Sustainable wedding budgeting: Balancing affordability & personality

Published by Claire Gould on

wedding photography by Jaye Peg Lake District wedding photographer

Header image by Jaye Peg Photography

Sustainable weddings, to us, means a happy experience and stress free planning. Sticking to a comfortable budget is a huge part of that.

If you haven’t been following our sustainable weddings series, you might want to check back or bookmark our recent months’ features:

    1. Weddings & Planet – don’t let your day be about ‘stuff’
    2. Weddings & mental health
    3. The elephant in the room: weddings’ carbon footprint
    4. Finding (or being) a sustainable wedding supplier

Let’s talk about wedding budgets

Today we wanted to talk about budgets. The wedding media focus way too much on ‘average wedding budget*’ figures (which we believe are massively distorted) – and this can put pressure on couples to spend more than necessary. This has an impact on mental health, on carbon footprint and on waste at weddings. Why? Because budgets dictate the size of a wedding. If you’re constantly told that a figure of £xxx is normal, you’re likely to be influenced by that in some way.

(In a very subtle way, we all compare ourselves to what’s normal. If you’re a thrifty couple or great at budgeting, perhaps you’ll subconsciously aim to spend about half of the ‘normal’ figure. If you’re both high earners, maybe you’ll think you’d probably spend 30% higher than ‘normal’. But here’s the rub: if someone behind a desk at a wedding magazine is deciding what ‘normal’ is, why should that figure mean anything at all?)

Let’s try something: with your partner, without showing each other, write down what each of you thinks your wedding might cost. Reveal your figures, compare and have a chat.

We’re guessing if one of you has been reading about weddings on websites, blogs or magazines, your figure will be higher.

If you have very different ideas about your wedding budget, there’s a lovely article on Green Union about how to compromise while planning your dream wedding. Working things out together so you’re both on the same page with budgets will help your wedding planning go smoothly. It’s something to do as a team, so agreeing what you can happily afford is really important.

Enough about what you should or shouldn’t spend. Weddings aren’t about money or budgets. Weddings are about celebration and fun – and that’s FREE.

Whatever your budget, high or low, it’s super important that weddings should be

  • Common sense spending – the key to keeping things stress-free
  • Save first. Give yourselves time and put money in the bank
  • Include a buffer ‘just in case’
  • Don’t borrow
  • Accept any financial gifts with grace (and caution – no strings!)
  • Block out pressure to overspend
  • Plan as a couple
  • Don’t buy wedding stuff just cos it’s wedding stuff! A wedding should be unique and about you
  • Full of personality. Make your day about YOU (two)!

As a part of the wedding media in the UK, we want to use our voice to bring a little balance. No one should feel pressure to aim their wedding budget towards a level of spend dictated by the press. Especially with the cost of living crisis we’re in right now, no one should even feel pressure to have a wedding at all. (Elope! Elopements are amazing. Or live together in love – married or not – weddings are optional!)

We want to be a part of a thriving industry which gives couples choice. That feels like a sustainable future for everyone.

And the key to a more sustainable approach to wedding budgets? Focus on personality. Plan and style your day around who you are – not what you see in the wedding media.

It’s all about being YOU. And for most of us, hiring a stately home for a weekend probably isn’t you. (Let alone booking a function / conference room in a hotel for a day.) Right from the start, try not to be swayed by perceptions of what a wedding ‘should’ be. Being yourselves might mean booking out your favourite pub for the afternoon, or having a party at home…

Starting points to help you frame some key wedding decisions around your personalities:

  • Think about your venue: where do you like to spend your time? Pubs? Camping? Airbnbs? Abroad? Countryside? With the use of an independent celebrant, could you have your wedding there?
  • Photographer: how important are photos to you both? How knowledgeable are you about photography? What style of photos do you love? Perhaps photography isn’t that important to you – and that’s fine. Our recommendation would be to hire a pro if you can afford one, but do shop around, and within your budget always choose based on quality and personality – not price!
  • Catering: forget standard wedding food! If formal dining and a sit down meal isn’t your thing, how about a vegan pizza van, picnic baskets, banquet or family style dining?
  • Styling: There are so many options from DIY, hire, having all of your family helping, or just using your venue’s own style. Making your wedding ‘you’ could mean splashing out on flowers, or spending on your outfits and keeping decor minimal. Or it could mean a picnic on hay bales at a local farm. Think about your home, and your friends’ homes. Could you grow lavender in little pots for a year and use that for table styling? Plants are super sustainable for wedding decor if they live on after the big day!
  • Your outfits: Balance dressing up and wow factor with feeling comfortable. (We’re not just talking about dresses!) A white dress and hire suit are NOT your only options! (Until the 1980s, people just wore their best outfit to get married in. They didn’t buy new, let alone spend £££ on a dress to wear once!) So think about your culture? Charity? Borrow outfits or just be creative. Most of all be You
  • Guests: the size of your wedding has a big financial impact. Micro is cool now. Be comfortable rather than showy – smaller weddings generally have more personality!

We’re huge fans of sustainable wedding website Green Union, and we wanted to share some words of wisdom we found on there:

Go through your wedding planning list to see where you could make savings. Eco-friendly favours are a great idea, as is using sustainable decor, including many items you might have around your home like books. Making some changes will help you limit waste, and can help you get better value for your money too.

By making some eco-friendly changes to your wedding, you can enjoy savings that can be put towards other elements, or even your honeymoon. Even making small changes can make a big difference, allowing you to have your dream wedding knowing you’ve done your bit to help the planet too.

More on Saving money while making your wedding eco friendly

Your wedding will be your best day ever.

Remember “Happily ever after” includes the day after your wedding, and the last thing you should be feeling is bogged down in debt as you start married life

A note on those ‘average wedding budget’ figures. I was Googling for something entirely different and came across three separate ‘average’ figures, all quoted by The Guardian, ranging from £7,500 in 2015 to £21k in 2010 and £15k in 2009. It’s not the dates that affect the statistics: it’s the source of the information. 

I’ve added these stats to the bottom of this article, because I really, really didn’t want to include numbers at all. Please, take these figures as proof that no one knows what the average wedding budget is. All the research is done by insurance companies and banks, wedding blogs and magazines… they’re all asking VERY different groups of people and that’s how the figures are always so wildly different. ~ Claire

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.


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