Championing Brides in the credit crunch - the story behind the Chief Bridesmaid - the budget wedding expert.
1st February 2007 - Sitting at breakfast whilst on holiday in Sydney, my boyfriend asked me a very important, if rather unexpected, question - will you marry me?
Happily agreeing, our minds ran riot with a thousand ideas for our Wedding day - stags in Vegas, Vera Wang dresses and bucking broncos for the reception were all high up on the Agenda, until we came down to earth with a bump.....
Eventhough our wedding budget was by no means small, mention the "Wedding" word and costs suddenly inflate beyond all recognition. Even modest plans for a Wedding, suddenly appear to be hugely expensive. Far flung stags, expensive wedding dresses and high cost entertainment were all out of the question.
Yet all the experts in Wedding mags had filled my head with expensive must-haves - designer shoes, extravagant wedding flowers, elaborate bridal jewellery - they seemed to be all about spending as much as possible, rather than saving money. No wonder the average cost of weddings had doubled in the last 10 years to over £20,000.
But I vowed it needn’t be like this: I would find a way of having our dream day without driving us both into debt. I didn’t want a “cheap” wedding, but I was going to make damned sure that I didn’t get ripped off, overspend or overlook cheaper wedding options just because it was my wedding day. We learned to realise that there is nothing wrong with trying to save a bit of money on your wedding day.
Even though we were experiencing the credit crunch,no-one seemed to be giving no-nonsense practical advice on getting good value on your wedding day. It was then that I got the idea for The Chief Bridesmaid (originally known as Wedding Saving Expert) - a free online guide helping Brides with how to save money on their Wedding day and make the most of their Wedding budget in the credit crunch.
24th May 2008 - the happiest day of my life - my Wedding
So I didn’t have Jimmy Choos – but I had some beautiful wedding shoes from LK Bennett (£10 reduced from £170!). So we didn't have a bucking bronco, but we had a great local Carribean band that cost less and offered as much in the way of comedy value. So we didn't have quite the Elton John-style Wedding extravaganza we'd anticipated, but because we were right for each other, it was still the most perfect day imaginable.
We may have made a lot of refinements to our initial plans (no Rio for Jem, but he still had an awesome stag), but these didn’t feel like compromises, because we spent on the elements that felt most important to us and saved money on those elements that weren’t. This was our mantra when it came to wedding planning –and now one that I hope to instil in every bride who reads The Chief Bridesmaid.
And The Chief Bridesmaid was born....
Following the wedding, I decided that Brides had got an unfair deal in the market for too long, and it was about time that someone championed their right to a fair deal and better prices. It’s not fair that people should take advantage of you just because it’s your wedding day, and I wanted to put an end to. Even if a Bride doesn't want to have a low budget wedding, she is absolutely entitled to have a good value one. I would do my utmost to ensure that this didn’t happen to any other Brides and Grooms out there. it. The site was born as Wedding Saving Expert and was subsequently re-branded as TheChiefBridesmaid.co.uk
6 months later
The credit crunch and subsequent recession was deepening beyond all expectation. The Brides I'd been speaking to were worried about keeping their jobs, nevermind funding an expensive wedding. Having expert advice to help Brides avoid going into debt became more relevant than ever.
Early one Tuesday morning, I received a phone call from my husband - "exciting news, I'm going to be looking for a new job" - like thousands of others in the country, he'd been made redundant.
I thought back and thanked god we hadn't got ourselves into wedding debt. You never know what lies around the corner, suddenly our income had more than halved and if we'd been paying off huge credit card bills from the wedding, we'd be in a far more serious situation than we are now.
Weddings can be good value
It's about fighting for our right to a fairer deal in the market. It's about asking the right questions, shopping around and not thinking that spending money on your wedding day will make the marriage any stronger. When you're doing something just once, it's easy to emotional spend, thinking that it has to be perfect. But overspending and wedding debt won’t make your wedding day any more special – if you’re getting married for the right reasons to the right man, it’ll feel perfect whatever brand your shoes are. Remember it’s the marriage you really ought to be investing in, not the wedding day.
Good Luck & remember: see saving money and cheaper wedding choices as a reason for celebration rather than sacrifice.
So let's start saving ladies - I know you can do it!
Have a wonderful wedding day - being married is awesome.
With lots of love from the Chief Bridesmaid, Lucy Elliott xoxo
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