The Ultimate Wedding Budget Guide
Published date: 17th July 2020 | Author: Hollie Bond
No idea how to set a wedding budget and what to spend on each element of your wedding day? We’ve broken the spending down into a handy guide, with ideas for how to save on each of the big-ticket items.
Once you’ve excitedly told everyone the news about your engagement and quaffed your fair share of celebratory Champagne, it’s time to get down to the serious business of planning your big day starting with… the budget.
This first, important task definitely won’t be the most enjoyable part of planning but, even if you hate discussing money, it’s really important to make sure you have a clear budget plan to avoid getting into debt or wasting time looking at elements you simply can’t afford.
Even when you have set an overall wedding budget, you still need to make sure you’ve broken down the main elements and you know what your maximum spend should be for things like the venue hire, the food and drink, the entertainment and your outfits.
We’ve taken the average cost of a wedding (£30,355 according to Bridebook’s UK Wedding Report 2018) and shown you how to break down each element of your special day, with options for weddings with bigger budgets than the average as well as clever ideas for weddings with much smaller budgets.
So, however much you’ve got to spend on your big day, you’ll find some top tips and helpful budgeting advice here.
What's a good budget for a wedding?
Before you pluck a scary sounding number out of thin air, you need to consider the financial sources available to you and how much of your hard-earned cash you’re willing to put towards your big day.
Sit down with your partner (and parents if appropriate) and be open and honest about your finances.
Think about your available sources of income: Do you having savings you’re happy to use?
Can you afford to put part of your salaries aside each month? Are either set of parents going to contribute? Can you save money for the wedding by cancelling other non-essential lifestyle luxuries?
The most important thing is to make sure you’re not going to get into debt that you can’t afford, in order to get married.
How to break down your wedding budget
The main categories at most weddings that need budget allocated to them are:
The venue, ceremony, food & drink, outfits, transport, photography, entertainment, stationery, flowers, decor, cake and accommodation.
As a general rule of thumb, the way to break down your budget is to allocate a set percentage to each of these areas.
We’ve provided the ballpark percentage below, but remember if you’re happy to scrimp in some areas so you can wear a designer dress or if entertainment is really important to you but you’re happy to wear high street, then you should increase or decrease these percentages accordingly. Just make sure it always adds up to 100%!
Venue (and accommodation): 15 – 20%
Food & drink: 20 – 25% (depending on number of guests)
Bridal party outfits: 10-13%
Flowers and decor: 5-10%
Wedding cake: 1-2%
Ceremony fees: 1-2%
Favours and gifts: 2-3%
Your wedding budget: the wedding venue
Now you’ve got a good idea how much you’re got to spend on this very important element of the wedding day (after all where you hold your big day sets the tone, style and feel of your wedding) it’s time to start searching.
As it’s such a key element of the day, it’s unsurprising that it may take up a large chunk of the budget (usually around 15 – 20%, so if your overall budget is £20,000 you can expect to spend around £4,000 on the venue). You can find hundreds of gorgeous wedding venues around the UK by searching our directory here.
Wedding venues for under £1,500
If you’re trying to keep the overall cost of your big day down and are looking for budget wedding venues don’t despair that you won’t find anything nice, because there are many gorgeous wedding venues for under £1500 in the UK.
Think outside the box if this is your budget when it comes to venues, so instead of traditional big day spaces, you might need to look at pubs, golf clubs, marquees, or perhaps hiring one space in a venue rather than looking at exclusive use.
Remember if you’ve got the nerve you can also hold out for last-minute dates to become available as some of these have very competitive packages! Holding your wedding at home or in a village hall is also a really good budget-friendly idea if you’re hoping to spend less than £1,500.
The Rosendale Public House and Gardens offers weddings for under £1,500.
Wedding venues for under £5,000
A venue hire budget of £5,000 gives you a bit more scope when it comes to choosing a venue, although you’ll still have to look around carefully for any deals or seasonal discounts if you’ve got a large guest list or are choosing a country house venue.
Seckford Hall Hotel & Spa is a great venue for weddings under £5,000.
Wedding venues for under £10,000
If you’ve allocated up to £10,000 for your venue then you can afford to indulge your wedding dreams with options like hiring a venue for multiple days, exclusive use and buying out the accommodation for your guests.
Manor By The Lake offers wedding packages for under £10,000.
Your wedding budget: Food & Drink
A bit like the venue, the bigger your guest list, the bigger the spend will be on catering.
Many venues come with in-house caterers, so it’s important to ask the price of this element when you’re choosing the venue.
Other venues, like dry-hire barn venues, will give you the freedom to choose your own caterers and then you can shop around for prices that match your expected spend. Catering is usually worked out on a per head basis, so keeping your guest list on the smaller side can save you a huge amount of money.
You can also scale back on catering costs by cutting out courses like dessert in favour of serving wedding cake. Or look at more budget-friendly – but just as delicious – catering options, like street food stalls, sharing platters, and buffets.
Budget Catering Options
If you’ve got less than £5,000 to spend on food and drink, but you still have a sizeable guest list there are plenty of ways you can still ensure your guests don’t go hungry and that the drinks are flowing.
Instead of a traditional three-course sit-down meal, consider options like a buffet, a BBQ, food stalls, hog roasts or sharing platters, which cost a lot less due to the ease of serving and the fact that they are easy to make in large quantities.
Couples on a really small budget should consider afternoon teas, which can be a very budget-friendly option.
Catering ideas for £5,000+
For £5,000 or more you have the flexibility to explore more traditional seated meals, having more courses or getting creative with multiple food stalls. This, of course, depends on the size of your guest list as you’ll find £5,000 doesn’t stretch very far when you’re trying to feed 250 people. Remember, if you’re having more guests coming in the evening you’ll need to feed them too (or you’ll find the dance floor empties very quickly!). You also need to factor in the cost of alcohol and soft drinks if you want to provide these. On a mid-range budget it can be a nice touch to pay for wine, beer, fizz and soft drinks during the daytime and then have a paid bar in the evening.
Luxury catering ideas for £10,000+
The catering world is your oyster (and you can probably afford to serve oysters!) if you have over £10,000 allocated to your wedding catering.
Then your guests will be delighted if the drinks include a free bar all night, cocktail stations, craft ales and fun touches like gin trucks or alcohol-tasting stations, which double up as entertainment.
When it comes to the food, think about the sort of vibe you want to create. If you’re hoping for a traditional and formal affair, stick to the classic sit-down meal. You can make it extra special though by adding some theatre-style cooking with chefs at live stations around the room.
As a couple think about what your favourite foods are and have fun with them. Love pizzas? Why not have an outside pizza oven for guests who get peckish in the evening. More of a sweet tooth?
A doughnut wall looks and tastes amazing.
Your wedding budget: The ceremony
Whatever you do, don’t forget to factor in the cost of the registrar fees or church ceremony into your calculations, as this is the only part of the wedding that makes you officially married.
You have to pay for the admin costs involved in giving notice as well as the cost to get legally married in a licensed venue. It’s cheaper to get married in the actual Register Office than a licensed wedding venue as the Registrar doesn’t have to travel anywhere.
All in, the legal costs associated with a civil ceremony usually come to around £300. Be sure to check your specific circumstances though as some areas of the UK cost more than others. Church weddings cost around £500, which covers the cost of reading banns, the vicar, the use of the church and the certificate. If you want extras like an organist or choir these cost more on top.
Your wedding budget: The outfits
Wedding dresses and suits range massively in price and so the percentage of your budget you spend on outfits really depends on how important wearing a certain designer or style is to you.
If you look carefully you can find incredibly fashionable and beautifully-made dresses on the high street or opt for a second-hand designer dress or suit.
If your outfit is a really important and key aspect of your day then you can push the boat out with custom made options, although be ready for a hefty price tag for these! For grooms, the cheapest option is to hire a suit for the occasion rather than buy one.
When it comes to outfits you also need to make a decision about what your plans are for bridesmaids and ushers outfits. It’s a lovely touch to pay for the dresses and suit hire for your ushers (after all you asked them to be in your bridal party!) so if you can make sure to set some money aside for the outfits and any alternations that might be needed.
Wedding dresses for under £500:
If you’re hoping to spend hundreds rather than thousands on your dress then don’t despair, you can still take to the aisle in a stunning gown that is worthy of your big day. The high street has lots of brands that have dreamy dresses. Look at Whistles, ASOS, Monsoon, Phase Eight, French Connection, Ted Baker, and Needle & Thread. Some bridal boutiques have sample sales at the end of a season too and designer dresses that were once over a thousand often go for a lot less.
Wedding dresses for £500 – £2000:
On average, British brides spend around £1400 on their wedding dress, so be prepared when you go into a bridal boutique to see many prices around this figure. If you’ve got up to £2000 to spend on a wedding dress then you’ve got a lot of dresses to choose from! Many bridal boutiques stock dresses in this price category and you should keep a look out for brands and designers like Grace Loves Lace, Catherine Deane, Morilee, Maggie Sottero, Vera Wang White, Pronovias, and Charlie Brear.
Wedding dresses over £2000:
If you’re putting over £2000 towards your dream dress you can look at high-end designer options like Philippa Lepley, Vera Wang, Temperley, Monique Lhuillier, Jenny Packham, Reem Acra and Oscar de la Renta. You could make the experience even more personalised and special by going down the custom-made route and working with a dress designer to create something completely unique.
Your wedding budget: Photography and videography
Photography is an essential wedding element as after the big day and for many years to come, you’ll want to reminisce and remember all the magical moments in picture form.
It’s a real skill being able to capture a wedding on camera in a truly beautiful style, so you’ll need to ensure you pay for a professional if you want pictures you’ll treasure.
If you’re on a tight budget you could enquire about student photographers or photographers who are new to the wedding business, as they will charge less for having less experience. But make sure to ask to see samples of their other photography work to check you’re happy with the quality of it.
You can also save on photography costs by only ordering a digital album of photos and printing off your own album later on.
If you’ve got a bigger budget and are happy to put at least £1,500 towards photography you can look into different styles that reflect your day and also enjoy extras like engagement shoots and photo albums edited and printed by the photographer.
When it comes to videography you may wonder if it’s worth spending at least another £1,000 on a video when you’ve already forked out for a photographer.
Well, the answer is that yes it is.
While photos are amazing mementoes of key moments from the day, a video allows you to relive every minute of the day and to hear and see bits that you may have missed in the whirlwind of the wedding.
Like photography, videography varies widely in price depending on the expertise, a number of shooters, equipment used and how much material they shoot/ edit into a video. On a tight budget? You can ask for a highlights reel rather than a full video shot by one videographer.
Your wedding budget: Transport
A stylish event calls for a stylish arrival, so don’t overlook how you’re going to get around on your big day.
There are lots of options to choose from depending on your personal likes and the style of your wedding, including horse and carriages, vintage cars, cool trucks, and Routemasters.
On average, couples tend to spend around £500 – £1000 on their transport depending on the distance and how many people they’re transporting of course.
DIY Wedding Transport
If you don’t have wiggle room in the budget for transport, but you still want to arrive in a memorable way, you’ll need to think outside the box. If you’re keen cyclists how about arriving on a tandem?
Come from a farming family? A tractor would be a fitting chariot for the day! Or if you know a friend or family member who has a sports car or vintage car, ask if they’d do you the honour of driving you to the ceremony (for free of course!).
Your wedding budget: Entertainment
Weddings can be quite long days for guests, with unavoidable lulls in the excitement at points when the married couple leave for photos or between the reception meal and evening party.
To keep the atmosphere alive, it’s important to invest in some entertainment like music, lawn games or a magician. And then there’s the evening party. If you’re planning on dancing you’ll need a band or DJ.
Allocating around 5% of your budget to entertainment is a smart move and will give you the chance to think about styles or genres that work for you as a couple.
Wedding entertainment for less than £500
Giant lawn games are a brilliant cheap wedding entertainment option at summer and spring weddings, especially if you can borrow them from friends’ gardens. In winter, sparklers can be a nice budget-friendly touch if fireworks are out of the question.
Remember DJs are a less expensive option than hiring a band as there’s only one person to pay for rather than several musicians. A totally free option is to create your own wedding playlist on an iPad and plug it into the venue’s sound system.
Wedding entertainment for £500 – £1500
With a budget up to £1500 it’s important to sit down with your partner and discuss what you would really value entertainment-wise. If you both love a certain local band or musical genre you might want to spend the full budget on this one element.
If you’re not worried about a band perhaps you could have a DJ as well as some ambience-creating music during the day like a pianist.
Wedding entertainment over £1500
The sky’s the limit here. From famous bands (that’ll cost you an arm and a leg) to magicians, caricaturists, fireworks displays and singing waiters, if you’re planning on spending several thousands on entertainment you can afford to have various different types of entertainment throughout the day and evening.
Don’t just throw all your money at a mixture of fun-sounding acts – make sure to think about the style and vibe you’re hoping to create for your day. For example, a string quartet followed by a mariachi band might be a bit of a jarring transition for your guests!
Your wedding budget: Flowers
Flowers are a key decor element at most weddings, and unless you really don’t like flowers (is that even possible?), it’s a lovely touch to have at least a few arrangements dotted around the venue, on the tables and as bouquets and buttonholes.
For some couples, flowers are extremely important, so if this is the case, you may want to dial up the percentage of your budget to 15 or 20% because beautifully arranged blooms don’t come cheap!
Wedding flowers for under £500
Working to a smaller budget, but still want fabulous flowers?
You’ll need to get your creative juices flowing and think about doing some of the arrangements yourself or asking a talented friend or family member to help you.
You can save thousands on flowers by sourcing them at flower markets a couple of days before (it’s usually an early start though!) and making loose natural arrangements for your tables yourself.
You could still ask a florist to make your bouquet and buttonholes however as these are more complicated and take more time and skill. You can get some incredibly natural-looking faux flowers these days too, which you could use alongside real blooms to make your decor look more floral.
Wedding flowers for £500 – £1500
If you’ve got a mid-range budget for flowers, you can afford all the traditional wedding flowers like bouquets, buttonholes and table arrangements, but you still need to keep an eye on things like using seasonal blooms (much cheaper for the florist to source) and choosing a florist who is near your venue so you don’t end up paying for transport costs.
At this price range, you might still want to add some of your own flowers or floral decor to amplify the effect. Remember to get a few quotes as florist prices differ around the country and also depending on the florist’s level of expertise.
Wedding flowers over £1500
With over £1500 to spend on blooms, you can get creative with ideas like floral arches, larger statement urns or table runners for the ceremony table or top table.
Obviously the more flowers you add, the more expensive it’ll get so be sure to discuss your maximum budget with each other before you get carried away in a sea of peonies, tulips and lilies.
Your wedding budget: Decor
How much you spend on decor really depends on how important the aesthetic side of weddings is to you as a couple.
Some brides and grooms love to spend hours and lots of the budget making their wedding look like something out of a magazine, while for others the atmosphere and entertainment is much more important.
If you’re in the former category, then make sure to set aside enough of the budget to bring your decor dreams to life. In fact, if it’s really important then you might want to consider setting back enough money to hire a wedding stylist to help you come up with ideas and set up.
On a tight budget you can still make your day look stunning, but it might require a bit more effort and creativity. You can make pompoms, bunting, confetti cones, table plans and favours for very little, just the cost of the materials. Make sure you start any DIY projects well ahead of the big day to avoid last minute stress and worry in the final weeks.
Your wedding budget: The stationery
It might seem crazy for something made out of paper, but stationery can range hugely in price, so don’t just presume it’ll be cheap whatever the design.
In fact, stationery is quite an art and depending on your budget you can really go to town with cutting edge designs and amazing effects like laser cutting and fancy foils.
Stationery costs depend on the size of your guest list too of course. 30 invitations are naturally going to cost less than 100.
Free wedding stationery
Yes, believe it or not, your wedding stationery can actually cost you nothing, which is amazing if you’ve got a very small budget.
Obviously, you won’t be able to get physical invitations for free, but if you’re happy to send e-vites (digital invitations by email), then this is an area that you can make a real saving. Paperless Post is an excellent resource that allows you to customise templates for your wedding. This method is very eco-friendly too, if that’s something you’re focussing on at your big day.
Wedding stationery for under £200
These companies have lots of lovely templates that you can personalise to fit your big day. To cut back on costs, don’t include things like inserts as that’ll keep the printing costs down too. With only £200 at your disposal, you might want to consider making your own stationery if you’re creative, as then you only need to pay for the materials and postage.
Wedding stationery for over £200
With more than £200 to spend you can afford to look at completely personalised options and different qualities of paper from leading stationers like Smythson, Quill London, Mount Street Printers and independent sellers on Etsy. Look into stylish options like letterpress invitations, foil stamping, embossing, and illustrated designs.
Your wedding budget: The cake
How much? For a cake?
Yes, the most extravagant and elegant wedding cakes can cost an eye-watering amount because of the man-hours, expertise and decor involved.
However, the cake doesn’t have to take a huge slice out of your budget. There are many different options to keep costs down, or if a confectionery centrepiece is your heart’s desire, by all means, put more than 1-2% of your budget towards a tasty tower.
Wedding cakes under £200
If you’ve got 100 guests to serve cake to it can be tricky to find something that looks good, tastes good and is good for your bank account all at the same time.
Fortunately, supermarkets like M&S and Waitrose do very chic cakes for a fraction of the price you’d pay a professional. Both these companies have cakes to serve 100 for £199.
You can take the costs down even further by “DIYing” your cake and simply buying individual tiers from supermarkets and then decorating them with flowers yourselves. Cheese towers instead of actual cakes are a much more budget-friendly option too, especially if you prefer savoury to sweet anyway.
Wedding cakes over £200
With £200 or more to spend on your cake you can speak to a cake maker and come up with a design personalised to your wedding and big day – think special cake toppers, icing to match your colour scheme, an edible logo to match your stationery or a theme that you both adore .
We’ve seen everything from Harry Potter and Star Wars wedding cakes to a pile of edible suitcases and stack of the couple’s favourite books in cake form!