One of the first things EVERY wedding planning task list will tell you to do is to establish your wedding budget. It doesn’t matter if your budget is $5,000 or $500,000 – putting a number out into the universe before doing anything else can really help prevent a lot of headaches in the long run (I even have my clients sign a budget agreement before we get started). Here are a few tips on managing your wedding budget, PLUS a free wedding budget planning worksheet.
There are many wedding budget worksheets out there for you to use, and it honestly don’t really matter how you keep track of your wedding budget. What is important, however, is what you keep track of – and it doesn’t have to be a lot:
• Your overall wedding budget and WHAT that budget includes (i.e. just the wedding day, or wedding rings, honeymoon, etc.)
• Estimated allocations for each wedding item (i.e. ceremony venue, catering, photography, etc.)
• Actual cost for each wedding item
You may also want to include when payments are due on your budget, just to make sure that everything is kept in one place (my wedding budget worksheet does include columns for payments).
How do I allocate my wedding budget?
There are many resources that teach allocating a wedding budget based on percentages (i.e. catering should be 30% of your wedding budget, venue 10%, etc.), but I don’t like doing it this way. First of all, everyone is different and has different priorities – it’s impossible to say EVERYONE should spend this portion of their budget on a particular item. There are some items that can be flexible, while others are more fixed. If you are working with a $10,000 wedding budget and you are told that you should spend 40% of your budget on catering, you might feel stuck trying to find something that you like. Instead, you may cut your budget on desserts or the venue so that you can fit in the food that you’d like.
I would recommend doing research on what different items cost so that you can allocate more appropriately. Finding a coordinator in your area for $1,200 (which is what you allocated in your wedding budget) may be unrealistic. Instead, make a list of ranges and go from there.
What do things cost?
This is a difficult question, because every area is different. You may be able to negotiate based on your wedding budget, and you may be willing to find a newer vendor that has a low rate. Every Last Detail has a great breakdown of costs around the country – I tend to think of costs in the Santa Barbara area for 100 people as follows (please note that these are professional vendors and are just a range):
• Catering (buffet or plated) :: $10,000 to $18,000+
• Photography :: $3,000 to $15,000+
• Venue :: $8,000 to $30,000+
• Day Of Coordinator :: $2,500 to $4,500
• Full Service Planner :: $8,000 to $20,000+
I’m not writing these numbers to scare you – I just want you to be prepared when you start asking for quotes. In addition, these are for PROFESSIONAL vendors; you may be able to find someone outside of these ranges if you are willing to work with someone with less experience.
Getting married in my backyard will save money, right?
Not necessarily. There are many venues where you can bring in anything and everything – rentals, catering, security, transportation, etc. There are a few problems with this thought process, however. Mainly, what you actually NEED to bring in can be misleading. Think about it; you want a full caterer, but your venue (or your backyard) doesn’t have a kitchen. That’s an additional $4,000 to build a kitchen with your rental company. One bathroom isn’t enough for 100 people, so you have to bring in portable bathrooms. You don’t want to blow a fuse because you’re overwhelming the breaker in your backyard, so you’ll need to rent a generator.
Another thing to think about when it comes to rentals – only getting one set of chairs. Some people don’t mind asking guests to bring their chair from the ceremony to the reception, but some prefer a more formal flow. If you only rent one set of chairs, who is going to move them from one space to the other? If you don’t have enough event staff to help with this, you may find yourself in a bit of a bind on the day of the wedding (especially if you don’t have a coordinator to foresee something like this ahead of time).
People often think that getting a food truck or a restaurant to cater will also save money, but this can be disastrous if not planned correctly. Many restaurants just drop off food with chafing dishes, or food trucks may operate solely within their vehicle. That being said, who is going to pour water and champagne for your guests? Who is going to clean up after dinner, and after the event? Unfortunately, there are many things to take into consideration when it may seem as if something is a cost-saving solution – I would say that the solution is really to hire a coordinator, but I won’t get into that today.
I don’t want to overwhelm you – I promise, I don’t! But these are things that you need to think about if you don’t want to be blindsided by your wedding budget further into the planning process. Hopefully keeping track of your wedding budget from the beginning with my worksheet will help a bit! And if you need any help, just let me know – I’m always available for consultations with those having trouble with their wedding planning!
Vendors in this post :: Candice Benjamin Photography