By Deborah James, Bella Vita Events
You have the guy, the ring, and now you are onto wedding planning. The next step 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, the first thing I insist 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:
- Anticipated guest count
- Location minimums
- Bridal party size
- Vendor logistics and choices
- Overall design and décor vision- usually revealed in their Pinterest boards
We prepare a “projected budget” based on the questionnaire and the above to come to a price per person average. You can do the same by following the steps below:
Step 1: 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 backwards.
Step 2: 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.
Keep in mind the “guest experience” is the 5-6 hour celebration that includes the expenses from the invitation, attending the ceremony, the cocktail hour, dinner, and full reception. That $70k above does NOT include things like rings, wedding dress, honeymoon expenses, excessive décor etc.
Step 3: Location & Catering
Usually the biggest percentage of your bottom line and can be as high as 30-40% of your budget. With a $70K budget, $38-40K could eat that up.
Step 4: Photography
This is completely personal and has a large sliding scale of about $3200-$6500
Step 5: Video
If you don’t need all the bells and whistles, a good range could be $2500-$3500.
Step 6: Music
The heartbeat of the party can sometimes 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. Live musicians like a 4-piece quartet for two hours can run $850-$1500. Be realistic as to how important this is to you.
Step 7: Cake
Cake is about $8-$10 per slice/per person.
Step 8: Officiant
This can vary from different faiths as it’s usually a donation for the church, temple or officiates associated congregation. Average donations range from $500-$1000.
Step 9: Stationery
A guest count of 150 people might equal 80 sets to mail formal invites, rsvp cards and basic paper goods. A good formula is 80 sets at $30/each = $2400.
Step 10: Design & Decor
This is the unknown that has to be addressed in 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 – See if it’s included, but if it doesn’t fit your design dream, know you can rent from $5.00-$30 per chair based on style.
- Linens – Such a wide range of options from $18 per linen to $80.
- Flowers – The hardest area to project in depending on flower variety, season, and can vary from floral designer. Consider a florist that carries an arsenal of vases or hardware that may be close to your vision. A good base line projection for this area is about $60 at 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 – The insurance policy to actually see your flowers in the space. The most traditional forms of lighting options are pin spots, up lights, palazzo string lighting and gobo projections for walls and dance floors. All of these items can range from $10 per light to several hundred dollars in custom gobo projections. The key to lighting is electricity. Make sure you always have adequate power as you may have to add a generator and electrician to operate. Never put your party in jeopardy without checking your lighting sources.
Step 11: Hair & Makeup
Decide if you’re going to take this on for the entire wedding party or just yourself? The average range for a bride with eyelashes and hair extensions is $350-$450 for the day of. Usually, there is an additional fee for a trial session too.
Step 12: Photo Booth
For a 4 hour block, depending on how social media friendly you’d like this to be, expect a range of from $500-$2500.
Step 13: Candy
Average for 4-6 elements can range from $500-$1200 depending on contents and design.
Step 14: Coordinator or Event Designer
You don’t want to skimp on the vendor who you will trust to execute your plan. 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 ranges from $4500-$15K depending on the above guest count and logistics needed. A good coordinator is worth every penny as you should save money with their savvy negotiating skills.
Before you even start your planning, you should sit down and be honest with your fiancé and families as to what the financial contributions and expectations are from everyone. Try to be creative and willing to 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 exceed the cost. So before you build your Pinterest & Instagram boards of all the visions of grandeur, set your bottom line, the blueprint budget, right now.
Featured Wedding Vendors:
Photography | Maya Myers Photography
Coordination | Bella Vita Events
Floral Design | The Hidden Garden
Location & Catering | Riviera Country Club
Rentals | Classic Event & Tent Rentals, Revelry Event Designers & Barker Décor Services Inc,
Linens | La Tavola Fine Linens
Lighting | Images by Lighting
Invitations | Fla-de-Dahs
Cake | Bella Donna Special Events
Gown Designer | Monique Lhuillier
Hair & Makeup | Meg O’Hare
Groom’s Formalwear & Groomsmen’s Formalwear | Men’s Wearhouse
All photos courtesy of Maya Myers Photography.