How to: Choose a realistic wedding budget

Previously on this blog, we talked a little bit about tight budgets and where you can find extra wiggle room (See Budget’s tight? Here are the first things to cut from your event.). Before you can focus on where to cut costs, or even on what your main priorities are for your event, first you have to create your overall ideal budget. For some people, a range of a few thousand dollars is okay, but others want to have a specific budget that is set in stone. Either way, finding that number that works for you and your spouse can be confusing if you’ve never planned a large event before. This post isn’t going to dive into what percentage of your budget should be allocated to each area, but rather will give you an idea of how to pick a overall wedding budget amount that works for you and your spouse.

Here are the things you will want to consider:

Industry Costs

Before anything else, you will want to find out how much each vendor typically costs in your area. This will help you create a budget that will be realistic, and thus help you stay within the budget you end up creating.

Income

How much money will you make in the length of your engagement that DOESN’T go to necessities (food, housing, etc)? Are you a spender or a saver? Where can you cut costs comfortably? You’ll want to consider how much you can realistically save to put towards your budget while still living comfortably.

Other Funds

Is there anyone other than you and your partner that will be contributing to your big day? If so, you will have to have upfront conversations with them about how much and where/how they will be contributing so that you can make your budget accordingly.

Guest Count

Typically, the more people you invite to your wedding, the more costly it will be. This very occasionally is not the case, but definitely think about your guest count when creating your budget.

Inclusions/Exclusions

Some people prefer for every wedding related expense to be part of the budget, while others are okay leaving a few things out. Think about what counts in your budget, and what will just be other costs outside of it. Do rings count? Does your honeymoon count? What about alterations to your attire? These are the main things that people tend to leave out, but it is important to think about how you will pay for everything, whether it is in the budget or not.

Priorities

When you envision your day, what stands out the most? People prioritize different things, such as food or photography, and the budget you create should reflect what is most important to you.

Date

If it is important to you to have your wedding on a certain date, the costs could reflect that. Off season weddings are significantly more inexpensive that mid-season weddings, so keep in mind your date, or at least the season you would like if you don’t have a date set.

Hidden/Extra Costs

Sometimes vendors have extra costs associated with services they perform (such as a corkage fee). It is a good idea to think about these and ask your vendors about hidden costs, so you can factor them in to your budget. In addition to this, it is a good idea to factor in vendor tips, as these can add a few hundred dollars, sometimes more.

Add Contingency

Contingency is just a fancy way of saying you’ll need extra money. This extra will allow for anything unexpected to still fall in your budget, where without it you could be going over.

Once you have figured out all of these factors, you should have a pretty good idea of what you should spend on your wedding for the budget to be realistic and comfortable. I’ll leave you here with something you’ve probably heard a thousand times, but please, please, don’t go into debt for your wedding. Weddings are a beautiful and exciting time, but they are just one day at the start of many with your new spouse.

How to: Pick Your Event Vendors

Picking your vendors is definitively one of the more challenging parts of planning your event. Some vendors may be more obvious to you- like picking that barn venue you have had your eye on for years- but others can be a little more complex when it seems they are all offering the same thing, or when you just aren’t quite sure what you want yet.

I will be the first to admit that this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the things you should do before you hire your vendors-there are about a million questions you should be asking each and every one of them before you sign any papers (blog post to come 😉). However, if you are looking for a starting point of how to narrow down the sea of vendors available to you, this list should help.

Budget

This is probably obvious, but find out pricing of vendors before falling in love with their work when you can. If you love the vendor and they are on or below budget, continue on with the rest of these considerations, but also keep in mind that your budget allocations should be somewhat flexible. This doesn’t mean your overall budget needs to go up, but if you have your heart set on a venue that is more than you allocated to that expense, as long as you are okay with cutting back in another area, you don’t have to completely rule the dream venue out.

Location

The ease of which you can hire vendors near your event location depends a lot on where you decide to host the event. Just keep in mind that if a vendor does not typically service events in your area, there may be costs associated with them travelling to the event location. This is not always the case, but when possible it is usually best to hire vendors within the area. This will also help things run more smoothly on the day of, as they will likely be familiar with the venue or the area you are hosting the event in.

Personality

This is a pretty important one. You may not be overly concerned with the personality of your vendors, but when you are trying to enjoy a special day, there is nothing you want less than nitpicky vendors, or people that just don’t jive with your vision or personality. Make sure that you meet with your vendors in person (or at the very least over the phone) before you hire them so you can be sure they are someone you know you will communicate and get along well with.

Style

Most vendors have a specific style of the services that they offer. For example, venues can vary in style from a rustic barn venue to a sleek modern hotel venue and pretty much anywhere in between. This is the same for every type of vendor- photographers can have edgy or airy styles, caterers may serve formal plated dinners or barbeque style truck food, and so on. Hiring vendors that specialize in the style you want captured on your event date is key to ensuring your day looks the way you envisioned. Though it is sometimes possible to transform an event space or ask a vendor to do something in a specific style, it tends to be best to choose vendors that are experts in the style you are looking for, so that you know they get your vision and are able to capture it.

Reviews/References

Reviews and references can be super helpful for ease of mind, and to get to know a bit of behind the scenes of how a vendor works and communicates throughout the planning process. If you can get a phone number of a previous client from a vendor, that is perfect so you can ask them any questions you have about their side of working with the vendor. Another good reference is to look at the vendor’s social media profiles to see if they fit your vision (tagged photos are great to see the unstaged photos of real events). Sometimes vendors are just starting out and don’t have much experience to share with you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you will just want to be sure that you align with the vendor’s personality and the services they are offering you.

Please, Get Contracts

Get everything in writing, read the fine print, and make sure that you ask questions if you aren’t sure about something. You will be paying these vendors for their services and you want to make sure that you are getting all the services you need, and that you know what it will be costing you.

It can be overwhelming seeing how many vendors are available to you. This list should help you narrow your choices down so that you can meet with vendors and begin putting together your dream day.