.

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9. Go vintage

Big fan of vintage clothing? Repurpose an old dress, or borrow/upcycle a family member’s pre-loved gown - like Princess Eugenie (opens in new tab) did for her wedding - for a sentimental option. 

Budget wedding invitations

10. Try DIY

According to Natalia Lachim at Discount Code, paper extras can add up to £910 to the cost of a wedding. So going DIY is a great way to save money. Buy cheap materials from shops such as Hobbycraft or Wilko and get crafty!

11. Use free online tools

Use free online sites, such as Canva (opens in new tab), to print and create your own wedding invites (opens in new tab). That way you can make them super personal, as well as cost friendly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yy_iV3Q9uRw

12. Utilise your friends

If you have a talented friend or family member that can design or create beautiful invites for you, ask them. Chances are, they’ll be flattered to be asked 

13. Send E-invites

This helps save the environment as well as cash. Experts at Slater Menswear say: “Although selecting your wedding invites that are adorned with both your names can be a special keepsake from your big day, it can also be extremely costly. From postage stamps to matching envelopes, the price can quickly add up. Sites like Withjoy.com (opens in new tab), Paperlesspost.com (opens in new tab) and Evite.com (opens in new tab) offer personalised evites for as little as 20p per invite. Essentially, an e-invitation is an electronic invitation that’s sent to your invitees via email and can be a fun introduction to your wedding.”

14. Check out cheaper online stores

It's worth a google search to see what cheap pre-made wedding invites you can bag online. We've shared our go-to destinations that have options for as little as 99p. Then it's just down to the postage.

Budget wedding flowers

15. Shop the supermarket

GoodtoKnow’s Anna Bailey opted for supermarket flowers for her big day. She said: "I couldn't believe how expensive wedding flowers are, especially bouquets. The cost of the bridal bouquet and three for the bridesmaids was looking like it would cost me around £150 to £200. So I went to a few supermarkets the day before the ceremony instead.

"It took me a few shops to find what I was looking for. But, I eventually found the Sainbury's Mojito bouquet (opens in new tab), made up of white roses, chrysanthemums, blue lisianthus, and foliage - for just £15. It was perfect. I also bought the bridesmaids rose and daffodil posies for £5 each. It all came to £30, plus the cost of some ribbons to tie around them all.

"I had to take out quite a few leaves and foliage to make sure they weren't too bulky. I'd also suggest going a few days before the ceremony to give the flowers the chance to open up. Supermarkets often sell them closed, so they last you longer - but they won't look as good in your photos." 

16. Get creative with fake flowers

Sarah Allsop, creative manager at online party products retailer Party Delights says: “Real flowers can be expensive so think about incorporating some silk ones or even collecting your own to add into your décor. Pampas Grass has become a huge wedding trend and makes a beautiful soft statement whilst being a lot more cost effective than real flowers.”

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Button Hole Fowers by Ivory Flower Design - From £2.50 | Etsy (opens in new tab)
Small business Ivory Flower Design on Etsy produces fake flower button holes that are so beautifully prepared, many will think they're real. And the best part is that they don't stretch the budget either - with prices starting from £2.50 each.

17. Cut down how many people are having flowers

Rather than having bridesmaids’ bouquets and groomsmens’ buttonholes, why not just keep the flowers for the bride and groom? That way you’ll really stand out on your big day, and it will cut a huge cost.

18. Go local and seasonal

If you want to opt for professional flowers, choose seasonal blooms. Wedding planner Illy Goodall says: “Find a local flower farm that will sell florals by the bucket, you can then create your own florals from this seasonal mix. Alternatively, go ask your florist for flowers that are in season, these will be less expensive as they are easier to source.

Budget wedding decor

19. Opt for a cheaper centrepiece

Sarah Allsop of Party Delights advises using wild flowers for a cheap but stunning centrepiece. “When it comes to table settings a mix of roses, daisies and other wildflowers in simple vases make a lovely boho centrepiece.”

20. DIY decorations

This is a great way to save money on your big day. Jess Martin, wedding decoration expert at Ginger Ray (opens in new tab) says: “Gather friends and family to get involved and create their own decorations for your special day. Whether it be painting signs, creating photo banners, or flower arranging, try hosting a fun pre-wedding flower arranging evening with snacks and fizz.

"If you have the time, start collecting glass bottles to make your own cute lanterns by adding in LED lights and tying in raffia string. Making your own decorations is not only eco-friendly, but is also a great way to cut down on costs, and add a personal touch to your wedding.”

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21. Make use of nature

If you’re having an outdoor budget wedding, a boho theme could prove cost effective. Party Delight's Sarah Allsop says: “Nature plays a huge part in a boho chic wedding theme. Mix and match flowers with wooden decorations for a stylish, yet rustic look. Use hessian and mis-matched candles and glass vases for an effortless boho setting. Using old wine or gin bottles as decorations adds the ultimate rustic feel, too.”

22. Head to the high street

While many are tempted to go for bespoke decoration options, Jonathan Bryans, sales director at Weddingsonline (opens in new tab) says you can save a huge amount by visiting stores such as Ikea (opens in new tab). He tells us: “If you’re looking to cut down the prices of wedding decorations, Ikea can prove to be a great asset; it’s a treasure trove for affordable wedding decor: affordable candles, candle holders, mini plants and much more.”

Budget wedding rings

23. Opt for a thin band

Jewellery experts at Queensmith (opens in new tab) explain: “When it comes to looking for wedding rings on a budget, essentially the thinner the band and lighter the court profile, the cheaper it is going to be as they are priced based on the weight of the metal required to make it and the design time to craft it.”

24. Ditch the diamonds

It goes without saying that a diamond ring will cost a lot more than a plain band. So if you really want to save some pennies, consider a diamond free wedding band.

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Alba Rosa Jewelry 14K Gold/White Gold/Rose Gold Wedding Band - from £42 | Etsy (opens in new tab)
Pick up a plain wedding band for under £50 via Alba Rose Jewelry at Etsy. Simple yet elegant and a fraction of the regular price.

25. Look for jewellers who offer complementary services

Queensmith experts add: “For example, choosing a jeweller with a free ring resizing policy will mean that if your ring size fluctuates (for example, due to pregnancy or with time), then you can get this changed easily and without cost. Most reputable jewellers should offer free sonic cleans whenever you like, too.”

Budget wedding photography

26. Stock up on disposable cameras

This makes for a fun, money-saving option. Abigail Yearley from TopCashback (opens in new tab) says: “Consider swapping out an expensive photographer and getting a few disposable cameras instead. Guests can pass the cameras around.”

You can get a bundle of disposable cameras quite reasonably online. We also love the idea of passing a polaroid camera around to capture your memories.

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AgfaPhoto disposable cameras x 5 (27 photos each) - £69.85 | Amazon (opens in new tab)
Snap up this disposable camera multi-pack deal that's perfect for special occasions. Each camera gives you 27 shots each - thats 135 candid photos to treasure in total.

27. Use your loved ones

Phone photography has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. So why not put that Iphone to good use. TopCashback's Abigail adds: “Ask a few photo savvy members of your family to be photographers for the night. The photos will cost half the price, and may even have a closer, family feeling than professional photos would.”

Budget wedding transport

28. Book a black cab

This is usually a cheaper option than hiring a vintage car which often runs into the hundreds. Try firms like London Black Can Transfers. Exclusive hiring usually costs around £70 an hour. Which is a huge saving overall.

budget wedding

Credit: Getty

29. Ask to use a relative's car

This is a great way of cutting costs and also adds a personal touch. This option is especially great if a relative or loved one has a swanky car you like too.

30. Choose a venue that’s close to your accommodation

The easiest way to save money on transportation is to choose a wedding venue that’s within walking distance of your accommodations, which is much easier to do if you’re planning a hotel wedding.

31. Book a bus

This is a great way of cutting the cost of booking lots of separate vehicles for your wedding party. Plus, it’s a great way of getting everyone excited together. We're fans of this Cream Wedding Bus service (opens in new tab) for something a bit different. But Routemaster Bus (opens in new tab) has plenty of options no matter your location.

Budget wedding favours

32. Make DIY favours

Another opportunity to get creative again here. Combat the cost of DIY favours and make them yourself instead. This allows you to decide on a budget that works for you. Whilst also allowing the possibility for a touch of personalisation.

Party Delight's Sarah Allsop says: “DIY wedding favours add a lovely personal touch to your wedding and are cost saving at the same time. Printable wedding favours are a great way to impress your guests and easy to make. Download printable sweet jar templates onto a thick card then simply cut a window out of each sweet jar. Put a handful of sweets into clear cellophane bags and stick to the back of the card with a small piece of sticky tape.”

If baking is your thing, why not have a go at whipping up these wedding cookies (opens in new tab) - which double up as delicious wedding favours. Otherwise craft site Hobbycraft (opens in new tab) is your destination for homemade specials. They also have handy guides and tutorials on DIY personalised wedding favours (opens in new tab) too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrVVcoo4kzM

33. Ditch them altogether

Google trend data shows that the search term ‘are wedding favours necessary’ has received a 9.800% uplift. And wedding planner Illy Goodall is all for kissing the tradition goodbye. "We are seeing more and more weddings without this," she tells us. "This will save you a huge amount of money."

34. Buy lottery tickets or scratch cards

Simple and so fun. Lottery tickets can be bought a few days before and can be as cheap as just £1 per guest. It's something everyone can take part and mingle in too. 

Budget wedding hair and makeup

35. Ask a bridesmaid

If one of your bridesmaids is a dab hand with all things hair and makeup, ask them to do you up on your big day to save on costs. Depending on the relationship too, it will allow you to be honest on what works and doesn't work for you during the practice run.

36. Look for someone who offers multiple services

It's a no-brainer really. Rather than hiring two separate people for make-up and hair, Weddingsonline sales director Jonathan Bryans suggests: “Look for services that offer both hair and makeup.” You'll find many professionals offer the service and for a really reasonable price too.

37. Do it yourself

If your bridesmaids aren’t able, more and more people are doing their own bridal hair and makeup nowadays. With the amount of tutorials available on YouTube, you’ll be a pro in no time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvOTTKXjBi4

Gifts/Honeymoon pot

38. Request services over gifts

TopCashback's Abigail Yearley says: "Instead of asking for champagne flutes or a crystal whiskey decanter, why not put together a wish list of things guests can help with? This will not just save you money but take some of the stress away as well.

"This can be things like help with planning/organising the big day or using people’s hobbies and talents to produce memorable moments."

39. Ask for cash or a bank transfer

To avoid ending up with lots of tangible presents you may not need, ask your guests for cash or a transfer instead. That way, you can use it exactly how you want to - but make a plan and spend it wisely. Aka honeymoon or home improvements?

40. Suggest an experience

Afternoon tea, a spa day or couples adventure. Many people prefer to gift an experience rather than handing over hard cash these days. And there's plenty of ways you can organise this.

We like Patchwork (opens in new tab) - which enables brides and grooms to set up their own website where people can donate money to certain activities chosen by the couple. You can even add Honeymoon activities like a romantic meal out or scuba-diving in the Maldives too. Which in turn brings the cost down for you.

You could also suggest a few activities that take your fancy via Red Letter Days (opens in new tab) or NotontheHighStreet (opens in new tab) too.

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3 Course Dinner at Gordon Ramsay's Savoy Grill for 2 - £90 | Red Letter Days (opens in new tab)
Treat the happy couple to a meal they can look forward to and remember for years to come. This Red Letter Day experience gives them a 3 course meal at Gordon Ramsay's Grill restaurant in London's prestigious Savoy Hotel.

41. Choose an all-inclusive Honeymoon

Lots of travel sites offer honeymoon packages, and if you want to save even more cash, make sure they’re all-inclusive. That way you don’t have to worry too much about spending money on food and drinks. Bliss.

Wedding insurance

42. Consider whether you really need it

According to moneysavingexpert.com (opens in new tab), you should only get wedding insurance if you'd be left out of pocket if something went wrong. Venue cancellation and supplier failure are the two main reasons people buy wedding insurance, so if you’ve not spent much money on these, it may not be worth forking out for insurance.

43. Pay for the big things by credit card

While this isn’t a substitute for insurance, it does give some free protection. Anything you buy that's worth between £100.01 and £30,000 on a credit card is covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which makes the card provider liable if something goes wrong. Even if you only pay a deposit (for example, for the venue) by credit card and the rest in cash you're still covered for the whole cost.

44. Use trusted suppliers

To lessen the risk of something going wrong on your big day, choose reliable companies when you put your wedding together. For example, if your venue is a multi-billion pound hotel chain, you'll be less likely to worry about it going bust and you may not need a pricey wedding insurance policy.

Budget wedding food and drink

45. Get married later in the day

Experts at Slater Menswear say: “Getting married later in the day means that you’ll only have to serve one meal as opposed to two. You can also forgo the traditional wedding breakfast that is usually served the day after the event.”

close up of a wedding table

Credit: Getty

46. Choose a buffet option

Although the idea of serving a meal is more elegant, a buffet-style feast means that people can come and go as they please. And they added plus - they often come in a lot cheaper than the sit-down version.

47. Make your own bar

Anna Davison, CEO at the Tiny Wedding Company says: “Creating DIY bars is a great way to encourage your guests to help themselves throughout the day. Buy beer barrels from local breweries that tend to offer the pump as a rental. Setting up ‘pimp your own’ gin and prosecco tables is a lovely added extra too.”

48. Create your own food stations

This is a great option if you’re having an outdoor wedding, as you don’t need a formal setting for dining. Jess Martin, Ginger Ray's wedding decoration expert says: “Candy stations are a brilliant alternative to a more formal cake, and add yet another element of fun to your garden wedding. There are tonnes of options out there, from donut and pretzel stands, pick ‘n’ mix, to ice-cream stations.”

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A photo posted by on

49. Ditch the desserts

"Why have a dessert when you already have a delicious wedding cake?" says Jonathan Bryans, sales director at Weddingsonline. "You’re going to have to spend a lot of money on an extraordinarily beautiful cake for the ceremony, therefore you’ll want your guests to enjoy it, instead of spending more money on a dessert.”

Budget wedding cake

50. Go naked

Party Delight's Sarah Allsop says: “A new and inexpensive trend for bohemian weddings is a naked cake, which basically means a wedding cake with no icing. You’ll find this a lot cheaper than a traditional cake and it's also really easy to make yourself.

"Simply stack three Victoria sponge cakes (opens in new tab) on top of each other, dust them with icing sugar, and then decorate your naked cake with fresh flowers and a wooden cake topper to complete that quintessential boho look.”

51. Keep it local

Opting for a local supplier means the transport costs will be less expensive as they’re in the same area as you. If you're struggling to find one, pop into your local bakery for suggestions. You could also ask neighbours or try to find one on a local Facebook page. 

52. Include fake tiers

Weddingsonline's Jonathan Bryans says: “If your dream wedding involves a five-tier cake but you don’t need that amount for your guests, adding a couple of dummy tiers will really help you save up, while also allowing you to get the cake you’ve always dreamed of.”

budget wedding

Credit: Getty

53. Make it yourself

Of course the cheapest option is to ask around. If you - or any of your wedding guests - are a keen baker, use your big day as an opportunity to show off some skills while saving on a huge wedding cost.

Budget wedding entertainment

54. Ditch the DJ

Spending hundreds on a DJ or a band is no longer necessary. If you have Spotify or Apple Music, you can make your own playlist with wedding songs (opens in new tab) to keep guests entertained all evening. Similarly Spotify have their own Top 50 Wedding Reception songs playlist (opens in new tab) - plus other pre-made versions if you don't get round to crafting your own. Just plug in and go.

55. Hire a PA sound system

Tiny Wedding Company's Anna Davison breaks it down best: “PA sound systems are great because they also come with a microphone, perfect for speeches and any announcements throughout the day, you can hire this equipment from £35 or buy the equipment from £100.”

Try a local company if you're looking to hire a PA system to keep the money low on transport costs. Premier Events (opens in new tab) or Last Minute Musicians (opens in new tab) are two well-reviewed companies you could otherwise try.

wedding guests dancing at a wedding

Credit: Getty

56. Book a package deal

Not keen on a big band but after some intimate live music? Seek out a guitarist and singer in one - or something similar. This way you'll get double the entertainment for less of the price.

“Consider booking singers who accompany themselves on an instrument," says Weddingsonline's Jonathan Bryans. "This will prevent you from having to cover the costs for more than one person."

57. Book early

Demand is always high for wedding entertainment - so it pays to get in their way ahead of time. Most musicians and acts can get booked up to two years in advance. By booking early, you also take advantage of today’s prices and avoid the inevitable rise in rates.

What is the best budget for a wedding?

Deciding on the ideal wedding budget will mean considering many factors such as both of your incomes, family input and how much you have in savings. While the average wedding cost is £30,000, this isn't a one-size-fits-all and everyone's budget will be different.

Jonathan Bryans, sales director at Weddingsonline advises: "Make sure you know your budget. Trying to save money without having a target figure in mind is a lot harder to achieve. Your budget should be realistic and both you and your other half should be clear about what you realistically can afford to save for the wedding celebrations." 

  • Brides.com (opens in new tab) have a great way of allocating your budget. This includes spending 40% of your budget on venue and catering, 10% on flowers and 10% on entertainment.
  • Hitched (opens in new tab) also have a great seven step guide for creating a budget that works for you and your partner.

Who pays for the wedding traditionally?

Traditionally, the family - or more specifically, the parents of the bride - pay for the wedding. It’s not clear exactly how this tradition started, but it’s thought to have evolved from the practice of the bride’s family paying a dowry to the husband.

However, this is rarely the case nowadays and couples often save up for their own weddings. As Illy Goodall, Founder of and Wedding Planner at Illy Elizabeth Weddings explains: "Traditions have changed and we find couples are paying for their weddings, rather than other relatives. You do still find contributions from family members but we are steadily seeing less of this."

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Robyn Morris
Robyn Morris

Robyn is a freelance celebrity journalist with ten years experience in the industry. While studying for a degree in Media and Cultural Studies at London College of Communication, she did internships at Now and Heat magazines. After graduating, she landed a job at Star magazine, where she worked her way up to features editor. She then worked at Future as Deputy Celebrity Content Director across Woman, Woman’s Own, Woman’s Weekly and Woman & Home magazines.