Memories of a £2,000 wedding

It’s amazing what you can find on the internet. We were reminiscing about our wedding day in South Wales, more than 17 years in the distant past, and I thought I’d look up the West House Hotel in our then home village of Llantwit Major, where we held our wedding reception. And what you do know? They’ve only got our thank you letter up on their website as a testimonial!

west house, llantwit major

Our Thank you letter to West House from May 1993

Anyone who is getting married, paying for their kids to get married or who is listening to friends talking about their wedding plans, will be aware of perhaps the biggest headache of weddings: the cost. It seems that everyone associated with the wedding industry, from the venues through to the caterers, the photographers and the cake makers, consider these events to be a licence to print money. At the same time those getting married are driven by the pressure to have ‘the perfect day’ and spare no expense in getting what they want.

Now I don’t want to sound like an old fart, but it seems that sometime after 1993 there was a major change in the wedding industry and the prices of everything took off as people caught on to the money that was available for these bashes.

It may be hard to believe now, but we did manage to spend £2,000 for the whole wedding, and in the end our honeymoon cost more than the big day itself. Here’s how we did it:

Wedding ceremony: Registry office in Bridgend, South Wales. £30

Reception: £9.95 per head for the afternoon meal (x 65 guests) plus £6.50 for the evening buffet (100 guests). Total £1300

Honeymoon suite at hotel: £60

Flowers: £85

Rings: £110

Wedding limousine: £90

Cake: £50

Photographer: £200

Disco: £80

Dress: £70

Invitations: £7.80

Ok, there were other minor extras, but these are the main items. People just hadn’t yet cottoned on to the fact that they could charge 5 times these rates and get away with it.The hotel for example, purely charged for the food we ate. They made money on drinks sales throughout the day and evening, and also on the full occupancy that our wedding guaranteed them. The cake and flower ladies charged very modest fees as you can see, as did the man in the village with the limousine.

The two cheekiest savings were the wedding cards (pack of 12 from the newsagents, £1.30; we just didn’t see the point of spending a huge amount on this item) and the dress. Sam had made friends with the local dressmaker, and she agreed to let Sam design a dress that she would then make and hire out to her for the day. Perfect!

It was a perfect day. We were blessed with a cloudless sky, unseasonably warm and the first chance our full family had to gather together for many years, along with many of the good friends we’d made over the years. On the face of it we did a wedding ‘on the cheap’. But for us our main thought was to get everyone who was close to us together for a grand party. No-one lived anywhere near Llantwit Major (in fact none of the guests lived in Wales) so they made a weekend of it and we partied hard for two days. We even had our stag and hen parties in separate pubs in the village the night before the wedding. Sam’s only fear was that I would turn up at the wedding with one eye-brow…

They are very happy memories, and I’m so pleased to see that the West House Hotel in Llantwit Major has kept our letter. For us the wedding was really about celebrating in style with our nearest and dearest, and as we were still relative youngsters at the time our style was not a lavish one. I shudder at the money that is spent on weddings these days: one person this week mentioned that they were spending £90 a head for the meal alone! Hearing these stories, it makes me glad that we married young. But then again, I don’t think we’d do it that differently even now.

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Freelance travel writer

6 Responses to “Memories of a £2,000 wedding”

  1. Tom #

    A lovely blog entry – and having met Sam you are a very lucky chap. Would you recommend couples approach hotels and say they have a budget per head and see what they can do? No need to mention its a wedding! I’m sure in this recession hotels would be pleased to have the business.

    May 21, 2010 at 9:55 am
  2. Thank you Tom. Maybe you’ve hit upon a business opportunity: the cheap wedding planner!

    I’m sure you’re right about not mentioning the wedding when you get a quote for a venue or related service. Most would not get away with charging business customers what they charge wedding couples. You’d think in these hard times the buyers would have the power over the hard-pushed hotels, but anecdotally they all seem to be doing very well. I guess people will always get married…

    May 21, 2010 at 10:10 am
  3. I agree with Tom, a lovely post Andy. Although having met you I would say Sam is a very unlucky lady!

    No, joking aside, it sounded like a lovely day and how fantastic to do it so beautifully for so little. It just goes to show that if you take on some of the project management of the day yourself you can shop around for both the best value and the best experience.

    A lesson for all couples preparing for their big days and not wanting to be paying for years to come.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:11 am
  4. Thanks Adam. Sam is of course truly unlucky and has carried her burden for over 17 years now. Some people get less time for murder.

    I suspect these days it’s still possible to plan a wedding without breaking the bank but it’s harder than it once was, given the way that businesses add a wedding premium to whatever they do. But as you mention, it’s a big price to pay for one day when you’re paying off the debts of your wedding day expenses for years afterwards.

    Cheap n Cheerful – let’s see if it’s available!

    May 21, 2010 at 10:25 am
  5. That is amazing that they have your testimonial online. I love that you didn’t spend a lot on your wedding either. We spent about $500. I am not kidding. It seems that people spend more time on putting on a show than enjoying the moment of getting married. Everyone we know that invested a fortune in their weddings are no longer together. We invested very little money on the wedding day, but we invest emotionally 100% every day of our 19 years together:)

    May 21, 2010 at 11:03 pm
  6. Wow, $500! It’s so true though, the stress of putting on a great show can easily overshadow what the day should be about. Congratulations on your 19 yrs together guys!

    May 22, 2010 at 11:24 am