Sitting down to figure out your wedding budget can seem like an activity you just want to avoid. It’s the start of some real logistics and math that can have a huge outcome on your dream day; good & bad! Who likes to talk about finances? BUT…it’s a wildly important topic that will shape your wedding day into a smooth sailing ship. Think of this as the start of bringing your dream wedding to life! Once you have your budget down, everything becomes easy since you’ll have the framework for a rad celebration.
I’ve asked 3 of my favorite wedding planners in Southern California to share their best tips and advice with you so that when it’s time to sit down and talk money – you know exactly what to do.
First up is the inevitable – exactly how much money are you working with? Here’s what Margaux from Harmony Creative Studio said about this first step (catch her working her tablescape styling magic in the photo above, she’s a star!)
“First things first for your wedding budget: You’re going to need to figure exactly what you want to spend, what you’re willing to spend, and what you’re realistically going to spend. This involves three steps:
1. Find out where, who and when your wedding dollars are coming from. This will involve some frank conversations with your partner and both families. Questions to ask: are we paying for this ourselves? Are both families pitching in, and if so, how much? Are we pulling from money we have now, or spreading it out as we save over the course of our engagement?
2. Set an initial budget. Based on the conversations you have had – set an initial, conservative number that you would like to stick to.
3. Then, set a realistic budget. After initial research on your venue, wedding costs in your area, a talk with your planner, etc. – set a budget that you feel is a real number that can get you the wedding you want.”
If you want to read a more in-depth look at her own article about wedding budgeting, head to her blog here and you’ll come away with even more knowledge on the topic!
Next, Nicole from Nicole George Events (above!) talks about prioritizing the top elements of your wedding so you know exactly where to spend your money. Here’s what she had to say:
“Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! Naturally, each couple prioritizes different aspects of their wedding based on what is important to them. For instance, one couple may want to invest more in a photographer whereas another couple may want to invest more in a full bar experience. Just as each couple is unique, so are their “wants” and “needs”. As a couple, we suggest having a frank conversation about where you are comfortable splurging more of your budget and where you prefer to save. This will allow you to both feel comfortable about your investments and maneuvering your budget throughout planning.”
Now that you know where you money is coming from – whether you are getting some help or spending your own hard-earned cash – and you know what is important to you both for your wedding day, Gabi from Gabriela Pilar Events has some thoughts on your guest list that will help determine booking your venue in a few steps:
“Don’t book a venue before finalizing your guest list (and determining a goal budget.)
Many couples get caught up in the excitement of their engagement that they jump the gun and start researching and visiting venues. Although this is exciting, it does more harm than good. The number one category couples overspend on is the venue! After you ‘say yes’, sit down with your fiancé and parents and collect their preferred guest list. Ask yourself what type of wedding you want to have – do you want it to be intimate? Do you want all your family and friends in attendance? Are there cultural traditions that must be incorporated? These questions will help guide you through many tough decisions in the planning process. Depending on the final guest count you decide on, this will steer you into the budget discussion. Remember, the more guests you have – the more it will cost.
Now that you have the guest list, it is time to discuss your budget. For most couples, this is a difficult discussion, but you need to have it in order to determine what you can afford. Find out who will be contributing financially, and whether you as a couple will be supporting part or all of the budget. Also, consider the timeframe of your engagement – will it be short (6 months or less) or long (12-18 months)? This will help you determine the monthly financial impact and whether your ideal budget is realistic.
With the guest list and budget confirmed, now you can jump into the next phase – hire a wedding planner or book a venue. If you want to plan your wedding on your own, make sure you spend no more than 40-45% of the total budget on the venue & associated catering/bar costs.”
There are are some other important side notes each planner mentioned that I thought would be helpful:
“As a rule of thumb, your Catering and Bar costs are going to equate to half your budget. Yes, we said it and yes, it’s true! Weddings are naturally expensive but often, our couples are most shell-shocked with how expensive professional catering can end up being. Think about it this way… your caterer is literally bringing the restaurant to you – the equipment, the staff, the food, the service, the transportation and that’s just the beginning of it! Then add on how much it would cost for an actual plated meal at a nice restaurant, multiplied by each guest. To make budgeting easier, take our advice and allocate at least half of your total wedding budget for food and beverage from the get-go. If you end up saving by going with a more economical caterer or less ornate bar, at least you will have more wiggle room to play with for enhancements later on instead of going over budget from the beginning!:
-Nicole from Nicole George Events
AND, the last tip for budgeting, something they all touched on: EMERGENCY FUNDS!
“Things people often forget when doing their wedding budget: valet, transportation, delivery + pick up costs, gratuity, taxes and postage/shipping costs.”
-Margaux from Harmony Creative Studio
“Weddings are expensive and most couples go over-budget due to overlooked details. To account for any unforeseen costs or “extras”, I always recommend allotting 5% of the budget to an “emergency fund”.”
-Gabi from Gabriela Pilar Events
“To combat going over budget, we suggest adding in 3-5% of your budget for these “extras” from the beginning.”
-Nicole from Nicole George Events
Amazing tips, right? Thank you so much to my planner pals for helping support this article with their advice! My hope is that it will guide you in the right direction when first starting to think about your wedding – and that you’ll hire one of them to make things run as smoothly as possible when its time!
Adding a planner to your wedding day not only eases the burden on you and your partner, but brings in additional support and resources for you to lean on when things become overwhelming. So, of course, 10/10 recommend getting yourself a wedding planner ASAP.
Here’s a quick link guide to the 3 planners mentioned above: