Get me to the wedding on budget

Attending a wedding now costs £650 a time as wedding planner reveals tips for guests that don’t break the bank


A wedding veteran who has attended 16 weddings in three years, has revealed her tips for celebrating a big day without breaking the bank.

Leanne Woodward, 33, who also works as a wedding planner, says being a wedding guest can be just as stressful as hosting your own big day, with bills running into hundreds of pounds.

It comes as wedding venues brace themselves for a record number of weddings after Covid forced many couples to postpone their celebrations. An estimated 350,000 weddings are expected to take place in the UK this year* - 26% more than the yearly average before Covid restrictions began.

 With so many postponed weddings taking place this year, wedding guests may be left with mounting bills from unexpected costs or, the prospect of missing out.

New research from communications provider Plusnet found Brits spend an average of £649.50 attending a wedding including travel, overnight accommodation, a gift and buying a new outfit.  This means serial wedding guest Leanne, who is going to six weddings this summer with husband Matt, will need to set aside £3,897 for the celebrations.

The Plusnet research** also reveals more than a quarter (26%) of under 35s say they have had to dip into personal savings so they could attend a wedding while 26% have declined invites because of cost and almost a third (31%) said they’d sought out other ways to earn extra cash such as a side hustle.

Leanne said: “I absolutely love weddings and I’m at the age where my friends are all suddenly getting married. But it comes with a lot of pressure to wear nice clothes, have your hair and makeup done, give a generous gift and cover travel and a hotel too.

“Fortunately, Matt and I are comfortable financially but in 2018 we went to eight weddings as well as our own!  Overall, we spent over £32,000 that year. After that, I knew I had to be smarter with our budgeting if we were going to carry on going to so many weddings.”

For the last two years Covid has put a stop to almost all weddings or placed limits on how many people could attend.  Leanne says she has been flooded with invitations this year from newly engaged couples as well as those who have rescheduled since lockdown restrictions were lifted.

For Leanne, who lives in Lincoln, wedding planning is a year-round process. From the moment she receives a save-the-date card, Leanne says she calculates what she will need to spend on top of her usual outgoings. Each month, Leanne and Matt put a sum of that total into a designated wedding savings account.

To help them reach their goal total more quickly, Leanne says she regularly checks household bills to make sure the couple are on the best deals – looking at where they can make savings.

Switching from a £73 Sky TV Package with broadband to a £22.99 fibre broadband deal from a core-value supplier like Plusnet would save £50 per month while moving from a £49 per month contract mobile phone package with Vodafone to a £8 Sim-Only deal with Plusnet can also save £492 per year***.

She said: “I normally allocate £200 per wedding based on how much it has cost us previously. It depends on how many invitations we get, but from January each year, we set aside £100 a month each on payday, so we have a pot of cash we can dip into when the wedding season kicks off. Starting that process also acts as a reminder to me to go through our bills and check we’re getting the best value deals. This year I swapped from a contract to a SIM-only deal and changed our broadband package saving £600 per year.  That will be enough to pay for 3 of the 6 weddings we’re attending this year.”

Joanna Carman, Marketing Director at Plusnet, said: “Nobody wants to miss watching a loved one tie the knot but if you are lucky enough to have lots of friends getting married then costs can quickly add up.

"Being savvy with household bills such as switching to Plusnet broadband means you can save a bit of money and spend the extra cash celebrating with the people you love. "As part of her pre-wedding savings plan, Leanne says she also starts making hotel and travel plans as soon as a wedding invitation lands on her doorstep.

Leanne said: “I start to plan travel and accommodation as soon as I know we’re invited, which means I can get the best deals on hotel rooms and train fares. Often, we end up in the best hotel just because we’ve booked early, and I like knowing we’ve got it at the best price too. If you have the option pay when you arrive so if something changes, you’re not out of pocket.”

Leanne also reduces her overall spend attending weddings by pooling resources with other guests by sharing a lift.

Leanne said: “I’m the first to message friends to see if we can travel together. It also means you can start the celebration early with your friends.”

Leanne has also made savings on costly wedding outfits that can only be worn once by setting up a group with friends to share and swap dresses.

“I used to go to Oasis and spend £150 on a dress plus a new bag and shoes but when you’re going to as many weddings as I do that became unsustainable, but I still wanted to look nice and not turn up in the same one or two outfits. So, my friends and I have a group to arrange swaps, so everybody has a new outfit to wear. Now I feel like I’m wearing a new outfit but it’s free.”

It follows a growing trend for dress rentals and designer bag hire. Businesses like MyWardrobe HQ and HURR, where a £243 Ganni dress can be rented for £34 a day, gives wedding guests the chance to wear designer pieces at a fraction of the cost.

Leanne said: “I know people who swear by hiring instead of buying, it’s also a good space saver at home and is obviously a great way to avoid spending big on new clothes plus it’s more sustainable than fast fashion.”

This might be an unusual idea for some, but Leanne says makes other savings by avoiding gifts from wedding lists- instead choosing personalised presents for the couples from smaller online retailers via Etsy or Notonthehighstreet.

She said: “I have told friends in the past I’m not buying anything from their John Lewis gift list. My preferred option is to give something personalised. One of my favourites is a print with names and date of the wedding and then I will have it framed. I have given this a couple of times and it’s always ended up hanging prominently above their bed. Another idea is champagne glasses which can be inexpensive but remind the couple of their wedding whenever they get used.”