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Mouthy Money co-editor Edmund Greaves married his now wife Ellyn in 2022. Here are six things they learned about money while planning their own nuptials.
Getting married was the happiest day of my life. But planning and saving to make that day the one of our dreams was laborious, stressful and, at times, very disheartening.
Through planning our own DIY wedding, we discovered a huge amount about ourselves and how we look after our money in the process. Here are six things that we learned.
1. Budget like you’re an accountant
Considering I work in the realms of personal finance media it was a natural fit for me to be the one who did the budgeting. I set us monthly savings goals and a created a spreadsheet to track the process of spending meticulously.
Every cost had to be accounted for and prices were scrutinised carefully to ensure we weren’t going above our budget.
Ellyn was very much the visionary and I, at times, felt like a penny-pinching accountant reining her in. This definitely caused tension between us but ultimately it was only really tight accounting for our money that meant we were able to achieve what we wanted.
But Ellyn also has an incredible eye for a bargain. For instance, the flowers cost us the grand total of £30 after she found a local lady in our area who made them essentially for fun via Facebook Marketplace.
We did have to make some compromises, but it ended up as the dream wedding we had envisioned thanks to being very strict at all times.
2. Cashflow is king
One of the most useful things I’ve ever learned about money is that it is not necessarily about how much you have of it in nominal terms, but how much free cash flow you can generate to keep ahead of your costs.
It is something investors pain over with businesses and is a really important metric of a healthy balance sheet.
We both earn monthly salaries and just managed our cashflow accordingly, so as to always be able to pay for the right things at the right time, managing suppliers to ensure we never had too much asked of us at any one point.
We never started with £XXXX in the bank then figured out how to spend it. We started with £0 in the bank to spend and had to work out how to save for the right things at the right time to ensure all our suppliers were paid when payment was due without overstretching ourselves.
We pushed all our suppliers to give us firm “pay by” dates and tried to get them to spread out over time so we could plan accordingly for things like the venue, food and other big costs.
Meticulously planning our cashflow month by month meant that we never had to resort to using a credit card or other form of debt to get across the line.
3. Work out how much you need to save, then add a lot more to that figure
Things went wrong, lots of things. This required money to fix. Plenty of it.
The total cost of our wedding came in just under £20,000. This is just over the £18,400 average cost of a wedding in the UK in 2022, according to Hitched.com. We had initially budgeted about £14,000, so ended up spending over 40% more than initially budgeted.
Once we had an idea of how much everything would (initially) cost, we pushed harder than this target and over-saved to ensure we had more than we needed.
The best-case scenario was that we’d end up with a load of savings leftover. The worst-case scenario could have been that we were left short.
Full disclosure, we did get help from Ellyn’s parents and grandparents too, which I freely concede made things easier, and for which we are extremely grateful.
But ultimately, we paid for around 70% of the event ourselves and wouldn’t have gotten over the line had we not saved more than we thought we initially needed (especially in relation to the next point).
4. Get costs in writing and hold them to it.
We started planning well in advance and lined up suppliers over 12 months ahead. At the outset we did this because we got engaged in the middle of the pandemic and wanted to wait until the world had calmed down a bit.
But we never got initial costs in writing (i.e. in a contract) and this was a huge mistake, especially as we went into a cost-of-living crisis in 2022.
Several providers, including the venue and caterer (two of the largest costs), hiked their prices on us at the last minute and forced us to dip into emergency funds less than a month before the wedding. They didn’t keep to their word and we but had no contract in place to protect ourselves.
Get one if you can and hold them to it. This mistake cost us over £1,000 to rectify ultimately.
5. Don’t be afraid to charge your friends and skimp on some things
We charged our friends for accommodation at the venue, a relatively small cost for them but something that saved us over £2,000 in total. No one seemed annoyed about it and giving it away for free just seemed overly lavish.
We also decided to encourage guests to bring their own liquor if they wanted to. We supplied wine, beer and soft drinks, and had plenty left over.
Getting the right number of bottles of gin, vodka, whisky etc was just impossible to discern so we left it up to people who wanted to drink hard spirits enough that they would bring it themselves.
Again no one seemed bothered – indeed quite a few people said it was a good idea. Better than having a cash bar too which just makes things more complicated.
6. Pay someone to coordinate on the day
One of the best outlays we made, although far from the cheapest, was to pay someone to actually coordinate everything on the day in the background.
It meant that we were able to actually enjoy ourselves and not worry about whether the cake was in the right place, the right music was played at the right time, or the benches were where they were meant to be.
We also had a major disaster with the caterer on the day and our planner Claire ensured that plans were made to feed all of our guests.
Ultimately when you get married you end up spending all this money. If you can’t actually cherish the experience on the day then what was it really for?
Photo courtesy of Lauren Dillon Photography
Edmund Greaves is editor of Mouthy Money. Formerly deputy editor of Moneywise magazine, he has worked in journalism for over a decade in politics, travel and now money.