Words of wedding wisdom: WEDDING FINANCES and how to handle them

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…


Ah, that filthy five-letter word: m-o-n-e-y.

One good thing that has happened in recent times which helps ease the strain of wedding costs is the fact that etiquette on who pays for what has relaxed considerably. In the bad old days the bride’s family got stuck paying for nearly everything. A father of several daughters would have to save for years and even then virtually bankrupt himself if he was to “marry off his daughters in style.”

Now, thankfully, people are a lot more realistic and financing a wedding is usually shared across the two families and the bride and groom themselves. Not only does this spread the financial load but also it evens out the politics; if he who pays the piper calls the tune, at least with this arrangement there is a reasonable number of payers. The resulting financial parity makes it a lot more difficult for any individual to get bossy, and it’s much easier to run the whole show democratically.

No matter how much money you have available, it makes a great deal of sense to set a budget at the outset and stick to it as far as possible. It’s also sensible to set aside a contingency fund of, say, 10 or 15 percent of the total in case of unforeseen expenses and emergencies.

How to prioritize

There is lots of helpful information on wedding finances in books and on the internet (key “wedding finance” into Google or other search engine, or look up the “Wedding Guide” in your local Yellow Pages) so I won’t go on about it at length here.

Particularly if you’re short of money, prioritizing the elements of your wedding can make budgeting a whole lot easier. Start with a “must have” list of essentials like ceremony venue, licenses, fees, dress, reception venue, cake, etc.

Continue with a “should haves” list to include elements like hired cars or other transport, entertainment for the reception, etc., and finish with a “nice to haves” list of luxury items, silver service sit-down meal, pretty place gifts for guests, live band, exotic honeymoon, and so-on.

These three lists should make it easier to plan your spend, and to ensure enough is allocated to the essentials.

Parents paying

When the parents are paying for the lion’s share of the wedding they can sometimes become a bit too pushy and undervalue what you want, in favor of what they think you should have. Money does have a way of talking here as it does everywhere else. But even if you aren’t paying anything towards the wedding it is still your day. Obviously some give and take makes sense, but if things go too far in a direction that’s wrong for you, threaten to elope. That often brings them to their senses…

Think about your guests

If by any chance yours is to be one of two or more weddings in one family, community or group of friends, it can mean everyone has to find quite a lot of money in a short timeframe. Not only do they need to buy gifts for you and the others getting married, but also the women are likely to want to wear a different outfit to each wedding! Try to avoid setting your wedding date too close to that of another family member, friend or neighbor who is likely to be inviting many of the same guests.

Ways of saving

If you’re short of money you can’t beat a bit of “thinking outside the box,” as the cliché goes. For starters, provided most of your guests can be a bit flexible on dates and times, you’ll get some much cheaper deals from wedding venues if you book on a weekday, and/or in the morning to early afternoon.

As for the number of guests, you’ll find it’s probably cheaper overall to have a small wedding – family and close friends only – and then have a larger party some time later, maybe when you get back from honeymoon. The thing about parties as opposed to wedding receptions is that people’s expectations are not aimed so high! You can even get away with asking people to contribute drink and food at a party, whereas to do so for a wedding reception looks a bit mean.

Rather than hiring a wedding reception venue, look around your family and friends and see if anyone has a largish house you can borrow. Of course you will have to compensate them for any damage, but they may well let you have the place for free. Equally, you may find it cheaper to put up a marquee in your own or someone else’s garden, but this can still be quite expensive by the time it has been erected, equipped, decorated, heated, and outside catering has been brought in.

Restaurants are useful places to seek good value for a reception. Particularly if you choose an off-peak day – and/or lunch – you may find they will give you an extremely sensible per-head price. With a restaurant reception usually you can still choose whether to have a buffet or a served meal, and you can get away with asking guests to buy their own wine – perhaps just providing a sparkling wine for the speeches and toasts.

Talking of sparkling wine, forget the expensive champagne. These days it’s seen as pretty “cool” to have a decent sparkling white wine from Spain or Italy instead, at a fraction of the cost per bottle. Depending on the venue you choose for the reception it may be worth your while to take a “booze cruise” to continental Europe to buy your supplies. However bear in mind that many venues will charge you corkage if you bring your own alcoholic drink.

Another cute money-saving idea is one that comes from the US; it’s called a “Potluck Reception.” The idea is that instead of bringing a wedding gift, guests bring a dish of food. You can set the theme if you want, or ask them to get in touch with you to discuss what they can bring. I’ve never tried that but it strikes me as a nice idea!

Then there are the more obvious ways of cutting back on costs, like hiring a wedding dress or even buying one second hand; key “second hand wedding dresses” into Google or other search engine for sources, or look up the “Wedding Guide” in your local Yellow Pages.

Wedding insurance

Many companies offer wedding insurance and this can be a very good idea, especially with the unpredictable lives we seem to lead.

For a relatively modest premium, these policies will cover the cost of problems arising from wedding dresses, wedding clothes hire, transport, gifts, photographer and photographs, the wedding video, the rings, deposits lost due to bankruptcy of suppliers, wedding cakes, public liability, etc.

As with any insurance purchase, shop around and read the small print. And be warned; most wedding insurance does not cover you for cancellation due to the bride and groom splitting up!

For more information key “wedding insurance” into Google or other search engine, or look it up in the “Wedding Guide” of your local Yellow Pages.

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.




  1. I noticed that photographer wasn’t listed as an essential item in your list Suze. Its amazing how much people are prepared to spend on things that will only be used or enjoyed once ie cakes or dresses, but then quibble over a photographer’s costs. Photos last far longer than the cake and as well as being beautiful momentos of the Big Day, they are or will be come family heirlooms in some ways.
    A professional photographer not only works for the few hours they cover the wedding, but will also often check out the venue before hand to check lighting conditions etc to ensure they cover your wedding well. They then spend hours/days selecting and processing the images you want and then creating beautiful albums and other items.
    They have to pay insurance, not only ordinary insurance, but insurance such as professional indemnity and other specific photographic/camera insurance. They also have other costs to cover to make a living.
    And then people quibble over a few hundred pounds. Surely its worth it to ensure your precious memories are captured beautifully.

  2. I do hear what you say, Nicola – but sadly many families on a strict budget will try to cut costs on photography or even leave it to a well-meaning amateur, maybe a friend or a family member, to do the stills and a video – especially now that both stills and video cameras produce such high quality results.

    Thanks for your comment!