By Deborah James | Bella Vita Events
Congratulations! You have the guy, the ring and now you are on to wedding planning….
STOP!!! This is serious, and should not be sugar-coated. Budget is the blueprint for a sane wedding, and even more importantly, a successful marriage. As a seasoned event planner in Los Angeles, the first thing I insist on with a new client is to dive deep into the budget trenches. We start this process right from the beginning stages of courting a client. Our brides come to us with a questionnaire that has been completed, so we can evaluate her vision, and try to assign a comfortable price tag to it. We can usually speculate budget projections, based on the amount of the following items:
- Anticipated guest count
- Location minimums
- Bridal party size
- Vendor logistics and choices
- And overall design and décor vision- usually revealed in their Pinterest boards
Then, we prepare a “projected budget,” based on the questionnaire and the above items, and come to a price per person average. Let’s jump right into a budget blueprint, and see if you can apply your bottom-line budget to the same exercise?
- Bottom-line Number: First of all, be honest with yourself and your fiancé about what your bottom-line number is. Let’s use $70K as a median Southern California average to work our exercise backward.
- Guest Count- #150 is a good average at this time. If you take the $70K and divide by the 150= $466.66 per person to spend on the guest experience. So, let’s go a bit deeper into the “guest experience” explanation before we go any further. This is the 5-6 hour experience that includes the expenses that come from the invitation, attending the ceremony, the cocktail hour, and the dinner and full reception experience. That $70k above does NOT include things like rings, wedding dress, honeymoon expenses, excessive décor, etc.
- Location & Catering: That’s usually a big chunk of your bottom line, and can be as high as 30-40% of your budget. So, with a $70K budget, $38-40K, could eat that up.
- Photographer: This is an area that is completely personal and has a large sliding scale. $3200-$6500. is a good median range to consider.
- Video: Again, if you don’t need all the bells and whistles…a good range could be $2500-$2500.
- Music: The heartbeat of the party! This area can really kick your budget out of whack! A DJ can range from $1500-$2500. A 5-7 piece band can start around $2500-$15K for four hours… Be realistic as to how important this budget item is to you.
- Live Musicians: Estimated for a 2-hour window for a 4 piece quartet can run you $850-$1500.
- Cake: $8-$10. Per person is a good formula. At #150 peeps at $10. Per person = $1500.
- Officiate: This can vary from different faiths. Usually, it’s a donation for the church or temple or officiates associated congregation. Average donations range from $500-$1000.
- Stationary: #150 people might equal 80 sets to mail formal invites, rsvp cards and basic paper needs. A good formula is #80 sets @ $30.per set = $2400.
- Design & Décor: This is the unknown monster that will have to be fed at some point of the planning journey…Once your Pinterest board is finished and the design dust has settled, you need to evaluate the following items:
- Dance Floor- If it’s not included in your location package, you may need to rent one from $800-$3500.
- Chairs- Look if it’s included, but if it doesn’t fit your design dream. Know you can rent from $5.00-$30. Per chair. #150 @ $7.00 per = $1050.
- Linens- Such a wide range of options from $18.per line to $80.
- Flowers- The super tricky area to project in. Depending on if you choose carnations or orchids or even succulents, this area can vary from florist and designer. I always encourage my clients to consider a florist that carries an arsenal of vases, hardware, etc. that may be close to their vision. A good baseline projection for this area is about $60. Per guest @ #150 guests = $9k
- Rentals- Some of these items may be a necessity to your event menu for catering and guest table needs. Others might simply be adding accented furniture or design elements, which give your event a special signature.
- Lighting- I always say that “lighting is the insurance policy to actually see your flowers in the space. “ The most traditional forms of lighting options are pin spots, up lights and palazzo string lighting and gobo projections for walls and dance floors. All of these items can range from $10.
- Hair & Makeup: Decide if you’re going to take this on for the entire wedding party, or just for yourself? The average range for a bride only with eyelashes and hair extensions is $350-$450. for the day of. Usually, there is an additional fee for a trial session too.
- Photobooth: Range from $500-$2500. For a 4 hour block, depending on how social media-friendly you want from this aspect of your wedding.
- Candy Bar: Average for 4-6 elements can range from $500-$1200. Depending on contents and design décor.
- Last but not least, the coordinator/designer: I’m not just saying this, but this is the one area you can’t afford to skimp on. You get what you pay for. If you want to put the most important day into a young girl’s hands, who is just starting in the business for $800. for the day, then you can expect to have a lot of things fall thru the cracks during the planning process and the wedding day. A solid, reputable “day of planner” should start around $2000. A medium-sized package with some design hours should range from $3000-$7500. A full-service package from A-Z planning from concept to the execution of the event should range from $4500-$15K depending on the above guest count and logistics needed. A good coordinator is worth every penny and should save you money with their savvy negotiating skills. In the end, you will have frozen pictures to capture the perfection of the day, but if the journey getting there was rocky… that’s the memory you will be left with.
I hope these tips above are super helpful to you as you get started with your planning journey. Before you even start your planning, you should sit down and be honest with your fiancé and both families if they are involved, to what the financial contributions and expectations are from everyone. It breaks my heart to watch young couples come to my office starting their lives off wedding poor. This doesn’t have to be you. There are great wedding budget tips all over the internet out there. Perhaps, use one of these useful budget tips to help assist you.
So, before you build your Pinterest & Instagram boards of all the visions of grandeur,
set your bottom-line budget now. Try to be creative, and willing to bend and compromise on items that probably won’t make much of a difference in the end. There is no right way to plan a wedding budget, only wrong if you dramatically go over budget. So, log on to one of these above sites or pull out your laptop NOW to start your excel spreadsheet and plug in your bottom line to get started. Try to apply the above items based on the projections of your guest count, and the projections I assigned to your specs above, to see how close you can come to your bottom line. If at first, it doesn’t align, I say… pour a good glass of red wine with your fiancé… and try again. I sincerely wish you the best in your budget blueprint journey, and may God Bless you.