Well hello! It's been about six weeks since my last post and believe me, I cannot for the life of me explain where those six weeks have gone. It has been a rollercoaster of hen parties, stag dos, Star Wars Secret Cinema, birthdays, and a whole lot of other, sadly less enjoyable, happenings that have kept me from the blog. We have now got less than five weeks to go and as we're coming up to all those fun payment deadlines, I thought I'd put together a post on how to make the last few weeks before your wedding slightly less painful on your purse strings.
Now I'm no expert at this... you won't find me building my own tipi and making my own favours out of recycled loo roll holders. I'm actually rubbish at DIY (just about the only project I ever successfully completed was making "parchment" with tea-stained paper. At school. When I was 7). I also totally appreciate I may be jumping the gun a bit as our wedding obviously hasn't happened yet!
But I am a bargain hunter at heart and I am known for my dogged determination when it comes to finding budget buys! I very rarely pay full price for anything and even haggled with our estate agents in order to get free carpeting and a dishwasher put into our flat... So here are some of the things I've learned over the course of planning our wedding!
*Decide on your priorities
Before you even start looking for anything, sit down with your other half and decide what elements mean the most to you - do you want accommodation for everyone? Gourmet food? Exquisite flowers? We decided our priorities were tasty food and a quality photographer, so it's no surprise that's where most of our budget went! We then picked out the things we were happy to compromise on - outfits, entertainment, flowers, decorations. Jon's outfit is entirely high street, courtesy of M&S and Next, and we are going to collect our flowers from a combination of Tesco's bouquets, Aldi, and other supermarkets!
*Don't be afraid to haggle
This is the main thing when it comes to wedding planning, okay? Some wedding services are expensive and that's fine, like photography - if you break down the amount of work required and how much their equipment costs, £1500 is actually a bit of a bargain. But what about things like invites, food, venue hire? I found that telling suppliers my budgeted amount really helped to drop the price for certain things. Our invites are from Etsy and should have cost about £200, which was way over our budget. But they were so pretty and the first design that both Jon and I agreed on, plus they included gold glitter, so I had to have them. I decided to be a bit cheeky and employ some of the tactics I use in my job as a buying assistant, so I sent the designer a target price and asked what could be taken out or changed to bring the price down. She ended up removing the band and RSVP cards and the price dropped to £90! Our photographer has also generously managed to negotiate a second photographer for us for just £150, so it's definitely worth asking around to see if your suppliers can help you out.
*Keep an eye out for deals
When we were searching for our venue, I signed up to heaps of sites like UKbride and weddingvenues.com so they would send me any special offers. It's a lot of spam most of the time, but one day an email from Wedding Venues popped into my letterbox advertising a brand new venue that was offering 50% off any bookings... well, we organised a viewing immediately and now we are getting married there! I've also booked wedding fair tickets at Olympia through Groupon and got free entry to the Excel wedding show last year through signing up to UKbride. Visiting shows isn't a must by any means, but some suppliers run show-only discounts and offer vouchers so it's sometimes worth checking out if you can! It's also nice to speak to suppliers on the stand and you do get the occasional freebie too. I've also seen lots of stories about brides winning things like their cake or photography in competitions, so sign up and start entering!
*Spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheets!
Time to dust off your Excel knowledge! When we were venue-hunting I created a breakdown of the cost for every venue we liked and viewed, so we could decide if it was worth the money. Then, once we set our budget, I broke it down into what we would like to pay for everything necessary and then entered in what we actually ended up paying. I've also got a sheet that lists all the deposits paid thus far, the balance left to pay and the dates they need to paid by, so we can keep on top of everything. Equally I have one for our guestlist, with day and evening guests, addresses, contact details... If your Excel skills are a bit rusty, there are lots of budget planner templates you can download - just search for wedding budget spreadsheets and pick one that suits you!
*Enlist your friends and family
Wedding planning can be an enormous task and if you try to tackle it yourself, you may drive yourself a bit mad... If you have any mates with skills definitely ask them for help! I have two lovely friends who are rather excellent bakers, so have enlisted them to make our cake. My sister is going to do my hair, my bridesmaids will help me decorate the venue on the day, we will have a mass flower-arranging sesh the day before, and my family are collecting jars and bottles for me to use as our table decorations. I'm also making the most of my jewellery industry connections to sort our wedding rings at a good price - mine was specially designed by a friend so it's not only a bargain but also perfectly unique!
In this day and age there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying things secondhand, online or in sales! By a happy accident I got my dress off the sale rail in the last bridal shop I visited, but I did do extensive research online first to find stockists and pricing. My sister got her dress in the Monsoon sale and another one of my bridesmaids found hers in the ASOS sale for £13, how bargainous is that? I've also bought props from someone selling their wedding decorations on the You and Your Wedding forum, plus hunted around Amazon marketplace for sweetie bags. Don't rule out eBay either, there are some great bargains to be had - I got the perfect shoes for a tenner! I also bought my bridesmaids' gifts in a sample sale at work too. Be savvy and keep an eye out constantly, you never know what you might come across...
I put out a call on Twitter and You & Your Wedding to all brides and brides-to-be to give me their tips - have a read through, I hope you learn something new!
Did you find this helpful? Do you have any tips of your own that I haven't covered? Please share in the comments, or tweet me @danidunnexo and I'll update the post!