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9 top tips on how to avoid wedding budget disasters (or how to budget wisely)

However large or small your wedding budget is, you'll be tempted at some point to cut back on something and look for a cheaper alternative. You've probably seen or heard horror stories of dodgy wedding dresses made abroad that looked nothing like they were supposed to, or suppliers that didn't show up for someone's wedding day. Here are some handy tips on how to avoid disappointment.

1) Do your research

Yes it's a pain slogging through various quotes, chasing up wedding suppliers and getting details, but you may be glad you did. Compare prices, find out what is included and what's not, do they have a website, do they have reviews? Google search them and see what comes up. With bigger ticket items, do they bother with things like insurance and risk assessments? If they tell you they don't need them, avoid like the plague! Cheap isn't always the deal it's made out to be, you could end up paying more because of extras that aren't included but are still essential.

2) Know your budget

Start with the must-haves for your wedding (ie venue, outfits, food, drink, photographer...) and build your budget from there. In a recent survey conducted by Bridebook.co.uk called The UK Wedding Report 2018 (link below), they noted that the 'average' wedding costs nearly £30,000 (ie if you pay someone to do every aspect of your big day and include every possible element) but savvy couples will spend around £18000. The report has a guide on 'average' supplier costs* so if you don't know what charges to expect, check it out.
*NB be aware that some averages shown can be skewed by 'at-cost' suppliers (eg home bakers, hobby photographers) and do not represent the fees of high end specialists (ie highly skilled professionals working full time with higher starting costs), so don't be surprised if you find much higher quotes during your research.

3) Who, why and what ARE recommended wedding suppliers?

Most wedding venues will have a list of suppliers they recommend/prefer but what's the link? Most recommendations are because that supplier is properly vetted and has worked reliably at that venue, so ask for photos of work they've done there, or reviews from couples who have used them. A growing number of venues are offering preferred suppliers who pay a fee/commission to be on the list, it doesn't mean they're bad, it just means you need to look more deeply at what they offer. In many cases you don't have to use the recommended or preferred supplier, but at some venues (especially where the venue gets commission from these suppliers) you may be stuck with just using people on their lists. Catering is a whole other kettle of fish where many more restrictions apply, but that's a whole other blog.

4) Is it really cheaper to DIY rather than hire?

Not necessarily; it may be cheaper than you think to let someone else do all the hard work. Plus, do you really want the hassle on the day of fitting 150 chair covers and what do you do with it all afterwards? And storing it before and after the wedding is fine if you have the space. If you compare as you go, you'll make the best decisions for your budget. Check out sellmywedding.co.uk (link below) for ideas on what other couples have bought and are trying to sell-on after their wedding day. I'll be doing a blog on how to DIY wisely soon.

5) Wedding deposits and final payments

Wedding fee amounts vary wildly amongst wedding suppliers but if you plan ahead and keep note of the terms for each, you should be able to stay on track. Most suppliers will not want the full payment a year or more in advance and many will accept instalments, so you can spread your payments. Deposits or confirmation fees will usually fall somewhere around the 50% mark. This will secure your booking but may be non-refundable. Falling behind on payments can send the whole thing into a tailspin so you should create a schedule of payments that you can track for what needs to be paid and when. Word of warning, if a supplier wants full payment a year ahead be careful and...

6) Check the terms and conditions

If you pay your deposit/booking fee/full amount two years in advance, what protection do you have if they go bust or the worst should happen and you need to cancel? Will you get all or some of your money back? They are long and usually pretty boring, but terms & conditions, and contracts, protect you and your supplier from run-ins later down the line if things change. Get them, read them, negotiate them and sign them what-ever else you do!

7) Don't leave it all to the last minute

If you do, the wedding supplier you want might not be available, especially in high season. You might find a last minute deal but it's also possible for the price to be bumped up; suppliers often increase their prices year on year. Also if you plan in a rush, you might miss important details about additional (hidden) costs, etc. And it's really hard to keep tabs on a budget with money flying out left, right and centre! Start with a plan, keep tabs on it, or better still employ a wedding planner to organise things for you 😉.

8) 'I can get it cheaper on-line' - I hear this one a lot!

This may be true but do you really know what you're getting? Think 'Don't Tell The Bride' and consider if this is really something you can do without or replace at the last minute if it's not what you expected. Again, do your research, does the vendor have a history/reviews, are you looking at a legitimate business or a one-off seller? What are the returns policy and terms & conditions? Ask questions and have a back up plan.

9) Finally. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

So you have a quote from one photographer for a full day, 500 pictures on a memory stick with an album for £250, and a different photographer has told you around £1200 for the same thing. You are highly unlikely to get what you expect from the £250 supplier, unless they're just starting out and need you for their portfolio, which they should absolutely be telling you in advance. Any offer that seems ultra low should set alarm bells ringing. The real life 'deal of the century' so rarely exists and is often a sign of the unscrupulous supplier, so beware, be cautious, and be prepared.

It's worth saying again: be careful, do the research and get wedding insurance! There will be a blog on fees and charges soon, so watch this space. And if you still need help finding reputable suppliers, especially if you've been let down by an unscrupulous one, think about talking to an wedding planner! Have a fabulous day. X