Wondering how to design your wedding, down to how many flowers to display to what stationery you really need? These are crucial decisions you need to make when it comes to planning and budgeting for your big day.
For our latest money-saving column, HELLO! has teamed up with UK Alliance of Wedding Planners (UKAWP) elite member Andri Benson of Always Andri to discuss everything you need to know about your wedding décor – and more importantly, how to save money on flowers, stationery, cake, table decorations and more.
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Where do you start? Well, the first step is to prioritise what's important to you. Pick your top three priorities that you'll happily spend your budget on and save money in the other areas that mean less to you.
Venues can be a big influence on the look and feel of your day, so it's important to choose one that matches your vision. Do you want a rustic wedding in the woods or a glamorous affair in a grand ballroom? Once you've decided on the style of your wedding, you can start thinking about the décor.
If you're after a blank slate to work with like an urban warehouse, you'll need to be prepared to spend more on the styling; but if you have your heart set on a showstopper venue, it may cost more to hire but you can probably simplify your décor as the venue will do all the work for you.
Andri Benson shared her top tips for saving money on your wedding décor
When it comes to wedding design, it's important to consider how the space will be used and for how long. Walk through your venue and work out what will happen where and when.
Don't spend money in areas that won't be seen or used very much, focus more on the areas that guests will be spending a lot of time in, where adding décor can enhance the spaces to create the wow factor.
Florals are a key part of any wedding design, but don't go crazy with them if they won't be seen for very long. Work with your florist to come up with a budget-friendly plan that will make the most of your flowers.
Rather than spread your budget too thinly by trying to put flowers everywhere, pick a few key focal areas where you can make an impact.
While a huge floral arch at the entrance to the venue will look amazing, if guests only see it on the way in and on the way out when it's dark, it's probably not worth spending the budget there.
Try to repurpose floral bouquets
Re-use items whenever possible - ceremony flowers such as floral arches, large flower urns or pew ends can be repurposed at the dinner reception to dress a top table or provide a backdrop for the cake or a photo booth.
Bridesmaids tend not to need their bouquets after the official photos are taken, so ask your florist to supply empty vases so you can reuse them on tables, a lounge area or at the bar.
Another way to save is by using in-season flowers. Local flowers tend to be cheaper than those that have to be shipped in from afar.
Also, flower-heavy arrangements will cost a lot more than foliage-heavy ones. A mixture of tall foliage arrangements and low flower-filled ones can work really well.
If you're having long banquet tables over round tables, simpler arrangements like bud vases and candlesticks can be an elegant look that won't break the bank.
Consider what happens to your flowers at the end of the night – can you gift them to guests?
Wedding reception tables
Small changes such as linen or colourful napkins can make a big change to table settings
A change in linen or tableware can really elevate the look of your tables. Ask your venue/caterers to show you what their standard table setting looks like. It may be that only one or two items need to be upgraded rather than everything. For a more refined look, hire modern cutlery.
Want a pop of colour? Add a coloured water glass or napkin. Think of your favourite restaurants - what is it about them that you love? Chances are, attention to detail sets them apart from the rest, so simple upgrades can do the same for your wedding table setting.
Invitations and stationery
When it comes to your stationery, it's very easy to get carried away with lots of pretty printed pieces. I love a beautiful invitation; it can really set the tone for the day and get your guests excited for what's to come.
But a lot of my couples are opting to have digital rather than printed save the dates and invitations – this saves both time trying to get everyone's addresses, and the cost of postage. Combined with a wedding website, you can still let guests know all the pertinent details regarding the wedding plans and gather their RSVPs.
Digital invitations can save time and money
For the on-the-day stationery, really consider what the pieces you actually need and the ones you'd like to have, as it's the latter where you'll be able to save money. An Order of Service is only really necessary if you're having a church wedding with hymns and even then, I'd only print enough for two-thirds of your guest list as couples can share.
Large printed or handwritten pieces are a great way to add personality and style to your wedding design. If you want guests to know what's happening when, a large Order of the Day works really nicely and you only need one that can be moved around.
If you're having family-style dining then a large board showing menu options will fit the vibe and save on the cost of individual menus.
For a formal seated dinner, you will need a table plan. If you think you may have lots of last-minute changes to accommodate, escort cards work well as they allow you to make changes to individual cards rather than having the whole plan reprinted. They will also give you an opportunity to add an extra décor element with a creative escort card display.
Escort cards in envelopes can also be a lovely opportunity to add a personalised handwritten thank you note to your guests or act as a favour if they are a small gift.
Talking favours, I'd only include them if you know your guests will take them home. Edibles such as chocolate or sweets, or practical favours such as bookmarks or keyrings are usually best, but anything decorative usually just ends up being left behind.
Prevent food waste by having dummy cake layers
When it comes to your wedding cake, your design choice will impact the budget. Intricate handmade sugar paste flowers can add to the cost of cake so go for fresh flowers if you need to save money.
Buttercream cakes also tend to cost less than fondant iced cakes. If you want a tall showstopper cake but have a small guest list, you can have dummy tiers so no cake is wasted.
When it comes to displaying your cake, think about where it will be set up so that it creates a décor focal point and make sure you have room for guests to gather around when you cut the cake.
I hate seeing cake wasted so ask your catering team to put out the cake in a few key spots, e.g. near the bar or in a lounge area where guests will see it, or even ask if the caterers can take it around to the guests on trays.
Bring boxes to sit with the cake so if guests don't want any at the time, they can take some home with them, meaning less is wasted.
If you're not a fan of cake but still want your cutting moment, then a tower of cheese rounds is always popular with guests and can act as your evening food too.
Finally, a note on taking the DIY route for any of the above. Sometimes making something yourself isn't as cost-effective as you think it will be. Always do your research first to compare how much it will cost to make something versus buying it, hiring it, or getting someone else to make it for you.
Do also take into consideration the time it will take you to DIY something - realistically will you have the time with all the other wedding planning you need to do, or will you end up wasting money doing it yourself and then have to pay over the odds for a professional because you ran out time?
Simple DIY touches should be fun to create and can often be the most meaningful for your guests. But don’t feel you have to do it all, you can save money by making smart design decisions.
How much you spend on your wedding day is really up to you, just be careful not to get caught up in the Pinterest trap of thinking you need everything you see online. Making clever choices when it comes to the creative elements of your wedding can go a long way to making the most of your wedding budget.
Remember what your priorities are and spend wisely in those areas, anything else you can save on or even skip completely!
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