Photo: Getty

You’re getting married! Congratulations! Now it’s time to plan. The whole process can feel like a series of progressively more obscure customs, designed to cause stress and overspending, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can have a beautiful wedding on any budget, without a head of grey hair by the end. Here are the biggest secrets your wedding planner will never tell you…

1. Don’t worry about what people think

The engraved invitations? Tacky. Opting for a champagne gown rather than an ivory one? Tacky. Getting a groom’s cake? Tacky. No matter what you pick, someone is going to dislike it. Relax and get whatever you want.

2. Cut back on the flowers, and buy wholesale

Planners often have relationships with florists, so they’ll recommend you use their friends. If floral design is not a huge priority for you, locate wholesale vendors, or keep your flowers to just your bouquet. Do you love magnolias but fear they’ll be out of place at your January wedding? Ranunculus are going to be a quarter of the price and still as lovely. Your budget does not have to be sky-high, but if you’re imagining Monet’s Garden, it’s going to cost you.

3. Stop telling people you’re getting married

Fun fact: if you call a bakery and ask for a tiered cake, the price is lower than it is for a tiered wedding cake. A couple of dozen white cupcakes with butter cream icing are even cheaper. Consider getting one small cake, with which to do the ceremonial cut, and serving everyone else cupcakes.

4. No one will notice your origami place-card holders

The extras are fun to dream up, but are secondary at best. Your guests will remember whether there were enough chairs, sufficient food and drink and if the newlyweds seemed genuinely happy, but not much else. Don’t waste your money on inessentials, they really add up.

5. Bridesmaid dresses don’t have to be ugly or expensive

You needn’t buy your bridesmaid dresses at official bridal shops. The high street offers cheaper – and often much more stylish – alternatives, so consider buying from there.

6. Pinterest is your wedded bliss’ number one enemy

Think of your wedding board as an inspiration source rather than a model. It’s like bringing a picture of Blake Lively to the hairdresser’s and leaving expecting to look exactly like her. Your stylist can’t make you six feet tall and blonde, but they can do long layers. Similarly, I can buy peonies for your wedding bouquet, but I can’t transform a suburban country club into the Waldorf Astoria.

7. I know better than you do

You’re going to play a vital role in planning two or three weddings: yours, your sister’s, and your best friend’s. I’ve done dozens. The biggest day of your life is my Tuesday, so trust me: I’m going to great lengths to make this perfect and it will be.

8. Don’t do business with your friends, no matter how much you like them

Do you have a cousin who’s trying to get her photography business off the ground, or an aspiring DJ for a neighbour? That’s great, and you should definitely support them in their dreams. However, if Sheila overexposes every shot of your ceremony or Steve is incompetent on the decks, you’ll compromise your relationships with them and be crushed about your wedding getting ruined.

9. Your mother is going to drive you crazy

You might think your mother is cool and laid back, but trust me, once you’re getting married, a switch flips. You’re going to call me crying because she’s convinced you that you need foil-stamped custom cocktail napkins at your reception. And if it’s not her, it’s your mother-in-law or your Aunt Judy. There’s one in every family.

10. Buy, don’t rent

Renting tablecloths, plates, and forks is really expensive. Check and see if there are some on eBay you can purchase: you can get a couple of hundred cloth napkins for next to nothing. Buy cheap china plates and silverware from a restaurant supply store, then keep them in your garage for when you have big parties. Better yet: if you have some friends who are getting married around the same time, split the cost of these items together and share them.

11. Don’t do a cash bar

Throw the wedding you can afford: your guests will feel welcome, and no one will have to think about the proper amount to tip on what should be a carefree, fun day. For a cheaper option, try serving beer, wine and a signature cocktail instead of an open bar.

12. A staffed buffet is a good low-cost option

Multi-course dinners are great if money’s no object, but for most of us, this isn’t the case. To add a touch of formality to your buffet, try doing a staffed one. The cost will be lower because there’s less food waste (everyone is heavy-handed when it’s a free-for-all), and being served feels fancier.

13. Read the contract

Did you break off your engagement? The venue doesn’t have to give you your money back. Do you need to postpone because you broke your leg in a bicycle accident? You may have lost your deposit. Get your contract in writing, read it carefully and don’t sign anything that makes you uncomfortable. Any reputable vendor will help you and take your concerns seriously. Conversely, a lot of the shadier ones are actively looking to take advantage of you; if they’re suspicious, find another one.

14. All that matters is that you tie the knot

As long as the two intended people get married in the end, the wedding was perfect. Don’t lose sight of that.

From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK