I downgraded my wedding because of the cost of living – I swapped a stately home for a pub & fed guests cheap burgers | The Sun

YOUR wedding is one of the biggest days of your life and one that few brides would be prepared to scrimp on.

This was certainly the case for Harriet Mace, from Peterborough, who had her sights set on a stately home, a designer dress and a champagne reception.

And with a budget of £35,000 burning a hole in her back pocket as soon as her partner Ben, 23, popped the question on a picnic in September 2021 Harriet, 24, was ready as the next bride to spend big on her big day.

However, as data analyst Ben and social worker Harriet prepared to shell deposits on possible venues the UK’s cost of living skyrocketed leaving the couple questioning their options.

Speaking exclusively to Fabulous, Harriet says: “We didn’t want to spend as much as a house deposit on the wedding.

“With bills going up and generally the cost of everything rising we decided it would be obscene to splash thousands on one day.


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“In order to keep our bank account well fed over the winter months, we reduced our budget 

to £10,000, less than a third of our original budget and we didn’t quite spend that.”

While the couple, who met at York university in 2018, agreed that narrowing their budget was essential, Harriet admits the idea took some coming round to.

“I had always dreamt about my wedding so it was tricky to adjust my view of how I thought it might be,” she says.

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It's clear guests had a great timeCredit: Harriet Mace
Harriet let her bridesmaids choose their own dresses for the big dayCredit: Harriet Mace

“There is a stately home not far from where we live that I had always hoped to get married in but when I discovered that they were asking £13,000 for venue hire alone I knew I would have to look at other options.”

Desperate to find somewhere within 30 minutes of their church, the couple discovered their venue options were few and far between.

“We did everything to try and keep the costs down,” says Harritet.

“We looked at boats, we looked at hotels and entered competitions to no avail.

“Run-down hotels wanted to charge us £7,000 just to be there which was just outrageous. The cost of food was £183 a head for their basic package, and £215 for the next step up.

“We had 120 people at our wedding so it was just out of the question.”

In the end Harriet and Ben ended up bagging a FREE venue during a spur of the moment meal out.

“We went to the pub for dinner and at this point I was a slightly panicked bride as we hadn’t booked anything and the wedding was six months away,” she says.

“I was suddenly hit with a jolt of inspiration and I asked the owner if they did weddings.

“They had never done one but I agreed to have it on a weekday and said we could promise to get the guests to spend more than the typical clientele would.”

The owners agreed, charging the couple nothing for the venue and even offered to split the cost of the marquee so that they could use it for a festival in the days following.

And rather than forking out hundreds of pounds per head for a fancy three course meal, the couple snapped up the pub’s beer and a burger deal for just £12.99 for each guest. 

“I told my bridesmaids to wear whatever they wanted; one wore a prom dress, one wore an old  bridesmaid dress, and another wore one she had from a previous wedding."

That and a tray of brownies for dessert set them back just £16.95 per head with the couple then providing shop bought cheese and their wedding cake for the evening meal.

“It was the perfect solution for us,” Harriet says.

“The pub decorated everything for us and we didn’t have to pay that cost, we didn’t have to pay for chair hire because it was already there.

“The total cost of our food and drink for guests was just £4,800 and that included the cost of the pub brewing our own beer for the occasion and bottling 30 bottles for ourselves.”

It wasn’t just the venue that the couples made enormous savings on with Harriet finding ways to cut costs at every corner without sacrificing anything. 

“Everyone always recommends buying a dress off the rack if you want to save money but this isn’t something I was prepared to do,” she explains.

“Instead I went to a wedding dress shop, found one that I liked and then took a picture. I took that to a dressmaker and she made it for just under £600.

“As it was I spilled plenty down it on the day so it was a good thing that I hadn’t spent thousands.”

While Harriet had splurged on her dress slightly, the rest of the outfits for their wedding cost the couple next to nothing

She says: “Wedding shoes weren’t important to me, I have shoes, I don’t need any more shoes so instead my mum gave me her wedding shoes which became my ‘something borrowed.’

“I told my bridesmaids to wear whatever they wanted; one wore a prom dress, one wore an old  bridesmaid dress, and another wore one she had from a previous wedding.

“Equally we asked the groomsmen to wear a suit they already owned and got them all a tie in the Burton sale for £2.15 each.”

The couple were advised to ditch wedding favours as a way of saving money but the newlyweds wanted to find a unique way of thanking their guests.

Harriet explains: “When it came to wedding favours we bought everyone a book from a charity shop that was personal to them.

“Guests argued that it was one of the best bits of the day and it literally cost us £30 all of which was then given back to charity.”

Harriet says her big day was perfect, and in fact her only regret is that she spent too much money. 

Harriet & Ben’s wedding in numbers

Venue & food: £4,800

Wedding dress: £600

Groomsmen ties: £2.15 each

Wedding favours: £30

Photographer: £2,000

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” she says, “My only regret was that we weren't able to do it for any less!

“In fact some of the best things that we did to cut costs ended up being the nicest parts of the day like the bridesmaid dresses and the wedding favours.”

Following their wedding the husband and wife headed off on a luxury holiday around Europe and even found ways to do that on a budget.

“Because we didn’t ask for any wedding presents, people ended up giving us loads of euros for our trip, which really helped,” she says.

“We went away for two weeks and visited Paris, Milan, Nice and Monaco which are pricey places but we used public transport to make it cheaper.

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“We went from Nice to Monaco for £15 for two of us on the bus and then Milan to Nice for £10 for both of us on the train as flying would be ridiculous.

“It just proves that you don’t have to miss out purely because you’re on a budget.”

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