Monday, January 31, 2011

The Real Budget Breaker: Your Guest List

This post is looong overdue and I feel it very valuable to share it with you or anyone you know that is getting married.  Over the next few weeks, many wedding professionals will be consulting couples as they prepare for their upcoming Spring and Summer weddings.  I have had my share to come through my office and I how I like them, they have wonderful ideas for their upcoming nuptials.  I love to hear the unique ideas that come forth and how a couple met and why they need to do this and that to make their day extra special.  I love to see the many pictures cut and torn out of some of the most popular wedding glossies that brides keep tucked away in their new planning binders.  I also love to hear that they want their weddings to just be plain ol’ FABULOUS.  All of that is music to my ears.  So what’s the problem, you ask?!  There’s two problems actually, the budget and the guest list. 

Most surveys in 2010 found that the average wedding cost is $27,000. What?!?!  You’re probably thinking, “no way, I’ll never pay that for a wedding” But, wait.  You just may find yourself doing so when you are preparing to have an entire day of partying with close to 150-200 (or more) family and friends.  Let me make this clear, first of all, I’m not at all saying that in order to have the wedding of your dreams that $27,000 is what it will take.  I want to show you that the number of people that you are inviting will escalate the cost one way or another.

When you factor in the venue(s), attire (even if the groom’s tux is free), all stationery (DIY or custom), favors, catering (let’s face it food costs no matter how or who you conjure up to prepare it), decorations, transportation, cake, rings, photography, videographer, YOUR planner, and entertainment, you will be at around $80-130 per person.  It may sound good when you say out loud, “the food is only $16 per person”….well, when you do say it like that, it does sound wonderful.  But, that’s just for your guests to have a guaranteed plate for that particular price.  It doesn’t mention all of the other things that go into “wooing” your guests (and let’s not talk about taxes and staff fees, mmkay?!) And, if you are using flowers (real or faux), they cost, too.!  With more guests, the more tables and chairs you need, the more décor you will need, the more food and drink you will need, the more favors you will need, should I keep on?

So, before you look at your potential Planner’s fee (okaay?!) or your photographer’s quote (great quality photos will last a lot longer than the décor, food, and favors) and squawk with buck eyes, please note that these are the least of your worries.  It’s the ever-so-growing guest list that will cause you a headache at the end of the day.  You are paying so why not know the the truth and how to effectively save you money.

This I know all too well.  I’ve seen couples that took this advice and were pleased with the money saved by cutting their guests list in order to have what they wanted and I have witnessed couples that just wouldn’t budge and now are still paying the cost after the wedding is said and done because they wanted a LARGE wedding.  What’s the saying, more money more problems?  You better believe it.

So, if you are willing to take the advice from a professional, this is for you.  When working up that magical list, create an A-B-C list.  The As are the primary people that you know will be there like immediate family and close friends (even those that will certainly travel to be with you), the Bs are those that may possibly come but if they didn’t, you would understand (ie: ex-coworkers, co-workers), and the sweet Cs, these are the people that you have to dig deep to even remember.  The Cs are long lost school friends, friends of friends, old neighbors, facebook friends (even those that you haven’t even met in person), the entire church, your Greek letter organization, or people you just find on the street to come to your wedding (well maybe not the latter one) but you see where I’m going.

So let’s see what this can look like with a small budget (I hear this number a lot so I’m using it).  For a budget of $5000 and a guest list of 200 people, this is what the numbers will look like (I’m also including the average % for each category):
Reception (always the biggest chunk) (but actually close to 50%) 40%- $2000,
Attire-10%- $500
Photos/Video-12%- $600
Music-8%- $400
Flowers & Décor- 10%- $500
Stationery- 5%- $250
Rings- 2%- $100
Transportation- 2%- $100
Gifts (bridal party, wedding favors)- 3%- $150
Ceremony Site (donation and clergy fees)- 3%- $150
Other (tips, marriage license, taxes, hair/nails)- 5%- $250

You might be able to squeeze in a wedding cake for about $100.  And, with $10 per person allotted for the Reception, you will have to get very creative with your menu. *side note:  you and your bridal party have to be included in the 200 or else your budget is really shot*.  Not too realistic, is it?!

I urge you to take a look at your budget and your guest list.  These two bad boys can make you or break you.  Am I saying that you can’t have a really nice wedding on a budget, of course not!  Many of my couples are on a set budget and we make it realistically work and the style of their wedding is not compromised.  We just plan smart.  And, that’s what I want you to do.  Plan smart.

If you have to move your date down the road a little bit in order to save more or have more time to pay for the things that you want, by all means do it.  Many couples are now planning longer engagements so that they have the time and resources needed to plan their dream weddings. 

So, here’s to smart planning and beautiful weddings.  Just don’t let your guests compromise that for you.

Happy Planning!

Wedding Planner

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