When Pippa Middleton marries James Matthews on Saturday every feature of the day will be realised in exquisite detail, with no expense spared. But is Pippa out of step with the times?
While a glass marquee might be nice for some, her fellow millennial brides are turning their backs on horse-drawn carriages in favour of homemade decorations and a few drinks at the local pub.
Costing somewhere between a new car and a house deposit, the average wedding day in 2016 spiralled to an average of £27,000 outside London and £38,000 inside the capital, according to wedding planning site Bridebook.
But some couples are only spending a fraction of that amount, and say their day is just as special.
Katherine Varley, 33, married husband Josh, 31, in a dress she bought for £40 from Brixton market.
The couple met at the primary school where they worked. With Josh on a working holiday visa from Australia, to avoid being apart they were married six months later on a budget of £5,000.
After their private ceremony at Wandsworth Town Hall in south-west London, they threw a party at the Dukes Head Pub in nearby Putney, with 70 guests.
To keep costs low, the couple enlisted friends and family to help with their big day. A family friend baked their wedding cake while Katherine’s cousin did their photography. Another friend bought the flowers in bulk from New Covent Garden Market, while the couple made their own invitations and thank you cards.
“I have witnessed close friends planning large weddings with much greater budgets and it has shocked me by how carried away it can get financially. They have all been stunning and truly wonderful days but when you compare those budgets to potentially being deposits towards buying a home, it seems unnecessary,” says Katherine.
The average cost of a wedding dress has fallen 25% year-on-year, according to online fashion retailer Lyst, from £1,329 to a still-not-insignificant £832.
Engagement rings – which according to convention should cost between one and three months’ salary – have seen spending fall to £1,080, an average of 19% less than a decade ago, according to insurer Protect Your Bubble.
Pippa’s sister Kate may have driven the trend for coloured stones rather than a traditional diamond, thanks to her famous sapphire engagement ring.
Meanwhile, 2017 has become the year of the High Street wedding dress. Whistles, Asos, Topshop and Dorothy Perkins have all launched bridal ranges this year, joining the likes of Phase Eight and Monsoon.
Karen Whybrow, owner of vintage and bohemian bridal boutique Rock the Frock, thinks couples are dispensing with tradition to throw a wedding that reflects their personalities – and doesn’t cost them their house deposit.
“In the six years I have been in the industry things have changed massively. Brides have become much more individual in their tastes – they don’t want the traditional anymore. It’s been led by the desire to have something a bit more personal, now that DIY weddings have become a lot more popular.”
She also notes that brides no longer expect their parents to foot the bill.
“A lot more brides now tend to pay for their dresses themselves. Their mum or dad might pay when they were in their early 20s, but now our brides are usually in their late 20s to early 30s and they have their own careers.”
Imogen Veitch, 27, spent just £200 on her wedding outfit, buying a wedding dress from China on eBay. She and husband James also went down the DIY route to keep their wedding within a strict £6,000 budget.
The pair made all of the wedding decorations themselves and created their own floral centrepieces. They married at Sandy Balls holiday park in Hampshire at a cost of £4,000.
“We knew we had limited savings and didn’t want it all to go on one day,” says Imogen. “We aren’t extravagant people, so if we had an extravagant wedding it would have felt forced and uncomfortable. Both of us have said we honestly wouldn’t change a single thing about our wedding day. It was the best day our lives.
“As it is socially accepted that weddings are expensive I think lots of couples just bite the bullet and go all out, some even taking out loans. And if you are spending £20,000 or more on a wedding I can see how people get so stressed out. You need everything to go perfectly or it seems a waste of money. But I can say we were honestly stress-free for the entire planning process and on the day.”
While these couples say they would not have changed a thing, for those with more cash to play with a wedding is their chance to realise some more extravagant ideas.
Daisy Peirce, 28, effectively had two weddings when she married husband Dan, one in the day at Childerley Hall in Cambridgeshire with 60 guests, and then an evening reception at her parents’ home with a further 80. She estimates the combined cost was around £50,000.
“We didn’t have any budget. We were fortunate that our parents were paying for the wedding so if we wanted to do something, we could,” Daisy says.
Having a big girly wedding wasn’t on the agenda. Instead, food was a big focal point of the day for the couple, who both work in catering. Their evening reception included a street food market, with six different trucks offering everything from fish and chips to ice cream and crepes.
“The ceremony was a bit of a blur but I wouldn’t change anything,” says Daisy. “There were things we definitely wanted to include and we didn’t have to sacrifice anything so it definitely took the pressure off.”
As part of the “experience generation”, even the wealthiest young brides and grooms don’t want their day to be all about spectacle, says Sarah Haywood. As one of the world’s most influential wedding planners, her international clientele include aristocrats and “people of note” for whom she has booked headline acts such as Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez.
“The millennial generation are certainly far more concerned with the guest experience than they are with showing off, which is a wonderful change to how it was 10 years ago. They are very concerned about the food and drink and the flow of the event, which is as important to them as what it all looks like.”