This industry pro hardly needs an introduction beyond the mention of her name, she is at the top of her game here locally in the wedding industry and could be compared to a perfected GPS system, for a planning bride that is! Mara Marian-Harwood from Events by LMG guest posts for us today on the basics of your wedding budget!
It happened. You finally got your bling. Your left hand is a little heavier than yesterday and you can’t seem to stop looking down at your new rock. The first thing you should do is insure your new bauble, but that’s a different post for a different day. (But seriously, call your insurance agent right away and insure your engagement ring!)
Once you’re engaged you embark on an exciting and generally overwhelming new chapter in your life. Knowing where to start is often a bride’s biggest challenge. We get a lot of phone calls in our office from engaged gals who aren’t even sure why they’re calling; they just don’t know where to begin. Oftentimes they’re eager to start discussing venues, design and décor ideas and even their menus all before they’ve even determined a budget for those elements or even for the event as a whole. The budget is the least fun part of the planning process, yet it’s the absolute most important and has to be tackled from the very beginning. Determining a budget from the start will help you get organized and will guide your process with your service providers so that you can feel confident in your choice to invest with any given vendor. Great, so now what?
First, you must sit down and determine who will contribute to your event. Are you and your fiancé footing the bill? Contributing to it? Is your father picking up the entire check? Will the wedding be financed by both sets of parents or some combination of all of the above? It’s important to know who’s contributing, and how much, before you even begin. It’s not a good idea to start booking any service providers or a venue before you’ve determined how much money you’ve got to work with.
Once you have your budget make a list of your priorities as a couple. What elements are important to each of you individually, and which elements are important to you both? Organize every element into one of three categories:
Very Important/Must Have
Would Like to Have
Not Important/Don’t Need
Getting a clear picture of the priority elements and the “not important/don’t need” elements is a perfect first step. This way there is no confusion as to whether or not a lot of money (or any at all) should be spent on any particular area.
NOTE: Try not to depend too much on any “suggested wedding budget” percentages in bridal magazines and online. Every couple is different, and therefore their priorities vary and therefore what should be spent on any particular element will also vary. We find that our younger couples tend to be less concerned with their menus and far more concerned with the entertainment and general décor. That couple will put aside less of their money to their food and beverage portion of the budget and will likely spend more on a favorite DJ and custom lighting options while our destination clients must allocate much more of their budget for lodging and transportation than our local couples.
Start looking into service providers for the elements that will come with the largest investments associated. Your venue and food and beverage bills tend to be the highest and should be among the first budgets you determine; we call these the “big ticket elements.” Your venue may also determine which service providers you are able to contract with based on their preferred vendor lists. Following close after these big ticket elements are often a client’s photographer and florist. By starting with the service providers who will have the largest investments associated is best, the sooner you can allocate the funds in your budget to cover the big stuff, you will start to see what’s remaining for any elements that made it on to your “Would Like to Have” list.
5%-10% of your budget should be set aside for incidental and miscellaneous items that will come up through out the process. Particularly at the end of your planning little charges creep up for last-minute printing, additional décor or emergency alterations.
If all else fails, cut your guest list. I know, it’s a tough decision to decide who to cut. The fact is, every additional guest is an additional meal, an additional chair which results in an additional table and therefore another linen, another centerpiece, more china… the list goes on.
If you can afford it, hire a professional planner or coordinator to assist you. Truly, your investment with your planning pro will save your hours of research and provide you with piece of mind as you’re signing contracts and cutting checks. A seasoned planner knows what different services should cost based on your budget and taste. This planning pro may even offer services that include budget tracking so you know what you’ve spent, what payments are due and also how much of the budget it less.
Whether or not you opt to hire a planner, don’t do anything until you’ve determined your budget.