What would seem to be a fairly straightforward way of going about coming up with a realistic wedding budget, many couples get sidetracked due to other people’s expectations and media manipulation. What should be an enjoyable process is sometimes very stressful. Some couples end up with their wedding budget depleted before they’ve even hired all their vendors. The problem ultimately lies NOT with the actual budget dollar amount itself, but in the allocation of where the money is spent.
More specifically, the problem lies with the source of where this wedding budget information is coming from. It’s no surprise that couples use wedding budget pie charts and suggested budget breakdowns. They’re all over the internet and the percentage numbers vary widely. You’ve seen them (like the one shown here) in wedding books, websites, and other media. They list the percentages of various wedding services that couples “should” be spending their money on. As ridiculous as it sounds, these lists and pie charts are suggesting the percentage that couples should spend on each category like every wedding and every couple has similar preferences. This kind of logic isn’t used in any other type of major lifetime expenditure. Can you imagine buying a car or a house and the salesperson hands you a pie chart with pre-determined categories and preferences that they think you should have? Of course not.
This is the main reason why wedding budgets often creep upward once the vendor hiring process starts. It’s not because couples under-budget for their wedding. It’s because they sometimes initially focus and spend their budget on services that are not as important to them. More on this focus-based aspect below…but first:
How does a newly-engaged couple juggle this jungle of wedding hi-jinx, and come up with a reasonable budget that doesn’t bankrupt them while having the wedding day of their dreams?
The answer is MUCH simpler than you may think….
SPEND MONEY IN DIRECT PROPORTION TO THE IMPORTANCE THAT YOU PLACE ON EACH SERVICE.
First, come up with a reasonable wedding budget amount that you can afford and is not going to put you or your parents (if they are paying for it) in debt.
Second, come up with a realistic allocation plan. On two sheets of paper, the couple should write their “Wedding Top 3”. This can be a combination of various things such as…
- What you want the most important part(s) of the wedding to be
- What you want your guests to remember most about your wedding
- What you dream about most for your wedding day
Combine your answers and come up with an overall Top 5, then correlate each to their respective vendors that represent that service. These are the Top 5 items that you should spend your money on. Hire the best vendors you can find for anything in the Top 5. Whatever money is left over after you’ve reserved your Top 5 services, should be spent on anything else you may need, but shouldn’t exceed your overall budget.
Warning… this method goes against the typical wedding budget philosophy, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. It requires most couples to develop a different way of thinking about their wedding, but it pretty much guarantees that a couple will have the wedding of their dreams while keeping their budget in check. Most couples can save thousands of dollars by sticking to this plan.
Here’s another way to look at budgeting for your wedding…
What’s your focus? Are you currently planning a food-focused, visual-focused, or entertainment-focused wedding reception? The answer may surprise you.
THE “FOOD FOCUSED” RECEPTION is by far the most popular type. About 60% of all wedding receptions are food-focused. If you’ve ever been to a wedding where most guests started leaving after dinner and / or the cake cutting, you’ve attended one of these. A large portion of the budget is spent on food and beverage (the bar), leaving little left over for much else. Interestingly, in post-reception surveys, most wedding guests (74%) can’t remember what they ate at the last wedding they attended. Few guests at these types of weddings make it to the last dance.
THE “VISUAL FOCUSED” RECEPTION accounts for about 30% of receptions. At these, the couple wants to impress guests with a high-end venue and décor. The “Wow Factor” is in full effect. Though great food is prominent, the majority of funds are spent on a high-end venue, décor, linens, chair covers, beautiful centerpieces, ambient lighting, etc. These tend to be the highest budget weddings. “Wowing” your wedding guests can be costly for a multitude of reasons. There is certainly nothing wrong with this type of focus, but visuals will only hold guests’ attention for so long. If the guests are not entertained, and if they become bored, they may start discreetly heading to their cars. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say, “We were at this amazingly beautiful wedding where they spent all this money, but everyone left before the end of the night. We felt so sorry for the bride and groom.”
THE “ENTERTAINMENT FOCUSED” RECEPTION accounts for just 10% of weddings because most wedding couples budget a small percentage for entertainment (national average is just 8% of the budget). Entertainment focused couples not only budget more for entertainment than 8%, but more importantly…they know the value of hiring a competent full-time professional DJ / MC who can not only keep the dancefloor full, but also run the reception, plus collaborate with them on some fun and unique customized and personalized reception activities. Ask yourself this question…“What percentage of the success of our wedding reception will be riding on the DJ/MC?” If your answer is 50% or more, then you are planning an Entertainment Focused reception. Weddings that have this type of focus tend to last longer, and most end with a packed dance floor at the end of the night. The focus is on the fun, but also on saving money, as these weddings require a much smaller budget. The Colorado average for an “Entertainment Focused” reception is $10-15,000 versus the state average of $20-30,000 for the other two types of weddings.
Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding these money saving concepts, or if you’d like to set up a free budget analysis.