Wedding Budget 101

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Spend it Wisely

By Laurin Fegley, Owner Simply Smooth Catering and Event Planning

wedding-fund-piggy-bankSince one’s budget plays such a big role in the things that are possible, it should be just about the first item to be addressed shortly after “I will”! There are many excellent questions that deserve a lot of answers regarding the funding and proper planning of your wedding and your overall wedding day. Ultimately whatever your choices, they need to fit into your wallet, especially if you plan on making it happen so that you are less stressed and more comfortable in the weeks and months before your wedding.

The website is a very useful resource to see what the average cost of weddings are nationwide. Put in your zip code and see what things cost in the market you are located in. Selecting quality vendors to provide your services is key to a less stressful planning process. There are books to go with books and guides like the one in the back of this magazine that will all help you in determining what a reasonable budget might be. But before you go to that section here are key things to keep in mind…

 Keep everything together so contracts and details aren’t everywhere…

You probably don’t need a spreadsheet or a degree in mathematics, but just the ability to keep everything together, in one folder, with an accounting of what you’ve spent – and you’ll be golden! The more that can get forgotten or lost, the more costly your wedding will become.

BudgetImage3revisedWhen to book a facility and at what cost…

Before you book a venue get a reasonable estimate on what the “real” costs are of having an event there, not just a rental fee! Does it require tenting, dance floor, ceremony chairs, etc.? That estimate needs to include approved vendors, actual costs or reasonable estimates over the phone and any hidden fees. Don’t hesitate to ask vendors or the venue about these costs!

What About Bar Packages? Can I provide my own alcohol? If so, who can serve it? Preferred Vendors or the cost of using a vendor who is not preferred?  What is the cost of an extra hour? What time does the party need to end? When does set-up need to occur? These are just a few of the questions that you are going to want to make sure you ask when considering where your reception is going to take place.

If a facility is more than 12-16% of your total budget for the day and does not include catering, this will probably not work out well in the future. With catering and or a bar package you’ll be more in the 60-65% of total budget range. Once booked it’s a little late to find out that it’s not within your budget and you often cannot get your money!

What does having an outdoor reception do to my cost?

“I want to have my wedding in my parents’ yard to save money.” Ah, no. Outdoor weddings add 35-40% or more to the cost of any party. Those costs are related to tenting, tables, chairs, dance floor and other rentals including nice rest facilities for your guests. Most of those additional costs are not necessary in a traditional venue where you also have the luxuries of air conditioning, heat, being dry and restrooms. So with all that being said and you have the budget, nothing can be more beautiful than a well-designed outdoor affair!

Assume nothing in your budget!

Filling in the blanks on a budget page with what you “think” some items should cost may not be disastrous! For instance, did you think about the dance floor or lighting to go with the tenting you’ll need for your outdoor event? If you didn’t, that could prove to be a $1000 mistake. A few phone calls will probably save you much aggravation later! Vendors can help you make wise choices as to what you will need, how much it costs and remind you of some items like lighting in the tent that you might not have thought about until it’s dark!

In planning, there is nothing wrong with adding in a “slush” fund for add-ons later or slight miscalculations in the initial planning stage. It’s recommended that you leave about 10% in this area just in case something arises that you weren’t expecting!

How do I budget for Catering…

Most people have no problem with the cost of a catering menu, yet rarely do folks realize that the cost of that $35-$50 menu is just the beginning of catering. There are always linens, china, flatware, stemware and more! Staffing is usually billed on an as needed basis verses just paying a percentage based gratuity, there can often be a service charge which covers other related costs, and of course, gratuity. Those things can be nearly twice as costly as the base cost of the food itself. A catering budget may be as high as 60% of your overall budget for your wedding.

Transportation: What does a reasonable limousine cost?

The average cost of a stretch sedan limousine is about $350 – $475 for a 3-4 hour package, which in most cases is ample. Stretch SUV’s will start around $750 – $1000 and will be higher in price depending on the seating capacity. Specialty cars can be procured, usually starting somewhere in the area of $1000 and will usually have mileage limitations as well. Additional hours can be added in advance, but not always the day of as the same car may have a job following yours – confirm this in advance with your coach company.

Photography:  Images, glorious images!

There are a wide range of photographers with a wide range of price points. Photography, like several other areas of wedding planning, is subjective as an art form. You will find photographers from a few hundred dollars to those that cost thousands of dollars and everything in between. On average good quality photography costs start somewhere around $2000. Some professionals cost significantly more. We would always suggest meeting with several varied priced photographers to feel the difference for yourself. Be sure to understand what’s included up front as the base cost of the packages all include different perks and conditions such as albums, copyrights and amount of time on site the day of your wedding.

 Florists: Stop and Smell the Roses!

As is true in almost every other aspect of planning your wedding, this area varies greatly.  An average wedding of 3-4 attendants on each side, with a tasteful bridal bouquet, bridesmaids bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, and church pieces will be starting at $1000 -$1200 depending on specifics. Reception designs may be part rental and part fresh flowers, all fresh flowers, or any combination in between. Centerpieces generally start at about $50 – $60 per table for something fitting at a reception site. There are always options to cost less, and of course the sky can be the limit! Budgetstory

Entertainment: Let the Music Play…

This is a make it or break it service! No one forgets a DJ who thinks everyone wants to hear him and not the music. Make sure when you are selecting a personality that you select the actual person you will have at your reception. Good DJ’s start at $1000, with lighting packages and other options available as well. Some entertainment companies start in price at $2500 and up. Bands usually price from $4000 for some local ones to $8-12000 for a metro band.

 Dessert: Sweets, glorious sweets!

A wedding cake is a work of art. Learning the difference between whipped cream, rolled fondant and butter cream is not a bad experience – because you get to eat cake the whole way through! Be wary of your friend who knows someone who wants to make your cake. Most people don’t have proper refrigeration in their homes to hold a wedding cake at a low enough temperature and delivery is challenging to say the least. Next to the happy couple, this is the second most photographed item at a wedding – it’s worth paying a professional for that reason alone! A good range for pricing is as follows:
Butter cream cakes from $3.50/slice, Whipped cream cakes from $4/slice and Fondant ranges from about $6/slice depending on the difficulty of the pattern, could be more. Fillings can add about another dollar or so to the pricing. Various patterns will add to pricing as well, but there are many beautiful affordable ones that will be options as well!

Invitations: Save the Date…

Most invitations start at about $2 each on a seal and send to $3-5/set for basic sets. Pockets and other really nice upscale options will range from $7 and up. Marriage and Finance

When does DIY make sense? 

Most couples will find that doing a lot of DIY projects with details that have to wait until the day or two before their wedding day can prove frustrating as there is so much going on those last few days and friends are flying in from out of town, etc. At the end of the day, if you can do some DIY projects and be done a few weeks before your wedding – go for it. If it requires you baking your own cake or making your own centerpieces or something else that has to wait until the last minute, hire a professional – you won’t regret the peace of mind and sleep you’ll get the night before your wedding.

At the end of the day, this sums up to one thing – what is the actual budget you have available to spend and how can you most wisely use those funds to create a wonderful day for you and your guests to remember for years to come. If it’s not affordable then look further, change your concept or ask your vendors for advice. Combined you will probably work with people who have a hundred years or more of experience – don’t hesitate to ask for their expertise!