Big day – is big spend or budget best?

Published date: 14 March 2014 |
Published by: Rhian Waller 
Read more articles by Rhian Waller  Email reporter


NOT A week goes by without some celebrity wedding or other hitting the headlines.

Of late, gossip-lovers have been following the saga of Kim and Kourtney Kardashian (the sisters at the centre of the Keeping Up with the Kardashians reality TV show).

Entire columns have been devoted to which celebrity guests will be invited to either ceremony (with Beyonce and Jay-Z cropping up as maybes), and which of the siblings will have the most spectacular bash.

Celebrities, naturally, have a different idea of what makes a spectacular wedding, having resources out of reach of the rest of us mere mortals.

But even an “average” wedding can come with an eye-watering price-tag.

Last year, an insurance company put the average cost at £18,000, while You & Your Wedding magazine put the figure closer to £22,000.

That’s more than a year’s wages for many of us.

We are also endlessly fascinated by other people’s nuptials.

Programmes like Don’t Tell the Bride (BBC3), American reality series Bridezillas, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings (Channel 4) and Four Weddings keep dragging in viewers.

Don’t Tell the Bride is particularly telling – in a bid to escape escalating wedding costs, a couple is offered £12,000 to cover the costs, provided the (often hapless) groom does all of the organising.

The money tends to disappear quickly, just as it does with a normal wedding.

Where does it all go?

Claire English, 39, of Bagillt, managed to spend £16,000 on a hotel wedding, where only 21 people were invited to the ceremony and sit-down meal.

“That included the bride and groom,” she laughed. “I was never one of those girls who dreamed of a princess wedding. It was a lovely day, but it wasn’t even the wedding I’d initially wanted.

“We had a really strong idea of what the day should be like.

“My fiance Lee and I went on holiday to Mexico and saw a wedding there and loved it. We came home and started planning for a small wedding there, but some of our friends and family were upset, either because of the cost of the flight or because they didn’t like flying, so we changed the plan.

“It probably would have been cheaper to marry in Mexico.”

The kiss of death for the couple was a visit to a wedding fair.

“It just went from there, really,” said Mrs English. “The bill included the honeymoon, which was about £5,000, but it was the little things that mounted up.

“The photographer charged something like £1,500, and we had a lot of balloons and flowers for the reception, paying for the registrar to check our vows and come to the venue cost more than I thought.

“I kept a little book of all the things we spent, including gifts for the flower girls, the chair dressing, everything like that.”

The couple also hired two cars for the day, but didn’t move an inch in them.

Claire said: “We didn’t go anywhere in them. We only used them for photos. I don’t think the chauffeur was very impressed.”

Despite some extravagance, Claire spent less than £1,000 on her dress – she only tried it on for reference and found that she loved it – and her father-in-law supplied the spectacular cake.

She said: “I worked a seven-day week for months to cover the costs. We saved for every little thing. I wanted to make sure it was right, after all, it’s a massive day in your life.

“I made notes about everything. I’ve still got that little book somewhere.”

A Don’t Tell the Bride situation would not have pleased her.

She said: “Lee’s input into the day was two things. He wanted a rubber stamp on the back of the invitations and he wanted bacon butties on the wedding night. He was happy to let me decide everything else.

“For me, a lot of the fun was in the planning. If you lose that, you lose a lot of the experience.”

Rebecca Davies, 20, of Wrexham, has always had an idea of her dream wedding, but it’s a simple one.

She and her fiance Ross Williams are set to tie the knot in 2015 on a budget of about £3,200.

Miss Davies, who is studying social work at Glyndwr University said: “A lot of that has come from my student loan. We already know we want 55 people at the wedding and about 100 at the night do.

“For me, the most important thing was that it was at a Catholic church, because that’s my faith.”

Many of the wedding trimmings will be home-made, with her mother-in-law providing dress alterations and the cake.

Miss Davies said: “I’m looking for a dress on eBay. I think a lot of people wouldn’t think of a second-hand dress as a ‘proper’ wedding dress, but as long as it fits, I’m fine with it.

“Everything has to be nice. I wouldn’t say I’m the classiest person about, but this is a big day so it’s got to have some class. But that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive.

“I’d be happy to go for a curry after the ceremony, but I think the relatives would rather have a sit-down meal.”

Miss Davies is not alone in this.

Rea Jones, 46, of Bagillt, said: “£18,000! Oh my God. We did ours for £1,300, with everything for the bride, groom and three bridesmaids, and a three course meal
for 12.”

Granted, this was on September 9, 1999, but inflation has not risen that much in the intervening years.

Mrs Jones said: “It might not have been the biggest wedding but it was perfect. It should be about the marriage, not a huge do for everyone else.”

Mrs Jones opted for a register office wedding and a pub dinner at the Royal Oak in Flintshire. Nothing was bought secondhand, but there was some budget shopping, including a pair of shoes bought last minute at Kwik Save for £5.

She said: “The bridesmaids’ dresses came from British Home Stores, and my dress was bought in Mold.

“The day was lovely. It was the hottest day of the year, and then we went off on our honeymoon. We had a caravan on Anglesey. That was lovely too.

“I don’t know why weddings have to be so expensive. A friend of mine got married at a hotel in Liverpool, and her buffet cost more than twice what my whole wedding came to.

“I hate shopping, so we did the whole thing in about six weeks. The main thing was that we all enjoyed it. It was perfect.

“The only thing I’d change if we did it all again was to have the wedding outside.”

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