Read on for her advice on what corners you can cut – and what ones you definitely shouldn’t!
Deby and Shane’s country manor house wedding
Thanks for chatting to us today, Deby. Before we dive in, let’s set the scene a little. Tell us a bit about you and your partner.
Well, Shane’s a software developer.
And I’m a psychologist.
Like… a psychologist.
Oh, wow. Okay. That’s… Well, let’s get into the mum of the matter. The meat! The meat of the mum. MATTER! I don’t have issues!
…Sure. I’ll be honest with you, this is my day off, so…
Oh, thank mum. I mean-
So my husband and I got married in Essex.
Though, as you may be able to tell from my accent, I’m Scottish.
Yes! Let’s talk about that! Oh, wait, I should set it up, though.
(In a pleasant Scottish burr)
What do you mean?
So you and Shane got married in Essex, though you both live in Scotland. How did you come to that decision?
Shane is from East London and his family live down there. And, though I’m Scottish, my family were all living in or around Essex at the time.
We wanted a small wedding – mostly just family – so we decided to go to them rather than have everyone come to us. It made it easier for everyone we wanted to be there to be there, even though we had to travel.
And it also meant we could invite everyone we wanted without worrying about the numbers. We knew not all our friends and co-workers would be able to travel to another country for our wedding, so we didn’t have to sit down with a spreadsheet and figure out how many we could invite. We invited everyone and let them make the decision on if they could come or not.
Very cunning! But what would you have done if they’d all RSVP’d yes?
Panicked, most likely. Then found a way to make it work.
So how did you choose your venue?
Well, at first, I wanted to get married a castle.
Why did you change your mind?
The price tag.
Ah. Fair enough.
I sized down to a country manor. It was a beautiful stately home in Essex. It still felt very grand but it came within our budget.
Let’s talk about your budget. You were on tight purse strings for your wedding, weren’t you? And that’s not racist, about you being Scottish, by the way.
…Okay. Well. We were on a complete budget from the get go. We had no substantial money saved up at all, but we were very careful with every choice we made for the wedding and we managed to organise everything on the small budget we had by prioritising what we wanted to spend on and giving every decision a lot of thought.
I know a lot of couples out there would like some tips on having a budget wedding that doesn’t look like a budget wedding. Can you talk us through some of your tricks?
Well, it’s a bit of a known trick but that’s for a reason: we got married on a week day rather than a weekend, and took whatever date the venue could give us.
We also chose not to get a wedding planner and instead organised everything ourselves. Well. I did…
Ooh, organisational burn!
We also did one thing that I hadn’t seen anyone else do before. Shane and I had been living together with a child before we got married, so we didn’t need – and couldn’t use! – fancy china from a gift registry.
We decided not to make a gift registry at all, but whenever anyone asked if they could get us a present, we asked for them to contribute something towards the wedding as their gift, to help our budget go further.
Couple’s own collection
What a fab idea!
Right? My aunt got us a tier of cupcakes as our wedding cake, that was a lot fancier and better looking than we would have chosen on our budget.
And my sister gave us a candy buffet for all our guests. It was awesome – all different types of sweets in our wedding colours, laid out in jars for everyone to help themselves to.
That sounds great. What abou-
It was great. In fact-
-it went down-
Please don’t. Don’t make the pun.
Because it’s sweets. Get it?
Oh, I get it.
Couple’s own collection
Quite. So would you have left off the candy buffet if your kind and generous and, I assume, gorgeous and maybe also highly talented business woman sister hadn’t offered to buy it for you?
No, we knew we wanted one. But, because she contributed to the budget, we were able to stretch it further than we would have been able to otherwise. She got us M&Ms in our wedding colours, silver and pink. I would have bulked it out with marshmallows from the pound shop.
It was the same with our wedding cake; we would have always had one, but it might not have been as nice on the budget we’d set aside as what my aunt was able to do as a wedding present.
We absolutely loved our gifts and we’re so grateful for them, but it was important to us to decide how much we were willing to spend on everything. Weddings can be expensive but not everything has to cost a fortune.
I got my bridemaids’ dresses from eBay rather than a bridal shop. We had the whole day at one venue – where we all got ready – and left out having wedding cars…
It’s all about deciding what’s important to you and what’s not, and allocating your budget accordingly.
Couple’s own collection
That’s brilliant advice. So how did you incorporate a bit more ‘you’ into your day, on a budget?
Well, we actually met one another through cheerleading.
It’s our shared hobby. We met when we were competing at a national cheerleading competition.
Sorry, I thought you said cheerleading? Like… leading cheer?
And what did your mother do to you to make you so dismissive of cheerleading?
…so, you both like cheerleading?
Yes. And we wanted to work it into our day.
Oh yes. We did some backflips and stunting during our first dance. But we also found some smaller ways we could nod to it throughout our wedding. We’re on a team now called Electric Candy Cheerleaders so we decided to make ‘candy’ a bit of a theme of the day.
We put out ‘love is sweet’ signs on the candy bar and named every table on our table plan after a type of candy, like Love Hearts – with a jar of it as the centrepiece for our guests to share.
Couple’s own collection
What a sweet idea-
Why are you allowed to make puns?
-but I think our readers need to know a bit more about this first dance. Tell us about it.
Well, we’d seen some videos on YouTube of couples doing a something funny for their first dance, and we loved the idea of doing something very memorable, instead of a simple slow dance.
We asked our wedding party to learn the steps to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and had them ‘crash’ our serious dance, slowly shuffling onto the dance floor in a zombie walk and then launching into the choreography.
My husband did some – pretty impressive! – backflips as part of the dance and then we ended in a pyramid. I think it’s definitely stuck in everyone’s minds!
Awesome! I love when couples take old traditions and make them their own! Though I feel like I should add ‘intense acrobatics’ to the don’t list, so my lawyers let me publish this…
What’s the don’t list?
It’s all the things that didn’t go well at your wedding, that you’d recommend other couples don’t try.
Is there anything you’d do differently, knowing what you know now?
Absolutely! I would have gotten a professional hairdresser to do my hair on the big day. I was originally planning to, but the pre-wedding trial went… Well, see for yourself.
Do you really want a credit for this…?
Uh… That’s not so… I mean, you look… I’m sure…
Wrong is the best word to describe it. The trial went very wrong.
(Awkward British mumbling)
I was a bit apprehensive after that and I decided to do my hair myself, but it didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped.
(Awkward Britishness intensifies)
I wish I’d found another stylist who could have done something a bit special for the occasion.
Couple’s own collection
I was worried about not looking my best in the photographs – obviously something I wanted to avoid! – but, when I look at them now, all I see is my everyday look, and I wish I hadn’t let one bad experience sway me off the whole idea.
That’s a really good-
I also never had my dress taken in! I’d do that!
Oh, sorry. Go on.
I found a dress I loved online and managed to find a shop selling it for half off, after using it once for a fashion show. It was a size bigger than I normally wear, but it was such a huge saving that I decided to go for it.
It fit fine when I tried it on – a little loose, but it didn’t seem like a problem – so I decided against getting it tailored, so I wasn’t eating into the money I’d saved.
‘It fit fine when I tried it on’ are the famous last words of thrifty couples everywhere. I had to buy a new wedding dress the week before my wedding!
I never realised the fit was a problem until the day. I didn’t realise how different the dress would be in a full, active day to my trial standing in front of the mirror. I had to keep hoisting the strapless top up through the day. I must have ruined a fair few photos!
That’s such a good point, and takes us-
Oh! And I would have liked to just enjoy myself more.
-to our next- sorry, didn’t realise you weren’t done.
Shane and I were both so nervous about the speeches and the first dance, we couldn’t eat a thing!
Looking back now, I wish I’d been able to just relax and enjoy the day more instead of worrying about what was coming next.
Couple’s own collection
That’s such a fantastic point that so many couples-
And a honeymoon!
Oh, still not done. Okay.
We never went on a honeymoon. We’d decided, while we were planning, that we didn’t want to spend money on one but it meant we never had a chance to de-stress and relax in the aftermath of it all. We went back into real life too quickly and didn’t get a chance to enjoy being married to one another, and get used to not planning a wedding any more.
I felt a bit lost and listless the day after. (Though that may have been due to all the shots my friends bought me. All. The. Shots.)
But, looking back now, I wish we’d saved some money and booked an exotic honeymoon so we would have had something to look forward to after the day itself.
Phew! You’ve made a lot of great points. A lot.
Too many people don’t feel they got to properly enjoy their day because they keep worrying about everyone else, or go back into real life too quickly and don’t get to enjoy time with their partners. That’s really great advice for engaged couples, to not get caught up in the stress and planning and just enjoy.
And to get their hair done.
Well, yes. But let’s go onto the nicer side of the equation: what do you think did go well? Is there anything you’d do exactly the same if you were getting married again?
Yes! We hired a toastmaster to take us through the day, and I think it was one of the best ideas we had.
I’d never seen one at a wedding before.
Well. Someone telling you when you can drink isn’t very Scottish…
You’re Scottish too.
I know, but-
I’m hiding it for the joke.
You were my bridesmaid.
Pay no attention to the woman behind the bride… Andy Bennett
…So you hadn’t heard of a toastmaster?
No. It was our venue who recommended getting one. They explained that a toastmaster keeps everything on track and rounds everyone up so they’re where they need to be when they need to be there.
They also wear a truly impressive coat.
He did! I’m glad we hired him.
For the coat?
For everything. My mother suggested I just ask a friend to act as toastmaster as a favour and save some money, but I wanted my guests to enjoy the day, not have to work. (Or else enjoy it so much they forget to!) Hiring a professional was definitely one of the best things we could have done!
That’s really interesting. You’ve spoken about the ways you saved money but let’s chat about the things you were glad you spent it on.
Well, with the money we saved in other places, we were able to add some wee extra touches to the day, to make it a bit different and special. We released white doves after the ceremony, we had a harp player play through the afternoon, and we hired a bouncy castle to entertain the kids. (And the drunk adults.)
Those are the parts of the day that still stick out to me – and to my guests. Everyone really enjoyed them (especially the drunk adults.) I think they made the day feel less like a traditional wedding and more like us.
What to steal – and what to avoid!
- Pre-wedding trials for hair and make-up exist for a reason! It can be more expensive to get a wedding package with a trial than just getting someone in on the day, but if you haven’t used a company before or if you have a really specific idea, it’s usually worth it. (And you can always aim to do the trial on the day of your hen or stag party, so you can take full advantage of your make-over!)
If you don’t like what you see, do cancel – but don’t cancel the whole idea of getting a professional in to do it! With Instagram, it’s easier than ever to find someone who does exactly what you’re looking for.
- Try on your outfit a lot and do everything in it that you’ll do on the day. (Within reason.) If you can’t hug, dance, bend over, or walk down an aisle, you might be in trouble…
- Enjoy the day! It might sound silly but, when you’ve spent months planning and organising something, it’s very easy to get caught up in making sure it’s all going to plan or to worry about getting your speech or dance done perfectly, and miss a lot of what’s actually happening.
But all your hard work has led to this. Have a glass of something bubbly, chat with your favourite people, and just enjoy. Whatever happens happens. And everyone is rooting for you – no one’s going to notice if you stammer, miss a page, or forget some choreography. Don’t stress about getting things perfect.
- Take a break after your wedding!
You don’t have to go on a big, expensive honeymoon immediately after your wedding – wait until there’s a good point to stop for work, wait until you can afford to have the honeymoon you want, wait and have something else to look forward to – but do take a break. Take at least a few days for yourselves. Book time off work. Find a babysitter. And just enjoy being married.
You made a big, exciting, romantic decision together. Enjoy it!
- Be afraid to spend money on the things that matter to you. Saving and budgeting sensibly is important but you’ll appreciate spending on the things that matter, rather than calling in favours from friends who ‘own a camera’ rather than professional photographers or ‘can shout’ rather than toastmasters.
- Give up at the first hurdle! If it matters to you, it matters, and you may regret not finding another supplier if the first one doesn’t work out.
- Be afraid to ask for favours. When people ask if they can help with your wedding, let them! Your friends and family love you and want to feel involved in your day. Buying someone’s wedding cake feels momentous – even if you’re only signing over a cheque.
- Cut everything to the barest of bones. It’s important to stay in budget but weddings should be fun. You could get a license signed, no muss, no fuss, in a registry office if you didn’t want to celebrate – so celebrate!
Give yourselves time and space to be alone and enjoy being married – even if it means pulling budget from elsewhere or delaying things a while, you’ll be glad you did.