Folks don't get married all that often so unless you happen to be an event planner by trade you will be a beginner when it comes to planning your wedding. I have been directly involved in planning one wedding (mine) and what follows are some observations of where the significant costs and challenges arise. I have also been to lots of friends weddings so some of my observations come from those experiences.
First of all you have to come up with a number that represents what your prepared to spend. For this post to be relavent that number will need to be inside the range of £2,000 - £30,000 if it's not then you can stop reading now Then you need to work out the number of people you will invite, this may be two numbers one for the number you'll invite to the ceremony and one for the people coming to the reception. It might even be three if you plan to invite some to only the party in the evening.
The Location and date
You'll need to consider where your guests will be travelling from when you are looking for a location. We would all love to get married somewhere beautiful like the Amalfi coast in Italy, but you need to consider the practicalities. If you pick a remote location you will have to accept that some of your friends or familly may not be able to come. This comes down to the situation of your familly and close friends if they have small children then shipping the whole familly overseas to watch you get married will be quite an undertaking, it's best to ask them first before making this call. Equally if you and your friends are DINKS (dual income no kids) a wedding abroad might work well, a friend of mine did this and we had a great time.
The date you pick is all about giving you and your guests enough notice to plan for the big day. If you are going for a modest number of guests 30-40 and a simple ceremony then I think you should set a date six months or later. Most of the wedding industry like dress makers, cake makers, photographers will expect six months notice and some will charge extra if you need their services sooner. If you are planning a larger wedding 100-150 guests and then I would reccommend choosing a date that's at least a year away. We managed to plan a wedding for 160 guests in six months but I would not reccomend this, when we were talking to suppliers and told them the date was in August most assumed we meant the following year.
Potentially one of the largest costs is where you decide to hold the wedding, it also dictates how complex the logistics of moving & feeding guests will be. The simplest and cheapest option is to find a nice, large hotel and get married in the grounds and have the reception in one of the function rooms. This means your guests can book rooms at the hotel so they do not have to worry about transport to and from the church or how they will get home. If you go for this option you should ask the hotel if they will reserve rooms for your guests and you should also try and negotiate a discounted room rate. When you send out the invites you should inform your guests that they can book a room at the venue and include contact details. When choosing a hotel you need to check the room rates ideally you want a good range of rooms available at a good range of prices. If you are having a pay bar then check out bars drinks prices, some skillful negotitaion might secure a discount on the standard prices. You should also check that the hotel has ample car parking if your guests will drive to the wedding.If you have decided that you will get married in a church then ideally find a church that is close to the hotel you choose for the reception. You then might want to consider hiring coach to take people from the hotel to the church and back to the hotel. We did this at our wedding, the cost of hiring a 50 seater coach with driver for 12hrs was £500, smaller mini buses for less time are cheaper.
After the ceremony we invited all our guests back for lunch there are two options a buffet or a sit down meal. A sit down meal is about 3 times more expensive than a buffet for the same quality of food. If you are hosting the party (we had a Marquee in the garden) then if you have a favourite local restaurant ask them if they would be interested in doing the catering often this will be the cheapest option that guarantees nice food. If you are holding the reception in a hotel check before booking that there catering meets your expectations, choose your menu and ask to taste a sample in advance. Don't forget a % of your guests won't eat meat and some might have special dietry requirements you should probably put a section about this in your invitation. One wedding I attended starters were served at your table but when you were ready you went up to the buffet to get your main course. This worked well because it naturally staggered the guests and kept the queue at the buffet reasonable. The sit down meal at our wedding cost £40 per head.
We had a party after the meal and invited some guests just for the evening, this worked well as we maxed out the guestlist for the ceremony but could easily add people to the evening. We hired a live band which cost about £1100 but they were really good and got everyone up to dance I would reccomend live entertainment over a DJ if the budget will stretch to it. The band came with PA system and lights included.
100 Person Wedding Example Costing with entire wedding held at hotel
£2500 - Buffet
£1500 - Champagne & Wine with meal and toasts (Check if hotel charges corkage as this will increase cost)
£1000 - Function Room & Chapel Hire
£1200 - Live Music swapping for a DJ would be cheaper say £400
£2000* - Pay Bar @ £20 head, optional let guests pay, they won't get so drunk and thank you in the morning.
£1000+ - If you have a dress made min cost is £1000 sky's the limit though
£1000+ - Simple flowers for the ceremony & tables, shop around and you might find cheaper
£500 - Morning Suit Hire, cost will vary depending on number of ushers, if money is tight you might ask guest to pitch in.
£1000 - Wedding rings, you can spend more and you wont get anything fancy for £1000.
£750 - Basic Photographer cost will go up if you do not own copyright and you order lots of sets of prints
£500 - Cake, personally I would not bother with a cake.
£300 - favours
£400 - Gifts for best man / bridesmaids / mother of the bride / mother of the groom
£50 - Wedding invitations if you make your own
£200 - registrar for ceremony
£500* - Cars / Limo for transport optional