Real Budget Wedding: Ira and James’ Icehotel Wedding

Real Budget Wedding Sweden Title

Bride and Groom: Ira Blake & James Humphries are both lighting designers and advisors based in Salisbury, England.
Wedding Venue: Icehotel, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Wedding Ceremony venue: Ice Church

Ira and James decided to get married in Sweden because their both ‘Scandiphiles’ and they fell in love with the place when Ira took James there for an early 40th birthday present whilst he was working in Stockholm.

Wedding date:  31 December 2013
Wedding colour Scheme: Not white!

Number of Guests: 6

Their guests consisted of, Ira’s sister and brother-in-law, Ira’s brother and sister-in-law and Ira’s best friend and her husband.

Photographer: James and Ira’s guests acted as their photographers, taking all the pictures they have of their day

Total wedding budget: 10K

How’d you decide on your budget?

We agreed on what elements were the most important to each of us together and stripped back everything else to keep it simple and about us rather than than about all the trappings.

Ira Feature Sisters Ira Anja

What elements of planning were the hardest with your budget?

The incidentals were the hardest as we were away for 3 days.  Also, whether we would be warm enough as the temperature can reach glacial levels i.e. as low as -40 degrees. Also the airline baggage allowance as pretty hard as we had lots of winter clothing!

We used a travel agency, Discover The World, who are an Icehotel approved specialist to help us plan travel etc. And the Icehotel has their own wedding coordinator, Eva Lundquist was on site all day and looked after all the arrangements which made things a lot easier. We flew out on December 29th 2013 and flew back on 1st January 2014.

Tell us all about your incredibly unique Bridal outfit.

My dress was my extravagance. I had it custom designed and made by a wonderful maker, Lindsay Fiddler of Angels Carrying Savage Weapons (ACSW). It was a full steel boned corset adapted into a jacket made of Harris Tweed and a silk riding-habit-style skirt. The tweed was a necessity for the climate (between -5 and -7ºC indoors) and the jacket also had a (removable) thermal layer stitched in.

Ira Feature newlyweds icechurch

Bridesmaids outfits?  

My sister was my Maid of Honour, and she wore a Desigual coat I found in the sale.  She provided her own accessories.
Which were a bit different to your usual Bridesmaids accessories. 

Groomsmen attire?

We didn’t have any Groomsmen

Where did you get your wedding rings from and how much did you manage to get them for?

My wedding ring was from Goldsmiths in Salisbury and James found his ring online.  Combined we paid about £600 for both.

Ira Feature James Vicar

Your something old, new, borrowed and blue ?

My Old & Blue were my thermal long johns! My New was my dress & earrings, with my something Borrowed being my sister’s lipstick.

What was the biggest hurdle you ran into when planning your wedding?

Doing everything by email.  A couple of things slipped – like getting the certificate of impediment sorted – but everyone was lovely and went out of their way to help us… sometimes at very short notice. The Registrar at Salisbury was terrific, in fact we’ve met her several times since through business events as Julie is now half of independent celebrants, Bespoke Ceremonies.

What were your best budget buys?

The feather bouquets my MoH and I had were about £25 each from Etsy. Also my snow boots were just £15 in the sale and my sister’s coat was also on sale.

Ira Feature Siblings and spouses

What was your biggest blowout spend for the wedding?

My dress as it had to be different – white was not an option and I wanted something I could wear again as separate pieces or together.
I suppose when you’re getting married in a hotel made of ice you wouldn’t exactly stand out wearing white! 

Was there anything that didn’t go as planned?

Oh yes! James’ parents bought us a horseback safari to see the Aurora Borealis and weReal Life Budget Wedding Sweden went the evening before the wedding. Conditions meant the mounting block was icy and I slipped, flying through the air and smashing my wrist into bits.  We went to the local A&E who said I needed an op to fix it.  It could be done in Kiruna meaning I would need to be airlifted to another hospital hundreds of miles away.  I refused to go so the fab medics gave me morphine and traction to straighten it and bound it in a soft cast with instructions to get the op done as soon as I got home. I had to slit the arm seam of my dress to get it over the cast, couldn’t do my makeup and hair and had to wear my casual boots.  I carried my bouquet in my right (broken) hand and it hardly made an appearance in any photos.  My new husband had to chop up my food at dinner and our wedding night in an ice-suite was a bit of a challenge!

What were your most memorable moments of the day?

Walking to the Icechurch in the dark at 2pm and it starting to snow as we left. The intimate, personal ceremony with just us, our 6 guests and our lovely Swedish vicar in what was really a snow & ice cave with lights that twinkled like a million diamonds.

So now you’ve had your own fabulous small budget wedding what tips or advice would you give to others planning on a small budget?

  1. Keep it simple, and about you not the big day.
  2. Something will go wrong – but no one will notice if you keep smiling and shrug it off.
  3. Paying for your own wedding means no-one else can tell you what to do. Doing away with a few ‘nice to haves’ is a price well worth paying for that freedom.

Ira Feature Wedding suite

Interesting Icehotel fact:  They only use LED lights and candles to minimise environmental impact. The ice melts back into the river as pure as when it is cut.

As lighting designers, we found ourselves inspired by the lighting and the design elements used within the Icehotel, so much so we have replicated some of the design ideas into our own bedroom with a bed made of glass which is backlit with LEDs.

You can find out more about James and Ira’s Lighting business:
By checking out their website

Or by liking them on Facebook 

Or you could follow them on Twitter

Are you planning a small budget wedding?
Or are you a newly wed who got married for 10k or less?
If you would like your wedding featured on the blog please send me an email to

Brentwood Rings: Ammonite Studio

Brentwood Custom Rings Blog post

With the ever increasing price of gold, traditional wedding rings made out of precious metals are becoming harder to finance for most people. The cost of buying wedding rings is taking up more and more of the total wedding budget. Even none traditional metals such as Palladium are rather pricey.

My husband and I both chose plain (in design) 9ct yellow gold wedding bands to keep the cost down. For ages we looked at rings, and we both liked the idea of having rings with an inlay pattern. The husband was looking at a lot of rings where the ring was a mix of shiny and matt, or was yellow gold with a white gold middle section. However, these rings seemed to be coming in over the budget we had set.

Our Budget Wedding Rings blog postSo when we went ring shopping 4 months before the big day we both chose matching plain rings. Mine is 3mm in width and his is 5mm. I love my wedding band, and think it goes incredibly well with my engagement ring as they’re both ‘traditional’ and ‘timeless’ in design.

We had them engraved on the inside to create that uniqueness we wanted while sticking with something traditional and something in budget. Both of our rings, including the engraving came to less than £500, which is rather low cost for new gold rings.

In a previous post from the very early days of the blog I wrote about how you can get quality wedding rings for less with tips such as buying second hand, or exchanging your Tesco Clubcard points for GoldSmiths vouchers. In that post I wrote…

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Happy Hanky

Any stylish Groom will have a handkerchief as part of his Groomswear whether it be tucked into his jacket pocket or his waistcoat pocket; however all too often the hanky is part of the hire set or simply matches the tie or cravat BUT the hanky can be a statement piece on it’s own.

The handkerchief doesn’t need to be a block colour to tie in with the rest of the outfit. The Grooms hanky can even be different to the rest of the groomsmen’s. Think fun patterns, stripes, paisley and polka dots to bring an element of fun to the outfits and to bring a bit of personality and a bespoke feel to a suit that is likely to otherwise be “off the rack”.

The Handkerchief Shop

I’m always drawn to grooms outfits where personality is shown whether that be in quirky socks or retro braces, but the hanky is where it is at right now.

you-are-my-anchor-embroidered-handkerchief.jpgThe Handkerchief Shop was created in 2008 by Colleen Corcoran with two main ranges – The Happy Hanky (think one to mop up the MOTBs happy tears) and The Hank which couldn’t be more perfect for men two wear as part of their wedding suit outfits as well as to be given as wedding gifts. The Handkerchief Shop gives you the option to monogram each hanky or to have a personal message embroidered onto the hanky as the perfect keepsake.

For the pocket happy price of $12 (on average, some are cheaper, some are more) you can bring new life, colour and extra style to the groomsmen’s outfits giving a feel of bespoke luxury without breaking the wedding budget.

If you’re in the UK, I think the import tax would definitely be worth it, especially if you’re buying one for each member of the bridal party.

Find The Handkerchief Shop on twitter 


For the Love of French Fancy

I don’t know many people that don’t enjoy a French Fancy.

Relaxed, tea party feel weddings are BIG right now. Think: Babys Breath, bunting, pastel colour theme, men in braces and skinny/bow ties, floral table cloths, table centrepieces in mis-matched cup and saucers, fairy light lit barns or marques and bands instead of DJs.

I can’t imagine a better way to tie this wedding style together than with a tiered French Fancy wedding cake!

Check out these beautiful examples

Image by Daffodil Waves - Classic Marquee Wedding With Bride In Sleeved Chanticleer Gown And Groom In Navy RAF Uniform With Bridesmaids In White

French Fancy Wedding Cake

You can easily create this relaxed and elegant feel on a budget

1st) Buy a French Fancy Birthday cake from any supermarket.
2nd) Buy French Fancy cakes from any supermarket or wholesaler
3rd) Buy/rent/borrow a cake stand
4th) Arrange the cake and the cakes on the cake stand.
Delegate this task to the wedding co-ordinator or to a member of the weddingB party on the morning on the wedding

You could add extra decoration to the big and small French fancy cakes such as a sugar craft flowers and your own cake topper.

You could choose to have a cake maker create 1 French Fancy style cake for you in your chosen colour and then buy shop bought French Fancies for a reduced cost wedding cake that still have a professional, personalised touch.

Hen & Stag Party Ideas

Bored of Go-karting or Paintballing? Want something more unique than going for a meal, to a club and spa the next day? Are you a Hen, Groom, Chief Bridesmaid or Best man planning a Hen or Stag party wanting to wow your group? I can help you find the perfect activity to book.

Recently I posted about a Hen party I arranged for a friend of mine where we did a cocktail making masterclass in the city of Oxford, and since then I’ve been collecting unique ideas to share with you.

Crafty Crafty Crafty
Bunting Making with The Crafty Hen

With The Crafty Hen you and your party can book an array of craft activities including bunting making to be used at the wedding giving your hens/stags the opportunity to truly help with wedding planning. How about getting the Hen/Stag party create props for your wedding photobooth? The Crafty Hen cover the whole of England, Scotland and Wales and are in Norther Ireland too.

Bunting making

Crafty Crafty Crafty
Jewelry Making with Tea & Crafting 

Tea & Crafting is based in Camden although you can have a mobile tutor come to you. Tea, coffee and muffins are always provided as part of the party package giving you and your hens/stags nothing to worry about except for having a giggle learning something new. Each of you can create a piece of jewelry to wear to the wedding. Tea & Crafting provide a range of other crafting activities as well as jewelry making.

Crafty Crafty Crafty
Macaron Baking Classes with Ganache Macaron

Get messy learning the coveted art of making macarons before the enjoyable task of tasting your creation with Ganache Macaron in Hackney. If you book the hen party close enough to the wedding, the macarons baked can be used as the favours! This idea is a fresh take on cupcake making that your whole party will love.

Crafty Crafty Crafty
Knicker Decorating with Hand Made Hen

All you need to bring with you is knickers then you start pimping your pants with ribbons, lace, pearls and sequins – you can customise as many pairs as you like and your hen party can be anywhere you are as the party comes to you! You can book an array of crafty activities with Handmade Hen including garter making classes.

Physical Physical Physical
Zip Lining with 3 others in Wales with Zip World

The Titan zip line experience at Zip World is the only 4 person zip line experience in Europe. Not only can you descend over moor mountain and mine with your mates but you will be doing it at speeds up to 70MPH. There are three zip lines included in the Titan experience; Anarchy (the longest), Bedlam and Chaos.

Physical Physical Physical
Cavern Adventure Course and zip lining in Wales with Zip World

Home to exhilarating underground zip lines, rope bridges, obstacles and tunnels based in an underground cavern in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales. 

Physical Physical Physical
Zombie Survival Experience with Zombie Experiences 

Battle the undead, thwart the apocalypse, defeat the demons and save the day! With a range of experiences in Droitwich, London, Reading and Warrington you and your stags will have the time of your lives living out all the drunken conversations of which of you would survive longest if the zombie apocalypse happened. *change of underwear not iincluded

Physical Physical Physical
Burlesque Dancing with Burlesque Baby 

Burlesque Baby host Burlesque dance classes at locations across England where all props are provided for you and your hens to learn some classic showgirl dance moves. Your experience can be topped up with a dinner cabaret show to watch women do what you’ve just been doing.

burlesque hen 8

Activity Experience
Victorian Themed Day with Victorian Escapades 

Book through HenorStag and “you will start the afternoon dressed as servants and carrying out household chores from Victorian times. After all that “hard work” you will compete against your hens in a range of Victorian themed challenges! It’s then time to change into classy Victorian attire and make your way into the drawing room to play some fun parlour games and enjoy the photoshoot” before having a Victorian dance class and a 4 course meal.

Unique Places To Stay
The Lake House – Somerset

The Lake house is your secret hideaway that sleeps up to 12 in a ‘boutique and funky’ yet chilled  environment with chic luxury and exclusive use in the form of a spacious thatched barn.

lake house


Unique Places To Stay
Teapot Lane Glamping – North Leitrim, Ireland

In North Leitrim, Ireland you can choose between Yurts, a tree house, a caravan or a cottage for your Teapot Lane Glamping experience (perfect for small hen parties) where you can sit around a camp fire enjoying a festival vibe. All Teapot Lane Hen Packages include professional catering on one night where a qualified chef will cook your evening meal using a delicious selection of locally sourced produce, with lots of fun activities to keep you entertained for your night/s away.

Reception Games

Not everyone likes to dance and for those who don’t breaking the ice with people during the evening reception can be difficult. Many couples look for ways to keep guests entertained during the reception, however, entertainment such as magicians can be outside of many couples budgets. This doesn’t mean you can’t provide excellent entertainment on the cheap. Board Games scattered on tables, or having a board game table during the reception is a popular idea. Even if you don’t own board games you’re bound to be able to borrow a pack of cards and a couple board games from family or friends.

If you’re having a Games Table think about providing some of these:
A pack of cards
Mr & Mrs board game
Pictionary or Articulate
Something simple for younger children such as Connect 4

If, however you like the idea of inserting a bit of personalisation into this entertainment which will have your guests in hysterics why not give one of these personalised game ideas a try…

Personalised Guess Who 

You can get creative and have guests rolling with laughter with personalised Guess Who.

Remove the pictures from two Guess Who boards and add pictures of the wedding party (Bride, Groom, Best Man, Ushers, Bridesmaids, Father of the Bride etc). The pictures can DIY your own board gamesbe current or from childhood. This idea will work as long as you have 24 people you can use pictures of. Gather your pictures, print off four copies of each picture, two copies on paper (to go inside the slots of the Guess Who boards) and two copies on card to use as the picture the other has to guess.

Place the photos of each person in difficult slots on the two boards and you’re all set up.

If you’re not sure how to play, view the Hasbro rules here.


Personalised Wedding Top Trumps

This idea has to be my favourite! I grew up playing Top Trumps and love the idea of making personalised Top Trump cards using my friends and family. A Top Trumps deck usually includes 30 cards and have 5 categories, but if you can’t create 30 cards, any even number upwards from 22 will work fine.

Wedding Top TrumpsI had a quick go at creating my own Wedding Top Trump card using a stock image from Google and Excel on my lunch break – so if I can make them you definitely can too! :- D

The hardest part was thinking of the categories the game is played with, as I couldn’t find any inspiration on the internet to help me. I wanted the categories to be related to the wedding day as opposed to generic categories.

I finally decided upon Likelihood of tears, joker rating, chance of drunkenness, dancing odds and poser status. Guests playing the game in the evening will be able to see if the ratings have come true or not.

I created a Bride card and a Best Man card (the names are made up and the pictures are Wedding TopTrumpstaken from Google image search). With these cards the Bride would win against the Best Man for Likelihood of tears but the Best Man would win against the Bride for joker rating.

I’d print these off on card, cut them out and put them in a nice box to place on the games table. You can decorate the cards in your wedding colours and make the design as plain or as intricate as you wish.

If you’re not sure how to play Top Trumps, you can find play instructions here.

Recipe Gift Book

A brand new gift list service only launched THIS YEAR that I have fallen in love with is ‘Recipe Gift Book‘. Many couples getting married live together before getting married so the gifts for the home are no longer needed, so it can be difficult to know what you ask your guests for. You may feel uncomfortable with asking your guests for gifts, but at the same time guests usually WANT to buy the couple a wedding gift, and appreciate having ideas of what you may like. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with asking people for money, so this new gift idea is the perfect solution.

Just imagine having the recipes to your Aunts cookies, your grandmothers sponge pudding and your best friends lasagna.
This this brand new unique gift you can! The gift is completely free for the Bride and Groom (Bride and Bride or Groom and Groom), and your guests just pay a contribution to submit their recipe.

Your guests can submit their recipe, photos and a personal message which will then get made into a hardback in the style of your choosing to be made and delivered after the wedding. The book can then be handed down the generations as a wonderful family heirloom.

The H2B and I will be putting the details of our Recipe Gift Book in with our invites as well as putting the details under the ‘Gift List’ section of our wedding website. I can’t wait to get my hands on the recipes of some of my families best meals and treats!