Budgeting for your wedding

A harsh reality of planning a wedding is creating a budget. It may not be the most romantic aspect of your nuptials, but it’s crucial, in order to reduce stress and not overspend. Here are some helpful ways to plan your budget:

  1. Talk to all the contributors. Maybe the couple is paying for the entire wedding themselves, maybe one family is footing the bill, or maybe it is being split between many parties. Whatever your situation is, make it clear from the beginning how much (and on what aspects of the wedding) each group is willing to spend.
  2. Decide what your big items are. For some, this is the venue, for others they want to allot a large percentage on food. Deciding on these big-ticket items early on will allow you to budget for the others.
  3. Remember what is important. It can be easy to get focused on getting the vendors their checks, and picking the right DJ that fits your budget. Remember at the end of the day, you’ll be celebrating with your partner and guests, and that will be the most important part.

How-to-set-your-wedding-budgetImage by Mark Sebastian on Flickr licensed by Creative Commons

Finally, the actual numbers. There are a number of budget spreadsheets available online, but my favorite way to get the rough numbers is to ask:

"Picture the meal and setting that you would have for your reception and try to match it to a restaurant you know. Now – what does this meal cost if you were to go out on any regular evening?"

Take that meal cost and multiply it by two to four times, and you have a range of per person cost for your reception. Mutliply THAT by your number of guests and you have a good estimate of a reception budget.

For example, if you like the atmosphere and food at Portland restaurant Ned Ludd, take your per person cost for dinner there (including apps and drinks), let's say that's $85 per person. Multiply that times 2 or 4 to get the range. Your per-person wedding budget range is $170 – 340 per person. If you expect 100 guests, you should budget $17-34K for the wedding reception.

Keep in mind that, the lower the meal cost goes, the less accurate this may be, since you may have venue costs or rental costs for a private venue that far outstrip the cost of a casual meal for 100. Also, while this is a great way to estimate per-person costs, it doesn't address big-ticket budget items that aren't used by guests such as the wedding clothes, honeymoon, or rings. Sometimes the only way to do it is line-by-line.

What method are you using to estimate your budget? Please leave us a comment with your thoughts!

– Malia Exo-Robinson and Emee Pumarega contributed to this blog post.

Event Design Series: Day 4 – Budget

Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)…

More about our Event Design Series here at Day 1, and where the questions came from

Day 4: Budget: What tips do you have for a client that has a very small budget but wants a big impact?

Inexpensive table centerpiece of glitter paper, shadowbox frame, and candles
Materials available at most craft stores for around $15USD. Design concept by EJP Events.

I will try not to write a novel here, although it’s very tempting. Budget is always a concern, even for so-called “big budget” events – no one wants waste or to go over. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Manage your and your guests’ expectations. Remember that your target budget needs to reflect real life. For example, whatever your target event budget is, take about half of that for food and drinks and set your style/formality level from there. So a $30/per person event has a roughly $15/per person meal (including drinks and service!), so keep it casual!

2. Focus your efforts. If there’s no budget for an item like decor or party favors, remove it from the program rather than trying to do it halfway. If you design what you do have carefully, attendees often won’t notice what you didn’t include.

2. Cut your guest list. The number one element that affects the budget is the scale. Each additional guest means an additional chair, spot a table, place setting, invitation, print suite, meal or food, drinks, and rental items. Also – carefully manage your invitations and RSVPs so you don’t purchase for guests who don’t show up. You will get fewer guests than you expect more often than not.

3. If you are doing any event functions in-house or DIY in order to save money, start early. There’s nothing more morale-killing at an organization than giving a job like registration/nametags, decor, or setup to your employees (or, in the case of a wedding/social event, to your relatives and friends) and leaving things until the last minute. Your hoped-for “big impact” will wither and die as people sense the stress of your DIY staff or volunteers.

4. Choose a venue wisely. For example, if there’s no budget for decor, avoid sites with little built-in appeal that cry out for flowers or lighting. And if a speaker is an important component of the event, look for a venue with a great sound system included in the rental (and test it!).

5. Support “lean” events with customer service. If you are having to cut back on food or decor, chances are these are less noticeable if your guests are treated well and with personal service from the time they register to the time the exit the event.

Have a tip on event budgets you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below!