Oh, the dreaded “B” word: “budget.” When it comes to planning a wedding, the budget can be a huge source of anxiety and frustration – mainly because there's not much information on how to accurately estimate for a wedding budget. And before you do ANYTHING after you get engaged (after telling your friends and family and getting your ring insured, maybe drink some champagne), the first thing you should do when planning your wedding is talk about a realistic budget.
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But how do you do that if you've never planned a wedding before? Fear not, friends! Below I walk you through how to put together your wedding budget:
Step 1: Disregard the Negative Connotation Around “Budget”
“Budget,” according to Merriam Webster, is “an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time.” A budget can be $10,000 or $110,000 or $1,100,000. And setting a budget for an event you have no experience planning is like shopping for a pair of shoes in the store in the dark. You can fumble your way around, but you really need someone to turn on the lights and show you where the shoes are, or else you're wasting your time trying on shoes that either don't fit or aren't even your style.
Step 2: Know the Key Factors That Drive Your Wedding Budget:
- Location (a wedding in western NY is going to cost differently from a wedding in Manhattan);
- Number of guests attending; and
- Design (vintage looks a lot different than luxe).
Step 3: Do a Little Research
Visit The Wedding Report to get an idea of what an average wedding in your wedding’s geographic location costs. You can search by zip code or metropolitan area. The average wedding in New York state costs around $35,000.
But what is an “average wedding”?
An average wedding is around 125 guests at a venue or banquet facility that regularly hosts weddings, such as a mid-level hotel like a Marriott or Hyatt that already has the chairs, tables, linens, cutlery, etc. Flowers will be smaller, simple and seasonal, but not luscious or exotic (e.g. bye bye David Austin Roses). Many of the centerpieces you see on Pinterest range from $150-$350 per arrangement, depending on size and the actual flowers used. The linens will be the standard house linens – cream or ivory – and chairs will be the regular banquet chairs. This does not include cushioned vineyard chairs, elegant chivari chairs, or more unique pieces like acrylic or Tolix chairs. It will include a DJ and not a band as bands are more expensive and require more money to produce, and an average photographer (good, but not O. M. GEEE spectacular) for about 6 hours. If you want them to come early for getting ready or stay late for a send-off, add 2-3 hours more. This also probably does not include a videographer. Alcohol is included, but it's likely beer and wine only for 3 hours. This would require a shorter cocktail hour, no signature cocktails, and less time on the dance floor after dinner.
If you want to host more guests or have your wedding at a historic house, barn, or in a tent, expect your costs to increase significantly for rentals as many things will need to be brought in, including tables, chairs, maybe even the caterer or restroom trailers. If you are having your wedding outside a metropolitan area, there will be additional delivery fees.
Remember: the biggest driver in costs are the per head costs: catering, alcohol, favors, invitations, escort cards, place settings, glassware, napkins, chairs. Rather than trying to find extra money, try to decrease your guest count.
Step 4: Think About the Style and Time of Day
Depending on the types of details you want to include, your budget can swing up or swing down significantly. A simple afternoon wedding with some mindful, personalized touches will look very different from an evening black tie affair. Be conscious of your personal style and how that will play a role in the overall look of the day.
Step 5: Define a Budget Range
Once you have considered the factors above, decide on a budget range. The majority of couples end up spending a little more than they originally intended, so it's best to define a window within which you are comfortable staying. You might fall in love with sumptuous letterpress invitations and custom seals but the weight of the invitations require you to spend more on postage and assembly. Meanwhile, your partner decides they want top shelf liquor instead of beer and wine only. Rather than compromising, your budget increases by a couple thousand dollars. This happens really easily and all the time. Therefore, have a target budget that you are aiming for, but also have a stretch budget that you are still okay with before you start experiencing buyer's remorse.
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Step 6: Book a Planner, Then Start Booking Vendors
Wait to book vendors until you know what your wedding budget is. After and ONLY after you have defined your realistic budget range, speak with a wedding planner or two. There are different kinds that offer various levels of service. [Shameless plug, I know, but a wedding planner can not only save you money by preventing you from making costly mistakes (e.g. forgetting to budget for a restroom trailer, gratuities, service charge, and tax), they also keep you focused so you don’t get sidetracked by unnecessary purchases.] This prevents you from spending too much in one or two or a few categories and running out of money.
Knowing all the elements that go into a wedding budget will empower you to make the right decisions when planning your wedding. Do some research, think about your day and your guest list, and have a serious discussion about your wedding budget before booking any vendors – that includes a planner! And finally, never forget the reason you are getting married and what your personal goals are for your wedding. Keep these reasons in mind during the decision-making process and you will more easily avoid getting caught up in all the things that keep popping up on your Pinterest feed.
Better yet, work with me and I'll put together a realistic wedding budget for you so you can get back to living your fabulous life while knowing your wedding details are all being taken care of. Schedule your complimentary consultation today. Your wedding will be here before you know it!
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