It’s #Wedding #Wednesday, and we’re pretty sure the phrase ‘better late than never’ applies to today’s post! We’ve been working on some GORGEOUS fall weddings over here, and dreaming up ideas for next season as well – but what good is all of that prettiness without a solid foundation on which to build it? The reality of the matter is that weddings mean incurring a very specific set of costs, and surprises are not fun. Never fear: you can still have the wedding of your dreams without taking out a second mortgage or selling your handbag collection!
Said bluntly: most people over-spend on their weddings, fail to account for all costs up front, and get frustrated when an established budget isn’t enough to cover the realization of their hopes and dreams for their event. Planning a wedding is hard enough – when you add budget planning into the mix, the process can become overwhelming very quickly. Here are our top 5 tips to set a reasonable wedding budget – and stay within it – keeping you sane, happy, and in control:
- Play the numbers game: One very real (and controllable) expense is the guest count for your event. I can be tempting to invite everyone you have ever met and your dry cleaner to witness in your blessed event – after all, you’re wearing a gown! You paid for an ombrè aisle runner! The best predictor of wedding cost is the number of people you plan to feed, host, and entertain. Tailor your guest list to your budget – instead of trying to stretch a modest budget to cover 500 guests with an elephant grand entrance. In addition, it’s worth noting that the party who foots the bill for the wedding has the power to establish the guest list – so if your parents aren’t contributing, you don’t have to accommodate their request to invite Crew friends from the old days or their ex-business partners and their wives (anyone non-family) unless you want to. Tailor your guest list to exactly the people you want to celebrate with, and the rest will be fairly straightforward – after all, it’s your wedding, and its about your new union.
- Rank your priorities: Are you a foodie who solely cares about the food and beverages served at your event? Or perhaps an interior designer, incredibly focused on the styled details of your wedding decor? Maybe you’re not sure what you care about most – but you really want the pictures from your big day to last a lifetime, and you plan to be picky about your photographer. Whatever your priorities are for your wedding (everyone has them), you need to establish a ranked list, in order to justify the cost of each line item as you book vendors. Typically, catering will be your largest expense – but that doesn’t mean you have to serve caviar and filet mignon. Your list should include typical areas of focus, including: florals, decor, rentals and furniture, attire, honeymoon, venue and location, food and beverages, photography, videography, dessert, and guest entertainment. My top 3 would be: Florals, food and beverages, and venue – once you have your list established, you can make decisions about which vendors are worth splurging on or spending more.
- Prepare for surprise costs ahead of time: There are always costs beyond what you see on a proposal. ALWAYS. Whether these are a broken glass here, missing lanterns there, or perhaps greatly appreciated gratuities you share with your service staff on the day of your event, the best way to handle these additional costs is to prepare for them. Ask your planner or research best practices around gratuities, comb through contracts with a fine toothed comb, choose vendors who come in below budget, and never assume your bill is final until it’s final. Budget for extraneous costs while you’re planning, and add 5% of your total budget as ‘swing coverage’, to be used just in case.
- Be willing to negotiate and compromise: Catering proposal too high? Not feeling like you’re getting enough bang for your buck with your floral contract? Really consider your priorities (refer to point #2), and decide where compromise is necessary. Perhaps you LOVE your floral design, but you’re slightly over budget – is there somewhere else you can cut back? Do you really need three cheese stations set up by your caterer, or would one suffice? When you’re flexible and deliberate with your budget, you can breathe easier, knowing that you’re not overspending in every category. Be willing to negotiate, but be reasonable: most wedding vendors are small and medium sized business owners, who are selling their artistry and craft as much as their product.
- Stay organized – the devil is in the details: if you do not have a wedding budget tracker (broken out by line item, proposed amount, actual amount, and due date) you’re not keeping track of your budget as closely as you can. As a planner, I have a spreadsheet template that I share with clients ahead of time, to give them an idea of standard percentages of your budget that should be devoted to each line item. For instance, typically, food and beverages equate to 30-40% of your total wedding budget. From there, keep a copy of every proposal and contract you receive/sign, to stay ahead of spending.
If your wedding finances are organized proactively, the planning process will be much more feasible and enjoyable!