The Spend It Widely Shop Small Pub Crawl

So it’s that time of year again – Amex is running their shop small promotion. For those of you that don’t know what this is, prepare to have your world rocked – in thousands of shops, pubs and restaurants across the UK, Amex will give you a fiver if you spend a tenner. It’s that simple! As a result, here at Spend It Widely, we wanted to come up with a way to max the hell of out of this offer and have some fun on the way, the result….the Spend It Widely Shop Small Pub Crawl!
The idea, you find a mate and we’ll take you on a pub crawl to some awesome bars and pubs where you can get two drinks for around a tenner, and score your fiver back thanks to Amex. Five bars means ten drinks – five each – and all for just over £12 each!

London – Shoreditch

Kick off your crawl right at the top of Shoreditch, having got off the tube at Liverpool Street and go to one of the best hidden gem bars in London – The Crown and Shuttle . Here you’ll find amazing music, a bar snacks menu full of indulgence (truffle fries anyone?) and a massive secret garden that is a suntrap in summer and a cosy hideout in winter, complete with industrial level patio heaters. When done head over to the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen for drink number two to the soundtrack of live music. Next up, it’s time to head to Shoreditch high street and a little taste of Brazillian flavour, Barrio East – the decor is an instagram dream, and they do some fantastic BOGOF cocktails to make that AMEX credit go a little further. Fancy another bar? Good news, next stop is The Book Club and it’s just down the road. Finally, if you know Shoreditch, you know that no night is complete without hitting up the Hoxton Pony – which makes up the final stop on the Shoreditch Shop Small Pub Crawl.
Ten drinks for the two of you at some of the quirkiest drinking holes in Shoreditch for barely £25 all in. That’s doing Shoreditch the Spend It Widely Way! By now, you’re probably well on your way to having-a-good-night’sville, so no need to stop there. Crack on and explore, and don’t forget to tweet us and tell us about it on @spenditwidely

London – Covent Garden

First stop for the Covent Garden Shop Small Pub Crawl is Cafe Pacfico, and you’re going to love it. Good margarita, Mexican beer and latin beats. What’s not to love?! When (and if) you’re ready for bar two, head towards Leicester square to the Covent Garden cocktail club. We warn you, it’s not the largest of venues, but the drinks are goooood. You may want to stay for a few, but if you’re keen for the next venue then we’re only popping next door. Bar three is Salvador and Amanda where it feels like the staircase is half the size of the venue but, when you’ve descended, you’re guaranteed a fun time. More sangria? Yes please!
Next stop? Why it’s the Cork and Bottle and wine bar. Dominic absolutely loves this place, it’s a wine lovers dream. If and when you’re ready for a change of scene then the final bar is a minutes walk behind the Hippo (it’s a casino people). You’re heading to Ku Bar for the last drink of the crawl and a hefty dose of Disco.
That’s your lot folks. The good news it there are dozens of chinese places right next door to soak up some of that drinky good time. Five bars, central London, and thanks to the Spend It Widely Shop Small Pub Crawl you haven’t even spent three tenners!

Bristol

Ready? Set? Go to your first pub – The Boardroom and dive on in with whatever you fancy. The boardroom has a pretty decent wine selection so everyone should be happy kicking off here. Next up is a personal favourite of Dominic’s – Kongs. No one ever has a bad time at Kongs!
When you’re ready to move on, head on over past the fountains towards College Green for stop number three at Smoke and Mirror. For stop four on our crawl bounce on over (ok, I say ‘bounce on over’ I mean ‘walk up the hill’) to Wee’s lounge bar. Ready for another drink? Good news, the final stop on the Bristol shop small pub crawl is The Woods bar and it’s just across the way. Five fun time bars in Bristol town, a solid ten drinks for the two of you (or more, we’re not judging, we’re not your parents), all for just over £25. You’re welcome.

Manchester

Time for a pint of two in Manchester the Spend It Widely way. We’re kicking things off at The Terrace on Thomas Street. Hopefully it’s a nice evening so you can sit outside and enjoy the beer garden. When you’re ready to move on, head on round to Montpelliers cafe and bar where the food is good and the cocktails are better. Fress cafe is the next stop. Fress is famous for their brunch so, if it’s the right time of day (who are you doing a pub crawl during the afternoon!!) then worth checking the food menu.
Shaking things up at bar number four, is the ping pong on offer at Twenty Twenty Two. Pick up the paddles and battle it out over drink number four. When you’ve declared victory, take your drinking companion over to the final stop on the Spend It Widely Shop Small Pub Crawl at Tariff and Dale. Enjoy a craft beer or cocktail and check out the sourdough pizza. Done and done. Five drinks each, five bars, all for just over a tenner each!

Birmingham

Hola Brum. Let’s kick off this crawl. First stop, Bodega Bar and Cantina Bennetts hill. Grab yourself a mojito, pint or whatever you fancy. You deserve it! For stop two, head on around the corner to Sun on the Hill, for the chilled pub vibe and live music. When you’re ready to bounce, it’s a five minute walk to help up work up your thirst as you scootch on over to The Gin Vault. Don’t worry, you’re walk will be rewarded with one of the best gin and tonics in town! Just across the way you’ll find stop four, and a wide selection of craft ales at The Tap and Spile, which is right on the canal. Noice.
By now, you’ll be wanting to know where you’re headed for the final stop on the Birmingham Spend It Widely Shop Small Pub Crawl. Wonder no longer, bar number five is the Bierkeller a few minutes up Broad Street. Bauvarian vibes and a huge beer selection will see you comfortably into the rest of your evening. Had fun drinking in some of Birmingham’s best bars for less than £30 for the two of you? Let us know!

Cardiff

Vix’s hometown. Where will she take you? Okay, so it’s not a bar, but start your tour in a little gem off Queen Street, with a glass of cold prosecco or a beer at Charity coffee shop, Big Moose. With all the proceeds going to charity, and the coffee house providing training to homeless people getting back on their feet, you can feel a warm glow of doing something good, as well as from the booze, and you will always get a big welcome – tell them Vix sent you. Next… love the film Coyote Ugly? Wish you could be in it? Well now you can. St Marys Street, the party centre, houses a Coyote Ugly show bar where you can get beer, fries and dance on the bar to some classic rock, just don’t ask for water… Fancy a cocktail? Just a few minutes round the corner you will find yourself on Mill Lane, epicentre of the late nighties cool Cymru, and head to Mocka Lounge. Atmospheric and moody, it’s a break from the bustle of the town centre and their bar snacks are a cut above.
Ready for a craft beer? You’re in luck, as Cardiff has become a hot spot for microbrewers and specialities and Zero Degrees brews some onsite. You can also get a woodfired pizzs to keep you going. And finally, you dancing? We’re asking. Head back to Soda Bar on Mill Lane for a big night club finish.

We’re always on the look out for recommendations and would love to make the Spend it Widely Pub Crawl for your hometown – just hit us up on Twitter.

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Notes:

  • The Shop Small offer is available to American Express cardholders in the UK and must be activated as an offer on your card

  • Spend It Widely has no affiliation to American Express and does not endorse getting an AMEX card if you do not have one already, taking out credit is a very personal choice and there is professional expert help available if you don’t know what option is for you – our blog is not a substitute for that

  • Whilst we’ve made every effort to ensure accuracy of data, we cannot guarantee any details of the Shop Small Pub Crawl campaign (e.g. businesses taking part)

Cheap or Free lunch

Lunch. Heard of it? I have and I would recommend, I really would. The trouble is, when you’re doing the nine-to-five thing, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut of a quick average sandwich al desco. This isn’t fun for anyone. Want to grab a bite of something fun with a colleague and max your spend? Want to add a bit of spice to your lunch hour? Want me to stop asking questions? Well good news, here are my top tips for getting some nice bites the Spend It Widely way and how to do get a cheap or free lunch.

Spend It Widely top tips for a cheap or free lunch:

  • Phone it in – Most networks (e.g. O2, 3) now have dedicated deals apps that often offer some stonkingly good lunch deals, yet it always amazed me how few people know about this. I’ve literally just checked the Wuntu app from 3 and O2 Prioritiy apps for today and they’re offering: Any main meal from Pizza express for a fiver, 50% off mains at Zizzi and a £1 lunch at Cafe Rouge. These are definitely worth checking out
  • Vouchercloud (and other apps) – It’s not just mobile customers that can benefit from discounts the app way. Vouchercloud’s (Android and iphone) and Wriggle (Android and iPhone) are two of my favourites and can score you some stonkingly good discounts
  • Tastecard / Gourmet societyOk, this is hardly a secret, but it’s still a great way to get a good lunch discount. Two for one pizza / pasta / salad or 50% off at many restaurants means it’s easily possible to sort a good meal with a colleague for not much more than a fiver each
  • Loyalty cards – ok, so this requires a bit of loyalty but a lot of high street chains to cards offering discounts or free food. It won’t be every meal is discounted but who doesn’t want a free Sushi box every tenth time from Yo!?
  • Voucher code sites – Whilst this can lead to a lot of search disappointment (come on voucher code sites, stop listing brands you never have deals with) you can still get a solid 25/50% at a load of places using these sites so it’s worth a goosey gander

 

 

Got any other tips on how to get lunch for cheap or Free? Well don’t just keep them to yourself, get in touch and let us know and we’ll get them added to above.

 

The Spend It Widely Guide on How to Earn Free Money

Want free money? Good. I am a Prince and good friend mine person family just got inherited $100,000,000 and you can have half, all you need is… Wait. Sorry. Wrong article. This article is about actual free money,  how to get it, and why it isn’t actually always too good to be true. Also, to keep things light hearted – let’s see how many different words I can find to describe cash.

Important note – this isn’t going to be a guide about how to scrimp and save by doing fantastically boring things like switching your current account to get 0.75% instead of 0.65% interest on your dough, or stockpiling 3 for 2s to sell in the Brexit apocalypse. If you’ve listened to our Podcast (which you definitely should because, totally impartially, it’s awesome) then you’ll know we’re not about that. We’re about doing easy things that make life more fun. Nothing here is laborious or boring, everything here we would, or do, do ourselves. Read, learn, earn some free dinero and Spent It Widely.

How to earn free money (for realsies):

  1. Cashback – we bang on about this relatively often, and for good reason. It is literally the easiest way in the world to get free cash. Shop online just like you would usually, but before buying, simply sign into Quidco / TopCashBack and click through to the shop. I have earned well over £1,000 in two years from doing this and Vix has earned even more. To quote the meme, y tho?  Shops online and on the high street want your business; cashback works by taking money they’re willing to spend on advertising and giving it back to you. With cashback offered on everything from supermarket essentials to holidays and financial products, it’s another way to boost that your splash budget.
  2. Open Table – eat out at places? Good, don’t we all? Now do yourself a favour and start booking through OpenTable. Every time you dine you get points. Get enough points (which isn’t hard) and you can swap these for vouchers.
  3. Collect Airmiles – a pet rant of mine. Getting on a plane sometime in the rest of your life? Lucky you. As long as it’s not low cost then you should bloody well be collecting the frikking airmiles. Don’t know how? Not an excuse – you can find out with our beginners guide to collecting
  4. Use a points of cashback credit card – I’m deliberately going to avoid giving advice here. Let’s just say that I put all of my spend through credit cards that earn me points or cashback. Google it. I’ve earned enough this year for two free trips to New York – and an upgrade to business on a recent flight from Las Vegas (This was controversial. Why? Listen to episode 4 for the story).
  5. Your old Phone(s) – yes, hello, who is it? PPI? No thanks. We’ve all got a phone. Sometimes we get a new one. Most of us get a new one every two years. Watchya doing with your old one? Nothing? Rookie error, would you leave your old car on the drive? Sell / recycle it online and literally get free casheesh. How much you say? Well – if you’re upgrading to a new iPhone X from an iPhone 7 Compare My Mobile will get you £270 for your 7. Not bad. But the prices depreciate; yes, there is that car metaphor again. Just like you lose value driving it off the forecourt, your old phone loses dollar as months and years go by so don’t procrastinate.

Side bar – I am say in a hotel lounge, lovely and quiet, with ten people reading. An American has just answered his phone and immediately PUT IT ON SPEAKER. Why America Why?!

Sorry, back with you now.

As promised, simple things to get free wonga (do not use aforementioned site, they are insanely expensive and loan is not free money! ) There are also a load of things you can to save money / get more from the money you’ll spend like getting free hotel upgrades, enjoying free/cheap cinemamaxing out your wedding, and much, much more. Want more? Good. Keep reading. It’s what Spend It Widely is here for!

Enjoyed or more tips? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch here.

Avios – what, where, who and how (and why)

Avios. A lot of people have a lot of strong opinions. I’ve heard rants about how they’re useless and I know people who love them as much as some people love their in-laws.

First disclaimer – Avios is the currency of British Airways and I have a love hate relationships with BA (I want to love them but recently I’ve found it hard).

Second disclaimer – I have collected Avios for years, will continue to collect them and think that anyone not collecting them is basically walking through a rainstorm where it’s raining money (notes probably, as coins would hurt) and not picking up the free cash.

OK, now that’s out of the way let’s address some pain points:

  1. It can take ages to collect Avios – true. It can. It really really can. But if someone told you that you could have a savings account that they’d pay into, it would cost you nothing, and you could eventually use the contents to buy something really cool I bet you wouldn’t say no
  2. Taxes can be expensive when using them – kind of true. For long-haul flights this is true. Although these land up about the same as an full price Economy fair when using Avios to fly Business. So would your rather pay for a full price Economy fair and fly Economy or pay the same amount in taxes and fly Business? Short-haul is a different story as Avios taxes are capped within Europe to £25 – both in Economy and Businedd. £25 plus a few Avios for a return trip to Spain with all the champagne you can inhale anyone? I would. In fact I did. Several times!
  3. Avios expire – also true. The crucial thing here is that they expire if you don’t add anything to your account. All you have to do is add a handful every now and then (fly BA and credit your miles or even just buy some milk and cereal on a BA Amex every few months). So, whilst true, this really isn’t an issue

Let’s take an example. My husband and I flew Business Class return to South America earlier this year on our honeymoon. This was all done on Avios and the taxes were less than the equivalent flight would have cost in Economy (we actually paid for First Class using Avios but they decided the plane wouldn’t have First Class for our flights – WTAF – although that’s a different story). This wasn’t accomplished though flying BA every month for three years, nor was it accomplished through hundred of thousands spent on a credit card. I always push for us to put all big expenditure (and a lot of my small expenditure) on a card that earns us points. It so happens that we changed cards twice over the past couple of years and both times benefited from a sign up bonus. Couple this with the fact that we ALWAYS collect miles from our flights (our guide on how to collect airmiles) meant that within a couple of years we had well over 150k miles. Again, to stress, this was not within an insane credit card spend.

When it came to spending these miles and booking these flights we also took advantage of our two-for-one voucher. This is a voucher that BA credit cards offer customers who spend £10k/£20k per year (depending on card). This voucher allows you to get two return flights for the equivalent airmiles cost of one flight. And that’s it. Enough airmiles and a voucher secured us memorable and comfortable (and, crucially, champagne fuled) start and end to our honeymoon.

Convinced that you should start collecting? Good. Do I get I prize?

Here are my top tips when it comes to Avios:

  • Never fly an airline without collecting your miles. This is a golden rule in general but applies even more so to BA as they’re our national carrier
  • Check out the Avios / BA portal where it’s possible to earn avios from your everyday shopping at dozens of brands – these really can add up – my train travel alone nets me 4-5000 avios a year
  • Consider cards that allow you to earn airmiles, especially with the sign up bonuses
  • Be flexible with the destination when booking – if it’s just a beach your lucking for then there are loads of options. If you’re keen to fly further afield then consider booking up to 12 months in advance
  • Remember the lounge and airport benefits- when you do book your Business Class flight don’t forget to get to the airport early to enjoy the lounge and take advantage of fast track security and business check in – you’re premium today baby!

Remember, with capped taxes you can get European redemption from just 20k miles and £25 so follow the above and you could soon be jetting off.

Whilst we’re talking about avios, you may want to check back soon for our guide on how to get upgrades on planes. Tried and tested methods to turn left – everyone wants to turn left.

How to find cheap flights

Looking to book a flight somewhere fun? Of course you are, it’s 2018, who isn’t?! Looking for flights to an awesome destination without spending a fortune? Well hopefully we can help with that. Here are my top tips on how to find cheap flights without breaking a sweat.

Top tips to find cheap flights:

  1. Start looking early – as soon as you have an inkling you are going somewhere, then start looking for flights. This really will help with all of the below tips and get you the best value. If you didn’t, and you’re flying tomorrow then: (1) have an awesome time, send me a postcard and (2) don’t worry, read on and hopefully we can help.
  2. Be flexible with dates – Peak times can be very expensive. This is something most parents will know by the painful inability to fly during term time. It’s simple supply and demand (check me and my Economics 101 out), the more people want to fly, the higher the prices are. As a result, the more flexible with dates you are, the better the prices are. If you are fully adulting and have kids in tow, then try the next tip.
  3. Be flexible with destination – There are 192 (or thereabouts) countries in the world, and thousands of cities, you don’t have to go to the same place each year.
  4. Collect airmiles – airmiles are airline currency, you can use them to get free flights around the world (Check out our beginners guide on how to collect airmiles). What’s more, even if you don’t have enough airmiles to pay for the cost of a flight outright, most airlines will allow you to use miles to part pay for a flight thereby reducing the cash cost. It’s really worth collecting points from everything you can all year round as they can make a massive dent in the cost of your flight.
  5. Compare – look, if you don’t know what comparison sites are then you really are beyond help. If you do, but aren’t using them to find flights then why the hell not!? Skyscanner, Kyak and Momondo (my personal fave) should be your first port of call to find flights.
  6. Don’t book direct – Airlines release seats at a wholesale price to travel agents, which means you can get cheaper flights by booking indirect a lot of the time. Tip five will help with finding the best online travel agent deals. If you’ve never heard of the company, just check they are IATA / ABTA rated (bottom of the site) and do a quick google for reviews to be sure.
  7. Keep an eye out for sales – airlines do sales. Not a surprise. These are often pretty good. Surprise. It’s really worth keeping an eye out for the sales. These are often around January, over summer and (increasingly) over Black Friday. Have your credit card ready and when you spot a good deal – snap it up. You don’t have to book hotel and flights at once and getting a bargainous air ticket will help you have more to spend on lux accommodation #highlife #yeababy #doesanyoneusehashtagsanymore
  8. Fly secretly – there are several sites out there that only publish insanely cheap sale price and error fares (where the airline has made a pricing mistake – wouldn’t you hate to be that guy). Check out Holiday Pirates and Secret Flying

The above tips are all tried and tested and I use these regularly when booking tickets. We’d love to hear your experiences using this or whether you’ve got any of your own to share so get in touch.

How to collect airmiles – the beginners guide

This may seem like a simple question but there is a surprising amount of complexity here. For the semi-regular leisure flyer (it you, it me), it can seem daunting to know where to start. What’s more, when you are collecting, it can seem like you’ll never collect enough to actually be useful.

Here are the simple secrets and tricks to collecting airmiles the right way – because there is a wrong way! When done right, airmiles are free money that can seriously reduce the cost of your next trip to fun-time-happy-holidays.

There are a two things you need to know:

  • There are three major airline alliances, the chances are the airline you’re flying will be a member of one of these
  • You can collect airmiles from almost any flight, even if you’ve booked indirectly and even if someone else paid for the ticket

How to collect airmiles properly in four extremely simple steps:

  1. Chose the airline club that works the best for you from the group (using the below table). This is basically a question of deciding which airline you’d like to spend your miles with the most. For example – If your next flight is with American Airlines but you’re never going to go to the US again, then BA is probably the best bet. These should be your go to airline loyalty scheme within the alliance. Whenever you fly any airline within this alliance, make sure to use this club.
  2. Register for the scheme and get your account number
  3. Use this account number when checking into (or during booking) your flight to collect your miles
  4. Use the same account every time you fly a member airlines

Done and done! Seriously, that’s it.

Now do it again when you fly again. When your account balance is over 10/20 thousand then it’s time to start getting a little excited about what your miles can buy. A free-ish flight to the continent, an upgrade on your next flight? Yes bloody please and thank you so much – it’s all available when you’re collecting miles.

Top tip 1 – If you want to grow your airmiles balance significantly faster you can look at certain credit cards to do this. More on this later.

Top tip 2 – If you’ve flown recently and haven’t collected airmiles on your flight you can still collect them retrospectively, usually up to six months afterwards. Just log into your chosen account

Use the below table to check who is in which club, I’ve bolded airlines that are worth looking at collecting with / I use based on being a UK citizen. Also, you may notice Virgin Atlantic, Etihad and Emirates are missing from the below. These guys are so cool that they rock their own clubs, so you’ll just have to collect directly.

Alliance name: One world Star Alliance Sky Team
Airlines: American Airlines

British Airways

Cathay Pacific

Finnair

Iberia

Japan Airlines

LATAM

Malaysia Airlines

Qantas

Qatar Airways

Royal Jordanian

S7 Airlines

SriLanken Airlines

Adria

Aegean

Air Canada

Air China

Air india

Air New Zealand

ANA

Asiana Airlines

Austrian

Avianca

Brussels Airlines

CopaAirlines

Croatia Airlines

EgyptAir

Ethiopian

Evaair

LOT Polish Airlines

Lufthansa

SAS

Shenzhen Airlines

Singapore Airlines

South African Airways

SWISS

TAP Air Portugal

THAI

Turkish Airlines

United

Aeroflot

AerolineasArgentina

AeroMexico

AirEuropa

AirFrance

Alitalia

China Airlines

China Eastern

China Southern

Czech Airlines

Delta

Garuda Indonesia

Kenyan Airways

KLM

Korean Air

MEA

Saudia

Tarom

Vietnam Airlines

XiamenAir

How to Spend it Widely – the wedding cut

It’s wedding season and here our girl Vix gives you her top tips on where to make the cuts and when to splash the cash based on direct experience of the most expensive, most exciting day of her life…

Don’t rule out fixed price options if you want to go a la carte for venue

Our hotel allocated us an events manager who was absolutely desperate to do something different to the ‘out of the box’ they typically offered so we were able to lift out things we didn’t want, and sub in things we did. We swapped champagne toasts for Prosecco because I really wanted cocktails for after the ceremony without the extra cash. With the saving from the downgrade, we got an extra set of Cosmos and beer buckets for our guests to enjoy while we were pottering around doing photos. I also asked if they could get the fairy lights to dress up some of the darker corners, and they were happy to oblige.

Food glorious food

Some hotels will try to charge you for menu and wine testing so get that agreed up front at the time of booking, it might be a bargaining chip they’re willing to compromise on to close the sale. We’re foodies/greedies and the food was really important to us so to give our guests extra choices, we gave them the full menu of meat and veggie options to mix and match. I have no doubt this was not the normal, ‘done’ thing but we submitted the ‘dietary requirements’ and everyone got what they wanted. It was just one more little detail we really cared about.

Identify what is important early on, and invest your money there

I did not care about flowers. I literally could not have cared less. I like sunflowers, which are the simplest flowers in the world so I initially was just going to give everyone one each. With a little bit of a review, it was clear that sunflowers were actually pretty damn cheap to buy wholesale so we just bought 100 of them and made the bouquets ourselves. The internet is full of tutorials and my expectations/care level was so low that I was really laid back about cocking it up. Florists were a bit frosty with us for not investing in their expertise, and muttered a lot about us making a big mistake but we wouldn’t be bullied. We bought florist pins and tape and had a good laugh bundling them up. The money we saved more than covered the cost of the bridesmaids’ dresses. I also did not care about a wedding cake, would have been happy to pile up a load of Colin The Caterpillars, and maybe put a doily veil on one. My Male of Honour’s friend was trying to move into showstopper baking so we booked him to do our cake to boost his portfolio. It was BEAUTIFUL, and a fraction of the price of if we’d gone to a wedding baker. He now has his own gorgeous bakery in Bristol so odds are you won’t get that kind of deal again but, if you want to take a look at some of Greg’s other work then you can check him out at https://www.instagram.com/stickyfingerscake/

27 dresses

So I both spent and saved when it came to dresses. We got engaged two years before the wedding and in the excitement I bought a 1920s-style satin dress online. I waived my right to a refund and had it sent to my house in my haste to have it, and I bought it in an ambitious size too small. The good news is around the time of the wedding, I got it to fit. The bad news is that was the only good thing I could say about it – it fit. At a basic level, it zipped up. I looked like a sack of potatoes in it. Me, a stocky, reubenesque character, had bought a dress for Keira Knightley. I had to sell the dress on ebay, at a quite depressing loss. In the end I went high street. And I would recommend keeping an open mind. I didn’t have a ‘dream dress’ and operating on a limited budget with no ‘vision’, I was staggered by the lack of variation in the dresses in the designated wedding shops. I also had a terrible experience at David’s Bridal that did not carry many stylish dresses above a size 14 – and they forced me into them anyway, despite me protesting that they were not going to fit. At one point the salesperson had one foot in the small of my back dragging on the zip, not quite the cinematic ‘say yes to the dress’ experience I was hoping for. There was one that I quite liked but they refused to order it in for me to try unless I paid a deposit, so they lost my sale. I came out in tears, had cocktails with my friend Beth, then hit the high street, they had a MUCH better range of realistic sizes (not to mention prices) and weren’t so shackled to a traditional meringue. Even if you think you know what you want, it’s worth going to a good department store and raid it from top to bottom, from prom upwards. I had so much fun doing that. The dress I eventually got was Phase Eight (bought with cashback from Quidco for extra value), and I absolutely loved it.

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Do not scrimp on the scaffolding underneath

Get the right underwear – I would have rather fried my own head than stand all vulnerable in a changing room in my pants in front of strangers under normal circumstances, but after my experience in David’s Bridal being shoved into dresses and instructed to do things like ‘jump’ into them, I lost all sense of shame. I had read hundreds of articles about Spanx etc. but I had no idea what was going to work and what wasn’t. Not only did I find out I was wearing the wrong bra size, but the amazing assistant in House of Fraser completely remodelled my figure with shape wear (or, as I called it ‘scaffolding’), and the dress (that I already liked) became absolutely amazing. It’s worth the blushes.

Bridesmaids

I had 6 bridesmaids and a Male of honour; apparently I went through such a mad excited phase that I was practically stopping people in the street to invite them to accompany me down the aisle. They all have very different looks so putting them in the same dress (particularly the boy) was never going to work. I set a budget and a colour palette and asked for suggestions and the result was stunning, all the girls felt like themselves on their best day, and they actually do have (cliches aside) dresses they can wear again. Was one of the best decisions I made and, again, some of them I even got cashback on. My Male of Honour had a suit to match the wedding party – and we also went high street for those, with a view to having them fitted by a tailor as though they were couture.

Wedding vix

The present was your presence – but cash was quite nice as well

We took a deep breath and made the brave decision to ask our family and friends for cash towards the honeymoon as a gift. There are some really cool tools that help you turn asking for cold, hard dollar into an actual legitimate wedding list, like honeyfund, that allows your guests to buy ‘items’ from your itinerary online. Things we asked for included rounds of drinks, books for our Kindles, to bigger things like dinners out and trips to local attractions. We then made sure we photographed us doing all the things on the list so people knew we massively appreciated them.

We also squeezed even more value out of our honeymoon by booking via Quidco. SecretEscapes was on there at the time offering a mighty 10% cashback, which was a really nice rebate to have at a later date.

Do it your way

Above all, the thing to remember is that it is your day. Do not fall into the trap of feeling like you have to care about things you don’t care about. You do you. It’ll be the best day of your life anywhere, because you’ll have everyone you care about at that moment in one room together.