Cost of ‘Loving’ Crisis: Ways to save on your big day without it losing its magic

Times are tough and your budget is probably stretched to the limit. Is there a way to save on your big day without losing any of its special magic? We share ways you can cut costs without cutting any of the fun…

Hiring a photographer such as Rachel Spence on an hourly basis guarantees stunning images without the hefty price-tag

Let’s be honest: getting married is an expensive business. With the average cost of a wedding in the UK hitting a staggering £18,400 this year, according to consumer finance company Pepper Money, it is no surprise that couples are doing all they can to slash costs. But how far can you cut back before it stops feeling like your day? We all know it doesn’t really matter what you wear or where you tie the knot, as long as your beloved is standing beside you. But here’s the thing: many of us have dreamt of our wedding day our whole life; we’re only going to do it once (hopefully!) and we’re desperate to turn those dreams into reality. And is it even possible to rein in costs when prices are soaring across the board? (It’s now £5.50 for a flat white in some cafes – like, what?) 

Well, with smart substitutions and some clever planning, you might be amazed by what’s feasible.

Here are top tips from the wedding professionals on how to make serious savings without any sacrifices. 

The Wedding Dress

Bridal boutiques order in new gowns from designers twice a year, so there’s never any shortage of dresses on the rails. Not every style will prove popular, however, and older-season gowns and those that fail to sell will often be added to a ‘sample sale’, where they can be purchased with a hefty discount. It’s a chance to get your hands on a gown by a designer that would otherwise be out of your price range.  

Remember that episode of Friends where Monica wrestles a fellow bride to the ground as they tussle for their dream dress? You’ll be glad to hear things are done a little differently at Kudos Bridal Boutique in Dunfermline. It has a dedicated sale room all year round, as well as an annual sample sale. “Sample sales tend to get very busy, so appointments for these events fill up fast. I’d recommend booking as early as possible so you get the best choice of what is available,” says the boutique’s Megan Carberry. “It’s good to be prepared, too, because we can’t reserve a gown for you: if you find one you love, you’d be wise to buy on the day.”

Samples are sold ‘as seen’, so may need a little repair or alteration, but they are ideal for snapping up a designer gown at a bargain price. “Handy if you’re on a budget or even if you need to purchase a gown quickly and you’ve left it too late to order,” Megan adds.

Trunk shows represent another way to get the dress of your dreams at a potentially discounted rate. These are special events where a designer visits a bridal boutique on a set day with their entire collection of new gowns. You can make an appointment to try on the dresses and sometimes meet the designer. It’s a unique opportunity to view and try on wedding dresses before they hit the shops as well as styles from previous seasons. Trunk shows are not technically a sale, as the dresses are not marked as reduced. But in most cases, you’ll be offered a discount for placing your order on the spot, sometimes up to 20%. “It’s a win-win!” says Megan.

Left: Midweek weddings at Òran Mór are soaring in popularity, like this one captured by Julieanne Whyte Photography; Right: Plain white candlesticks from Homebase were painted in a Dulux soft pink to match this bride’s colour scheme – it’s a quick, cheap decor fix that anyone can do!

The Date

Saturday is the traditional day for a wedding, largely because employers used to be a lot less flexible about allowing time off during the week. But so long as you give your guests enough notice, they should be able to make it to a midweek do – and save you a small fortune in the process. Many venues across Scotland offer cheaper rates away from the weekends, and if you’re looking to save cash without compromising the bash, it’s well worth considering.

Take Òran Mór in Glasgow’s west end, for example: “Our midweek package is available from Monday to Thursday for a minimum of 80 adult day guests,” says wedding coordinator Maia Glackin. “It’s £10 a head cheaper than our standard weekend package, giving you a saving of at least £800. That money could pay for your cake, your flowers or even your decor.”

If you’ve only recently got engaged and don’t fancy a long wait before marrying, a midweek date is certainly something to consider. “Friday to Sunday dates fill up so fast at Òran Mór but we have much more availability for the middle of the week,” explains Maia. “Our minimum number of guests for a weekend is 100, which some couples can struggle to reach.” 

Left: Check out the deals at MacGregor and MacDuff to help you save on kilt costs; Right: Just some of the styles on offer on eBay’s pre-loved wedding hub

The Decor

Being hands-on with your decorations is a surefire way of saving money – with the added bonus of personalising your big day. Stephanie King, colour expert and creative lead at Dulux, says upcycling can help keep costs down. “Being thrifty reduces waste,” she says. 

“Think of items you already own: champagne bottles, candlesticks or vases can be transformed into beautiful centrepieces, for example. You just need a quick and easy lick of paint to give them a pop of colour. You could even turn them into table numbers.”

And what about a DIY piece to remind you what an amazing day you had? “Many couples collect the wine corks and take them home, before creating their very own wine cork initials,” says Stephanie. “It’s so nice to have something super-unique to display from your wedding day.”

Left: This Condici outfit is on offer for £400 less than the RRP at The Dressing Rooms, was £849, now £449; Right: MacGregor and MacDuff can help you cut costs without compromising on style

The Occasionwear

Your mum is going to want to look her best as her little darling enters married life, but occasionwear can come with a hefty price-tag. Are there options here to save money without compromising on style? The answer is yes – if you pick the right boutique. The Dressing Rooms in Grangemouth, for instance, has designer numbers at a big discount on the usual cost. “You’ll find a great range of past seasons’ special occasion outfits, and some showroom samples, all at a fraction of the recommended retail price, along with a fabulous selection of headpieces, shoes and bags to complement each outfit,” shares Louise Brown from The Dressing Rooms and its sister boutique Catwalk in Falkirk.

“Among our designer brands are Veni Infantino, John Charles, Condici, Ispirato, Veromia and Lizabella, all of which have been carefully selected for their quality fabrics, exceptional finish and beautiful cut.”

The price-tags might be in the budget range, but Louise promises that customers can expect exactly the same high-quality service as in the full-price store: “Should your outfit need any alterations, this can be arranged with our in-house seamstress at Catwalk. Regardless of which of our stores you visit, you can be assured you will receive the same award-winning personal attention from our friendly, professional staff.” 

The Groom’s Outfit

Compared to bridal gowns, groomswear is generally in a lower price bracket – but that’s not to suggest it won’t make a dent in your budget, especially if you decide to buy a kilt outfit rather than hire one. However, we’ve discovered that there are deals to be had that can save quite a significant amount of money. Highlandwear experts MacGregor and MacDuff, who have stores in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Prestwick, as well as fitting services in London, Manchester, New York and Toronto (and a virtual fitting service), offer wedding deals all year round.

“These deals can help couples budget for their big day,” confirms the company’s Holly Nicholl. “If you buy your kilt outfit, you can get your most expensive wedding party hire completely free of charge. Likewise, if you hire five outfits from us, you’ll receive £100 off your hire bill. These deals are great if you have a large wedding party.

“After the wedding, you can return your hire kilt to us or purchase it for just £150. That’s your outfit sorted for every other wedding and special occasion!” she adds.

If you decide to buy a made-to-measure kilt of your own, you’ll have more than 4,000 tartans to choose from, with prices starting from £425. So if you are wanting to wear your family tartan or another special check, this can still be achieved in an affordable way.

Left: This sample Essense of Australia gown from Kudos Bridal Boutiques (Dunfermline) proves you can do beauty on a budget; Right: Stunning outfits like this by Veni Infantino are on offer for reduced prices – was £679, now £449 – at The Dressing Rooms

The Photographs

Camera phones have made photographers of us all. We’ve learned the tricks of lighting, posing and framing – and even if we get it wrong, iPhones, Pixels and Galaxies are so clever they can rectify our mistakes. In fact, you might be thinking this is a good place to save a significant chunk of your budget: a professional photographer is expensive and your pals take such brilliant pics… but that would be a big mistake. There is an awful lot more to wedding photography than most of us realise, and trusting your precious memories to a bunch of tipsy guests is definitely not recommended. That said, there is still a way to get great photos without the high tariff. The secret? Pick a professional who charges on an hourly basis.

“It’s a cost-effective way of having your day documented without paying for coverage you don’t need,” says award-winning snapper Rachel Spence. “If you’re having an intimate wedding or eloping with just a few guests, you probably only need a photographer for a few hours.”

Rachel believes that prioritising what is important to you can help when it comes to budgeting. “When I was planning my own wedding, I listed all the things I needed or wanted and then put them in order of what I thought mattered most. It’s about deciding what’s of most value to you,” she explains. 

“Priorities will be different for everyone, so sit down with your other half and work out where you want to put your cash.”

One bride’s trash…

Secondhand shopping has never been so chic. Where else can you find a vintage clock that brings your bedroom decor to life, a pair of brand-new Moschino sunglasses or a rare Cher record? And for weddings? You’d be surprised at what can be found in charity shops, especially the likes of Oxfam’s online and in-store bridal sections.

“The average cost of a wedding dress sold by Oxfam is £250 – we aim to pitch our prices at about 30% of what you’d pay on the high street,” says the charity’s Sophie Bowell. “There’s a chance of finding the dress of your dreams for much less than you would expect.” 

Worth a look too is eBay’s ‘pre-loved wedding hub’ – a collection of second-hand bridal, bridesmaid and wedding guest dresses, suits and accessories, some with as much as £2,000 off the RRP.

Do it Yourself

Even celebrities are looking at saving moolah on the big day. Stacey Solomon, Instagram’s ‘Queen of DIY’, was happy to make lots of items by hand for her wedding to Joe Swash, and a quick scroll of TikTok will reveal tutorials on everything from creating place cards to crafting floral arrangements. Cut costs by cutting out the middle man – you never know what you could achieve!