Summer wedding: our reporter reveals her money saving tricks
I’m of Polish heritage and my husband was born in Poland, so we decided to hold our wedding in his home village in the north-east of the country.
In Poland, weddings aren’t just one day affairs, they’re an entire weekend, but we were confident our budget, once exchanged into the local zloty currency, would cover the pre-wedding party, wedding day and after party.
We were saving up for a deposit for our first home at the same time so we didn’t want to get carried away, which is easy to do especially if you go to a wedding show or fancy venue. So we decided on a £7,000 ‘budget’, though we could probably have stretched to £10,000 if needed.
Organising a wedding abroad, even when you’re fluent in the language can be difficult and at times, you may feel like throwing money at the situation. To avoid this happening, we started preparing a year in advance.
Here are the money-saving tips I learnt along the way:
1. Hire a car for a week rather than a wedding car for a day – saving £300
This was one of the easiest savings we made. We looked at classic and premium cars, including a driver for the wedding day. The cheapest we could find was £600 for the day, expensive for what it is and especially in Poland where you can get more for your money. Instead we trawled car hire websites such as TravelSupermarket and Skyscanner and managed to hire a premium car – BMW/Mercedes or the like for a whole week, adding one of the ushers (he doesn’t drink) to the insurance policy. It came to £300, a saving of £300.
2. Pounce when the currency is high
We used a Polish money transfer site called Sami Swoi. Although it charges £3 a transfer, we consistently found the rates were better than those offered by currency exchange comparison sites. We tracked the rates as much as we could and hoped to get a much needed boost for our foreign currency. But you really can’t time the markets and when we transferred £3,000 at 5.82zl, we thought we were getting a good deal. A few weeks later it shot to £1 for £6zl so again we transferred another £1,000. It tended to hover around the 5.60zl mark but since then and after the Brexit vote, the value of the pound has dropped significantly, meaning an exchange of sub 5zl. You just need to pounce on a good currency exchange rate when you see it.
3. Haggle – we saved nearly £1,000 on rings
We decided to go to Hatton Garden in London (not the cheapest of places) to buy our wedding rings. We knew what we wanted so opted for our own designs. There are so many things to consider such as the diamonds, the band style and whether you want gold, silver or even platinum. Based on our designs, the rings came to nearly £4,000 – much more than we expected. After haggling, we managed to get £800 off the price.
4. Compliments cost nothing but can save you some money
A couple of years ago we received two free tickets to The National Wedding Show in London. We spotted a company that created personalised wedding cake topper figurines and so we took the business card for the future. Two years down the line when we were ready to order them, I contacted the company with a quote inquiry. They responded promptly but I was in no rush to confirm the order. The staff then emailed me back asking if I wanted to proceed and so I knew at that point they wanted my custom. I said we’d really like the figurines and we loved the idea from when we saw them at the wedding show two years earlier, but realistically, it was just out of budget (£109.95 plus £19.95 postage). I asked if there was anything the staff could do. Bam, the next email offered a 15% discount off the item price, excluding the postage. This meant we paid £113.41 instead of the £129.90, a saving of £16.49.
5. Hit the sales
As we had time on our hands, I was able to look for dresses for my four bridesmaids in the sales. However, we couldn’t find something everyone agreed on, so in the end I bought some dresses online I thought the girls would all like. It was a gamble, but I knew that due to the distance selling regulations, I could take the dresses back for a full refund. They were originally priced at £69.99 each so for four girls, this added up to £279.96. However, the dresses were on sale with 20% off so I saved nearly £56, paying just under £224. I also bought my wedding shoes in sale, they were £130, down to £34, an absolute bargain.
6. Decorations – rope in the bridesmaids to help you save
I decided to make our ceiling decorations rather than buy ready-made tissue paper pompoms. A quick YouTube class later and I knew exactly what I needed to make them. I bought a few off eBay (£1 each) just in case mine didn’t turn out but with one of my bridesmaids helping, we made four bin bag fulls with around 400 coloured tissue paper sheets for around £15, including strong translucent string.
7. Confetti – dry your own flowers
In Poland, confetti is mixed in with rice and small coins so when they’re thrown, the bride and groom compete to collect the most – tradition dictates that whoever picks up the most wears the trousers in the household. With a 100g bag of confetti (real flower petals) costing £12.75, it was a big cost to provide for 80 wedding guests. My mother-in-law kindly offered to dry some flower petals, saving us in the region of £60.
8. DIY photo booth
I’ve been to a number of parties and events where the hosts hire a photo booth for guests to have a bit of fun and to take away a memento of the evening and I wanted the same for our wedding. The location was obviously the biggest issue as hires tend to last a few hours on the day of the event and lugging one to Poland clearly wasn’t an option. So instead, we ordered around £50 worth of props, a scenic background and my much-hated gadget – the selfie stick.
9. Talk is cheap
Everyone will ask you how the wedding planning’s going and they’ll be sick of you talking about it in the last stressful weeks of the big day. But telling people what you’ve still got to sort out or what you’re struggling to get can really help. I was in a panic over chair covers. Time was running out and the cheapest I could find to buy cost £130. My best friend mentioned that a friend of hers often put on events for family gatherings and her community in her spare time and she was sure she owned some. Voila, as I’d met her friend a few times, she was happy lending them to me and there was no strict time limit to bring them back. That’s a £130 saving, minus a few pounds as a thank you present.
10. Something borrowed
As the wedding saying goes, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. My friend lent me her tiara that she wore for her own wedding day over two years ago and it formed my ‘something borrowed’ for the day. A saving of £35.
11. Second hand wedding dress
Some brides-to-be are lucky in that they find their perfect dress the first time they go for a fitting. Mine was a little different, I must have tried on about 25 in total. But my no.8 appeared to be the one. It was a Maggie Sottero dress that cost £1,000 brand new. I simply couldn’t justify spending that amount on a dress I would only wear once. Not being precious about wearing a second hand dress, my friend helped me set up an alert on eBay. Any time anyone logged that exact dress for sale, I’d get an email straightaway. A few weeks later the dress in my size came up and it was for £500 – half the price. I snapped it up as quick as I could, but because our house was being renovated, it wasn’t until March 2016 that I actually tried it on.
It was originally my size but had been taken in to fit the previous bride, though I was told no material had been cut out so it could be taken out to fit me. Four months later when I tried it on, it was much too small and sadly, there was no material left to take it out. I contacted eBay who said I was out of their time range for a refund and then I contacted PayPal which has a six month guarantee (I was at 5 months at this point). Lucky for me, it found in my favour and I got a full refund, minus the cost of sending the large box back to the owner. eBay can be a great place to pick up bargains, though if you decide to buy your wedding dress there, either arrange to try it on before you buy and pay for it, or try it on as soon as you get it – don’t wait four months like I did and stress that you’ll be out of pocket and with no time to get an alternative.
12. Know when to drop the ‘W’ word
With some places, as soon as you mention wedding, the price is bumped up. But when we went to get our wedding fragrances, we mentioned we were getting them for our big day. The woman behind the counter kindly gave us £5 off and added in some free samples.
13. Data roaming – don’t get hit with big bills
As an O2 customer, I signed up to its £1.99 per day roaming bolt-on, giving 120 minutes, texts and enough data to surf abroad – much cheaper than the £6 per MB for using your phone abroad without the bolt on.