It seems when you hear wedding you think two things – stressful and over budget. This should not be the case. Weddings are a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should be enjoyed.
However, the reality is people go into planning a wedding without realistic expectations. By the end, they are exhausted from making decisions and spending more than they had planned. This is what this blog series will do – tell you the truth about planning a wedding.
We are not going to talk about how to DIY your wedding. Or how to have your dream wedding for under $8,000. Thousands of those blogs exist already. We are going to tell you how much it really costs to have a wedding.
Throughout this series we will breakdown how to make a guest list, setting a budget by prioritizing, what you should expect to pay each vendor, what all you need to pay for and common mistakes couples make.
Some of you will think ‘well, my wedding cost way less’. You are right, some weddings do cost less and some cost way more. Spend whatever you are comfortable spending. Our goal with this series is simply to educate. We want you to understand all the ins and outs so you can make the most informed decisions possible when it comes to planning your big day.
Budget + Guest Count = Most Important Part of Wedding Planning
Guests list and budgets are 100 percent intertwined when it comes to planning a wedding. If you take nothing else from this series, please remember – the more guests, the more it cost. There is no if, ands, or buts to this… it is the flat-out truth.
Let’s start with an example. If you come to us and say, my budget is $50,000 for 100 people. We are going to tell you, you can have several of those things you are loving on Pinterest. Not everything, but you will be able to have a very nice wedding. Please note this isn’t necessarily true in high dollar areas such as NYC. If you have $50,000 for 500 people, we are going to tell you that will likely only cover the food and alcohol for those guests. We will definitely need more money for the rest of everything needed for a wedding.
As you see wedding budgets get gobbled up quickly when you have more guests. This is a question every couple faces when planning a wedding – do I invite more people and have less décor, entertainment, etc. Or do I invite fewer people so I can have that awesome band or plated meal I really want? Or do I spend more money to have more people and everything I want? The decision is entirely up to you, and well, your parents as well.
Couples today are steering more towards smaller weddings, think under 150 guests. Parents are the ones that often drive the count higher. They tend to think they need to invite all their coworkers, relatives and friends. We could write an entire blog series just for parents on the difference between weddings now and when they got married.
They are no longer held in the church basements with cake and punch. They have become weekend productions where everyone wants to tell their story. Since 2010, the cost of weddings has risen by 80 percent to the average wedding costing $33,391 in 2017. That is nearly double the cost in only seven years. It’s no wonder couples and parents get shell shocked when they realize how much a wedding cost.
Who to and NOT to Invite
After getting engaged there are two conversations you need to have immediately – how much do we want to spend and who should we invite. Don’t start by venue searching or picking out floral arrangements. Focus on budget and guest count. If you do that, you are more likely to stay on budget.
The average wedding guest attendance at a wedding in 2017 was 127 guests. When you think about your circle of people that may be a lot or little. How do you determine who is and is not invited?
Our rule of thumb is to begin by writing everyone down you think you want at your wedding. Do this as a couple and don’t include your parents yet. Once you have that list developed, go through and break it into segments – list A, B and C. Much like celebrity status, your A list are the most important people. Think bridal party, parents, grandparents, close friends and family. This list should be comprised of the people you know will be in your life for at least the next 10 years, if not a lifetime
Then move on to B. These are the people who you think will stay in your life, but are not entirely sure. Or they are also the people if they don’t get invited, you won’t be sad. Then move on to C. Let’s be real about C… if they are on the C list, they should be removed entirely from the guest list.
Once you have done this, you will see how your initial, pre-parent count, is shaping up. These are the people you want at your wedding celebrating. If you know who these people are from the start, it is easier to make sure they stay invited as outside influence begins to filter in and the guest list begins to grow.
Then ask your parents for their list. This is where it will get sticky. Our advice is to ask your parents to only include people in the list you actually know. You don’t need 50 of their coworkers you have never meet coming to your wedding. After all, it is your wedding, not theirs.
Here is where it gets non-fun, we realize your parents are likely paying for or helping pay for the wedding. Our advice is to have a polite and adult conversation with your parents about this money being very appreciated, but it does not mean they have control over your wedding. You definitely want their opinions, but when it comes to the guest count you would like it to involve people you actually know and who will be excited to celebrate in such a big day.
For some of you, this will work. For others, it won’t. Either way, it is a solid tactic for trying to keep the guest count down.
If you need reinforcement during this conversation about wanting fewer guests, then refer to these two main points:
- Fewer guests means your budget will go further. Mom can have those tall centerpieces she will no doubt want. And dad can have the open bar.
- Many venues, hotels excluded, really are only meant to hold 200 people max. When you get above 200, and then in to the 300 and 400 people count, your venue options get more and more limited. If you want options, the smaller number of guests is the way to go.
This part of wedding planning will no doubt be stressful. We wish we could help our couples more here, but we can’t. You have to do the dirty work to figure out who makes the cut.
Asking for Money
Of the guests on your list, you can anticipate and budget that 20 percent of those invited won’t attend. There are a few caveats here. If both families live in the same town you are getting married, you might want to consider bumping it to 10-15 percent. If you are having a destination wedding, depending on the destination, you can estimate 30-40 percent won’t come. If you are not sure, stick with the 20 percent rule.
Now, I know some of you reading this will think “but everyone will come. Everyone loves us.” I really hope they do, but from our years of experience that has yet to be the case.
Okay, we have our count, now time to really talk about budgets. Every wedding has a budget. Whether it is $10,000 or $500,000, every couple has a set amount. With every budget comes the need to make choices. Your guest count and budget will dictate how many choices you have to make.
The wedding industry, despite what you might have read, is a very black and white. You get what you pay for. Rarely, and I mean rarely, do brides and grooms, without wedding planners or real connections in the industry, get discounts. The only exception is some vendors will take less money during our off season (January-March), but again this is an exception, not a rule.
This is why it is critical to set priorities. More on that in the next blog post. First, let’s discuss who pays for what when it comes to weddings. Nowadays we see money for wedding budgets come from everywhere. Rarely do we see one family foot the entire bill. Money comes from the couple, the groom’s parents, the bride’s parents and grandparents.
When it comes time to start planning for your wedding… don’t assume, ask. Ask the parents if they have any money set aside for your wedding or if there is anything in particular they would like to pay for. You will hopefully be surprised at people’s generosity.
Do friendly remind them any money given is very appreciated, but it should be viewed as a gift versus a right to dictate how the money is spent. If a parent or grandparent does have a specific request, like I must have liquor at the wedding, take this into account. If you agree, try to make it happen.
Using this information, you can develop your overall budget.
In the next blog post, we are going to discuss how to set priorities as well as how much things actually cost. If this left you wanting to learn more and you live in or around Kansas City, you are in luck. We are offering an intimate, hands-on wedding planning workshop full of award-winning cocktails on February 18. More information and tickets can be found here.
Sarah Quinlivan is the owner and lead planner of Quintessential Events, an award-winning wedding and event planning firm that does events throughout the country. From classic to over-the-top, Quintessential Events prides itself on creating weddings that are uniquely you. Why have the day others have already had? Focus on having the day, only you can have. For more information, check out the company’s website and Instagram.