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Planning your big day on a budget

The average UK wedding now weighs in at a punchy £30k, but don’t allow your newly engaged excitement to be replaced by hard cash headaches. With careful budget planning, you can pull off your dream day for less.

  • Start planning early to reduce stress and seek out sales and discounts.
  • Compile, then slash your guest list to ensure that only the most crucial make the cut.
  • Design simple, elegant invitations of your own. Use a good quality printer or reputable website.
  • If a traditional wedding venue is beyond your means, consider alternatives like parks or historical sites and arrange a tent, catering and entertainment yourselves.
  • Request quotes before revealing that you’re getting married. Florists, photographers and musicians usually mark up their services for weddings, so make general enquiries to give yourself more leverage later.
  • If you’re hiring people to provide services like floristry, catering and music, offer to advertise them at the wedding in return for reduced rates.
  • Approach schools, colleges and universities – they may be able to provide affordable musicians or photographers.
  • Involve friends and family instead of asking for presents – you might be surprised at how easy it is to find skilled photographers, videographers and cake makers close to home.
  • Timing can be key to cutting catering costs. Tie the knot late in the day and you won’t need to provide so much food.
  • When it comes to food, keep it simple. Curtail canapés and consider a buffet followed by wedding cake. Guests love glass bowls filled with chocolates and sweets.
  • Alcohol is a major expense, so ask if the venue will allow you to bring your own. If so, bulk buy beer and wine and offer sparkling wine or prosecco instead of champagne.
  • Cut back on flowers. Use seasonal flowers that are easy to source and fill arrangements with plenty of greenery. Involve family in the making of bouquets and buttonholes and reuse flower arrangements from the ceremony at the reception.
  • Beg, borrow or buy second hand. Make use of preloved fairy lights, lanterns and table decorations. Suss out eBay and Gumtree for your dress and shoes.
  • Avoid custom made bridesmaid dresses, buy off the rack or invite the girls to wear dresses they already own.
  • Ditch the DJ – rig up your iPhone to a good set of speakers and pump out your perfect playlist.
  • Don’t bother with the hassle or expense of favours.
  • Invite a friend or family member to do your wedding hair.
  • Book yourself in for a free appointment at a local department store for your makeup.
  • Plan a simple honeymoon.

Sometimes the best big days are the ones that haven’t cost a bomb.

Congratulations and good luck!

By Fiona Philip

How to choose a wedding photographer

Deciding on a photographer you can trust to capture the magic of your wedding day is a major part of the wedding planning process. Your pictures will be your memories when the big day is done, so take time to find the one.

The Photographer
Ask if the photographer is professionally qualified and if they will be the one covering the wedding. If you choose a photography company, make sure you meet the person who will be working with you on the day.

Ask your photographer what they specialise in and how they would describe their style. A corporate photographer may not be comfortable with informal reportage. Draw up a photography list to check that they are happy taking the type of pictures you’re looking for.

A good photographer should have a portfolio of recent work to show you. Check that their wedding albums cover a range of weddings from beginning to end and feature shots in different locations and lighting conditions. Study the pictures closely – are the portraits flattering and the faces and outfits in focus?

Budget and contracts
If budget is a constraint, remember that usually you get what you pay for. Be clear from the outset what the package will include and cost. Are there any hidden extras? Can you expect an album, prints, disc or a USB? Ask how many images you will receive. You can always try negotiating with a photographer you really like if the price is beyond your budget. Always sign a contract with your photographer to avoid any nasty surprises further down the line. Inquire if the contract will cover photography beginning with getting ready and ending with the last dance. Make sure all is transparent from the start.

Venue and timings
Most couples book a venue first and then decide on their photographer – you may need to allow upwards of a year to secure the photographer you like. Your photographer should be familiar with the venue in order to get a feel for the place, plan the best shooting spots and make weather contingency plans. Good preparation is key to ensuring the big day runs smoothly.

Click before they click
Ask your photographer if they offer a pre-wedding shoot – it’s a great way to get to know them before the wedding as you’ll be spending a lot of time together. If the thought of hanging out with the photographer from the beginning to the end of your wedding day fills you with horror, then reconsider…

Make sure you meet a few photographers and compare their work so you can be sure you find one that suits you.

By Fiona Philip

The Best Man’s Speech: Dos and Don’ts

As the Best Man, you should deliver an upbeat and amusing speech that will appeal to everyone at the wedding. Here’s how:


  • Say it all in less than 7 minutes.
  • Begin with a compelling and humorous opener to get the crowd’s attention.
  • Introduce yourself with style and confidence, but never arrogance.
  • Thank your hosts.
  • Compliment the bride. Remember that the bride always looks beautiful, even if you don’t think it.
  • Beware of the bride – she’s off-limits when it comes to ridicule – this is her big day, not yours.
  • Know your limits – avoid in-jokes, sensitive subjects or embarrassing tales of the groom’s past.
  • Keep anecdotes to a minimum. Many of the audience won’t know the characters you’re talking about, so stick to one or two stories.
  • Condense an entire story into three lines of killer humour – it will go down better with the guests than a detailed 10 minute account of that hilarious holiday in Majorca in 1995.
  • Delivery – speak clearly, smile and engage with the crowd, pausing between sections, allowing time for laughter to subside after a cracking line. Don’t rush or mumble. However amazing your best man’s speech is, if you blow the delivery you’ll lose the crowd.
  • Draw on common ground – something you all have in common is that you’re at a wedding, so play on this. Everybody should be able to relate to your humour, which should be pitched just right.
  • Include some congratulatory and optimistic remarks for the groom. Go easy on the guy and don’t destroy him. Balance friendly digs with affection and self-deprecating humour and you’ll get the crowd onside, so that when you deliver a carefully constructed character assassination they’ll be right behind you.
  • Recite – you’ll come across best if you can memorise key phrases and deliver them with confidence. If you must read your speech, look up from the page where possible.
  • As you lead the toast, congratulate the happy couple and succinctly sum up the occasion.
  • End on a high. People remember the last thing they hear. Memorise your final remarks so that you finish with flair.



  • Refer to previous girlfriends. Ever.
  • Use swear words. Crudities are best served from plates, not your lips. Avoid even mild expletives and tone down fruity language.
  • Go over the top with sentimentality and don’t cry – you’ll never live it down.
  • Go overboard on detail – your audience doesn’t have the attention span for boring stories so keep anecdotes short and snappy.
  • Be tempted to improvise. Adlibbing might cause you to lose your audience.


When your speech is ready, try to learn it, or at least be familiar enough that you can read smoothly and confidently.

By Fiona Philip