Ideas for everyday living

How we had our perfect wedding on a tiny budget

The average UK wedding costs over £18,000 – but what if your budget doesn’t stretch that far? Laura Smith shares how she opted for a simpler celebration for less than £200.

We got engaged the night before our daughter’s first birthday in 2017. There was no proposal, it was more of a joint decision after chatting about the future. We chose a ring together about a month later and started looking at venues.

From the start, we knew what we didn’t want: formal, big, costly. We felt something outdoorsy, scenic and laidback was more our style. Wedding barns seemed to be popping up all over the country, but the costs surprised us. Five years ago, wedding barns in East and North Yorkshire – where we were focusing our search – were charging in the region of £6,000–£8,000 for a venue, music and staff.

Food and drink were extra, and the choice of caterer was non-optional. It already felt like a headache. Surely you shouldn’t start your wedding plans with disappointment?

Life got busy, and before we knew it, our plans for 2019 got pushed to 2020. Then to 2021, and finally 2022. Each time we rescheduled, it felt like venue prices went up a lot. And with the rising cost of living, paying over the odds for our wedding seemed more and more ridiculous.

So many people get pressured into conventional weddings by their relatives, and it becomes easy to lose sense of why you’re getting married in the first place. Desperately wanting to just be married, we decided to identify what aspects of a wedding were important to us. We settled on exchanging rings and saying vows in a beautiful location, and eating a special meal – just the two of us.

Naturally, we were worried about what friends and family might think, but we felt like we’d planned and changed so many options that revolved around keeping our guests happy, that now it was time to focus on what we wanted: a day that was just about us.

From that moment, it felt like we raced ahead. We let our wedding date be decided by the availability at our chosen restaurant – a posh restaurant nearby. Once we had a table secured, we were ready to go.

We booked the basic package at the registry office to take care of the legal side of things, but we were clear we wouldn’t mark this as an important part of our celebration – our wedding day is specifically the day we chose to mark with each other, not when we were handed a certificate.

On the day itself, we woke up to awful weather. It was a wet and foggy day in November, and I remember thinking about how much the rain can spoil some people’s wedding days. But there we were, packing an M&S picnic into the car, pulling our walking boots on, and laughing at how little the weather mattered because I’d skipped the white dress for my winter coat and hat!

We chose Dalby Forest in the end, a beautiful and secluded part of North Yorkshire, only a short drive from home. The mist made it absolutely magical, and due to either the rainy start or the fact that it was a random Tuesday in November, there wasn’t a single other person around. If you want an exclusive venue for your wedding, you can’t ask for much better than an entire forest.

We found a small clearing and sat calmly, just taking in the surroundings. It was silent except for a woodpecker somewhere nearby, technically our only witness. We read our own vows and exchanged rings in the mist. A glass of champagne in picnic flutes topped it off, before a beautiful walk back to the car as the light of the day dimmed.

Our day was outdoorsy and relaxed – but so much more special than we could have achieved any other way.

If you’d like to keep your wedding costs down and plan something a little simpler than usual, here are my top tips:

Laura’s wedding budget breakdown

M&S picnic, including champagne: £40

Entry to Dalby Forest: £5

Fuel: £20

Hot chocolates on the way home: £7

Meal for two: £120

Total wedding cost: £192

How we had our perfect wedding on a tiny budget | NatWest

Planning your big day? Try the Savings Goal Tool in the NatWest App – it could help you pull off the wedding of your dreams.

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Laura Smith

Laura is a freelance copywriter for charities and socially conscious brands.

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