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Wedding Planning Series: Creating Your Budget with Limiting Factors

Photo by Honey Lens Photography at Heritage Museum of OC

You're engaged, now what? Check out the second part of Grace & Gold's "Wedding Planning Series," on taking into consideration a few more things before finalizing your budget.

OK, I've got my budget set after that first conversation... let's go crazy!

Not so fast! Whether you have $10K or $100K to spend on your big day, you need to get a few more details squared away before you start dividing those funds up. Some of these are practical, but some require a bit more discussion and consideration of the type of event you are planning. I like to call all of these things Limiting Factors, in that they can help you limit the number of choices and decisions you have to make during the process. If you don’t have such things in place, it is very easy for things to feel out of control when you are presented with the unlimited options and possibilities that are available for just one wedding. So, if you can develop a few of these before you dive in further, you are one step closer to lowering your stress levels.

Let’s start with the practical considerations:

Guest Count

A wedding budget really is about the numbers, and the guest count is one of the easiest places to start. It’s a fairly obvious thing: the more people you have, generally the more expensive it will be. When my clients get stuck in the budget planning phase, I always tell them to go their guest list first. The difference between 150 and 200 guests can actually be a big deal! It might present an entirely different selection of venues due to capacity; alternatively, if you are spending just $50 per person on food and beverage, that’s a $2500 difference right there.

And unfortunately, this is always another super difficult part of planning: who makes the invite list? I also try to go with logic and reason on this, but every couple is different. I’ve had some who were perfectly content with 70, others who easily and realistically could have invited 500+. Sit down with your partner, and literally draft a list.  You don’t have to make a concrete list, just enough of an idea to get general figure.

Time of Year and Location

Next, sit down and talk about approximately when and where you want to get married. If you can cap it to a year and a season, that’s a good start.

But here are some budget considerations for the time of year or dates:

  • Summer is generally the most expensive time of year to get married
  • Major holidays and holiday weekends are typically more expensive
  • Kids attending? March/April is spring break
  • Are you open to NOT getting married on a Saturday?

You don’t have to decide right this second, but keep it in mind and decide now if you are open to other times of the year. But remember, no particular date will be perfect for everyone. And if you absolutely must have the exact anniversary of the day you met, be prepared to compromise (unless you are OK getting married on a Monday, which is awesome in my book BTW!).

Ok, now where are you getting married? I personally go a little bit selfish on this one and think the couple should get married wherever is easiest for them (as they are doing the planning and are the ones that absolutely have to be there). But again, remember some of the big things that might affect budget:

  • Hawaii, and most tropical locations, are stunning, but expensive to get to
  • Your location might have a different “wedding season,” than others. For example, in Southern California, our busiest wedding times are typically September and October.
  • Is there a healthy supply of hotels/places-to-stay at a variety of prices?
  • If you are flying somewhere, do you have time (and the budget) to fly there a few times for planning purposes? You might have to add those trips into the budget!

If you’ve always had your heart set on a certain destination (even if it is just your hometown… on the other side of the country), talk about it right now to see if it is a possibility you could realistically entertain. Similar to your selected date, the location will not be perfect for everyone, but it should hopefully be nearly perfect for you.

Other Factors

Now it’s time to get a first glimpse into those things that are OMG-this-absolutely-must-happen-at-my-wedding. Talk them through, make sure you are on the same page about them, and you’ll be on your way to narrowing down a lot of things in the future:

  • Whether or not your ceremony and/or reception has to be outside?
  • What are your priorities? A rocking evening where every person dances, or an intimate ceremony with a spectacular view?
  • How important is alcohol? Cash, beer and wine, or full bar can make a difference. And quite often, your family will have a strong opinion on this.
  • Do you have to get married in a church or religious venue?

These are just a few ideas, but hopefully you get the idea. You can start generally by asking, “What is our goal for the day?” It might sound silly, but your answers might be surprisingly helpful. For example, if you decide that your ceremony must be outside, that will directly affect the season and location you ultimately pick.

To recap, if you get can get a good ball park on these areas, you are getting oh-so-close to being ready to plan your wedding! And you will feel really good saying to yourself, “OK, we have $27,000 to spend for an outdoor wedding with about 150 people in Texas in Summer of 2018.” Those details might change, but you have a start. High fives all around!

Thanks for reading! Next week we'll be discussing a subject very important to me... do you actually need a wedding planner?