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Ten ways to save money on your fabulous wedding.

Without looking like a cheapskate!

OK, for the sake of argument we’ll assume that you’ve done the big things, gone for a midweek or an out of season Sunday in October, how can you have a memorable wedding without looking back at the money you've thrown away with disgust?

My name's Merv Sheldon and I’ve been in the wedding industry for a few years now, I’ve been to well over 1000 weddings, 450 of them in this century and I can tell you that often the very best weddings are the ones that cost the least.

Savings are shown by £

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Stupidly Simple

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Easy, but needs some planning.

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Really quite hard, you need two nights without TV, lots of post it notes and a big wall.

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This needs some planning and takes time, but you can save lots AND you’ll find that normally reserved people can be really generous.

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Pretty Simple, just keep the “Budget Blinkers” away.

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Stupidly Simple

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Stupidly Simple

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This needs some planning but is mostly about what YOU want.

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Simple, just be prepared and be the first of your friends to “break the new rules”

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So Very Simple and everyone will thank you for it!

1 - Buy a notepad and a pen.

Sit down at home, on your own, TV off, kids in bed and draw out  everything you wanted for your wedding when you were a small child. (forget the Unicorns)  Keep looking back at it every time you see something else you want and see how it fits in and if it doesn't, don't have it.

2 - Project manage the cash!

Before you spend one more penny work out how you plan to pay for it, 25% out of savings, 25% from gifts and 50% on credit for example, it is tempting to put the early payments on credit, but with interest rates of up to 20%, that payment made from your cash now is the same as getting it for free compared to paying for it on a credit card. Work out who needs paying and when, who will give you a discount for cash and who can't, who takes cards and who doesn't then plan out the money so that you are using savings first, gift purchases (where mum is paying for the flowers) are going straight to the buyer and the credit card bill is kept low for as long as possible.

3 - Draw up a proper list of friends.

This is quite hard, you need to make five lists and everyone you know needs to be on one of them.

  1. FRIENDS - real friends, people you eat with, people who would bring you a can of petrol at midnight in the rain, people you can argue with tonight and laugh with tomorrow, it will be a short list. They need to be there. 
  2. Acquaintances - people you know, you send them a Christmas card, they say hi to you in the supermarket, some of these guys need to be at the evening do, but not all of them.
  3. Colleagues - you see them every day at work, you share a coffee break and laugh at the post boy together, if they're not friends, they don't need to be there, but a casual invitation to the evening reception is (as opposed to a formal invitation) won't hurt, about 1/3 will turn up.
  4. Close family - of course need to be there,
  5. Distant family and family friends, this is the hard list, only you can decide who comes and who doesn’t. It’s hard but you do need to ask yourself “Would I willingly give £35-£50 to this person and the same to his wife?”  if the answer is a big fat no, then same question applies for a lesser amount for the evening do.

Once you have your Wedding Breakfast and Evening guest lists sorted, look at it again, every group has at least one couple who say they'll be there but then doesn't show. Talk to them, keep it upbeat but ask them if they are definitely going to be there, but if in doubt, drop them to the evening list before you send out the invitations. A wedding breakfast with the right 40 guests followed by a reception for the right 80 is always more memorable than one for a crowd of 100, then 200 strangers... it’s a lot cheaper too!

Final tip - at one point someone’s mum will say “but xxxx HAS to be there” and the answer is this. “Mum, if this person is really important to you, the meal costs £35 each, I’m happy if you want to help with that.”

4 - Involve the Guests.

Go back to your list and look at the friends and family list, see what they can do for you. What aunt wouldn't be thrilled to be asked to make a tier of the wedding cake with you making another one, what friend wouldn't be honored to make the invitations for you?

The bridesmaids, what a joy to be asked to pick a dress that they like as long as it's the right colour, within your budget, obviously. Most will be happy to add a few £££ to get the dress they love and see how they'll glow wearing different styles but all in your colour scheme. The best part of this of course is that the more involved they are, the more they'll love your wedding day. 

Dressed jars with string and Hessian are the latest thing for a cool, vintage rural look table centre, get someone on each table to do them for that table. I have heard people say the most lovely things about home made venue decor, and the most horrible things about the piles or rubbish dumped around the plates. Simpler is more stylish and if you do hire in, go for quality, reach out for that wow factor and make it your own.

5 - Buy quality once, not cheap twice! Every year thousands of dresses flood in from china, made in living rooms and kitchens, sweatshops and sometimes even a night shift that the factory owner didn't know he had, hundreds of them end up on eBay, hundreds in the bin and some go straight into the kids dressing up box. You don't need a £1200 wedding dress and if you can't afford one, shop around. A £90 Chinese dress wasted, then another £200 on bridesmaid dresses and that money would get you a stunning white ball gown or a superb stylish preloved or end of season dress and an alteration.

6 - Limit the WOW factors.

Every wedding needs two things that make people say WOW and one of them has to be the Bride. The more talking points you have, the less people will even see it so ... Make a list of all the things that you think will make people smile, Photobooths, chocolate fountains, ice sculptures, sparkly dancefloors, twinkle curtains, floral arches, a 7 tier cake, then pick one, two at most, and make a feature of it. People will talk about “the wedding with the wild flowers in jam jars” with fondness for years, no-one ever talks about “the wedding with a room full of  equipment”

7 - Table Tat.

There seems to be a trend to put more and more tat on the table, all of which is headed for the bin and no-one seems to have any idea why.  Placecards - seriously, if you have a table plan and table numbers, why bother with placecards saving  - 50p  Favours - years ago it was sugared almonds now it’s anything from a bag of sweets to a china plate or some freebie cosmetics to the most tacky thing possible, a scratchcard (think about it, what if someone wins £20,000 and keeps the cash, how will THAT make you feel when you've cut other costs to the bone?)

You don't need wedding favours, Another saving £2.50   Printed Napkins, these are even designed to go in the bin 50p each. Cigars for the gents at £5 each.. the list goes on. If it’s not something YOU would take home and cherish, don't bother with it. The pound shops do a roaring trade in things to use as table tat and everyone will know where it came from. Luckily they also sell bin bags.  You'll only save about £4-£7 a place by having stylish, clutter free tables... for 80 guests is £320 - £560!  (the same as a return flight to Dubai!!)

And PLEASE, unless you plan to get married in 1986 - don’t even THINK of wasting money on disposable cameras.

8 - Children! 

Some want them at the wedding, some don't but if you do, consider this. It's boring for them during the day, especially during the meal. Crayons are great until the hotel sends you the linen bill and hotel food for them is expensive. How about, spending some of that money on a children's crèche with an entertainer, and get the hotel to do the cheaper chicken nuggets and burger meal? The kids will love it, with enough of them it costs in nicely and what a great way to get the room quiet for the speeches

9 - The wedding night. 

What did our parents know that we don't?  After the first dance the bride would disappear, emerging 45 minutes later in her “going away outfit” A stylish, fashionable but comfortable outfit for spending the rest of the evening in and then, 30 minutes before the end of the party, the DJ would announce that the happy couple are about to leave and the guests would clap them out.  Taxi’s are cheaper before midnight and usually cheaper than a hotel room and come on, be honest, how classy is that? What happens now? The couple are sat in the room at 1am with the DJ and about five guests, she can’t stand, thanks to the shoes, he can’t stand thanks to the best man’s hip flask and they crawl off to bed in the bridal suite to be up again at 8 for breakfast with a 10 am checking out. What a waste of money!

10 - Know when to call it a night.

It was fashionable until 2 years ago to have a 1am, even a 1:30 finish, now it’s moved on and midnight is becoming the norm with many smarter weddings finishing at 11:30. Ask yourself now how do you want all your guests to remember your wedding day.  They all start drifting off at 11:30 anyway, it's been a long day is what they tell you but we all know that it's because hotel drinks are expensive, taxis are expensive, baby sitters are expensive and theres only so much buffet you can eat when what you really want is a kebab. Theres not much to be saved by finishing at 12, £50 on the room hire, £20 on the DJ , £25 on a round of drinks that get left on the table, but how superb to finish on a massive high surrounded by your guests, singing to you on the dancefloor and making an arch when you leave.

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So why am I telling you all this, surely my business is making a living from weddings?

It is true, but I see so many desperate brides having spent thousands on junk, struggling to pay for the cake, or the hotel bill when often, they could have an amazing wedding for so much less.

There are things to spend a little more on, a photo album will never become redundant technology or get wiped by the kids, real flowers smell amazing and you can press them and keep them forever or gift them to the parents and bridesmaids, professional hair and make-up will help the wow factor and make you feel like a princess, unless you happen to the groom. The function suite should be accessible and just a tiny bit too small, often the big ones are cheaper, but go for the atmosphere of a snug fit.

Evening entertainment is what makes or breaks the day, you really can’t beat a live band but please, never fall into the trap of “not needing a disco” The band play for 90 minutes, the van driver will play his CDs, not MY idea of entertainment! Photo Booths are affordable now, Candy buffets are fun and who can resist a caricaturist or a magician?

Never be tempted to assume you can do anything on the day before or the wedding day itself, you can't, you'll be too busy getting into “fabulous mode”

Most of all though - enjoy this magical time of planning your wedding, and have a fantastic day.

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