When I ask perspective clients what scares them most about planning a wedding, they often tell me budget. Some clients have a general idea of what they can spend or what their families have given them to spend, however they don’t know if they can fit everything they need and want into that budget.
As a planner, I have seen many couples rush out to book a venue before considering the cost of catering, entertainment, invitations, apparel, hair and makeup, transportation, flowers, etc. Over spending on the venue means severe cut backs or compromises on their vision.
BEFORE you rush out to book your venue please begin with a well-researched budget.
A good budget begins with an accurate guest count, not a guestimate. Actually, gather guest lists from both families and create a list of your friends and coworkers. Then put the list onto a spreadsheet. Many budget line items are influenced by the number of guests, such as, catering (food, beverage, staff) , rentals (tables, chairs, plates, glassware, napkins, etc. ), flowers (number of centerpieces, bridal party bouquets and boutonnieres), invitations/save the date/programs/escort cards, transportation, favors/welcome bags.
Wedding budgets are a function of the ratio of guests (headcount) to total budget. Your budget need to align with your headcount. Wedding planners like to talk in terms of price per guest. For example, if you have $40,000 to spend on your total budget and you divide that by 100 guests, your budget is $400 per guest vs if you invite 200 guests the cost is $200 per guest.
So with the same budget and fewer guests your budget goes a lot further. Two hundred additional dollars per person will be the difference between beer and wine only or a full liquor bar or filet instead of chicken, band vs DJ or a custom designed invitation or that designer gown you fell in love with.
Once you have an accurate guest count and know exactly what you have to spend on your big day, the next step is to prioritize the most important elements of your wedding day. Is it for your guests to have the most fun they have ever had, and having fun means a packed dance floor, budget a little more for a great band or DJ, add a fancy dance floor and lighting and make it the centerpiece of your reception décor. If it is amazing photos add some additional dollars to your photography budget for an album and prints, etc. Adding dollars in some categories, means will need to reduce the categories that are lower in level of importance to your overall wedding vision.
To help you construct a budget I have created a list of the typical wedding budget line items along with the percentage they represent of the total budget.
Venue, Catering, Beverages, Cake and Rentals ( tables, chairs, linens, glassware, flatware, plates, etc.) – 45% to 50%
Photography – 8% to 10%
DJ or Band – 5% to 8%
Flowers – 8% to 10%
Hair and Makeup (Bride Only) – 2%
Wedding Gown and Grooms Suit – 5% to 7%
Transportation – 4% to 6%
Paper Suite – 4% to 5%
Wedding Planner – 5% to 15% (depending on level of service)
Knowing what you have to spend in each budget category is very important as you begin to assemble your vendor team. Be upfront about what you need and what you have budgeted when you talk to vendors. This will allow you to stay on budget and not waste your time with vendors who can’t provide what you need and are not within your budget.
Remember, if you overspend in one category you will have to cut back in another which may mean making painful decisions.
Hiring a seasoned professional wedding planner at the beginning of the process is a time and money saver. A planner can work with you to create a realist budget. We KNOW the costs of all vendors in our markets and can match you with reputable vendors who can meet your needs and budget. A good planner will monitor your spending and keep you on budget.
Our strong relationships with vendors in our markets allows us to hold your hand and help you negotiate the best deals. Many vendors recognize that a wedding planner is the return client who will continue to send business their way. The couple is a one-time client, most likely to never need their service again. When things happen these vendors will come through for our clients.
When you hire a planner, you are hiring more than someone who will send you down the aisle on time or set up your guest book and pack up your items at the end of the evening.