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My £10k wedding: ‘How I saved £20,000 on my big day’

The first thing bride-to-be Emma did when planning her wedding was to reach out… for a spreadsheet (Picture: Emma Fairhall)

Wedding season is upon us once again, and it’s set to be particularly busy with an estimated 350,000 weddings taking place this year (up from an average of around 280,000 pre-pandemic).

Most of them are unlikely to be in the realms of the recent Peltz-Beckham rumoured $3million extravaganza, but the average UK nuptials still cost around £30,000, a vast amount of money, especially during these financially taxing times when people are watching every penny.

If you’ve been dreaming of your big day for years, you might initially balk at the idea of being a budgeting bride, but scrimping doesn’t mean sacrificing style, or forgoing memory-making moments. 

Through careful planning and creative thinking, you can enjoy a wedding that’s filled with personal touches for a fraction of the average cost, as campaigns manager Emma Fairhall, 26, from Dorset, discovered. 

The first thing Emma did when planning her wedding was to reach out… for a spreadsheet. She was determined to have a big day filled with personal touches – for a fraction of the average cost.

In fact, the thrifty bride spent just £9,630 on her wedding and honeymoon in June 2019, which meant she and her husband, Dave, 34, a financial sanctions officer, could put the £20,000 they might otherwise have spent towards a deposit on their first home. 

Weddings can still cost a pretty penny, with more couples looking to have a big day on a budget (Picture: Getty)

‘I’m known by friends and family for being savvy with saving money, so I made a spreadsheet covering all possible aspects of the wedding along with the average prices, and worked out where we could save money,’ says Emma, whose first task was choosing a venue for their 75 guests. 

‘We originally wanted to keep within the £5k mark, but quickly realised we had too many guests as we both have big families and that wasn’t something we wanted to compromise on.’

Rejecting more traditional venues, and their hefty price tags, she opted for the local garden centre. 

‘I discovered it via Facebook as a wedding planner had posted a picture of a wedding there. We were a bit sceptical at first and it did feel a little daunting as it was simply an empty field, but then we realised it meant we could put our own stamp on it,’ explains Emma who paid £3,500 for the location, as opposed to the average £5,406.

Emma and Dave got married at a nearby garden centre (Picture: Emma Fairhall)

‘A lot of our decor was homemade,’ she notes, adding that she also designed their invitations. ‘I also kept a lookout at charity shops and eBay for anything that had the potential to make a good decoration. Some items were deliberately chosen so we could keep them for our first home, which means we’ve always got little memories of our wedding.’

In addition, the couple made their own place cards, utilised empty wine bottles for table water and used a full-length mirror they owned to display the order of the day, which meant Emma only spent £65 on her wedding decoration.

The bride held her wedding at the local garden centre (Picture: Emma Fairhall)

She bought her wedding dress (£80) and bridesmaids dresses (between £40 and £45) on sale at ASOS, and although she splashed out on hair and make-up for the bridal party, she managed to get a 15% group offer, which totalled £452 for five of them. 

As for the groom, his suit was £51 from a supermarket, which was tailored for £60, while the groomsmen wore suits they already owned. 

One of the most expensive aspects of the wedding was the flowers, at £500, but Emma still managed to save money by taking advantage of deals at a wedding fayre, incorporating local flowers and getting friends and family to pick wildflowers on their walks. 

She also used dried flowers for the confetti and topped it up with free samples she’d collected.

Emma saved money on flowers with freebies and friends’ help (Picture: Emma Fairhall)

‘Although we decided to skip out on a videographer as it was so expensive, photography is one thing we didn’t want to scrimp on,’ says Emma, who spent £1020 on a photographer.

As for food, the couple asked a local chef to supply an unlimited vegan buffet after attending a supper club event. It cost £20 per person, and half price for the kids. 

‘We were also quite savvy with what time we got married, leaving it quite late at 3pm so we didn’t have to feed our guests twice and they could instead graze on the buffet all day, and evening guests could help themselves.’

A friend made the cake for the special day (Picture: Emma Fairhall)

While a friend made their wedding cake as a gift, Emma used Lego pieces for the cake topper. She and Dave also baked brownies for guests, made up pick ‘n’ mix for the children with sweets from a wholesaler using the free cashback app Shopmium and ensured the drinks were flowing at a cost of £3-£4 per person.

‘We used a bar company that had a towable shepherd’s hut they delivered to our venue,’ Emma explains. ‘They gave us a reduced price, and we opted against a toasting drink as everyone would be eating and drinking already. We also had a cash bar.’ 

For entertainment, the couple hired a DJ recommended to them who gave them mates rates at £640, bought garden games from charity shops, set up a kids’ corner, with homemade activity packs and borrowed toys, costing around £10, and booked a photobooth that doubled up as the guestbook for £420. 



Emma’s budgeting tips

  • Don’t be scared to haggle with suppliers. They might knock money off, or throw in some extras
  • Think what you’d like and then work out what you can do to reduce the costs by borrowing, using second hand, or making it yourself
  • Take advantage of free samples and discounts at wedding fayres
  • Use loyalty cards, and cashback sites, such as Shopmium
  • Have a contingency fund because there will always be hidden costs
  • Get a friend or family member to act as chauffer (her mum drove the bridal party)
  • Choose the ceremony and reception at the same location so you’re not ferrying guests around
  • Be creative with venues too – don’t feel you need to opt for obvious
  • In the run up to your big day, save your wine bottles, as they can be used for table water and look really pretty, too
  • Think about using wildflowers in your bouquet – however be mindful where you pick them from and definitely don’t take any from conservation areas. Do not to uproot a whole plant either, as that’s illegal
  • You can also dry picked flowers in advance to use as confetti
  • Get a friend or family member to act as chauffer

They then honeymooned in Devon and Cornwall for a week, in their self-built campervan, and asked guests for money towards it as a wedding gift. 

‘Aside from the financial benefits, budgeting definitely made everything feel more unique and personal,’ notes Emma. 

‘With social media, there’s definitely a lot of pressure on having a picture-perfect wedding when actually the perfect wedding is one that works for you and your personal situation.’

Here’s how Emma’s wedding matches up to the national average (Picture: Shopmium)

Kate Beavis, owner of the contemporary wedding blog Magpie Wedding and The ECO Wedding Show agrees. 

‘Couples often focus on what society tells them they have to do or what they feel they should have, when really, they need to consider creating a day that represents them,’ explains Kate, who only spent £3,000 on her own wedding.

‘Think about weddings you’ve been to and what you remember – it’s probably the food, the music and special moments, such as speeches. You probably don’t remember the favours, for example, so maybe you could forego or create your own.  

‘We chose an old water mill with a huge meadow as the venue, used a Humanist Celebrant for the ceremony with everyone sitting on vintage deckchairs we’d sourced from car boot sales or borrowed,’ she reveals. ‘We also chose a lot of vintage second-hand items such as crockery and glassware and I wore a vintage 1950s dress that was bought from eBay.’ 

‘People made things for us, such as the decorations and my bouquet; we handpicked flowers from our garden that we’d grown especially, and had a mobile fish and chip van for the evening meal. We also had a quiz, as we love them. It cost nothing, plus our guests still talk about it.’

On that note, Kate highlights it’s crucial to spare a thought on what you expect your friends and family to shell out for your big day, particularly now. 

‘This is so important. Research shows guests spend about £550 to attend a wedding, which includes the hen/stag do, present, travel, hotel, and an outfit. Encourage your guests to wear an outfit they already have, choose local B&Bs, car share and so on. It all helps their wallet – and the planet.’

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing Kimberley.Bond@metro.co.uk 

Share your views in the comments below.


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