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Money & Rights

Nuptials on a budget

If you're planning a wedding, for yourself or your children, Teri Harman has some advice on the practicalities 

Marriage rates among those in their 20s and 30s have fallen significantly in recent years, but among older people marriage remains popular. According to figures from the Office fir National Statistics (ONS) the marriage rate among women over 50 increased by 56 percent between 2009 and 2014.

But is it possible to marry on a tight budget and still have a fabulous day?

According to a survey of 4000 brides by free wedding planning website Hitched (, the average cost of a wedding in the UK in 2017 was an eye-watering £27,161, up almost 10 percent on the previous year. The biggest cost is typically the venue hire a an average of £4354 followed by the honeymoon at £3630 and food for guests averaging £3353 in total. 

Some feees are unavoidable. If you are marrying in church, the Church of England sets standard fees across the country. If you marry in you homr parish, which included the services of the vicar, calling of the banns and banns certificate, and a marriage certificate.

If you want to marry outside the parish where you live, the cost is £517. The Church of England has a dedicated website which tells you everything you need to know about getting married in church (

(Other denominations and faiths may charge different rates, so you need to contact the relevant body for details.)

For register office weddings, fees vary depending on where you live and the size of room you wish to book for the service, but a non-refundable deposit is normally required at the time of booking. Your local authority website has details.

You'll also find details of the cost of booking a registrar to officiate at 'approved premises' such as hotels, sports grounds, country houses or at your home. In such cases two registrars are needed: one to carry out the ceremony and one to register the marriage.

wherever you decide to marry, you need to pay £35 for a 'notice of marriage'. This must be done at a register office, and you must have lived in that district for at least seven days. The earliest date the notice of marriage can be given is 12 months before the ceremony. Normally, 28 clear days' notice is required.

Above and beyond these fees, how much you spend depends on the type of wedding you want, but perhaps the most important thing is to decide on a budget and stick to it. Costs can spiral out of control if you let them.

Ways to keep costs down

There are many ways to cut the cost of a wedding, but still have a wonderful day. Here are some suggestions:

1) Only invite your closest family and friends.

The most obvious way to cut costs is to keep the guest list down. Don't invite people just because you feel you ought to. People only tend to be offended if they think they have been left out while others have been included, so it is often better to include only those closest to your heart. Your wider family and friends will be more understanding if none of them are invited, than if you pick and choose...

You can always consider a small wedding and wedding breakfast, followed bu a bigger party in the evening to keep the catering costs down, and keep everyone happy.

2) Ask for wedding help instead of wedding gifts

Asking family and friends to offer help or services that align with their talents in lieu of a gift is a great way to save. If you have a friend who owns a flash car, is a musician, a great photographer, flower arranger or cake baker, for example, there may be no need to pay a professional.

3) Hold the ceremony at home

Consider using your own home for the ceremony. If you garden is big enough (and weather permitting) you can have your reception outdoors, voiding the costs of hiring a venue. At around £1000 for one that accommodates about 100 people, even hiring a marquee in case it rains is likely to be cheaper than a commercial venue.

4) Pick your own flowers

Depending on the time of year, you may be able to make bouquets from flowers growing in your own or your family's garden.

5) Do your own catering or hire a family-owned restaurant.

If you're planning a small wedding, this could be a practical proposition, but if cooking isn't your strong point, find a family-owned restaurant or small catering company to do the honours.

6) Make your own invitations

With a quality home printer and some free time, you can design and make invitations on your own. Or be environmentally friendly and send out invitations by email. 

7) Stock the bar yourself

Alcohol is a major expense but instead of offering a full open bar, for instance, you can save money by offering just beer and wine, or one or two free drinks followed by a 'pay' bar. Hotels and restaurants understandably won't let you supply your own alcohol, but if you do hire a venue you should be able to do so, meaning you can but in bulk from a supermarket. Some wine supermarkets include the hire of glasses for free if you spend enough on drink.

8) Hit the high street

Every bride wants to look her best, and you can spend a small fortune on wedding and bridesmaids' dresses that will be worn just once, but before you visit that designer wedding boutique take a look at what the High Street has to offer. My recently married niece assures me Debenhams has a great selection of bridesmaids' dresses for less that £100 (

What do you think of these tips? Do you have any tips? 

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What our readers say:

Your article 'Nuptials on a budget' (Choice, April) caught my eye. I have been happily married for more than 45 years but I worry about the huge amounts some couples feel obliged to spend, and thought your article made a lot of sense.

I had never wanted a big wedding, and as my husband-to-be, we had a good excuse for a low-key event. I made my dress from a very pretty print, in a Laura Ashley inspired style, using fabric which cost 29/11 a yard (just under £1.50). I was able to wear it for many years afterwards, and as it had a high waist it saw me through two pregnancies!

We invited just our immediate family to the register office ceremony, and then had family and friends back to the house afterwards for food, prepared by me, and a cake bought as a surprise by my Mum.

Of all the eye-wateringly expensive weddings we have been to since, we are one of the few couples still together. Is there a connection do you think?

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