DIY Wedding

My dream wedding cost under £3.5k – here are my top cost-cutting tips

Nicholas Murphy

Just because couples spend an average of £24k on their wedding, doesn’t mean you have to! For proof, look to real-life brides Anna Hamillwho managed to organize her dream wedding with her husband for under £3.5k thanks to a few thrifty hacks, including recycling a friend’s bridal outfit.

MORE: The ultimate guide to wedding favors for your guests – from 50p

The 37-year-old from Ireland, who got engaged in 2011, broke down her budget during a chat with Austen & Blake. See how she saved money by utilizing her family’s cake-making skills, her bouquet-arranging abilities and more…

Loading the player…

WATCH: 10 of the most spectacular HELLO! exclusive weddings

Wedding dress

Cost: £55.39

Would you let your best friend not only borrow your wedding dress but also alter it? Anna’s generous childhood friend did after she fell in love with the embellished ballgown-style dress.

“The dress is a whole story of its own!” she explained. “A childhood friend got married in August 2011 (just before I got engaged, so I was beginning to think about styles and things I like) and she wore a dress that I wouldn’t have really considered usually, since my two criteria were for it to have lots of cute buttons at the back and I didn’t want a sleeveless dress, and this one was a corseted lace-up back and sleeveless.

“However, it looked so beautiful on her that when I got engaged, I asked if she would consider lending it to me. I went down to London to try it on, it fit, looked amazing, so that was that!

“With my friend’s permission, I carefully sewed some of a veil onto it to make it appear to have sleeves and unpicked this once I’d worn it to return it as she bought it, and it was absolutely perfect.

“This beautiful dress cost me a return plane trip from Edinburgh to London and a dry clean.”

Bridesmaid dresses

Cost: £220

Anna borrowed her friend’s wedding dress

“My bridesmaid dresses were made by a seamstress friend after I couldn’t find what I wanted in a shop at a reasonable price point,” said Anna.

She opted for electric blue floor-length gowns with a shimmery satin material, V-necks and fitted waists. They all wore their hair in curls and held a bouquet of fresh flowers, including sunflowers.

RELATED: ‘My DIY wedding day cost just £6k – here’s how’

MORE: 18 tips for planning a wedding on a budget

“I was the only one to have my hair done professionally, my bridesmaids are all really good at hair so they did each others’ and we all did our own makeup,” she continued.

“The groomsmen all wore black suits they already had for work with white shirts, hired waistcoats and bought cravats from eBay – someone was selling 4 in the color we were after! Perfect!”


Stationery cost: £70

Flowers cost: £67

Anna played a huge part in creating her big day, including putting together her own floral arrangements and DIYing some decorations – and this meant she spent less than £200.

As well as the bridesmaid’s bouquets – which the bride created with pre-ordered sunflowers and irises, and last-minute Sainsbury’s flowers – she also created all the buttonholes for the men.

The bride recycled bunting from her bedroom for the reception

“I also made little candle jars from pages of the book The Princess Bride and put tea lights in them. To go with this book theme (both my husband and I love to read) I also made some heart decorations with strips of book pages. I also made the aisle end decorations with teal and purple ribbon and some leftover flowers from the bouquets,” added Anna.

She also revealed that she recycled bunting from her bedroom, shopped in charity shops for tea cups and table cloths, and turned to eBay for her veil, florists’ tape, and cake decorations.

READ: Outdoor wedding inspiration for your post-pandemic ceremony

MORE: I saved £7k on my dream oceanside wedding in Jamaica – here’s how

Food and drinks

Caterers cost: £1,112

Nibbles cost: £160

Drinks cost: £126

The biggest chunk of their budget went on catering for the 120 wedding guests, especially since their big day covered the main meaning, post-ceremony nibbles and drinks, including wine and Schloer.

Anna’s mother-in-law baked the wedding cake

“Feeding 120 people is expensive no matter which way you cut it, and we wanted people to have quality food and plenty of it, so this is where we allocated most of our budget. The hog [roast] fed us really well and it was so beautifully complimented with sides and salads – coleslaw, green salad, potato salad etc,” explained Anna.

However, she managed to save thousands by creating her own cake, which was a joint effort between her in-laws and herself. “My mother-in-law made our wedding cake and I watched YouTube videos to ice it and decorate it as professionally as possible (I think I did pretty well, although it was very simple).”


Cost: £400

The couple chose a traditional Church that was ideally located for all of her friends and family.

The couple tied the knot in Edinburgh

“We got married in our church and found a church hall up the road (on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh!) which only charged less than £400 for the afternoon/evening including chairs, linen and crockery. We kept everything very local, so there was no need for transportation for ourselves or our guests,” she said.

They then moved to a hall where they played games and hit the dance floor with music from an iPod.


Cost: £350

Their big day was captured by their close friend, who didn’t charge them much for their photos. “Our photographer was a friend who was just getting started with her photography business. She was really good, and we’d seen her work as she’d shot a few friends’ weddings, but she gave us a really great price.”

MORE: Wedding confetti may be a thing of the past – so we’ve found picture-perfect alternatives

Planning your wedding? Sign up to HELLO!’s brand new Bride Guide newsletter for expert advice, budget help, wedding inspiration and real life stories delivered straight to your inbox.