If you’re recently engaged, you may already know that one of the first things you should do in regards to wedding planning is to set a budget. Your wedding budget can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. But the reality is…before you start choosing a venue or choosing a color palette, you need to get a good handle on your overall wedding budget.
STEP 1: TRACK YOUR BUDGET
And the first step is to find a way to track your budget. Whether it’s an Excel sheet or another wedding software program (like the customized one all of our brides receive as being a part of our family!), figure out how you are going to track your expenses. If you’re going to create your own Excel sheet or chart, be sure to have a column for “Estimated” costs, another column for “Actual” costs, a third column for “Deposit” amounts, and a fourth column for the “Remaining” payments. Once you have this set up, work the budget into your routines and schedule. Are you going to update your budget weekly? Daily? It doesn’t matter as long as you are keeping track of it.
STEP 2: FIGURE OUT WHO IS PAYING
The next step is to figure out who is paying. We wrote an in-depth blog post on this, so be sure to read it here. But make sure you know who is paying for what and whether or not you need to include it in the overall wedding budget.
STEP 3: PRIORITIZE
Decide what are the most important things in your wedding, and set your budget for those items first. (You may also want to be sure to book those priorities first!) But by first figuring out what are the most important things to you, you can help ensure you don’t blow your budget on something that’s not a priority, and thus end up short on the things that are.
STEP 4: RESEARCH…CAREFULLY
Unless you’ve already hired a wedding planner, you’re going to have to do a ton of research on weddings and the cost of weddings. There’s A LOT of data out there, but you have to keep in mind that this data covers an enormous range of variables… location, guest count, type/style of wedding, etc. You want to try to find statistics and data for wedding costs not only for the area/region you live in, but also your guest count and the style of wedding you are having. Be careful on the region/area: Even in South Carolina, weddings cost differently in the Upstate than they do in Charleston. And if you’re searching for “Southeastern Wedding Costs”, there’s going to be an even bigger gap. So try to dial-it-in and find data for your exact location. Knowing how much the average venue costs in your area, how much the average photographer costs…the average baker…the average floral designer…will certainly help you in creating a better wedding budget. For example. if you find that the average venue in your area costs $4,000, then you know you need to allocate $4,000 of your wedding budget to the venue alone.
Side note: As with most things in life - you get what you pay for when it comes to weddings. You may interview two separate photographers and find that they have two separate price points… But be sure you are comparing apples to apples. What kind of experience will each photographer give you? Will he or she have you sign on the dotted line and then become a stranger until much closer to your wedding day? Or will he or she stay in touch with you, give you attire advice, perhaps even spend time getting to know the two of you better? And what kind of professional experience does each photographer have? Is one photographer new and the other well-established? As a boutique wedding planning company that only takes on a limited number of weddings per year, we are able to devote more time and more attention to each of our clients…giving each of them the best of ourselves. We form relationships with them, and we 120% believe this is imperative since you will be spending a lot of time with your wedding planner. These are all different things to consider when comparing the cost of one vendor vs another. The quality and experience play a huge role in the costs…and again, you get what you pay for.
STEP 5: DETERMINE A GUEST COUNT
You MUST know how many guests to expect at your wedding. So much of your wedding budget hinges on your guest count:
The Venue: Each venue has a different capacity. Some venues will hold a maximum of 100 people while others will hold up to 400.
Catering and Beverage: The more mouths you have to feed, the more food you need to have. So the more guests you have, the more you will spend on food and beverages.
Decor & Rentals: The more guests you have at your wedding, the more tables you’ll have. Which means…the more tables you have, the more centerpieces you’ll need. And in the same light, the more guests you have, the more chairs you’ll need, the more linens you’ll need, the more china/flatware/glassware you’ll need… etc.
If you want to keep your budget small, or on the smaller side, then you need to keep your guest list small, too. It is one of the only ways to truly cut back and still have a professionally-ran wedding. Usually 10-20% of your guest list will RSVP “No” to your wedding…so look at your maximum number and consider your guest count to be 10-20% less than that. One of our favorite ways to determine guest count is:
Determine how many guests (ideally) you’d like to attend your wedding. For simplicity purposes, let’s say that number is 100. That means you need to invite NO MORE than 110-120 guests. If you want no more than 150 guests at your wedding, then you don’t want to invite more than 185 or so guests.
STEP 6: CREATE YOUR BUDGET
Once you have all of the above factors determined, then you need to actually sit and make your budget. Take your overall wedding budget and give each category (i.e., “venue”, “catering”, “rentals”) a percentage of that budget based on the research you’ve done. Remember to prioritize your most important things.
Manage your budget or have your wedding planner manage it for you. If other people are contributing to your wedding budget, then kindly ask them to deposit their portion to a special wedding funds account that you can withdraw from to make deposits.
Don’t forget to factor vendor gratuity in to your wedding budget. Yes, this is a thing. The wedding industry is a service-based industry just like waitressing/serving in a restaurant. Tips are highly encouraged and appreciated, and some vendors actually expect it. Again, this is something you need to research or lean on your wedding planner’s advice.
Choose pre-designed or semi-custom invitations and stationery. Yes, custom invitations and stationery are BEAUTIFUL and STUNNING, but so are a lot of pre-designed, ready-made or semi-custom-made suites. We LOVE Minted.
Hire a DJ instead of a band if you need to cut back. Sometimes this is hard to hear, especially for couples who have had their hearts set on a band. But the reality is: Bands are expensive, and DJs can really pack the dance floor just as much as a band. Most DJs aren’t like DJs of our past…cheesy and doing everything under the sun to try to get people on the dance floor. Most DJs, now, are way more advanced and way more creative with much cooler setups…and they know how to read a crowd. The DJs we recommend always pack out the dance floor.
Use the “Sleep On It” Rule. I personally use this for my Amazon cart on a weekly basis… if I see something I want to buy, I add it to my cart, but I wait a week before deciding to purchase. If at the end of the week, I honestly, truly still want it, then I’ll buy it. But if it’s something I’ve barely given thought to over the past week, I just delete it from my cart. Do the same thing with some of your wedding items…those shoes, that piece of jewelry, that clutch, those cool socks for the guys…before you click “purchase”, give yourself 24 hours before making the decision to actually buy it or not.
Forego the wedding favors. Honestly - your guests won’t miss them and won’t expect them. The fact is… at the end of the night, many times we are having to physically hand out favors to guests as they depart…otherwise most of the favors are leftovers.
Keep your guest list as low as possible. Clearly I cannot stress this enough. Your guest list is the NUMBER 1 way to cut your budget.
Once you have your budget, stick to it. What’s the point in a budget if you aren’t sticking to it?
Finding yourself lost and needing help creating, managing, and tracking your budget? You may need to hire a wedding planner who offers these services…reach out to us - we’re here to help!