Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ask a Planner... "Budget Stress"

Hello DreamGroup

Any advice for a couple struggling with budget issues?  We are seriously over budget and our families are not very happy with us right now.  We had thought that we could pull off an 80 person wedding with 15K if we rolled up our sleeves and DIYd most stuff. Needless to say that’s not happening.  We totally underestimated how much everything was going to cost and have basically racked up a wedding bill of around 27K. Our families are holding their ground with the $7500.00 each they committed to so my fiancé and I are topping up some of the money an also need to find a way to reduce our budget by at least 5K.  I know you are likely laughing at us right now, but it’s the truth and any suggestions would be welcome. 

Sincerely $$$ Stressed
Chelsea M.

Dear Chelsea,

Eek. You have found yourself in a bit of a pickle haven't you?!  The good news is you still have the power to get it under control.  At least in part. On last week’s Ask a Planner I mentioned that Family Dynamics was one of the two biggest stressors during the planning of a wedding… well, Budget Stress is the other one!  The main cause of budget stress is that couples often do not start out with a realistic budget to begin with, but rather determine a number that they are comfortable/able to spend and just start checking off the planning “to do” list without determining if their budget is in line with their needs and expectations. 

The first thing you need to do Chelsea is applaud yourself for coming to this conclusion now rather than after the wedding when you are drowning in debt and dealing with angry vendors who are looking to be paid!  It unfortunately happens a lot. BEFORE the wedding takes place is the time to revisit your budget allocation and perhaps make some adjustments to the product and service line up for your wedding.  i.e. trim back menu offerings, omit little luxuries like the champagne toast or even guest favors, reduce number of photography hours by one or two, cancel professional limousine services and ask family and friends to step up in offering chauffeuring services, reduce the size of the floral centerpieces or opt for a less expensive design/flower type, etc.

My suggestion is to take a look at your budget (hopefully already drawn up in an easy to review spreadsheet format) and cross reference it with all your contracts and commitments to date.  Determine where you may have some wiggle room as far as cutting back or omitting certain services or number of hours.  It may be prudent to have a phone chat with each of your contracted vendors including the caterer/venue and ask them what they suggest as far as some clever ways to cut back without completely infringing on your contract minimums and hopefully preserving the integrity of the final product or service in question.  

Hindsight is 20-20 and although what I’m about to say won’t help you personally at this time, for the benefit of our readers I would like to stress the importance of having a realistic budget in place to begin with.  The budget should be calculated based on, not just your guest numbers, but the area you are having the wedding (Urban or Rural), your social circles, caliber expectations, as well as basic needs.  This is where an experienced planner that offers consulting services can be super beneficial in helping you create a customized estimated wedding budget factoring in all your wants and needs from the start so you can determine if the final total works within your financial means.  If it does, that’s great and you can confidently and calmly proceed from there eliminating some very stressful planning pitfalls.  If it doesn’t… well, that’s when you go back to the drawing board and re-examine your priorities and needs.

Although budgets are very complex and everyone’s needs and priorities will be different pending several cost determining factors, the basic rule of thumb in determining a realistic budget is this: decide on the caliber and type of venue you are hoping to host the wedding at, then contact them and find out what the average cost of a wedding is at that venue.  This cost should factor in food, drinks, taxes, gratuity and any room rentals if applicable.  Determine the per person cost and times that by the expected number of guests for your wedding.  This amount usually takes up approximately 40-60% of a total wedding budget pending your caliber expectations and services included.  i.e. 120 person wedding x $125.00 for F&B = $15K x 2 = $30K give or take. Food & Beverage/Bar costs can vary anywhere from $80.00 to $200.00/head once all the bells and whistles are factored in so adjust your estimate based on the venue you are considering for your wedding and go from there.

Best of luck Chelsea!  Congratulations on your upcoming wedding.

Wedding Planner signing off!  Until next week duckies… keep those questions coming in!  Submit your questions by emailing us at


Genève McNally, Principal Planner, DreamGroup Productions

Genève first began her wedding career in 1999 as the Catering Manager for one of Vancouver’s most sought after wedding venues, Brock House Restaurant.  In 2004 Genève and college friend Sarah Shore ambitiously started up what is now one of Vancouver's longest running and most trusted wedding planning companies, DreamGroup Productions Inc.

These days, in addition to working with her clients in a full planning capacity, Genève focuses her attention on the sales and marketing aspects of the company and is most often the friendly voice you will chat with when first inquiring with DreamGroup.  Genève is known to inspire and excite both clients and industry associates alike with her exuberant personality and joie de vivre!  Her ability to be refreshingly candid and her in depth knowledge of the wedding industry have earned her the friendly moniker “Two-Cents McNally”.  Genève also teaches the Wedding Planning classes offered through the dg Academy and is the chief correspondent behind DreamGroup's weekly Blog feature Ask a Planner.

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