How To Plan a Wedding on a Budget

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

Planning our wedding was stressful, fun, exciting, emotional and tense! There are so many different aspects to it, and EVERYONE has an opinion. It’s hard to not get taken in by it, and then you can become overwhelmed.

There are so many useful – and some panic inducing – resources out there for those planning a wedding, and the cost can quickly mount up! Not to mention that they can be terrible for the environment! I’m hoping that the wisdom I am about the impart will help someone, someday. If not, maybe someone will just enjoy reading it!

Before going any further  get yourself a great wedding planner. Not a person, a book. A guide that gives you advice and lets you keep track of everything. Mine was this one here. My sister bought me it, and it was so useful!! I highly recommend it. It has everything you could ever need. It includes all kinds of handy information on different types of weddings from religious to none-religious, outdoor to indoor, at home and destination, short engagements to long engagements and a range of budgets. It offers several different sections including an ideas section, a budget sheet, a contact sheet, information on how to create and present invitations, definitions of the different kinds of dresses, gift lists, there is an abundance of helpful tips and guides! Now that the wedding is over - sob - I've used it to create a wedding memory book.

Save The Date

Setting a date is one of the first important steps. If you aren’t sure at first, pick a few dates that you like then when you’re looking at locations, that might help you pin point an exact date. After-all, you can only get married when your dream location is available!

For us, setting the date was pretty easy. The proposal itself had been a complete shock. I know a lot of people say they weren’t expecting it, but when I say it was a shock, I mean I had thought that he didn’t want to get married, and it happened out of the blue. There had been no indication whatsoever.

We had been planning on doing some travelling in 2016 and I pointed out that we couldn’t go there, then get married. We just couldn’t afford it. My husband to be pointed out that it was still possible if we made our travelling our honeymoon, and get married before we go. Of course this one stumped me! That would mean getting married at the beginning of 2016…? Or in 2015, which wasn’t that far away! I was shocked that he would even consider getting married then.

So how do we pinpoint a date before our travelling plans? We couldn’t get married before the middle of the year… no way we could afford it. I didn’t want to get married in December and my birthday is in November. We were worried about it pouring down in August, or potentially it even being too hot. He wasn’t keen on January of February. After throwing some dates around, we settled on it – venue availability obviously being an something that would need to be considered – the 15th of October, 2015. This made our wedding date 15.10.15 or in roman numerals XV-X-XV, which sounds and looks pretty cool!

Some things to consider when you set the date, is the time of year and the day of the week. Summer and Winter weddings are very popular and expensive, and you should also think about the weather. Summer can be very wet and winter can be cold, as well as wet! Of course in England, you’re looking at a high chance of rain any day of the year, and the weather is beyond your control. We picked Autumn though as it can quite often be sunny and warm in at that time of year. Plus, Autumn isn’t a peak time of year for weddings, so there is a lot more availability, and some of the prices are bit lower! The day is very important too. Friday-Sunday can be very popular, and more expensive. Weddings during the week tend to be cheaper. Of course then you might worry that most people work Monday to Friday, so won’t be able to make it/won’t want to come because they won’t be able to have the time off. Don’t worry about this – anyone who wants to come to your wedding – and all of your guests will – will book holidays, swap shifts and if they can’t make the day, they will come to the evening. This is why you should send save the date cards early, although we didn’t. We just sent our invites out as soon as we had all of the details in place. We didn’t send save the date cards because we thought it was an expense that we could do without, and by the time they had been sent out we would be ready to send the invitations!

It gave us nine months to plan, so we had to get straight on it! Nine months doesn’t seem too long to get everything sorted, but we managed and I actually know people who have done it in a shorter space of time.

The Bridesmaids

Picking bridesmaids is a difficult thing to do, especially if you have a lot of awesome friends. Remember –

  1. Never feel obliged to ask anyone

  2. Its your wedding, so have as many or as a few as you want

  3. Bare in mind what will and won’t look good, and that the more you have, the more difficult it can be

  4. It is absolutely okay to ask your bridesmaids to pay for their dresses etc, as long you give them some input, and you give them the option to step back from their bridesmaids duties if they can’t afford it

When picking bridesmaids, you need to pick people that you love. You also need to pick people that you can rely on. Will this girl do pretty much anything for you? Will she drive you about here there and everywhere? Will she be honest with you when you ask her opinion? Will she hold your wedding dress when you pee? Will she turn on those who disagree with your wedding choices? Will they take one look at you, and just know to order you a large glass of red wine? These are all important questions! These girls need to have your back ever second of the way towards the wedding and beyond!

I had 4 grown up bridesmaids and one little bridesmaid/flower girl. I immediately asked my sister to be my maid of honor. She had already been married so she was experienced in the planning, but I also knew that she would make an amazing MOH.

Then I asked 3 of my best friends. One from Comprehensive school, one from Primary school and one that I had met through work. I had been through so much with these three girls that I knew they would stand by me, help me and do whatever I needed. I also asked our 4 year old niece. Her response was no. When I re-explained it to her, she told me I was being silly, but finally came round to the idea!

Choose them wisely. I couldn’t have asked for better bridesmaids, and I will never stop thanking them for everything they did for me! They were all amazing and look so beautiful on the day.


Another very important first step to take – do this before buying or booking anything. I would think about doing this and setting the date at the same time. That way you know how long you have to save as well.

We had 9 months to plan a wedding, so we literally had to save and spend at the same time. I know this isn’t the case for everyone. If you have a long time to save before you start spending, you’ll be able to save as much as you like. If someone else is paying towards your wedding, make sure it’s still on your terms.

We agreed on a maximum amount we would like to spend. Because I earn less then my husband, we also decided to each pay in the same amount, which was the most I could afford to put in each month. That made our savings and decisions completely equal. It worked out so well. We actually came in under budget! To keep on track, make note of every expense. Our wedding planner had a brilliant budget tracker in it, and we didn't go over our agreed budget.

Venue hunting

With our budget and date in mind, we immediately started venue hunting. This can be fun and it can be stressful. There is so much to think about, and when you have less than a year to plan, you have to start making decisions straight away. Some things to consider are –

  1. Do you want a home wedding, or a destination wedding?

  2. Do you want to get married in a church?

  3. Do you want a civil ceremony?

  4. If you want a civil ceremony, what kind of marriage venue do you want?

  5. What kind of reception venue do you want: Pub, hotel, village hall, club?

  6. What kind of entertainment and food will you want?

  7. If you choose a hotel, do you want your guests to be able to stay there? If so, will the hotel give your guests any kind of discount?

  8. What sort of packages does your venue offer? Can you tailor it to your needs?

There is so much more. If you chose the same WP as me, it offers a list of questions to consider, but we also came up with long list of our own. Some venues are very limited with what they will let you do, so make sure you are very clear on everything you want from the start, from if you can provide your own cake, entertainment, can you get your hair and make up done there, do they offer a corkage fee, what their clear out time is, what do they provide you… etc etc. Don’t leave anything to chance.

Explore as much of the venue as possible! Make sure you have everything you want.

We decided to go for a Civil Ceremony. There was a nice church we had in mind but there weren’t any venues nearby that we liked for the evening reception, plus we liked we liked the less formal feeling of a CC. We ordered loads of brochures, sent emails, made phone calls. I felt panicked that we didn’t have much time.

We visited about 5 places before we settled on Bowburn Hall. I think I knew it was the place as soon as we stepped out of the car. Its a manor house hotel set in a housing estate. Its away from the main road, and considering its in a housing estate, its actually quite private – that might be the two walled gardens! I knew someone that worked there too, which helped and all of the staff were wonderful. Its the perfect size and they are very happy to personalize the package. It was also really affordable. We chose to have –

  1. A civil ceremony in the ballroom

  2. A drinks reception with canapes in the conservatory

  3. Speeches and toasts in the ballroom

  4. Disco with DJ

  5. Hog roast

Our honeymoon suite was included in the price, we had exclusive use of one of the gardens, full English breakfast the next day, and our guests got a discount if they stayed at the hotel. We filled all of the rooms. The staff were amazing, they went above and beyond every step of the way. Anything at all we needed, they were able to provided. They did everything we asked them to. They worked so hard on the day of the wedding too. I can’t thank them enough.

You Are Invited…

With our venue and date settled, it was time for the dreaded guest list. It's worth waiting till you have your venue booked as they will dictate the amount of guests you can have.

There is no easy way to make a guest list. You are always going to offend someone along the way. Just deal with it the best you can. You’ll also get guests who assume that someone that isn’t listed on the invite, is in actual fact invited; I can pretty much guarantee that there will be people who won’t RSVP by the RSVP date; you will struggle to get people to report their dietary requirements; some will not even read the invite further than the date, time and location; you may get people complaining about their invite; some might chop and change their mind; there will be guests who loose their invitation, then repeatedly ask you the same questions over and over again; and if you’re really lucky, someone might even bring a guest that wasn’t invited!

Just remember –

  1. Its YOUR wedding. Invite who you want, to whichever part you want. If they really do care about you, they’ll just be happy to invited.

  2. No, you don’t have to invite your great Aunt Shirley if you haven’t seen her since you were five

  3. Its perfectly acceptable to invite your friends partner to the evening if you don’t know them that well

  4. Don’t be mad at those that drop out last minute, its probably not their fault!

Children At A Wedding

Its always a tricky one. On the one hand, you don’t want loads of kids running around squealing and taking away from your day. On the other, there are most likely kids that you care about, and of course I’m sure you have guests with children. We decided for the day, just to have our niece and nephew because we’re very close to them. Our nephew was only 15 months at the time too, and everyone that would be able to look after him was going to be at the wedding anyway, plus he’s super cute! Our niece was one of my bridesmaids anyway, and at 4 years old she was incredibly well behaved and handled it so well. They were both an absolute dream and even though they didn’t really know each other, they just loved each other! We gave evening guests the option to bring their children but no one actually did! Again, its not something you are obliged to do and the majority of adults will understand if you don’t want children there.

The Clothes

Whilst my husband tackled suits, I had dresses on my mind! I got my WD in around March time. We went to a great place called Wed2B, located in the Metro Center Retail Park. What a place! Its an outlet, so the prices are GREAT. Perfect for a budget wedding.

You don’t need an appointment, but it gets busy quickly so go for the opening time! If you don’t already have your wedding shoes, take ones that are around the same height that you were thinking of, plus anything else you might be thinking of wearing i.e underwear (if you haven’t settled on this yet, just make sure you take it to the fittings) under skirts, veils, etc. I hadn’t settled on anything so I took a couple pairs of shoes and that was that. Also remember that you aren’t just going to try on any old dress. This is an amazing experience. You will feel like a princess in each in every dress so make sure you already feel nice. Don’t over do it on the make-up – you don’t want to stain any dresses – but it doesn’t hurt to put a little on. Make sure your hair is nice and clean, and that it’s not going to get in the way. Also, make sure your showered and you’ve used your razor! There will be a stranger in there with you, helping you into dresses!

Take a few people with you too – I took my Mam, my sister (MOH) and one of my bridesmaids. Its great day, you’ve got plenty of people to give you an opinion, and to take photos. Plus its an amazing moment to share.

So, get there for opening. We went and there was a small cue, but we were still one of the first groups in. Once in, they take your dress size (they will ask for a size up from what you normally wear, as wedding dresses are small fitting!) your name, and any accessories you’ve brought, then take you to your size section. You can pick up to four dresses at a time. Pick different styles of dresses, even if you have an idea of what you want. Dresses look different on different people. Once you’ve picked your four dresses, take them to the dressing room. The staff will take them off you, put them with your name then ask you to take a seat. Then you wait until a room is available. This might seem like a bit of annoyance, but it’s actually part of the experience. You meet different brides, get to chat with the people you’ve brought and you see other girls walking around in their possible dresses. It didn’t take long for us to get seen to the first time round, and I tried on four dresses, then went back and picked three more. The second time round, it took longer to get seen to, because by this point it was busier. However, after those three dresses, I knew. I went back to my first dress and realized I was in love with it. I bought it there and then.

The staff at Wed2B were so helpful! I urge anyone who is getting married, no matter your budget, to go there because it such an experience, and the range of dresses they have is amazing. They are springing up all over the place!

I’ve had so many compliments on my dress and would highly recommend going there!

I don’t have a photo of my shoes, but I chose them mostly for their memory foam souls! They were so comfy! I didn’t have a veil, as my dress was backless and I thought a veil would hide that. I had a blue garter, a present from the MIL. I wore my Nana's pearl earrings and my Mam's pearl bracelet.

My bridesmaids dresses were stunning. One day, I went out with one of them just to have a look around. Admittedly, we were getting towards the cut off point for buying them. I didn’t really know where to go and had given a shop a call, and they just happened to have the space for us to pop in for a visit. We fell in love with the place. It was a really personal experience, and 3 of my bridesmaids – one of them lives in Wales – returned with us not long after. They each found a dress and we picked one for the girl in Wales, and we received such fantastic service too! They each wore a different dress in the same colour. I did this mainly because one of them was pregnant, and it would be harder to find a dress that would fit her as well as the others, but also because it was a bit different. I let them pick their own shoes, because to be totally honest with you no one looks at their feet!

The store that we went into was Here Come The Bridesmaids (Also known as Most Desirable) I highly recommend her. Nicola is a kind, warm, sweet person, she was so approachable, and there at the other end of the computer – I like to communicate via email – at the drop of a hat.  They were adjusted at a place called M&Js who did a great job too!

Whatever you do though, make sure you get your nails done by someone you know can do them! Otherwise, disaster can strike!

Hair and Make-Up

I only had one trial for my hair and make-up, at a place L.A Makeovers. I booked them on the spot, they were that good! The girls were lovely, really nice, and their salon had such a relaxed atmosphere!

We each had plaits in our hair, so we all matched. Despite having such long, thick hair, I chose to wear is up so it was out of the way. Our make-up was flawless as well, and they offered a great price. I’ve actually started using them as my regular hair-dressers, and they offer so many other services.


They were another thing that we booked there and then. We went to one place – The Florist Shop – described what we wanted and she understood perfectly and did an amazing job. I was so in love with them! Perfect autumnal bouquets. She even attached a locket with photos of relatives no longer with us as a personal touch.

My flowers were sunflowers mixed with red gerberas. The bridesmaids had little posies of yellow gerberas, and my littlest bridesmaid had one sunflower with yellow gerberas. The buttonholes were red gerberas.

Again, very affordable and just what we wanted!

The Photographer

We did something that I hadn’t seen anyone else do, and got our photographer on Groupon! It was a great deal! I must admit, I was worried that the photos wouldn’t be great or that they wouldn’t turn up, but I was wrong on both accounts! The photos are FANTASTIC and obviously he was there! My worries were for nothing.

I made a specific photo list, which admittedly he didn’t bring with him so didn’t stick to… or at least didn’t appear to, but that didn’t end up being a problem. If this is something you’re worried about, give a copy to one of the groomsmen just in case!

I fretted all the way up until I could see what he had taken and I was blown away!

Not only did he provide us with absolutely stunning shots, he was also very un-intrusive (is that a word?!) It felt like he wasn’t there, and as a result he captured really natural shots.

There will always be loads of photos, because loads of people will take them, and you will always get great shots, but there is something different about a good official photographer. His name is Jason Friend, and I highly recommend him! With his group on deal, he was so affordable. There are some many that come at over £1000 which is crazy!

I was delighted to discover that we are actually on his website!

The Rings 

Choosing rings was also quite simple. When you consider that for  most things, we picked either the first or one of the first options that we had looked at. I picked my ring very easily. I had to have it made, because my engagement ring is a funny shape and I just couldn’t find a wedding ring to fit around it in the shops. I sat down with a local jeweler, who designs and makes jewelry and we came up with a design there and then. My husband took much longer, but in the end also went with a design from the same place. Yet again, a great price, and great service! We now have stunning wedding rings and it was completely hassle free!! I highly recommend the Croft Workshop in Durham City. He is really creative, and makes such beautiful jewelry!

Craft Wedding 

We also kept the expenses down, and were kinder to the environment by either making everything ourselves, or getting people we know to make everything! Let’s have a look…

  1. Center pieces – Jars with candles in them, decorated with string, hessian, and lace, sitting on top of round wooden plinths. Dead easy to make, took a while but still worth it! I decorated the jars, we bought some candles, and my husband helped cut down a tree and my in-laws made the plinths! They looked stunning too, and make for a great table decoration in the house.

  2. Invites and RSVPs – I designed them and we had them printed on Vista Print!

  3. Favors – Seed packets with seeds from the bouquets in them – sunflowers and gerberas – all made by myself and my husband. Hand written on, with printed instructions, in little plastic presentation bags*!

  4. The Cake – Made by my sister and MOH, it was perfect! It looked better then I thought it could! And it was DELICIOUS.

  5. Confetti – We dried as many of our own flower petals as possible, then my MIL came round and we made confetti cones! We did have to buy some dried confetti – amazon was the best place**.

  6. The guest book – I bought a brown plane note book and decorated it myself. It took me about 20 minutes. My parents also bought us a “wedding brolly” for guests to sign.

  7. Card holder – I took an old display suitcase, and made a sign that said “cards”, then added my mams antique veil to it, that looked a bit like nest for people to place their cards in.

  8. Signs – We wanted a sign to tell people where to sit, and one to go with a basket of blankets. I painted two boards with chalk paint. My husband dismantled some pallets and rebuilt them in the shape of a sign. Easy peasy!

  9. Sweet buffet – you can rent these, but I think what we did was so much better! We bought some plastic jars online – eBay, £20! – and a LARGE amount of sweets from a wholesale place, and that was about it. It looked great and went down a treat!

It was all really easy, went really well and looked fantastic!

The Day 

All of the hard work paid off. It was the most beautiful, amazing day. The morning was super relaxed as we ate breakfast then went to get our hair and makeup done at the hotel. The staff were super friendly and helpful, doing everything in their power to make sure we had everything we needed. The girls doing the hair and makeup helped to keep the atmosphere calm and they did a brilliant job. When it was time to get my dress on, I started to get nervous, and shake. I was teary. But as soon as I saw my husband, it was like there was no one else in the world. The ceremony was amazing. My bridesmaids were beautiful and walked down the isle so gracefully. My Dad whispered to me “Lets knock em dead kid” as we stepped into the room. We walked down the isle to pachelbel canon in d major. We chose to have two readings, which were done beautifully. We said our vows, exchanged our rings… I cried and laughed, then walked back out to the Ramones, Baby I Love You. There are no words to describe how the day went. My brother-in-law was the master of ceremonies, which added another personal touch to a very intimate day. Our first dance was a big hit – Stand By Me – and the speeches were gorgeous. I had a father-daughter dance, and my husband had a mother-son dance. It was all perfect. I would love to do it all again. I wouldn’t change a thing. We can’t thank the people that were involved enough. I think I will be thanking everyone for the rest of my life!

Wedding Top Tips!

  1. If you’re getting your nails done, have someone you know do them or do them yourself!

  2. Take a copy of the shot list for the photographer

  3. If any guests are doing your head in, just let it go over your head. Chances are its not on purpose, and you don’t want there to be hard feelings for the wedding!

  4. With that in mind, IT IS okay to tell them if they are overstepping any lines!

  5. You MUST enjoy your day. If it comes round to it, and something isn’t done, as long as you marry the person you love, that’s all that matters.

  6. Make sure you take a moment to just be with your new wife/husband. The hotel staff made sure we did!

  7. Drink plenty of water! You’ll be having lots of alcohol, its okay to stay hydrated!

  8. Make sure that by the day, all responsibilities have been distributed to your MOH/BM, or anyone else who will take something!

  9. Compartmentalize! Its the key to staying focused, especially as the wedding draws near. Have a list of what needs doing everything month, then break it down week by week. Don’t think about anything it isn’t on your list for that month!

  10. Its okay to have anxiety – it doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner or that you don’t want to get married. If you feel anxious DO NOT MAKE ANY DRASTIC DECISIONS. Instead, discuss is with someone, write down any outside issues and REMEMBER – anxiety is caused by adrenaline, hormones, high emotions, and chemical imbalances! Its NORMAL.

  11. Do consider your partner in your decisions. Yes, its your wedding. Yes, you may have been dreaming about this your whole life. Yes, you may have VERY specific ideas. But its their day too, and if they want to be involved then its a good sign. It takes some of the stress off you, and it means that they are going to have a great day. If you make all of the decisions, they won’t feel like they are doing something they want to do.

  12. Wedding nightmares are awful. But hilarious if you let them be. Also, really normal. Even funnier when your friends and family have them!

  13. Its okay if you don’t spend the night mingling with everyone. You worked hard on your playlist, enjoy it! Guests will still be having a fab time!

  14. Its okay to ask for money instead of gifts – just be nice about it!

  15. Don’t get so hammered that you’re throwing up in your dress – its not nice

  16. Have someone practice putting your bustle up, and write CLEAR instructions. Its a nightmare if you can’t figure it out - which is exactly what happened to us.

  17. EAT.

  18. Don’t be a bridezilla. Its not big and its not clever.

  19. Its okay if you cry. I mean, try to keep it under control, but shedding a few tears as you say your vows – as long as you can say them – is perfectly fine!

  20. Wear your shoes around the house – blisters are a pain!

  21. Get someone you know to film it – unless you can afford a videographer – so you can look back at all of the stuff you missed – believe me, you will!

  22. Remember – it’s your wedding. Do it how you want it, and ENJOY IT!

  23. Sign up to pinterest. Now. Its a great place to find ideas.

Planning a wedding might seem daunting but take it a step at a time, do your research, have a day off, tick things off your list as you go, talk about it often but don’t forget about other stuff, and make sure you get help if you need it! There are loads useful websites out there with tons of advice too!

*At the current time, while I am just doing some editing, I would still do this as a wedding favor however I would look for a better alternative to a plastic bag, either a compostable bag or some form of seeded paper/seed bomb.

**At the current time, while I am just doing some editing, I still 100 percent condone drying your own flower petals to make confetti. I would no longer opt to order extra from Amazon though, and would look around for better, more environmental places to get it from.

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