5 Things You Realise When You Start Planning An Alternative Wedding On A Tight Budget

You’re engaged, yay! What now? A few weeks after my own engagement I took my first tentative steps towards planning our big day and very quickly had some big reality checks. Read on for 5 of the things you realise when you start planning an alternative wedding on a budget.

Wedding planning tips

Your wedding should be a day filled with love and happiness, but the run up to the big day requires a tangle of decisions to be worked through, many of which are constrained by a tight budget.

The most surprising thing for me so far has been the cost of a traditional country-house wedding compared to the quirky festival-style tipi wedding we ideally wanted. We’ve quickly learned that with our budget, the alternative wedding we want is well beyond our means. We aren’t prepared to save for years, life is for living afterall and we’re also not prepared to get into debt, which means we’ve very quickly had to get more realistic about the type of wedding we can have.

1. There are endless decisions to make and they aren’t all easy!

The prospect of planning a rustic low-budget, DIY wedding for just 50 or so people I thought would be a breeze and well within my abilities. It’s just a matter of making smart decisions, sourcing the things I want cheaply and making a lot of stuff myself to keep costs as low as possible. Oh how I laugh at the foolish optimism of poor, innocent past me!

It’s gradually dawned on me that there is a lot to do. I mean, not just a to-do list with things to merrily cross off before skipping on happily to the next thing, but what seems like a gargantuan list of endless decisions to be made.

Every single decision has a knock on effect to the next or previously made decision and for a short while this realisation sent my head into a bit of a spin. Actually that’s an understatement. As someone diagnosed with anxiety, I can honestly say I spent a good 48 hours paralysed by an overwhelming feeling of panic which didn’t feel nice. I never want getting married to feel stressful, I want the whole process to feel like a joy, still, it took a lot of inner wrangling to bring my anxiety levels back down after that initial spike.

The paradox of choice and where to start when there are so many decisions to make

Like many people, I often suffer from decision paralysis. This is a largely modern phenomenon which occurs due to the absurd amount of choices we have. Quite aside from this supposed choice being good for us, it’s a disaster for our mental health as we are constantly bombarded with options, continually having to weigh up the opportunity cost of making one decision over any number of others.

This can often lead to a feeling of paralysis, where instead of making life easier, it actually makes it harder and certainly more stressful. If you’re a bit of a science nerd like me, then I recommend the brilliant The Paradox of Choice which talks about the phenomenon, and it’s well worth reading to help you to understand why making decisions relating your wedding can feel so very stressful.

So where was I? Yeah, decisions. So many decisions and also realisations too. Realisations that you need to either be way more loaded than you are to have even the modest DIY wedding you want because everything, and I mean everything related to the wedding industry is so bloody expensive. Also the fact that planning even a ‘modest’ wedding means a serious amount of *yawns with boredom* budgeting and saving.

2. Your budget is probably much lower than it needs to be

I initially thought planning our wedding would be just like throwing a big party, albeit with a few extra decorations, a lot of Gin and Prosecco and a pretty dress thrown in. Before I started looking at the cost of getting married I had a vague figure in my mind and thought £4-£5k would probably do it. I know. Hilarious right?

But then I thought about the amount of time and work we’d have to put in and realised that unlike throwing a garden party, we’d be spread way to thin to deal with catering ourselves on the day on top of venue dressing, putting up bell tents and so on. So whilst we still want the wedding to be very personal and we want to make venue decorations, we’ve realised that extra costs like caterers are an absolute must.

On top of that, I started finding out the actual price of things; £2k to hire a small tipi, a futher £1.5k to hire a patch of grass to pitch it on (oh to be a farmer with land!), £2.5k for a decent wedding breakfast for just 50 people and we were already at the top end of our budget.

After the initial dizzying sense of panic and the certainty that there was no way we could ever afford to get married I got my head together and started thinking practically. As far as options go, a registry office is much too bland and just isn’t us, a traditional country-house wedding package really isn’t us, and with a mafia-like family, eloping isn’t an option either. So whilst we knew from the outset we wanted something quirky, rural and different, what we really want we quickly learned was well beyond our means.

3. Sourcing Suppliers takes way longer on a tight budget

If budget isn’t much of an issue it makes the decision making process much quicker and easier. You see a cake you want, you order it. You check out a venue you like, you book it. But when you’re on a super tight budget, you find the venue you like then spend the next month scouring the entire country in the hope that you’ll find something similar, but cheaper.

This alternative budget wedding lark takes way more time and effot to pull off than a traditional wedding with a higher budget, that’s for certain.

4. You need to consider your guests, not just yourselves

Our vision was very clear and we wanted rustic bench seating because it looks amazing. But then reality bit and we started thinking about guest comfort. Would aging parents be happy and comfortable sat on a bench with no back support for several hours?

Afternoon tea makes for a fun and quirky (and lets face it, cheaper) wedding breakfast option and early on, we loved this as an idea, but would our guests, many of whom will have travelled long distances and forked out for hotels to spend the day with us, be happy with a few sandwiches and cupcakes? Personally I’d probably be a bit peeved, so we effectively ruled this option out.

Similarly, street food seems like a really cool and quirky option but actually, would I want to go to a wedding and queue up at a van for food? Probably not. What makes a great wedding for me is always a good vibe, great food, music and endless booze, so whilst street food is a bit different, it doesn’t feel quite good enough.

We’ve still not really figured this out yet, but we do know that what’s different or quirky, doesn’t always translate into providing guests with a great day, and we want them to enjoy our day as much as we do, so getting this right is a big decision for us.

5. You’ll obsess over alternative ways you could spend your wedding budget

How about spending all that money on sorting the house out? Finally getting the wonky paving slabs in the garden fixed? Replacing the carpet that the cat’s been sick on and ripped up one too many times? How about paying off that car loan or overpaying on the mortgage for a bit? Or, more tempting still, how about just blowing it all on a really fucking amazing holiday?

As soon as I get close to making a decision that requires any substantial outlay, I start to think about all of the other amazing ways we could spend our budget and then decision paralysis rears its head again.

There’s definitely a big part of us that wants to blow the money we’re saving on travel, Gin and sparkly clothing, but at the same time, we want to give our dearest friends and family a really lovely day and we really do want to share our happy day with the people we love most.

The jury is still out on this one. When two hedonists have a bank account containing a few grand at their disposal you never know which way it’s going to go? 🤷🏻‍♀️