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Beating the Wedding Budget

Can you have a barn wedding for less than the average wedding budget?

#weddingbudget #barnwedding #weddingplanning

Autumn is upon us. It’s evident in the birch trees up the drive way, along with many of my Stratton Court Barn brides turning their heads to their wedding budget. And it’s so important! There’s nothing worse than seeing a bride in despair close to the wedding day, when everything that’s been booked and planned for needs paying…


With this in mind, I’ve set out to “beat the wedding budget”. The average cost of a UK wedding is based on Conde Nast’s “Brides” magazine’s extensive annual survey and results. Here we go…


Place of Marriage: £2790

Ok, starting off easy. If you choose to have a civil ceremony at Stratton Court Barn, you have to pay £500 to the Registry Office for them to facilitate the marriage, attend on the day and handle all the legal requirements. Stratton Court Barn charges £400 on a Saturday for ceremony room hire charge.

SCB cost: £900


Reception Venue: £3919

Let’s head off-peak here to save pennies (November-April) but keeping it to a Saturday to make it easier for your guests. Did I mention that I have some November and March dates free next year?!

SCB cost: £3000


Catering: £3959

This figure surprises me, as it’s actually really cheap. Most catering companies charge around £65 for a three-course-meal if they’re VAT registered, with an additional £7 per person for canapés. You will also be looking to spend another £1000 on a food van (hello, wood fired pizza!) or hog roast or buffet to feed between 100-150 people later on in the evening. And then there’s the drink on top!

However, as the aim here is to beat the average, I need to pull out the ace up my sleeve in the form of S&J Cuisine. Lovely people with delicious “pub-style” home cooked food. Canapés; starter of home-made soup with great big bread-basket; main course of local butcher’s sausages, mash, onion gravy and vegetables; and dessert of sticky toffee pudding comes in at £30 per person. Big batches of freshly baked toasties or great big paella cooked in front of guests comes in at £700 to serve 100 people for the evening.

At Stratton Court Barn you can get away with offering your guests a glass of prosecco for the drinks reception at £4 glass, allowing ½ bottle of wine per person for the meal at £16 per bottle and another glass of prosecco for toasting at £4, so that works out at £16 per person on average. The bar is open if guests want to buy more.

SCB cost (based on our average of 70 day guests, 120 evening guests): Food £2800. Drink: £1120


Photography: £1046

Again, a figure that is hard to go any lower on if you want to use a professional. This makes me think that a lot of couples use a friend or family member who is handy with a camera, as most professional photographers charge £1500-£2200 for full day coverage. “Full day” tends to mean bridal preparation through to first dance. Often with an assistant photographer for large weddings.

Luckily, I have Dan Rayner Photography on tap, who offers a mega discount for Stratton Court Barn couples at £900.

SCB cost: £900


Flowers: £638.

This makes me sad. I do appreciate that on this particular subject I’m completely brainwashed. But I do think that weddings require flowers… Forget the table confetti and lit-up LOVE letters and the cute little wicker hearts you saw in Hobbycraft. Save every penny and spend them on real flowers! Instant class. But yes, real flowers cost a lot.

My recommended florists Flowers by Kirsty and Willow & Thyme both charge a similar amount. Sticking to the “basics”: 1 x bridal bouquet at £70, 2 x bridesmaid bouquets at £45, 5 x buttonholes at £5, 7 x low design centrepieces at £40 and a long-and-low arrangement for registrar’s table and then top table at £75

SCB cost: £540


Cake: £300

The obvious money-saving trick here is to ask someone you know, who loves baking cakes, to do one for you. However, after witnessing an endless amount of - there is no way of sugar coating this one, no pun intended - disastrous home made cakes, my recommendation is to avoid it. Plus, the poor people who have baked the cakes are normally a shivering wreck of nerves by the time they arrive to set it up! Leave it to the pros. Tell them your budget and ask what they can do in return. Charlene at Cherry Tree Cakerie is a wonderful lady, who would be happy to discuss your requirements.

SCB cost: £300


Entertainment: £773

Most professional bands will charge £1500-2500, and they’re worth every penny! There are also a lot of not-so-great bands out there that unfortunately turn up with an attitude, only to proceed in emptying the barn of people with their hideous noise. So, my recommendation here is to stick with a really good DJ. Tony Nanton at Sugarbumps comes in at £500. I have also had the good fortune to come across a great local band called The Vents. They wowed us all when they last performed at the barn. And “only” charge £700. It’s a win.

SCB cost: £500


Wedding dress: £1378

Shopping for your wedding dress can be the most wonderful experience, and every bride does deserve her once-in-a-lifetime dress. This normally comes with a price tag of around £1500. Unless you want a Jenny Packham or Berta Bridal dress, in which case you’ll need to at least double that figure. The answer to this conundrum is Sample Sales. For those not yet initiated, it’s worth knowing that the dresses hanging in the bridal shops are not actually the ones you walk away with once you’ve chosen your dress. That particular style and size is then ordered from the fashion house selling it. Expect up to 6 months for delivery. It then needs to be altered to fit you perfectly. Sample sales are events when the dresses on the retailer’s hangers are actually sold off… at a much-reduced price. The gorgeous boutique Butterfly Bridal in Bicester regularly holds sample sales.

And the internet has much to offer. You can find real pots of gold on Sellmyweddingdress.co.uk for example. Today I found an exquisite Charlotte Balbier dress “Lillie Mae” in perfect condition for sale for £750 (retails for around £1300). And a Maggie Sottero sample sale dress for £500 on the site Preloved. Now that’s a bargain!

SCB cost: £750


Shoes: £161

If you ever needed an excuse to buy a pair of Jimmy Choos, your wedding day is IT. But, let’s face it, when are you going to wear a pair of white or ivory high heeled shoes after your wedding day? If you can resist the siren call of the Choos, you will find classic wedding shoes at ASOS for £70. Or for my funkier brides, customise a pair of Converse sneakers for the same price.

SCB cost: £70


Headdress/Veil: £138

The classic veil remains a firm staple, but is not always necessary. They tend to come off after the drinks reception anyway (they get in the way) and sometimes obscures beautiful hair-dos. A headpiece can add a real unique twist and doesn’t cost nearly as much. A gorgeous piece will set you back about £45. And f you’re going with real flowers in your hair, it starts as low as £25.

SCB cost: £45


Beauty: £301

Yikes, struggling to fit within this one! If we consider “beauty” to include all the pre-day prep: manicure, pedicure, (light!) spray tan, lashes, waxing …£100 is already spent!

As for the on-the-day beauty, here I – once again – recommend sticking to a professional. You won’t regret it. They will highlight your best features, making you look picture-perfect on camera, and will make sure your hair stays in place all day and night.

Debbie Mac Hair & Make-Up Artist is reasonably priced. She charges £180, to include both hair and make-up. But then, to be honest, you’ll probably feel the need to shell out for a couple of bridesmaids too, which means another £90 per bridesmaid. Oh dear, failed this one.

SCB price: £460


Groom £439

Apparently the groom needs some kit too! A traditional morning suit with waistcoat is £93 to hire from Moss Bros. Give it a unique touch with personalised cufflinks, like the ones you can get for £35 on notonthehighstreet.co.uk, and a smart tie and shirt from Charles Tyrwhitt or the likes. That’s another £45 plus £35. Add your choice of shoe – make the most of having a Paul Smith in Bicester Village – at around £170, and the man of your dreams is set to go.

SCB cost: £378


Attendant’s outfits: £436

I have made all previous calculations on there being two bridesmaids. If you buy the bridesmaid dresses from a bridal boutique, count on them being around £150 each. I suggest you hit the online shops or the high street instead. I’ve often heard the argument “but what if one of our guests turn up in the same dress?”. So far, this hasn’t happened. But to be on the safe side, perhaps consider ASOS (they have a great collection!) instead of Coast. You will easily find a dress for £45 each. Shop for shoes while you’re there! Add another 2 x £30. Most couples opt for the best man to wear a similar suit, shirt and tie as the groom, so there goes another £173.

SCB cost: £323


Engagement ring: £3037

Wedding Bands: £809

Needless to say, perhaps, but high street jewellers like H Samuel and Beaverbrooks do really good-value pieces. But something that’s going to be on your finger for the rest of your life, really deserves to be unique. Here I can warmly recommend independent Oxfordshire jeweller Biagio. A classic princess-cut centre diamond, with a band of princess cut diamonds, on a white gold ring, will set you back £1525.

The female wedding band needs to match the metal of the engagement ring, so that’s another £168 for a white gold band with a small diamond. For the men’s ring, I suggest considering the metal Palladium. It’s equally graded to platinum – but cheaper. A thick, manly ring with a little bit of detailing is £394 in white gold or £549 in Palladium 950.

SCB cost: £1525 + £549


Other wedding jewellery: £176

Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Something Old, Something New. This is where you can hit two birds with one stone: borrow something from a friend, relative – or my favourite, something from your Mum or Grandmother for sentimental value! – and you’ll have covered both the borrowed and the old bit.

SCB cost: £0


Conde Nast BRIDE’s Magazine’s National Average Wedding Budget: £20’300

SCB Average Wedding Budget: £14’160


The very good news is that I’ve managed to shave £6140 off the national average! But then, I can’t help to think, this does not take in to account other wedding details, such as transport to and from the venue, overnight accommodation, additional items such as guests book and card box, and oh, don’t fairy lights from Oakwood Events look magical… Not to mention the honeymoon. But I’m going to stop while I’m ahead!


NB. And if you haven't already spotted them, check out my complete-package offerings (available at £7000 or less!)

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