This was a guest post I wrote for Jen McKen Photography’s blog back in January. I think it is a really important one, so in case you didn’t read it I’ve posted for you again. Read and take notes. Seriously.
One thing that I commonly hear is, “I don’t see how weddings are so expensive.” It’s so true. Weddings can be very expensive. Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to have a wedding for a minimal amount. But you have to know what goes into a wedding before you can set a realistic budget.
Yes. That really is the key word. Realistic. But in order for you to set a realistic budget, you have to know what pieces to consider to create the wedding you want. The very first thing you should do when you start to plan your wedding is to set a budget.
Why? Because each and every piece of your wedding goes into your budget. So here are a few things to consider while setting your budget.
When do you want to get married?
Have you always envisioned a summer wedding? Or maybe you love fall? Depending on your location, the time of the year you plan on getting married can play a huge roll in how much a wedding costs. Here in Pittsburgh, June, September and October are the most popular months. Really any time in the summer months, when it is warm, is the peak season. If you are on a tighter budget, then you may want to consider having a winter wedding. Another way to save is to avoid Saturday dates. Many venues will give a discounted rate for both off-season and non-Saturday dates. Each venue is different, so you should do some research online and via email or phone calls.
What type of reception do you want?
By this I mean, do you want a backyard BBQ, a simple garden wedding, or an over-the-top blow out with all the trimmings? If you want the first one, then your budget is going to be quite a bit lower than if you want some swanky, formal reception.
How many people do you want to invite?
This is going to be a huge factor in how much your wedding will cost you. Think about it. When you have 300 people, it is going to cost you more than if you have 50 people. There will be more tables, which will require more linens, centerpieces, escort cards, menus (if you so choose to have them!), place settings, etc. You also have to feed all of these people. Which brings me to my next point…
What type of food service do you want?
Do you want buffet, sit-down, stations, heavy hors d’oeurves? There are a lot of different ways to feed your guests. It can be as formal as a 5 course meal or as simple as a BBQ. It is all a matter of personal preference. If you want a split-plate with filet mignon and lobster, it is definitely going to cost more than a simple lemon chicken. It is *kind of* true that buffets and stations are less expensive than a sit-down meal. But one thing you need to realize is that the food itself is not more expensive. It is the service staff that is required. You are paying for servers, banquet captains, cooks, bartenders, dishwashers, etc. So for a sit-down meal, you need more service staff than you would for a buffet or stations.
What type of bar do you want to offer?
There are a ton of ways you can offer a bar to your guests. You can have a full bar, which you provide and pay for all the beer, wine and alcohol. You can provide just beer and wine. You can offer a cash bar. Or you can do a combination of any of these. And no, it is not tacky to offer a cash bar. Just please, PLEASE, notify your guests so they can bring cash if you do decide to offer it. I went to a wedding once when it was a cash bar and they literally only accepted cash. We were in the middle of nowhere, so there weren’t any ATMs around. Luckily, we were able to sweet talk the server into letting us run a tab. But I digress…
When I was doing my research to find a venue for my own wedding, I was looking for packages around 150 people. All the numbers I ran ended up with us spending between $5-7k. I bartended in college, so I am a bit of a liquor snob. I didn’t want to use the base package for any of these places. I was lucky and found the best place in the entire world (I AM a bit biased, I did end up choosing it for my own wedding reception and now work there!), that is BYOB. So if you are looking to keep your expenses down, find a place that is BYOB (or get in touch with me!) and you can offer anything you want.
Have you “picked” any of your vendors?
If you had any inkling that a proposal was coming, or if you are at the age where EVERYONE is getting married, you might have found a vendor or two that you “just have to have.” I’d find out what package pricing that person has before setting any type of budget. If they are charging $5,000 and you set your budget at $10,000, you are going to be really upset when you go over that budget. Everything else is still going to cost the same even if you decide to splurge on that one vendor.
There are a ton of online budget calculators, which I do suggest using. It doesn’t matter which one – just pick one that works for you. It is a good start to figuring out how much to put toward each piece of your wedding. If you are an on-the-go type of girl, there are a ton of smart phone apps out there that do the same thing. I am completely dependent on my phone, so this is the way I would go if I were doing it over again. And be diligent with it. Each time you make a payment, put it in. It will help you keep track of things so you can STAY on budget once it has been set. Every woman deserves to have the wedding of their dreams. I just want you to be dreaming about having it within a realistic budget.