Why is wedding planning so expensive? It’s a question we know is on everyone’s mind that has ever been on the consumer end of our industry. These 5 ways to budget for your wedding are our key foundational blueprints for every couples success in planning a budget friendly wedding.
As a planner, I am always extremely empathetic when we begin discussing a couple’s budget and am sure to carefully set realistic expectations based on a few key factors. Clearly defining your budget involves knowing where and from whom the money is coming, outlining your priorities, planning for unexpected costs due to venue location/other factors, and knowing the average vendor pricing in the market in which your wedding will be celebrated. It’s a little more involved than setting up a spreadsheet and playing with numbers, so let’s get into it!
This is priority number one for any and every couple getting married and is where we start the budgeting conversation with all of our couples. We need to establish a realistic financial comfort zone, and we need to be honest about it. If there is a “cushion” in place be sure to let your planner know upfront. For the entire SJE team, when you tell us your budget, we stick to it. If you have a secret 20K on the side that you fully anticipate using that we don’t know about, we will not be able to serve your vision to its fullest potential. On the flip side, we absolutely, under no circumstances, support or recommend a couple put themselves or family members in a tight financial position in order to pay for a wedding. Every budget is workable when you come to your wedding planning with a compromising realistic head on your shoulders.
This is a tricky waltz to dance sometimes. Family dynamics are hard; sometimes funds are tied with the expectation of having a say in decisions, while others may come with a lot of “holding it over your heads.” As traditions change, budgeting can become a little more complicated.
Thankfully we don’t see a whole lot of these situations but if you start your wedding planning process and a particular family member decides they would like to fund all or a significant portion of your wedding, be sure to have an open and honest conversation with them on what yours and their expectations are should you accept this kind gift. It will catch any red flags ahead of time, long before contracts are signed, and long before you are being coerced into a design plan that doesn’t really fit you and your fiancé.
When we begin working with our full-planning couples, we have a deep conversation about their priorities. Is having the best of the best photography team really important to you?
Do you want your decor to be heavily driven by florals and lavish tablescapes? Is the size of your guest count extremely important to you? With almost endless combinations, defining priorities early allows us to allocate your funds in a way that meets your vision. For instance, we may add more money to be prioritized to book a top photographer, and put a little less towards a vendor category that isn’t as important to you. When you do this you are able to ensure you know where you are spending most of your money and guarantee that it is going towards areas that will make you the most satisfied with your wedding day!
Hint hint, your wedding planner is here to help you with this! Understanding unexpected costs don’t come out to be as nefarious as it sounds. The reality is, you don’t know what you don’t know. If you are not a professional planner, and yours is the first wedding you have ever planned, how could you accurately anticipate every single need of your vision? These budgeting areas tend to become factors to consider when we are working with a more remote venue that would require transportation for your guests, wanting to have a fully outdoor wedding that would require a tent(s) and lighting installations, having a venue that doesn’t have any base inclusions in their pricing such as linen/tables/chairs, or needing to use an outside catering company.
There are a lot of areas of planning a wedding that a couple wouldn’t initially think of and are so nuanced and specific that most blogs and larger planning brands can’t speak to them in the depth that is needed for your specific wedding, which leaves a potential financial hole for couples to fall into later on in their planning. It’s important to take a step back when discussing your budget and think through the entire day from a logistics and guest perspective to ensure you plan and allocate accordingly.
I could go on about this until I am blue in the face. There is a large push to budget your vendors based on a percentage of your overall budget. In a perfect world, this would work, but all it does is send couples out into the wedding world to start procuring vendors with unrealistic expectations on the expense, ultimately leading to sticker shock (this is often when we see the phrase “wedding tax” uttered). This is where working with a professional planner who knows the ins and outs of their market and the industry can take a lot of surprises off the table for you.
Once we have established a financial comfort zone with our couples, discussed and ranked vendor categories by priority, and factored in any “unexpected” expenses, we then get to the final stage of discussing what our area averages are for each vendor. As an example, the average wedding photographer in Virginia Beach has a price point that falls between 3,000 and 3,500 for 8 hours of coverage and all post-wedding production. There are some that fall below that price point and some that pull above. If you have a budget of 30K and are told that you should be spending 8% of your budget on a photographer and no more, you will likely feel discouraged as you begin reaching out to photographers only to find that they are averaging $600-$1,100 over what you were expecting. It’s a feeling we never want any couple to feel! With a properly set budget based on realistic expectations and priorities, we set our couples up for success with a pleasant vendor booking experience.
Is budgeting for your wedding the most exciting portion of your planning process? Absolutely not! However, it is an extremely important step that allows for a much smoother process as you move forward. Everything in life is only as strong as the foundation you build it on, and the budget is one of the most important trusses of your wedding day.