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Saturday 20th April 2024

We’re getting married: Venue vexations – where the hell do we start?

Fiona McAra and her fiancée Lavinia are getting married! In this new series, Fiona will be keeping Mouthy Money updated on how they get on with the money side of planning a wedding

I can happily say that getting engaged was the best day of my life. A big part of that was the ease of it all. I made a plan, roped in an accomplice to help me execute it and done. Smiles and a few beers all round.

Planning for the event that will top that day has thus far been less simple. 

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Firstly, budget. Weddings are outrageously expensive. In 2021, the average wedding cost was £17,300

Add inflation into the mix and by mid 2024, when we hope to tie the knot, I have no doubt the average will have breached £20k. That’s almost a house deposit, or a fair chunk of one at least, depending where you live. 

While I have no intention of getting near that dreaded figure, I have a nasty feeling we might. I may be fiscally responsible, but my fiancée is more of a financial free spirit. Exceptionally generous, but not to her saving accounts. 

So, where have we started? 

Venues have been our number one priority. While we’re still not 100% sure where we’ll get married, (UK or abroad), we’ve been scoping out potentials and trying not to cry at the costs. 

The criteria? Somewhere nice, where we can do everything all in one place. No hopping from church to reception – if I’m in heels, it needs to be a few steps away.

There’s also another issue – family. Wherever we get married, at least one set of family is going to have to fly in due to this Germano-British union. Therefore, we’re ideally looking at venues with onsite or nearby accommodation for ease – no doubt adding to the cost. However, the rationale is if we’re going to spend a lot of money on this event – it would be nice to actually see people and have them nearby!

This brings us onto numbers. Catering costs per head are rocketing, and means the dream of putting money behind the bar is rapidly disappearing (sorry in advance to any potential guests). 

While the average is £65 a head, I can tell you that places I’m looking at for 2024 are all around the £100 mark – with big price rises from 2023 costs (thanks, inflation). Add in late night snacks to sober people up, and for 80 people it’s getting pricey. 

Venue cost aside (which on average clocks in at a cool £7,600, not including catering), our budget could also be broken based on what day we get married. 

Without thinking I automatically opted for a Friday, until I was reminded that Saturday was preferable for the likes of teachers, many of whom we will likely invite. The result? An average of a £1,500 venue cost increase. Ouch.

While we have oodles of time to sort this, it does make you wonder about spending so much on one day or weekend, when prices are rising exponentially. We’ve already had to turn down a group trip to Bali as a result. 

Despite both being desperate to go, high flight costs means we were looking at nearly £1k just to get there. Add in accommodation, and £2k each minimum looks hard to justify when you’re scraping together for something bigger (albeit which will cost nearly 10x more and for one day…).

So, aside from panicking about my bank balance, what have I learned thus far? Well, for those in a similar position, I’d recommend the following:

  • It’s cheapest to get married midweek. If you’re not fussed about what day you tie the knot, Wednesdays are better value.
  • Some venues do an all-inclusive option – it’s never going to be perfect as it’s catering for the masses, but it is usually an attractively priced option.
  • Don’t tell venues it’s for a wedding initially. It increases the price.
  • Try and lock in at 2023 prices if they haven’t released 2024 prices yet. It’s cheeky but if you know it’s the venue for you and you’re happy to put your money where your mouth is, it’ll likely be cheaper than waiting a few weeks.
  • Set up savings accounts to help manage the costs. As a natural saver, I have a lump sum set aside which is currently yielding a little interest in an easy access account. If you’re starting from scratch, there are some decent rates going at the moment for monthly saving accounts. While you don’t need all the funds ready and available from the start, it’s good to keep building and capitalising on compound interest – every little helps when it comes to a wedding!

Photo by Evelina Friman on Unsplash

Fiona McAra

Fiona is a senior PR professional. After working across a range of sectors, she has now found her home in financial services, looking after clients in retail investing, crypto and digital transformation. When not at work, she enjoys a round of golf, walking her dog, Parsley, or trying to organise her wedding.

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