Real Bride, Wedding Advice

How to Plan a Wedding. Part 1: The Budget

Hello! I am Georgie, the founder of Gigi & Olive, lover of all things weddings, gifts and parties! In August 2021, I got engaged to my wonderful boyfriend of 5 years. He proposed when we were on holiday in France, which was incredibly special; we met in France 5 years before, and it has always been our favourite place to visit. 

As a huge wedding lover and someone who thought she knew a lot about the industry and planning process, I was so excited at the prospect of organising my own. However, in only a couple of weeks, I have learnt that planning your special day is daunting - especially if you're not a planner by nature. I know many people who follow Gigi & Olive are going through the same process. So I thought I would start my wedding blog. In each blog, I will outline the pros and cons of my decisions about each stage of the wedding. I will share my discoveries, tips and, of course the hidden costs - there have already been quite a few!

Part 1 - The Budget

First things first, it is tough talking about money. I know it's not the sexy part of weddings, but it's critical to determining every decision moving forward. There is no point in going to see five venues that you can't afford. It will waste you and your partner’s time and may make you feel resentful that you can't do what you think your dream wedding should be. There are so many fantastic options in the UK and abroad that suit all budgets, but you want to get yours clear before you start pinning your hopes on a venue. There are no rules on what a wedding should cost; it's simply what you can afford and want to spend.

My advice with the budget is to be as open as possible with your partner, and your family if you're lucky enough to have them contributing to your wedding. Have these conversations upfront so you have a clear understanding of what your total budget is. Don’t leave it until you've signed contracts with suppliers to have difficult conversations because it will only leave you and others feeling anxious.

Once we had a budget, my first step was to create a spreadsheet with all the known (and unknown) costs. A document that would account for every penny spent on the wedding and what percentage of each supplier should eat into that budget. This was a key task to see what I wanted to spend money on and where I thought I could save. I read somewhere that the venue should be no more than 20% of your budget and that the flowers should be 10%. But honestly, I think it comes down to what are your key priorities! Everyone will be different- maybe you have a dream photographer (I do!) or you're obsessed with a fantastic band (I am!), or you have a Pinterest board dedicated to flowers. Whatever it is, I suggest writing down in order what your priorities are. My top 3 are:

  1. Venue 
  2. Photographer 
  3. Date

We went back and forth on the venue, which has a major effect on the budget, whether abroad or in the UK. I initially thought abroad would be more expensive, but I found I was wrong when I started enquiring with key UK venues. In a hot country, you have to find a venue with an excellent outside area, but you don't have to hire a marquee. However, in the UK, for the reasons we all know, you must have a wet weather plan! If it's a house with grounds, but not with a large inside area for you to host your reception, you then may also need a marquee, which is surprisingly expensive, particularly if you have to pay for the venue and marquee. This is only relevant if you're having a big wedding (more on venues in the next blog!)  

My fiancé and I were pretty flexible on the date. We were keen on a date in the summer or early autumn, as we both have hectic work months in May, June & July. So August or September was good, and we didn't mind on what dates. However, we were keen on a weekend or Friday. So my task was to find a venue in Aug / Sept that worked for the wedding photographer.

Does the number of guests you invite affect the budget? Yes, for sure. For example, if you're planning a civil ceremony or a micro wedding, you're going to have less food, drink, staff costs and equipment hire. There is also a lot more choice on a venue for city weddings if you're looking at a guest list of around 80 people; there are plenty of restaurants, hotels and other great event spaces. However, once you get over that 100+ mark, the budget goes up considerably because you need the more extensive infrastructure, such as a marquee, flooring, heating. Although those costs won't differ dramatically whether you're having 100 or 150 people as those larger structures fit that amount - it is mainly the catering and alcohol costs that would increase there.

A good piece of advice is not to leave a lot of payments until the last minute, especially if you have a year or more from engagement to your wedding - Spread costs out! If Christmas or your birthday falls during your engagement, ask family for something to help your wedding budget. I wouldn't ask friends to pay for your hair and make-up, of course! But you could ask your partner,to gift your something you've had your eye on for the wedding, something to make you look beautiful on the day, such as a Gigi & Olive bridal robe!

Lastly, you do still need to think about Covid and protecting yourself as much as possible. For example, could you book suppliers who will be flexible on date changes if there's a lockdown? Is there a venue that has a fantastic cancellation policy? What wedding insurance is best to protect your budget? Having spoken to 100's of brides who had arranged their weddings pre-Covid or during, they were, of course, very stressed dealing with ever-changing travel rules, national lockdowns, date postponements/cancellations, all while having to wait with their money tied up. 

We did look seriously at several venues in France as I would have loved to get married there. However, I found all their contracts were based on French Covid rules. So they would not refund our deposit if, for example, France went on the UK's red list and none of our guests could travel, and would that count as an explicit cancellation if only some guests could come - you can see I went down a real rabbit hole here! So who knows what will happen, but I decided I would feel more comfortable in the UK at a venue with a Covid policy that allows you to rearrange or cancel your date. I also think that the UK wedding suppliers, who have had such a tricky 18 months, have been incredible over this time. There is an amazing sense of camaraderie, and I have seen so many working with couples to move heaven and earth to make their dream weddings happen. Those are the people I want to be part of our special day.

Three Big Hidden Costs:

  • VAT - I know this may be an obvious one, but I hadn't considered it. You need to pus 20% on everything based in the UK.
  • If you want to go abroad and want your UK suppliers, you need to cover their flights, and if still relevant, their Covid tests - this really adds up for things like live music.
  • If a venue is not providing staff - you will need to pay that in addition to your catering costs. Most catering companies have it as an easy add-on, but you do need to consider that it won't just be cost of food per head, there is labour as well and at the moment labour is in short supply so expensive. 

Three Top Tips:

  • Cash in any favours, like a friend or relative who works for a drinks company.
  • A venue with a marquee or orangery on-site is a big win as it means you don't have to pay for both venue and marquee. 
  • If there is a place you could get married in that you don't have to pay for, such as a big garden, a family or friend's house, your partner's aunt’s barn … whatever! Don't knock it; go and have a look. You can do more with your budget with your flowers, a photo booth, your dress, the cake if you're not paying a fortune for a venue.  

Enjoy the process! I’m loving it; it’s fun seeing it all come together and being organised takes away (a lot) of the stress. Remember no one cares quite as much as you do, and that's ok! Smile, you’re marrying the love of your life. 

Now, on to the Guest List….