IF the question was popped on Valentine's Day, you are probably already planning your nuptials.

The average cost of a wedding is now £25,000. But many people cannot afford that when they are struggling to pay the household bills. So the Herald has come up with some tips to make sure your big day doesn't come with a big bill.

Draw up a budget

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Think carefully about how much you can afford to spend - and stick to your budget. If not, the costs could spiral seriously out of control. A number of websites have useful tools that can help you keep track of your wedding costs. Try www.hitched.co.uk.


It's always worth asking for a discount, but if a supplier won't come down on the price, find out if it will include any extras for free.

Bear in mind that many companies automatically increase their prices when they quote for weddings, so you don't always need to mention the marriage immediately.

In the know

Do you know any cake-makers, chefs, dressmakers, photographers, florists or musicians? If so, why not ask them to bake a cake or arrange the flowers as a wedding gift? You'd be amazed at the talents of your friends and family.

Name the day

Most people get married in the spring and summer - and Saturday is the most popular wedding day. So it's perhaps no surprise that suppliers push up their prices at peak times. If you are happy to get married in the autumn or winter, you can cut the cost by 50% or more.

Similarly, you will pay less if you opt for a wedding on a different day of the week, though it might not be so convenient for guests.

Hall for hire

Couples spend an average £4000 on the reception venue, but there are cheaper alternatives if you are prepared to be flexible. Perhaps you can find a village or church hall. Or maybe the local community centre or sports club. Website www.hallshire.com allows you to search for halls for hire in your area.

Keep the numbers down

Limit the guest list to close friends and family and you could cut the cost of your wedding by hundreds of pounds. Remember it's your day, so you don't have to invite great aunt Maude.

Food glorious food

If you want your guests to sit down to a three-course meal, you are in for a bill shock. A buffet usually works out cheaper. If you have the freedom to organise your own catering, contact independent suppliers, such as local cafes or restaurants, or even a catering college.

Or why not ask each of your guests to bring along a dish, though you will probably have to co-ordinate the offerings so you don't end up with 50 trifles.

What a corker

Everyone loves a free bar - except the person picking up the tab. So make sure you limit your drinks bill by reverting to a cash bar above a certain amount. If you take your own booze to the venue, you might have to pay corkage, so check in advance.

Cut the cake cost

Wedding cakes can be surprisingly costly, especially if you opt for full-on tiers and icing. But did you know that you can buy fake tiers to give the impression of luxury without the expense? Alternatively, you could choose a simpler cake or perhaps something a little different such as cupcakes or a chocolate fountain.

Sounds good

You don't have to pay for a DJ or a live band; all you need is an MP3 player or an iPod. You can even make your own personal playlist.

Cheap chic

A wedding dress doesn't have to cost thousands. You can buy an off-the-peg dress for a few hundred pounds at stores such as Debenhams and TK Maxx. Thrifty brides can also hunt down a bargain at a charity shop. Oxfam even has specialist bridal departments in some of its stores. Or why not try websites such as www.sellmyweddingdress.co.uk or www.eBay.co.uk.

Get crafty

Some couples spend a fortune on invitations, place names, decorations and flowers. But why not arrange your own flowers, using blooms that are in season, or even wild flowers? You can also decorate the venue with cheap but charming effects such as fairy lights and bunting. Place names can be a painted pebble or a photo.

And you can send e-invites rather than pay for cards and postage.

Photo finish

Professional photographers can charge hundreds of pounds for their services, but do you really need albums of posed photos? Why not give every guest a disposable camera? You are sure to come up with some fabulous photo memories.

If you insist on a professional, it might be cheaper if you can pay by the hour.

Take cover

Wedding insurance typically costs about £50 and usually covers unavoidable cancellation of the wedding, perhaps due to injury.

You should also be insured against loss or damage to the wedding dress, as well as presents, cake, rings, flowers and any gifts for the guests. But always check the terms and conditions of the policy.