Most brides have a limited wedding budget, so you want to splash your cash in the right places. Wedding expert Kate Smallwood is here to reveal where to spend your money, and where to save the pennies…

Food

Buy good quality produce for your menu. It’s a lot better to serve a delicious, simple menu than an over-adventurous attempt that looks better than it tastes. “One area of your wedding breakfast that definitely shouldn’t be compromised is the quality of produce,” says Jen Middlehurst from Kalm Kitchen. “Make sure your caterer uses top quality ingredients from considered suppliers. Ask what dishes are in season as this can be one way of reducing costs and ensuring you enjoy exquisite fresh produce.”

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Decoration

Spend on beautiful decorations. Decorations doesn’t need to go over the top, but it does need to be good. Focus on areas where your guests will spend the most time and style these carefully, spending your money on just a few stunning floral arrangements or some pretty lighting. When it comes to table decorations, keep it simple, but make an exception with the top table. “Your top table will be the focal point of the room during the dinner and speeches so dressing this can have a big impact,” says Kin Balasubramaniam from Idyllic Days. “Investing in one hired linen, such as a sequin tablecloth or lace overlay creates a show-stopping centrepiece to the reception room without having to dress all your table in the same extravagant way.”

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Drinks

Buy plenty of drinks – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Think of your wedding reception as the best party you’ve ever been to. The last thing you want to do is run out of wine, or out of soft drinks, especially with hot weather! If you’re bringing in your own alcohol, shop around and buy more than you need. Most companies will sell on a ‘sale or return’ basis meaning you can return any bottles that remain unopened. If your venue is providing the drinks, set an initial budget and ask them to let you know if or when you reach it. That way, you can decide whether or not to extend it throughout the course of the evening.

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First night together

Treat yourselves to a romantic first night hotel. This doesn’t have to break the bank – you don’t need an enormous suite or a four-poster bed – but there is something lovely about spending your first night as ‘Mr and Mrs’ in a beautiful bedroom. Resist the urge to party until dawn, and leave the evening party slightly earlier than your guests to spend some time together. Breakfast in bed is a must before you jet off on your honeymoon!

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Cake

Choose a fabulous wedding cake, considering taste over appearance. A wedding cake that looks good but tastes dreadful is a complete disappointment. “I always suggest couples invest in quality ingredients and flavour,” says Krishanthi Armitt from Cakes by Krishanthi. “You can save money by choosing a simple design and asking your florist to provide extra blooms to decorate it with. This will create a simple yet stunning look that will taste amazing!”

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And now here’s where to cut back…

Don’t overdecorate

Guests want to be able to see their food on the table, not fight for it through an abundance of metallic confetti and party poppers. Spending a fortune on insignificant decorations is never worth the money. “Concentrate on elegant floral table centres,” says florist Mary-Jane Vaughan. “For all other areas, all you need is lots of candles!” When you visit your reception venue for the first time, don’t be daunted by how ‘bare’ and empty it might appear. The addition of tables, food and guests makes a dramatic difference.

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Think about what matters

Only spend money on the things that matter to you! If you’re not a big fan of flowers, keep it simple. If you don’t like formal dining, have a barbeque. If you don’t have your heart set on a live band, opt for a DJ or a great playlist. It’s never worth splashing the cash on something that might impress your guests but won’t impress you on the day.

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Be open to compromise

You may have your heart set on a particular type of flower, or your favourite food, but if it’s not in season, it’s simply not worth it. You’ll spend more than you need to when a seasonal alternative will generally cost less and look, and taste better. Also, while it might be romantic to get married on Valentine’s Day or in the week running up to Christmas, you’ll pay for the privilege and it’s only a date after all!

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Don’t over cater for your guests

While your biggest spend will probably be on your catering, quality always rules over quantity. Giving your guests canapés followed by a three-course menu, cake and then an evening buffet is an expensive exercise, and no one’s appetite is quite that large! It’s far better to double up, having canapés as a starter or your cake for pudding. When it comes to the evening, serve simple (but delicious) bacon sarnies or a cheeseboard and your wedding cake.

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Above expectations means above budget

Why spend money on things that guests won’t expect? While it’s lovely to provide transport to take your guests home, or to give them all beautiful favours as a memento, it’s not necessary. They may sound like small details, but these things can really topple the budget. “Favours are not mandatory,” says wedding planner Siobhan Craven-Robins. “They will not be missed if you want decide to leave them.” Your guests will want to celebrate with you, and will be happy to arrange their own transport home, pay for their own accommodation and miss out on a favour… Honest!

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We’ve got lots of advice on wedding budget and finance in our handy Planning section, from finding the best flowers for your budget, to easy DIY ideas for you to try at home.