Wedding Planning: Top Tips for a Budget Friendly Wedding from Sylvie & Joan

Here at Cwtch the Bride we are super busy preparing for CWTCHFEST – our massive wedding festival that’s being held on the 19th of April (you can buy tickets here!). On the day we will be holding DIY workshops managed by Sylvie & Joan which we’re sure will prove massively valuable to all you DIY brides to be, until then the lovely Emma from Sylvie & Joan will be sharing budget advice, styling inspiration and tips for planning a festival themed wedding on the blog. This week Emma is sharing her top tips for a budget friendly wedding – take note! Sylvie-and-Joan-logo

Top Tips for Budget-friendly Wedding Planning

Last time we looked at Wedding Planning – Where to Start? This week the lovely team at Cwtch has asked me for my top money-saving tips. When looking at the all-important question of budget, a key way to keep costs down is to prioritise, to chose your wedding team wisely and to modify (or do away with) some long standing wedding conventions.

The Venue

I’m sure you will have heard it many times but do look at the discounts offered by venues for mid-week or out of season weddings. You can save quite a bit! Or look for a non-traditional venue where you’ll be free from expensive packages and corkage fees.

The Dress

If budget is tight then consider shopping vintage. Take your bridesmaids for a day out and hit up your favourite vintage shops.Try on as many styles on as you can. Take photos and make notes  – what suits you and what doesn’t. If you don’t find the one, check out Oxfam Bridal and online vintage stores and sellers on Etsy and Ebay. 2

Don’t forget to take a good look at what the high street has to offer. There are some beautiful dresses out there to suit most wedding styles. With a few clever customising stitches, they could fit like couture!

ASOS £150

ASOS £150

ASOS £82

ASOS £82

You don’t even have to give up your dreams of wearing a sought after bridal designer on your big day! Check out designer collaborations for Debenhams and you could be a Jenny Packham bride for less than £200! And at sale times you can expect further discounts.

Or consider hiring your gown. The brilliant To Have and to Hire in Cardiff could have the dress of your dreams. They hire out gowns from Claire Pettibone, Suzanne Neville, Stephanie Allin, Jenny Packham, Ian Stuart and House of Mooshki. Kinder to your pocket and to the environment!

Jenny Packham Eden

Jenny Packham Eden


Great news for the wedding planning pocket – the days of copy and paste dress rules are over! Mix and match bridesmaid dresses look wonderful and embrace your bridesmaids’ individuality. Send them some pretty colour palette inspiration, invite them over for a styling party and create your look for the day together. We all have dresses we’ve bought and worn once (or not at all!) Ask your maids to bring along dresses they already own, crack open the bubbly, dress up, mix, match and swap!   

Image Source: Magnolia Rouge

Image Source: Magnolia Rouge

Image Source: Bridal Musings

Image Source: Bridal Musings

The Food

Think carefully about timings. A twilight ceremony followed by cocktails, dinner and dancing could drastically reduce your catering budget, doing away with the need for the traditional wedding breakfast followed by more food in the evening.


Image Source: Pinterest

If you do decide to feed your guests twice then make your wedding cake work for you. Go for a cheese tower that can be served as an evening ploughman’s supper combined with a sweet and simple dessert table.


Above two images from Style Me Pretty

Above two images from Style Me Pretty

Assemble a Wonderful Team

Decide which aspects of your day you want to DIY and which you want to source to trusted professionals. Having something created especially for you by someone who has perfected their craft is a great joy.

Take time to look through their portfolio of work and testimonials. Make sure you’re handing over your hard-saved wedding cash to someone who shares your vision and will work hard for you.

I know what you may be thinking but professional services can save you money. For example, a great stationery designer will ensure you get the best quality print for the most reasonable cost. Hiring a professional stylist can save you £££s compared with buying and handcrafting all your decor. Hiring a wedding planner can secure you big savings. They have a wealth of money saving advice, they can secure supplier discounts and a good planner will tell you what you need and what you don’t need!

An experience and talented photographer is invaluable. It may seem like a big expense but you are paying for a wealth of skill. If your budget won’t stretch to the photographer of your dreams talk to them about mid-week or off season discounts. Or set up a ‘photography fund’. Instead of wedding gifts, ask guests for a little something towards ensuring you have lasting memories of the day.

If you do decide that you’d rather have your wedding shot by a friend, don’t leave it to chance. Make a photo checklist and share it with them before the day. Photographers less experienced in weddings may not spot the details you have lovingly sourced and crafted – make sure they know!

The Honeymoon

Minimoon in Wales! Here are some of my favourite welsh getaways. Save a more lavish honeymoon trip for your anniversary – it will give you something to look forward to when the wedding planning withdrawal sets in! Plus you’ll have a whole year to save!

Happy Planning!

Emma x

For daily doses of planning inspiration ‘like’ Sylvie and Joan on Facebook or follow on Instagram and PinterestPoster-Web

Wow thank you Emma! What do you think cwtchers? There was some excellent advice there, have you any more tips that have helped you in planning a budget-friendly wedding?

Past Groom Top Choice: Marina Lois Events

Sometimes it’s nice to hear from people who have been there, done it and got the t-shirt. That’s why we have our regular past bride contributors on the site like CharlieSarah & Sophie, to give you all a bit of help while you’re in the midst of planning your weddings!

We also like to hear from our readers who are now married, especially when they have a vendor that they absolutely loved. What better than a personal recommendation from a bride or groom who’s already used that service for her own wedding? :)


The Details

Groom & Bride

Steve & Emma


When did you get married?

August 2011


Marina Lois Events

What do they do

Wedding planning

Why she stood out:

Marina was amazing. I bumped into her at a networking event and she caught us around a time where we were just starting to get things going on the planning/bookings front, but we were quite busy with our careers at the time, and so we were worried that we’d let the wedding planning slide if we didn’t get help.

Almost immediately, she pretty much paid for herself. Before finalising a wedding band ourselves, she found one for us that we preferred for £500 cheaper. So not only was she pretty much free (because she paid for herself) and even saved us some money overall, she took the load off by finding and recommending trusted vendors for us.

Then on the day itself, she was a star. I was a little unwell in the morning (mostly due to a hangover, no thanks to an usher who kept buying me drinks!) and with Emma tied up with getting ready, she was able to assist the best man and ushers with getting everything ready for the ceremony.

It’s my understanding that she’s now in the wedding supplies rental business (and that she might’ve stopped doing wedding planning). Her new site is

Steve & Emma’s photos were provided with thanks to Lee Dare Photography.

Are you a past bride with a lot of love for your vendors? Drop us a line at if you’d like to tell the world about it too! :)

When Things Go Wrong by Weddings by Rachel

It’s time for our third post from Weddings by Rachel – a professional wedding planner based in South Wales. Each fortnight she’ll cover a different wedding planning topic and this week she’s talking all about how wedding planners can help when things go wrong at weddings…eek! (You can see all the posts in this series here)


Sometimes you just have to admit that nothing is completely perfect. Things will inevitably go wrong on the big day, and it is my job (and a guilty pleasure of mine) to make things right before the couple even knows about it.

But even I can’t stop the rain from falling on an outdoor wedding ceremony, or the electric from cutting out during a first dance. Unfortunately these things have, and do happen, and the best thing to do is stay calm in a crisis and prepare for every eventuality you can!

Here a few examples of major and minor issues that I have had to deal with on wedding days and how I organised a solution. Everyone always thinks that it won’t happen to them, but I really do encourage you to consider the fact that there is a possibility, as slim as it may be, that something could happen to you.

Now, I don’t like being the bearer of bad news; quite the opposite in fact. I adore being the one to deliver the perfect wedding day for brides and grooms; and I am over the moon to say that I have had nothing but outstanding feedback since day one; but sometimes even I am faced with a challenge that makes me think “Oh no!”.

So here are some of the problems I have encountered, and what I did to resolve the problem, in the hope that it will help you be prepared for your big day :)

Problem: Delivery of the wrong cake


Now this was an odd one for me, because I wasn’t actually the planner for this wedding; in fact I was a guest. One of my close friends got married late last year and I was thrilled to be a guest and get to wear a pretty dress to a wedding!

However, when my husband and I sat down in the ceremony, I saw the cake set up on the platform in front and cringed. I was almost certain that it wasn’t the cake that they had ordered, after conversations with my (cake-maker) friend and bride, but as the ceremony was starting I was at a loss of capabilities at that moment in time. I couldn’t talk to the bride to make sure I was right.

I was, however, right, and was promptly informed when I asked the question. So immediately I sent the bride to get her glass of champagne and disappeared to make some calls. After many calls and demands I finally managed to rearrange delivery of the cake (which was two hours away).

The incorrect cake was promptly removed from the reception room and I waited as patiently as possible (I called every twenty five minutes for an update!) for the delivery of the correct cake; which by the way, was delivered to another wedding but had my friends’ names on it! Eek!

On delivery of the cake I checked it over for damage and we displayed it at the evening reception, opting for the cutting of the cake and photos at this time. This allowed the evening guests to enjoy it too, before it being cut and served after the evening buffet.

There was a silver lining though: my fabulous friend was known as the bride with two wedding cakes!

Problem: Blowing a fuse


This is never good; and is something that is completely out of your control. Unfortunately a bulb blew in one of the lights at this wedding, resulting in a blown fuse; cutting out all of the electrics in the venue. To make matters much worse it was during the first dance!

The second it went dark I moved like lightning to the band and DJ, which is where the catering manager was heading too; and organised for them to get the electric back on immediately. Knowing that they were on the case I went among the guest and ushered couples onto the dance floor.

The bride and groom didn’t want to dance for too long on their own, so while the lights were out I filled up the dance floor with additional couples. When the lights went back on the dance floor was full and many of the guests even thought it was planned.

Problem: Not enough food for the guests

This was one of those ‘worst nightmare’ moments at a wedding; for everyone involved.

This was an on the day package for me and I hadn’t worked with the caterers before. But this wedding was the only occasion where this proved to be a problem. Unfortunately the caterers arrived short staffed (three servers for 130 guests) and clearly without enough food!

During the starters I started to hear the servers telling the kitchen staff that they were running out of starters that people had ordered. When the kitchen staff advised there was nothing left, I jumped in and help create a unique starter for the remaining guests. Luckily, everyone was happy and I walked away from the kitchen relaxed and smiling, despite the momentary hiccup.

But then the real trouble came. There wasn’t enough food for over twenty guests during the main course. Everything was running late and kitchen staff were adamant that people had been eating more than one main course each!

Now this is an opportunity for a melt down – but, and I can’t emphasise this enough, it can’t be done! Calm, cool and collected is the only way in a terrible situation such as this.

I took the time to quietly speak to the guests who were without food and explained that there was a slight kitchen mishap. Unfortunately, the wedding was located in a quiet town away from too many amenities. Except a fish and chip shop.

Aware of the complications regarding time of going further afield, I quickly had to accept this as my only option. I discussed the options with the unfed guests, who were all quite happy with the suggestion; took orders and sent one of my very helpful assistants across the road with some cash.

Throughout the process I made sure to keep the bride, groom and the rest of the bridal party calm and relaxed, ensuring that there was as little worry as possible.

With things running late I organised for deserts to be served on platters to be eaten during the speeches, and we turned the room around in record time.

By the evening, guests were laughing about the situation, which in their eyes caused very little effect to the day itself.

My advice here – be prepared! Know your local area in advance of the wedding day. Although the likelihood of this happening is very slim, it has happened before and it is better safe than sorry! And please, speak to your caterers in advance – find out how many staff they are having and ensure that they are fully prepared, and make sure they definitely know how many guests are coming!

Problem: Melting wedding cake


I recently did a wedding where the cake maker was delivering a beautiful five tier wedding cake to Caerphilly Castle. I met the maker locally and took her up to the castle, leaving her to set up the cake as I worked on the room overall.

Shortly after our arrival I noticed some panic coming from the corner, and headed over to see what the problem was. It turns out the icing on the cake had melted in transportation and two of the tiers were not maintaining the beautifully smooth and elegant effect of the others.

Now, for those of you who take great pride in your work like this cake maker, you will understand the upset and worry that something like this can cause. She was trying so desperately to resolve the problem and smooth out the cake, but unfortunately it was not going to plan.

Taking a step back and reviewing the cake (and the room), I had a quiet word in the ear of the florist and salvaged some beautiful ivy that was being used to decorate the castle. Taking a stash of my emergency pins (I carry a crazy amount of emergency items); I cleaned all of the ivy and used it to create a ribbon around the damaged parts of the cake.

We also pinned some around the cake stand, making sure that it all integrated perfectly. This looked beautiful and fitted in spectacularly with the room. The bride and groom even commented on how perfect the addition was when they saw it later on!

Problem: Ripped wedding dress

This happens more than you think. High heels, rough floors and children are three enemies of the wedding dress.

This is why safety pins, an emergency sewing kit and someone who can thread a needle are always helpful to have on hand. I have had to sew up many brides dresses in the past to prevent them tripping up on the lining!

Alternatively, some pretty ribbon can work just as well and can be used to tie up a broken bustle hoop too, maintaining a beautiful effect :)

Problem: Rain on your wedding day


Living in Wales, rain on your wedding day can often be inevitable, so be prepared. Umbrellas, towels and jackets are always helpful to have on hand, and brides are becoming savvy to this. But if you are preparing an outdoor wedding, please think ahead.

The two top tips I can give are these: prepare the ceremony with a quick turnaround indoor option. It is worth not setting up a wedding breakfast until you can guarantee the weather is going to hold. Make sure that you’re going to be able to hold it outdoors so that there aren’t any last minute emergencies. Of course, if you have another room available, that’s perfect, but make sure it’s licensed in advance!

Alternatively, have a marquee or alternative available to pop up last minute in case of light rain. Please consider the location of it though. If you’re getting married on grass, think about those poor ladies wearing stilettos and try to get hold of a remnant of carpet to lay down should it get wet!

So! There are some things that I have experienced (and there were many more), but it’s worth considering everything for your big day. I have heard numerous other stories such as decorations falling down during ceremonies, guests falling ill during wedding breakfasts and much more. I have even had someone drive into me on the way to a ceremony before (I still made it on time; no easy feat I tell you).

But good preparation, or a wedding planner, can prevent you from having to worry about these things and relax and enjoy your day. Being laid back is great, but don’t be underprepared!

Please let me know if I can help with any preparation questions, or if something like this has happened to you, and what you did to fix it. Also, if there are any posts you would like to see here, drop me a line and I’ll do my best :-)

Lots of love,

Rachel xx

Introducing Weddings by Rachel

Today we’d like to introduce you all to Rachel from Weddings by Rachel – a professional wedding planner based in South Wales. Each fortnight she’ll cover a different wedding planning topic, from wedding planning myths to what to do if your day doesn’t quite go to plan. First up tho, an introduction! :)

RachelMatthewsHello, I’m Rachel and I am a professional wedding planner. Most people automatically think of either Jennifer Lopez or Frank from Father of the Bride when I say that. In fact, one of my fabulous brides has an ongoing joke with her neighbour about me ordering numerous swans and ice sculptures for her wedding, but I really am completely different.

My background is in marketing and events. I started planning weddings for family and friends four years ago and the following year I started Weddings by Rachel.  I am a fully qualified wedding planner, I organise weddings in Wales for clients based locally, all over the UK and abroad.

I’m married to my lovely husband and we are proud Pug owners! We got married in Usk three years ago and it really was the best day of my life (and the quickest!).

I absolutely love weddings – everything about them. I love the excitement in the build up;  I love the way a groom can go from nervous to completely in awe as the love of his life walks down the aisle; I love the speeches and the toasts; seeing children run around playing in formal wear; I love the dancing and, amazingly, I even love the clean up afterwards.

There’s something extremely special about spending a couple’s wedding day with them and I truly don’t think there’s a job like it. There are always ups and downs but being organised and ensuring everyone is enjoying the day is something I thrive on.

People always ask if it’s a glamorous job. My answer: it can be. I have had glamorous moments, of course, but I think the not so glamorous certainly outweigh them. But that’s half the fun of it, and part of the reason I love the job, with the added bonus of taking the stress away from everyone. After all – who wants the bridesmaids or mother of the bride running around organising everything on the day?

I’ve really seen all sorts at weddings, from grandma doing vodka shots from an ice-luge, to children’s dancing performances and a very questionable strip tease. Then of course there’s been the tears of happiness, the excitement and nerves, the laughter and, most importantly, the unbelievable love between the couple and all of their guests. Every single moment is one that never fails to put a smile on my face when I look back.

My job varies from wedding to wedding, but can include planning the entire day to being the on the day coordinator which allows the couple to sit back and enjoy the whole day without worrying about a thing.

Weddings really are my life. Planning a wedding is such an unbelievable experience for everyone involved and I strive to ensure that it is as enjoyable and wonderful as possible.

I hope you enjoy my upcoming posts and if you have any questions or need advice please get in touch here.

Rachel x