It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about what fills some couples and parents with fright… the wedding budget. You’ve already started the planning, but now is the time to crunch the numbers.
Everyone — and I repeat EVERYONE — has a wedding budget. If you are thinking, “I don’t or didn’t really have one,” you are not being entirely honest. At some point during the planning process, you came across an expense and thought either “that’s it?” or, more likely, “no way, I am paying that much.”
It’s okay to have a budget. In fact, it is great! Like we mentioned in the first blog, having a wedding budget from the start is one of the sure-fire ways to not go over budget, make sure you spend money where it matters and eliminates stress.
SETTING AND FOLLOWING YOUR WEDDING BUDGET
All About Prioritizing What Matters
For most people, the money they spend on their wedding is in line with their yearly income and wealth. For example, a couple who spends more than $100,000 on their wedding, likely have or have family members with larger incomes. There are exceptions, but generally, people spend money on weddings like they do any other major purchase – i.e. homes, cars, etc.
Whether your budget is $10,000 or $500,000, you should spend where you are comfortable. You should not go into debt to have a wedding. Like everything else in life, you should only spend what you have. To do this, you will need to prioritize.
Every couple is different. Meaning each and every one of you reading this will place value on different parts of your wedding. For some, it will be the food. For others, it will be music. While others, it will be flowers.
No matter the budget, everyone should set priorities. Why? This way you ensure you spend money on what matters to you and don’t find yourself out of money when it comes to a vendor or item you really want.
Where to Start Planning Your Wedding Budget
Here’s how to begin. Take a piece of paper or open an Excel document. Put the following in rows, grid or however you would like to organize. Write the following:
- Have to Have (like would die if you didn’t have at your wedding). Side note here, likely everyone has to have some type of food at their wedding. The question is – how important is that food to you?
- Would Like to Have
- Can Live Without
- Don’t Want
To properly do this, you need to know everything that could possibly cost you money. Here is a comprehensive list of everything you will need to consider for your wedding day. If your rehearsal dinner, welcome cocktails, brunch, or other events are also a part of this budget, then write these down too.
Please note some of these items likely will cost you no more than $20. However, if you don’t account for 10 of these items, there is $200 you will be responsible for at some point. Might as well know up front and plan for it.
Now the hard part, fill this out. Please take some time doing this and get specific. For example, say you really want gold silverware. Put it in your number one category. Or you really hate buffets, put it in the number four box.
The more you think about what you do and don’t want, the better. This will give you a clear vision of your wedding, and greatly help everyone involved, especially vendors. Outside of your date, their first two questions will be – what is your budget for our services and what do you want?
One important thing to note, guests tend to remember three things: Food, Booze, and Music. These are the areas that directly impact them the most. These might not matter much to you but are something you should consider putting a few extra dollars towards if you can.
When you finish don’t panic if you have a lot more 1’s than any of the rest of the categories. Depending on your budget and what you put as a priority, you might be able to make them all happen. However, it is likely smart to go through the 1’s again and see if any can be knocked down to a 2 or 3. Really challenge yourself to honestly answer this question, “do I really need that?”
Okay, go grab a glass of champagne because part of the hard work is done! You now know where you want to spend money.
How Much Should I Spend on Each Category?
Now the question becomes, how much should you be spending per each vendor category? There are tons of calculators and infographics out there you can refer too. However, please be cautious when using these. Many don’t take into consideration everything on the list above, are too vague or are not relevant to your city.
We have found, through our years of experience, $200 per guest is the baseline needed for a wedding. When we say baseline, we truly mean you are getting married without all the bells and whistles. This is the amount needed to afford the basics like making sure your guests have food, beverages and places to seat. If you just thought this woman is crazy, please re-read my first blog post on me dispelling the truth about how much weddings really cost.
Example time! The majority of our weddings occur in Kansas City so we are going to use this as our model. Kansas City falls in the middle of United States cities on average wedding costs, with the average wedding costing $22,718.
Let’s say you have a $50,000 budget for 200 expected (not invited) guests. Here is how that could break down. Please note the figures below are midrange or what is usually spent on these items and vendors. You can definitely go higher and lower.
- Venue (should be around 10% of the budget) – $8,000 – Downtown KC venues range from $5,000-$15,000
- Food ($30-$40 per person for buffet, labor and service fee) – at $40 per person cost – $8,000
- Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Beverages ($25-$30 per person) at $25 per person cost, this will likely be a wine and beer only bar – $5,000
- Wedding Planner for Month-of Planning – $2,500
- DJ – $2,000
- Lighting – $1,000
- Photographer – $3,500
- Bride’s Outfits and Alterations – $2,500
- Groom’s Outfit – $200
- Hair and Make-up – $300 for just bride, includes trials
- Cake/Desserts – $800
- Flowers/Décor (usually 10-12% of budget) – $5,000
- Linens – $1,500
- Paper Goods – $2,000
- Place Settings (chargers, etc.). – $500
- Food for Getting Ready – $250
- Church – $1,000
- Church/Ceremony Musicians – $500
- Officiant – $200
- Photo booth – $1,000
- Transportation for Guests – $1,500
- Hotel for Couple for Weekend – $600
- Sparklers/Grand Exit – $100
- Small details:
- Cake Stand – $50
- Cake Cutting Set – $50
- Champagne Glasses – $30
- Cardbox – $20
- Marriage license – $50
- Unity Candle – $35
- Guestbook – $50
- Photographer – $100
- DJ – $100
- Caterer – $1,200
- Bartenders – $200
- Photobooth – $50
- Hair and Make-up – $60
- String Quarter – $50
- GRAND TOTAL – $49,995
We took several of these out because these are items most people fluctuate on or don’t include in their overall wedding budget.
- Gifts to people
- Rehearsal Dinner
- Welcome Cocktails
- Hair and Make-up for everyone
- Tables, chairs, furniture outside of what is provided
- Bridesmaids or Groomsmen Outfits
- Videographer (sorry video people… you know I love you)
It’s crazy how fast the money goes, isn’t it? It is also easy to see how 45 percent of couples go over budget by an average of $8,000. This is why it is unbelievably important to sit down and set a real budget.
Once you set your budget and priorities, know the budget will ebb and flow. In some categories, you will spend a bit more than expected, while others you will spend less. If you think you are going to spend more, go back to the budget and see if you can make it up. If not, consider putting that want on hold until you know for sure. Or try to find additional money to cover that want.
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t forget the wedding industry is very black and white. You get what you pay for. In the next blog, we will walk you through how to pick the right venue.
If this left you wanting to learn more and you live in or around Kansas City, you are in luck. We are offering an intimate, hands-on wedding planning workshop full of award-winning cocktails on February 18. More information and tickets can be found here.
Sarah Quinlivan is the owner and lead planner of Quintessential Events, an award-winning wedding and event planning firm that does events throughout the country. From classic to over-the-top, Quintessential Events prides itself on creating weddings that are uniquely you. Why have the day others have already had? Focus on having the day, only you can have. For more information, check out the company’s website and Instagram.