How you can decorate your wedding on a budget of Shs1m or less

What you need to know:

When one realises that the décor they want will cost Shs20 million and more, he or she will start analysing and wondering if it is worth it. This can lead to couples feeling stuck because they want the beautiful setting but do not want to spend so much on it.

If you have noticed, on many wedding budgets, decoration takes a hefty chunk. That’s because we all want our weddings to look grand and transport us to a new place. However, when one realises that the décor they want will cost up to Shs20 million and more, he or she will start analysing and wondering if it is worth it. This can lead to couples feeling stuck because they want the beautiful setting but do not want to spend so much on it. So is it possible to have good décor but not spend buckets of money on it?

Pastor Patrick Nagaya, a preacher with University Community Fellowship in Makerere-Kikoni and the owner of Patrima Events, a decorations company says that it is possible to come up with beautiful décor for one’s wedding, using a budget of Shs1m or less. It just depends on how creative the decorator is.

Carol Beyanga, the Managing Editor– Digital Content, of Monitor Publications, reveals that 13 years ago, she managed to have her wedding well decorated on a budget of Shs800,000. Beyanga says that she did not hire a decorator because her friends offered to take over the responsibility of coming up with creative ideas to ensure the décor turns out fabulous.

“I settled for an African theme and we went out with my pastor’s wife to buy African décor materials that were sold on display at a craft market that used to sell their wares on particular days on the grounds near the railway station.”

She explains that this is because it was cheaper to buy from there than from a set-up African craft shop.

“We shopped for décor items like unique African baskets, stick men statues, big and small pots, jars, African table cloth, and vases with dry sticks which we used to decorate the reception, by ourselves,” narrates Beyanga.

She adds that it is the flowers that are the most expensive décor and so in her case, she only bought a bouquet and the flower girl was only given petals to throw on the ground as they walked down the aisle.

Beyanga’s story shows that one needs to think carefully about the theme they want to go for if they want to use less money than usual. Nagaya advises clients to consult with the decorator and ask what kind of décor items can be achieved within the budget set.

“This is because some clients come saying ‘I want a simple décor that fits the budget I have’ but when they start telling you what they want, in most cases the pricing increases and surpasses what they have,” he explains.

Since it is easy to end up spending more than what you budgeted for, here are a few ways you can ensure you stick to your set budget.

 Choose a favourable venue

Experts say that your choice of venue will largely determine the outcome of the décor.

According to Elizabeth Muramura, a lawyer who organised décor for a friend’s wedding on a budget of Shs1m, it is possible to get all the necessary requirements depending on the venue chosen.

“We did the wedding at Pearl of Africa Hotel whose rooms are fairly beautiful even without decoration. Our guest list was only 100 people and the decorator worked within our budget,” reveals Muramura.

“We had chair covers, table cloths, centre pieces, and the high table. The hotel provided chairs and tables. We did not need any backdrops and the rest,” she says.

Nagaya, reveals that as a decorator he cannot negotiate the cost of décor with a client before having a look at the venue.

“Because if the venue chosen needs a lot of work to make it beautiful, in most cases it may not fit the budget set,” he explains. It makes sense, as Stephen Ebiau, a stationery seller in Kikuubo who got married last year narrates. Ebiau was forced to increase the budget for the décor from Shs1m to Shs1.5m because the church hall they chose had a lot of work to be done.

“The walls were not appealing and so the decorator advised we place drapes to cover them, a carpet was needed to cover the fading cemented floors with holes, and installation of better lights since theirs were dim,” Ebiau explains.

Nagaya recommends that having a garden wedding venue in a naturally beautiful setting means less time and cost will be spent picking out decorations because the location itself is able to complement the decor with its greenery.

He also agrees with Muramura that hotel venues are helpful in cutting costs on extravagant decorations as their walls and ceilings can be left bare and they already have large bright lights.


The number of guests determines the quantity

Elizabeth Atai of Unique Liz (décor and fashion business) which specialises in providing affordable weddings says more guests means more place settings and seat covers which increases the decor cost.

So Atai advises couples to consider calculating how much they are able to pay for the seat covers and if they will match the number of guests to be invited.

Similarly, Brenda Banura, a communications and public relations officer who got married to Edward Sekalo in September 2016, advises couples to consider using the good old plastic chairs and have them covered up instead of the more expensive options that don’t need covering up. The couple had décor that cost them about Shs1m.

There is also the cost-cutting option of decorating the chairs with ribbons instead of using seat covers.

 Sitting arrangement matters

Nagaya advises his clients to opt for a simple sitting arrangement like the bus type where all guests face the high table in two parallel lines

“The advantage of this is that you will cut costs on hiring tables that need to be covered with beautiful cloths and decorated with centrepieces that are appealing for your guests to sit around,” he explains.

 Use artificial flowers

According to Banura, flowers are one of the most expensive decor items. She advises couples to use them minimally. She says that petals can be used and spread on the floor on the aisle instead of floral arrangements.

Atai also advises her clients to consider cutting on costs by opting for artificial flowers.  She explains that if a client wants natural flowers, they should know that most of these are imported so which increases costs.

“So, today, more people are using artificial flowers which means the decorator can re-use them, bringing the price down,” reveals Atai.

Focus on the high table

“In most cases, the focus of the décor is on the high table to make it stand out from the guest setting,” says Nagaya.

“We mostly concentrate on putting elegant floral arrangements, table cloths and centre pieces and a lot of glittery materials to make their seating shine from a distance,” he explains.

Nagaya gives an example of a wedding venue he decorated at Protea Hotel where the couple decided that the décor should be placed mostly on the high table including their background draping, centre pieces and seats.

“The hotel décor for the guest setting was sufficient making the set budget of Shs300,000 enough for their décor needs,” he says.

 Book your décor during off-peak seasons

According to Nagaya, during months like January to March, there are very few couples getting married so the décor materials are less pricey in that period.

He advises couples to utilise these months to get a decorator willing to work with them on their set budget.

“But during peak wedding seasons such as December, it may be hard to get a decorator willing to work within a budget of Shs1m or less since they have other clients willing to offer more than that,” he explains.

 Make your own decorations

Atai in her experience as a decorator says that another thing that makes it possible for her to pull off affordable décor is that she comes up with creative ideas.

“When I make the décor items myself, I cut costs better than when I hire the items,” Atai explains.

There are many tutorials on the internet that can teach creative ways of making décor. Why not tap into this knowledge and unleash your creative side to make your wedding fantastic.

Nagaya however advises couples to note that on a budget of Shs1m or less, the décor will only be enough for the reception.

He adds that the décor for the religious ceremony can be left out since most guests do not mind it so much.

Additional information by Grace Kenganzi


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