Looking after your finances while getting ready for your big day
By Kirstie Redford
While many couples start planning their wedding with a vow to keep costs under control, the reality can be very different. According to research from Alliance & Leicester, while the average British couple expects their wedding to cost £6,650, they end up spending a whopping £17,000 on the big day itself.
There are numerous psychological factors that keep couples digging deeper and deeper into their pockets. Clare Spurrell, weddings expert at women’s website iVillage.co.uk, says it’s easy to break your budget when you feel pressured to create the perfect day. “As the day approaches, it’s easy to get nervous and start panic buying, adding extra costs to things to ‘improve’ existing elements,” she says.
However, armed with an understanding of what makes us spend, some clever planning, strict budgeting and a large amount of willpower, it is possible to keep a tab on costs.
Carol Richardson, wedding expert at wedding website Confetti.co.uk, says the starting point has to be a realistic budget. “Spending half an hour jotting down your budget for each item will save time and money in the long run. If you find you are overspending on one area, then simply cut back on another, so that you retain a realistic end-figure,” she says.
After forking out for an engagement ring, the first wedding cost is often booking the venue. According to Confetti, the average cost of hiring a venue is £2,200, with catering, food and drink adding a further £2,500. However, there are ways to help reduce these core costs.
James Wright, 34, from Peterborough, married his partner Sharon in August 2001, and despite it being peak wedding season, the commercial director managed to negotiate a reduced rate with the venue by holding the wedding on a Friday.
Whatever day of the week you’re booking, don’t be afraid to haggle. By reminding a venue that you are considering rivals in the area, it’s more likely to fight for your business and offer you a better deal.
James also managed to make savings on other areas of his wedding by asking others for help. “Look to family and friends with nice cars who would be willing to lend them as wedding cars and ask the bridesmaids to make the favours.
Another tip is to ask the church who usually does their flowers. It may well be someone local who does flower arranging as a hobby and who can create stunning arrangements at a fraction of the cost of shop-bought ones,” he says.
With the average cost of wedding flowers at around £600, Sofie Morton, a 24-year-old media consultant from Bristol, is making significant savings by skipping the florist altogether: “I’m doing the flowers – I’m buying cheap vases and then getting flowers on the day from a supermarket.”
Make your own
Sofie is also cutting costs by booking a venue that lets you take in your own own wine and champagne. You can make even bigger savings by doing a ‘booze run’ to France for cut-price alcohol. Do, however, check corkage rates first, as some venues will charge so much you end up with no choice but to buy from them.
Also, be wise to all the other additional services the venue offers in order to boost the bill. Ruth Holroyd, a tourism manager from Manchester, was astounded by the costs charged by room dressers at her reception. “I thought these were a real rip-off – £3 to cover a chair, plus a deposit for any damage. You can do these kinds of things yourself for a fraction of the cost,” she says.
Invitations, orders of service and namecards can be expensive if you have them professionally printed. However, as many people now have high-spec printers, it’s simpler than ever to make them yourself, without compromising on quality.
For many women, their wedding dress is the most extravagant purchase. Confetti reports that the average price is £970, but the sky really is the limit.
However, high street options are increasingly popular. Stores such as Monsoon, BHS, Debenhams and House of Fraser all provide off-the-peg bridal wear, which can work out much cheaper than a bridal boutique. Even Asda has launched its own bridal range, with dresses starting at a very reasonable £60.
If you’ve set your heart on a designer dress, watch out for the sales. Designs are usually discontinued each year so bridal shops have regular sample sales where you can often pick one up for half the original price.
One area that’s worth spending money on is photography. Unless you have a close friend who is a professional photographer, it’s difficult to achieve the results you want without a pro.
Where the money’s coming from
Of course, before you can start spending money – the fun part of wedding planning – you need to know where it’s all coming from. This usually means facing up to some serious saving in the run-up to the big day. It’s best to use high-interest savings accounts with instant access. “A cash ISA is a great place to start as you can save up to £3,000 tax-free each tax year,” says Sue Hannums, savings manager at independent financial adviser AWD Chase de Vere.
It’s also worth keeping an eye out for competitive regular savings accounts – but be aware these often have ties. Alliance & Leicester is currently offering interest of 10% to savers that bank with them. Or if you have more than a year to save, consider the Halifax regular savers account, which pays 7% for 12 months – so long as you don’t make any withdrawals in that time.
If you’re not used to saving, squirreling away hundreds of pounds a month can look like an uphill challenge, but as Joanne and her husband Rocci discovered, it’s often easier than you imagine. “We put aside a certain amount each month and then gave ourselves an allowance to spend on day-to-day things. The enjoyment of seeing our savings go up made the fact that we didn’t have much money to spend more bearable,” she says.
If you do need to borrow, shop around for the lowest rate of interest you can get, says Hannums. If you are borrowing relatively small sums, the cheapest method of borrowing is 0% credit cards. “Look for one with the longest period with 0% on purchases,” she advises. Make a note in your diary when that rate is due to expire, and if you haven’t paid it off by then, switch the debt to a new card that offers 0% on balance transfers and pay off the remainder before that deal expires. If you keep juggling cards, you could run into trouble.
If you need to borrow a large sum, or you expect it will take more than a year to repay your debt, think about an unsecured personal loan. But make sure you shop around to find the lowest possible interest rate.
Insuring against wedding disasters
Wedding insurance can offer valuable protection. It will pay out on a range of areas; for example, if the photographer fails to turn up. Graham Trudgill, technical services manager at the British Insurance Brokers Association, says: “Premiums start at around £50, which is quite cheap when you consider it could pay out tens of thousands of pounds.
Policies do differ – some cover presents and even travel for your honeymoon, but others don’t. And remember that some weddings cost £10,000 and others £20,000, so make sure you have the right amount of cover.”
There are over 20 insurers offering wedding insurance, so it’s important to shop around to get the best terms – and watch out for exclusions. “If one of the happy couple isn’t so happy and decides they don’t want to get married, you won’t be insured.
Also, if you get drunk and suffer an injury on the day or leave your presents in an unlocked room you may not be insured. You have to read the small print, so it can be useful to buy through a broker who can advise you,” says Trudgill.
With thanks to Interactive Investor where this piece first appeared
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