The first of the four things you should finalize before starting your event planning process is your budget. What you (and your families, if they're helping out) are willing and able to spend on the wedding should pretty much dictate everything else. Budgets are not one size fits all, so we've come up with some guidelines to help you come up with a system that works for you and your event.
We've all read and researched tips and tricks for how to save money (not just for events, but for life in general) and how to try to stick to a set budget. But how do you figure out what that budget is in the first place? And how do you create that budget in a way that isn't going to leave you in shock later?
Envision the Kind of Wedding You Want.
Some of you may be thinking "done!" before you even finished reading that sentence. For others, it's time to get dreaming. I don't mean you need to know exactly how many candles you'll have per table, but spend time thinking about the general feel of the wedding. Do you and your partner want an intimate picnic-style gathering, a cool and modern urban party, or a huge blowout with everyone you know?
Time to Crunch Some Numbers.
Once you've dreamed up your general wedding vision, we can get serious about how much you have to spend. Not every couple sets a strict budget and follows it, and that's ok! However, for those who do, there needs to be some kind of discussion at some point. Sit down with your partner and anyone else contributing financially to your wedding and figure out who much you are each ready, willing, and able to spend. This is also a good time to figure out if there are specific elements contributors are willing (and unwilling) to spend their money on. A parent may want to contribute $10,000, but only if it's toward food, beverage, and entertainment, but not flowers. It's best to know this type of information in advance.
Small Details Can Add Up.
It's easy to just think of the big budget items, like venue, food, beverage, entertainment. However, when coming up with your budget, it can be devastating to forget about the tiny details as they can certainly add up. And we're not just talking about the number of candles per table we mentioned earlier. Don't forget to include elements like your marriage license, postage for your invitations, save the dates, and thank you notes, or additional heaters and umbrellas for your outdoor wedding.
Now that you have a number that's going to drive all the elements of your party, you should come up with 3 priorities. These could be anything-- open bar, live music, tons of flowers, an elite photographer, etc. We recommend that you and your partner make separate lists and then sit down together to come up with the priorities based on each of your lists. Even if you have different lists, they might end in the same outcome. If one of you wants a live band, open bar, and extra time for toasts and the other wants guests to feel good, delicious good, and an epic dance party, those can actually compromise to be the same! Live music = epic dance party. Open bar = guests feeling good. Amazing food = great dinner party = extra time for toasts.
Lastly, maintain realistic expectations about your budget throughout your planning process. If you're unable to and/or unwilling to spend thousands of dollars on flowers, you may want to rethink the multiple flower towers. The unfair truth about weddings (and events and money in general) is that sometimes, there are pieces we really wish could work, but just won't. If your original dream doesn't work out with the numbers, don't be afraid to reevaluate.