First of all, if you're reading this then it's very likely that you're on your way to getting married, or know someone who is so - CONGRATULATIONS to the happy couple! Our wedding was the best day of our lives so far, and I'm sure yours will be too.

Unfortunately one of the first things that we think nowadays when weddings come up is 'expensive', and for good reason - I was so shocked when I first started looking around for quotes at how much money some people are charging. Don't get me wrong - I completely understand how much time and effort goes into some of these things, and that often the quotes are correct for the time and quality, but regardless of that some of us just can't afford to spend £2000 on a wedding photographer, or £800 on a wedding cake. But as far as I was concerned, that didn't mean I still couldn't have my perfect wedding, and I did.

After I'd spent my last bit of money on our wedding I counted it up, and we had our beautiful wedding for just under £3000. 

So I'm writing this blog post to share with you some advice and some photos from our big day, in the hopes that it'll give you a little bit of inspiration for yours, or help you to think outside of the box on ways you can save on cash, but not on quality.

1. Ask yourself what your biggest priorities are, and figure out what is most important to you on your big day!

Although I am strongly in favour of saving money where you can, you've got to start by making sure that you don't skimp on the things that really matter to you. After all, you've got to feel special and it's got to be perfect so if its super important for you to have your dream wedding dress, or to have amazing photos, or to have the best venue, then make it happen no matter what the cost! I often find that spending a lot of money on one thing (e.g. a beautiful venue, amazing food, a stunning dress) will automatically make everything else seem fancier anyway. I really wanted to have our actual ceremony somewhere really beautiful, to make it feel more grown up and official, so we shelled out the money to have it at the Pitville Pump rooms in Cheltenham, and it was the best decision! 

I felt so amazing walking down the long red carpet towards my future husband!

It cost around £500 for the ceremony, which meant we got the property to ourselves for around an hour and a half. It wasn't actually half bad in terms of price, but unfortunately you have to pay quite a lot to have a registrar come out to your venue (around £600) so the ceremony itself cost us £1100 which was a third of our budget in the end!

2. Pull in as many favours as possible

Now is the time to pull in all those favours you might have in your back pocket! Sit down and think about all your friends and family, and what skills they all have an how you can use them. People really don't mind being asked, and often just love being able to help and be a part of your wedding. So get that illustrator/artist you know to do your invitations, get the photographer in your life to take the photos, If you work somewhere beautiful or know someone who does then see if you can get a friends and family discount on the venue, get the musician in your life to play at the wedding, and get the baker you know to make your cakes! There are a million different ways that people around you could help make your wedding so much cheaper, and here are the ways people helped for ours.

First of all, we made our own invitations (of course!) and screen printed them ourselves using our old university's print room. When we asked they were more than happy to let us go back and use their equipment for free for such a good cause! In total the invites cost us around £30 to make, and then around £20 in postage - one of the things you forget with invites is that you don't need one for each separate person, as loads of your guests will live together already so only need the one! 

My friend Charlie and I are prolific bakers, and were so excited right from the off at the idea of making my wedding cakes. In the end we made three extravagant cakes, and about 60 cupcakes for my 50 guests. The ingredients cost us around £100, but it did take us eight hours to make them all, so this is only a viable option for the bride if you feel like you have enough time before the wedding! I taught myself how to make fondant roses before the wedding as they last for up to a month, so can be made way before hand. 

This is our carrot cake with a white chocolate cheesecake sandwiched in the middle! Definitely the favourite cake of the day.

And this was our caramel chocolate cookie smores freak cake! Super fun to make and design. 

We were also lucky enough to have some friends who were really good at photography who did our photos for free - a lot of people wouldn't feel comfortable not using a professional photographer for their wedding and I understand that, but in terms of ours I really trusted the guys we got to do it even though they weren't professionals. I didn't regret it because the photos they took were beautiful! It also meant that we got the photos immediately at the end of the day which was a lot of fun. Harry edited them our end because he's a pro, and they turned out beautiful. I would truly only recommend this as an option if you know people who take amazing photos - it's only worth it if you can be sure you'll get some great photos at the end because it's so important you have something to remember the day with, and to capture how great you both looked haha ;)

I am also extremely lucky that my dad is an incredible lute player! So of course I asked him to play at my wedding. He played as people came into the ceremony, and he recorded a song to be played as we walked down the aisle. It was beautiful and perfect, and very meaningful as it came from my Dad and was so full of love.

And lastly (I bet you're a little bit impressed at how many favours I was able to pull in here at this point haha) I used to work one night a week at a fabulous little pub in Cheltenham called The Swan, and they allow their staff to use their function room for free. Lucky for me their function room is beautiful, and their food is delicious and very reasonably priced so I got my reception venue for free, and covered two buffet style meals for 50 people for around £300. I absolutely loved it there - it was so relaxed and so much fun.

And yes we did have beer pong at our wedding! Would recommend it to anyone.

3. Make as much as you can yourself (without it being stressful)

I made quite a lot myself for the wedding, but that was because I had the time and I love making things! As you might know from my previous tutorials I made all our wedding confetti myself (buckets of it for around £5) and I made my own veil for around £10. You can see these tutorials here:

Wedding Veil Tutorial

Confetti Tutorial

As well as this (and the cake and invitations) I also made a Lucky dip box for the kids! It was the best idea as they all loved it, and it kept them entertained all day. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of it in all the fun, but it was really just a big box full of packing peanuts, and wrapped up little gifts and games from Tiger or Wilko. I spent about £20 on novelty gifts, and they made the day so much fun for everyone!

The game where someone wears a silly hat with velcro on it, and you have to get balls to stick on their hat was very popular. I would also highly recommend getting balloons of some kind if you've got kids coming - we just bought a pack of twenty from the party shop, nothing fancy, no helium, and they entertained our little guests for a very long time!

There are so many tutorials around online about things you can make yourself for weddings, and loads of cheap printables as well, so if you do a little bit of research and you might find some great ways of making beautiful wedding signs, or table centrepieces, or wedding favours.

For our wedding favours we actually donated the money we would have spent (£50) to charity on our guests behalf! Which is a really nice way of doing things, as often favours are just little bits of chocolate or things your guests don't really need. It definitely felt good to put some of our money towards a good cause!  

4. Shop around for cheaper, but still beautiful solutions

Maybe think about buying your wedding dress from ASOS or a cheaper wedding dress shop like Wed2B (where all the dresses are under £500, though still gorgeous!). I bought my dress from Needle & Thread for just under £250, though unfortunately I think their wedding dress prices have gone up since I bought mine, if you choose to go with a less conventional (e.g. not white) dress then it can be a bit cheaper! 

My dress was a top and skirt which I loved! I bought the floral crown from Wed2B for £80, but it totally made me feel like a princess which made it worth the money. My shoes were £50 from Office, and my underwear (which was beautiful, but no photos there guys, sorrynotsorry) I got on sale for £30. 

Another way I saved money was by buying paper decorations! So cheap, and also very trendy right now, as well as being more eco friendly (they can be recycled at the end, yay!). I bought most of mine from Meri Meri though theres also a great Etsy shop called PeleMele that sells lovely stuff too. We also bought loads of paper pom poms from ebay for super cheap! they take longer to put up/make but cost next to nothing. Overall I probably spent around £60 on wedding decorations. The twinkle lights were already there when I got there! 

We bought our wedding guest book from Etsy from MosseryCo and had it personalised to say our names instead of Mossery. It was £25 including shipping and beautifully made. 

Lastly, For the wedding photo albums I used an online photobook printers to make the album. It's a super cheap way of doing it yourself, and the books were actually lovely, and only £20 each. We were able to buy one in for everyone who wanted one, which is great for your parents and grandparents!

5. Keep the invite list as small as possible

This one is a pretty obvious money saving tactic, though of course sometimes you just cant help having massive families! However, a piece of advice from previous bride to new bride/groom would be to not invite anyone who makes you even a bit uncomfortable because it's YOUR big day! So that person from work who always seems a bit two faced doesn't get to come. That old friend who you haven't spoken to in years, and always judges you when you meet up, doesn't get to come. You're allowed to put your foot down and have whoever you want to come or not come. 

We had 40 guests for the ceremony, and another 20 arrive for the reception. It was the perfect amount for me, and I didn't even have time to talk to all of them. Although you might dream of that big wedding, you can only stretch yourself so thin, so unless you want to spend your whole day jumping from person to person to person then try to restrain yourself a bit! 

Of course another way to save money is by arranging the wedding to only cover one meal - food is often the most expensive part of the wedding, so if you're only doing one meal then it's definitely cheaper. We went for a buffet option which was less than half the price of a sit down meal, and it was actually a lot nicer for us because it meant that everyone could wander around talking to each other. Partly I just feel like I'm not a fancy enough person to want a sit down meal, though they are a lovely thing at a wedding, I felt I didn't need one for mine - don't be afraid to break from traditions! It also saved me the pain of a seating chart, phew! 

So that's all folks!

I hope that my endless rambling might have been of some use to someone out there! Overall my best piece of advice to anyone getting married would be to not get caught up in the small stuff. It can be super stressful juggling so many things, but try to take all of it as it comes, and to enjoy the journey because you only (hopefully) get to do it once! I organised the whole of our wedding in under 6 months, and I think it was easy to cope with for me because I chose not to worry (and yes I do mean 'chose' I worry a lot by nature, so I really forced myself not to here) about the silly little things being perfect. The only thing that mattered to me really was that I got to stand up in a room full of people I adore, and tell the man I love with all my heart that I was going to spend the rest of my life with him. That's what a wedding is really about! 

Good luck! 

Love Zanna xo

April 20, 2017 — Zanna Goldhawk