Decorating for your Wedding - Money Saving Tips

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In this guide we've pulled together some handy tips and ideas for decorating on a budget. We've focused here on how you can save on your flowers and table decoration, a part of the wedding budget that can so easily run out of control but really doesn't have to.

General tips 

  • Shop for as much as you can on Ebay! It's a huge and very competitive marketplace, so you are most likely to get a great deal here and should be able to find everything you need

  • Try to find a seller who can supply everything you need and offers capped postage. Their individual prices may not be the cheapest on everything, but overall you could save a lot of money on shipping and you might be able to negotiate some discount if you have a big shopping list. Find someone who has a good range of products, good feedback and answers your questions promptly

  • If you can't find everything you need in one place, it's always worth asking the seller if they can source and list other things for you. Most  business sellers have good trade contacts and will have access to most products even if they don't normally list them.

  • Try to give as much notice as possible, so that your seller has time to get hold of whatever you need if it's not already in stock. Please make sure that special orders are properly listed for you - don't be tempted to make arrangements to pay directly and trade off Ebay - it's against the rules and doesn't protect you if anything goes wrong. If the seller won't list them for you, find another seller who will.

  • If you are on a tight or fixed budget, don't be afraid to tell sellers (politely) - it will help them suggest the most appropriate solutions

Buying Your Flowers

  • The first choice is whether to go for fresh or silk flowers. You may have a particular preference already, but if you haven't decided yet, consider the following pros and cons:

  • Silk flowers are likely to be more expensive per bloom than fresh unless you can get a really good deal. They look lovely, with the best flowers being extremely lifelike, but of course don't have the scent of fresh flowers. 

  • On the other hand, silk flowers are much easier to work with, and can be arranged well in advance of the big day.  If you're not confident enough to work with fresh flowers, or won't have time in the last couple of days, using silk will save money overall 

  • Our preference would always be to use fresh flowers, purely for the fragrance, but you might opt for a mixture. Consider perhaps having fresh flowers for your bouquet and buttonholes, but using silk for everything else  

  • When buying silks,  you can often get mass produced bouquets at very low prices, even in pound shops and cheap high street stores.  Most of these are frankly not good enough to be carried as your main bridal bouquet, but they are a great source of material. Buying two or three and chopping them up will provide you with lots of flowers and a good mix of materials. If you need to extend the stems, it's very simple to add a wire and some stem tape to make the stem longer.

  • We are often asked where to go for discounted fresh flowers. There is very little point in trying to get into to a wholesaler or wholesale flower market - they will almost certainly refuse you without trade credentials and besides which only sell in huge quantities. You can try a high street florist, but don't expect massive discounts. Their business is built around supplying premium quality flowers in bouquets and arrangements, and they would much rather be doing your wedding flowers than supplying you with the means to do them yourself! 

  • The best approach by far is to find someone who sells flowers to the public, but doesn't arrange them. If you have a good, reputable local market stall, ask them to quote for your order. You could save 35% - 50% off retail if you are buying in large quantities, sometimes more if they can pick up a good deal for you.

  • Whoever you choose as your supplier, make sure that you build up a good relationship with them and check in often with them to make sure everything is OK. You don't want to be let down at the last minute, so get a written quote with their trading name, address and company number.

  • All flower arrangements need a good proportion of foliage - it is essential for balance and is also a very good way of padding arrangements out if you want to cut down on flowers. It can be expensive in its own right though, so have a scout around to see if there is anything suitable in your garden or even your friend's garden! Ivy is an obvious thing to look for, but many garden shrubs also provide great material. Have a trial run well before the day, pick some of each one you plan to use and try it in a bucket of water for 2 or 3 days - you will find out quickly if some subjects don't keep well or refuse to take up water.

  • If you are planning to have a lot of fresh flowers and foliage, make sure you lay in a good supply of flower food to add to the water. It's best to get them delivered 3 days before the event so give some thought to how you will store them. You will need plenty of buckets -  try asking at the local supermarket or one of the high street fruit & veg stores that also sell flowers. They often throw their black buckets away when the flowers are gone, or sell them off for pennies.

  • Regarding where to store them, most flowers will need cool storage if they arrive ready to use. Have a warmer place indoors for anything that arrives in tight bud, a couple of days in a warm room will open them out to perfection. Cut all the stems on a slant as you unpack the flowers and plunge them straight into a bucket of cold water with flower food added. If you have time, remove the lower leaves so that they don't start to rot in the water. It's best to consult a good book or floristry guide on the best treatments for each type of flower, especially the tricks of the trade to revive anything that is a bit wilted.

Tips on Sundries and Accessories   

  • Polypropylene ribbon, usually sold as Florists ribbon or Curling ribbon, is fantastic value for money. Use it instead of fabric ribbon wherever possible. Keep to one or two colour themes and use it for everything including decorating the wedding cars. A standard reel of 2" ribbon holds 100 yards, while a full size reel of curling ribbon contains 500 metres, so they go a very long way.

  • Ribbon loops (short loops of ribbon on stub wires) are brilliant to insert amongst flowers, both for colour and texture. It also helps to make flowers go further

  • Florists plastic trays are also great value, and by far the most cost effective containers to use. Use them with florists foam, and you can create the smallest or largest of arrangements

  • If you have a lovely container to use but you're worried it isn't watertight, get a piece of florists cellophane and line it. A good tip to do this is to push an oversized piece of cellophane in loosely and slowly add the water. Let the weight of the water pull the liner down, and only then trim or tuck in the top edges to prevent cutting it too short.

  • The internet is full of free and really useful advice on floristry techniques. Most libraries also have some excellent books that cover everything from basic techniques through to wedding designs. If you don't have access to the library, keep an eye open for floristry books in charity shops, where you can find some brilliant source books for a couple of pounds.

Decorating for the Day

  • Wherever possible create arrangements that are easily transported. Have a friend on standby to take flowers from your ceremony to your reception, then you can enjoy them in both places and halve your costs

  • If it's a church wedding, you will need to find out the protocol for decorating. Some chuches will allow flowers only in certain places, others have no preference, but you may be able to share flowers with other people using the church on the same day. There may even be a group of regular church arrangers who will work with flowers that you provide. If you are planning to do everything yourself find out what the arrangements for access are and work out when you will be able to do the bulk of your decoration. 

  • Aim to have a display to greet your guests when they arrive, something pretty next to you while making your vows and flowers on the altar if you're in a church. Any additional displays are a bonus. Have your bridal flowers with you while signing the register so they can be included in your photos

  • Be creative - make your own confetti cones and pew decorations. The easiest way to bring a little colour to pew ends is to tie on a pull bow, but you can also use the little plastic 'shovel'  holders with a little florists foam for a small arrangement with pretty trailing ribbons.

  • Simple wicker or willow wreaths also make lovely pew end decorations. With a twist of ribbon around them and one or two flowers wired on they look really pretty.
  • If you really long for a particular decoration but it's just not cost effective, check around local hire companies. Topiary 'trees', flower stands and much more can be hired at a fraction of the cost of buying. Some florists will hire out even if they are not doing your wedding flowers, and there are usually local businesses who specialise in wedding flowers, all good sources to try.  
  • Don’t forget the ‘magic’ of pins, wires, tapes and foams -  study what the trade uses to make life easier. It's really worth investing in a good 'holding spray' for any fresh flowers - it seals the flowers and foliage, gives them a lovely glossy shine and keeps in moisture to extend their life dramatically.

Bouquets, Buttonholes and Bridesmaids Flowers

  • One of the biggest savings to be made is doing your own bridal flowers. It's perfectly possible, with some preparation and planning, the key is to choose a design that you will be confident making and practice beforehand

  • Bridal magazines and website forums have loads of good advice on choosing the best bouquet style to suit you, your style of dress, your height, etc. The simplest constructions to make are generally the tied, shower or sheaf bouquets rather than the very formal wired ones. Whichever style you choose, have a practice run or two before using your proper flowers. 

  • Do something simple but effective for bridesmaids and flower girls. A pretty basket of dried petals is beautiful and can be prepared in advance. You could make simple circlets of flowers or combs for young bridesmaids to wear in their hair, or use small hoops wrapped in spirals of ribbon for them to carry. With a handful of small silk flowers wired on they look stunning and can be made very quickly and cheaply.

  • Buttonholes and corsages in fresh flowers require some wiring knowledge, but it's only a matter of practice. Buy cheap, short life flowers to learn with, and master basic wiring and stem wrapping techniques. A good tip for keeping wired flowers fresh is to soak tiny pieces of cotton wool in water and place them under the flower head while wiring. Overwrap them with stem tape to conceal the cotton wool and seal the moisture in and your flowers will last longer. Test how long you can keep them looking nice, and you will be able to decide how far in advance you can make them for your day. They often keep very well inside a plastic bag in the fridge, just ensure your fridge isn't set too low as you don't want to partially freeze your flowers

  • If you're giving bouquets to Mums, bridesmaids and maids of honour at your reception, this is definitely something you can do yourself. If you can, learn the technique of spiralling the stems round to make a hand tied bunch, and wrap in cellophane with a water reservoir - it means you can have them ready earlier and they will keep well. If you're more confident making a sheaf style bouquet, take a large piece of cellophane and start to layer your flowers directly onto it, wrap the cello over and finish with a nice bow and your own message. You can buy everything you need to make beautiful, professional looking bouquets for very little.  

Favours and table decorations

  • First and foremost, don’t feel you have to go overboard with decorating and providing favours. If you want to give each guest an individual favour that's fine, but if you don't do it no-one will think worse of you!

  • Some of the nicest favours are the most unusual, and it shows a real personal attention to detail if they are handmade. Consider giving each guest a small pinch of seeds of a flower that has a special meaning for you, to plant in their garden to mark the day, or give small bags of petals or herbs.

  • If you have enough time, you could dry your own flowers in advance and make a card for each guest with a poem or personal message and a pressed flower petal inside. Your keepsake cards can also double as place cards, giving each guest their own memento of your day.

  • Bags and favour boxes can be a huge expense. If you are going to give bagged favours, you can make your own very easily with cellophane and tissue paper. Cut a small square or circle of each, add your favour contents and gather up like a tiny moneybag. Tie off with some curling ribbon and you have a pretty little favour bag for pennies.

  • If you're planning on using glassine paper within your favours or order of service (the translucent paper that is so popular now) we've always found that a pad of good quality tracing paper works beautifully and is much cheaper. You can even print or stencil onto it too.

  • Table confetti isn't a big expense, but you will get much better value for money if you use dried petals or grains of lavender. Freeze dried petals are very expensive, but there are lots of beautiful, naturally dried petals available - roses, delphiniums, hydrangeas and angel wings all work really well and look lovely.

  • If you are decorating the reception venue, shop around for great deals on organza fabrics, sheers and coloured muslins. Gathered and swagged with ribbons it can look fantastic. Low voltage clear fairy lights also look wonderful shining through it.

  • If you want to work with fabrics and are no good at sewing, there is a dressmakers' product which seals cut edges and stops them from fraying. If you can't get hold of any, clear nail varnish works a treat and does a very similar job.

  • Candles are great value and very romantic, either floating or used in flowers. If you want candles added to your table decorations, look for the cheap plastic holders that push into florists foam. They come in a range of sizes to hold anything from a dinner candle up to a pillar candle, and are a doddle to use.

  • An alternative table decoration if you don't want floral displays everywhere is to have a lovely extravagant bowl of frosted fruits. Piled up on pretty dishes with some trailing ivy they look great and can cost less than flowers. Be warned your guests may try to eat them (but at least you would save on a dessert course!)

  • If your reception is completely self catered, check out the costs for hire of table linen, crockery and cutlery - it really can cost less than buying disposables and is so much nicer. Lots of supermarkets offer free glassware hire if you buy wine from them.

  • You can create a beautiful wedding cake for a fraction of the price of a handmade cake. Several big supermarkets sell plain iced fruit cakes in a good range of sizes - it may be best to pre-order so that you know you can get everything you need. You can buy pillars from a good cake decorating shop, add bands of ribbon and decorate it lavishly with fresh or silk flowers. We created a stunning 3 tier wedding cake for under £85 this way!

A Note on Safety

  • Whatever your plans for the day, please make sure that you follow basic safety precautions. Light candles with care and never let them burn down close to flowers or foliage. If using fairy lights, don't overload electrical sockets, and if fabric is to be used near to lights or candles make sure it is fire resistant. It also goes without saying that any materials used in direct contact with foods should be food safe.

Finally

  • Try not to get too caught up in wedding fever, do whatever works for you and most of all, enjoy your day. All the smart and fashionable ideas in the world aren't as important as having a great atmosphere, happy guests and a truly memorable day.

If you have any questions or comments about this guide, you are welcome to get in touch with us. Please use the 'Contact Member' form, or visit our Ebay shop

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