One of your less glamorous tasks as a professional wedding planner is preparing a realistic and workable wedding budget for your clients. Here are five easy steps to follow to get the process going:
1. KNOW HOW MUCH A WEDDING IN YOUR AREA COSTS
Before you sit down with anyone to discuss the ‘fun' topic of money, familiarize yourself with the average cost to plan a wedding in your area. You need to understand the cost of all those little details that your brides are dreaming of.
As you meet with local professional wedding vendors you'll begin to get an idea of what the local fees are. For more stats on local wedding costs, check out costofwedding.com, a great online resource. You simply plug in a [U.S.] zip code and voila! A breakdown of the area's average wedding costs pops up on your screen.
2. DETERMINE HOW MUCH MONEY YOUR CLIENTS HAVE TO SPEND ON THEIR WEDDING
By having an open discussion with your clients early on in the planning process, you'll have a much better idea of just how much money they plan on shelling out for this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime event.
Simply ask your couple the obvious question: “How much have you budgeted for your wedding?”
If you're greeted with blank stares or uncomfortable shifting of feet, then take the time to walk them through the process of determining how much money is available.
Ask questions like:
- “How much money have you saved for the wedding?”
- “Do you anticipate receiving any additional contributions or help for your wedding?” (for example, from their parents).
- “Do you have any plans to finance any portion of the wedding costs?” (loans, credit cards, etc.)
- “Do you plan on using the planning months to save/contribute to a monthly wedding fund?”
3. FIND OUT WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO THEM
Next, find out what your client's ‘must haves' are. (Every bride has them). Maybe having a real live band is mandatory. Or perhaps you'll discover that the food is way more important than the flowers?
Grab a sheet of paper and ask your couple to make a list of the top 5, must-have expense items. The ‘can-do-without' category is just as important
By knowing what their preferences are, you'll know where to cut-back and what to splurge on when you're trying to balance the wedding budget.
4. (Do your best to) CREATE AN ACTUAL WEDDING BUDGET
Once you know what's important and what's at the bottom of the wish list, determine how much of the ‘wedding pie' each wedding expense category–reception, flowers, photography, etc.–is assigned. 40% towards the reception, 10% for the photography and video, and so on.
As a wedding planner all you can do is try your very best to create the wedding your clients want for a price they can afford. There really is no magic formula that ‘tells' a couple how much to spend on their wedding.
Bridal magazines and books are filled with budget guidelines. The keyword here is ‘guidelines'. Use these as a starting point, only, if you wish, but just remember that your couple may decide to spend way less or much more on any particular area for their wedding.
That's why knowing what their preferences are is so important. If flowers and music are what really matter, allocate these items a larger portion of the budget; and then cut back in other areas.
5. EDUCATE THEM
After presenting the budget summary to your clients, as the professional wedding planner, be ready to offer options and suggestions to keep the wedding budget and style intact. Both the bride and groom will appreciate your professional advice.
Here are a few general wedding budget tips you can pass on to your clients:
- More guests = More money. It's a simple equation; the number of guests they invite directly affects the wedding budget.
- Tell them to expect and be ready to pay deposits anywhere from 10-50% prior to the wedding day to secure a vendor or venue.
- Hosting a brunch or lunch will lower the overall wedding bill significantly. (People also drink less alcohol during the day so bar expenses will be less than an evening event.)
- Let them know that your professional wedding planning fee is part of the budget (and not an additional expense) and that by hiring you, they are saving several hours of planning time and hopefully, money in the form of vendor discounts and negotiations.
- Remind them to factor in sales tax, delivery fees, alterations. A few extra bucks here and there easily add up. (And don't get me started about ‘rush fees'–they can double the price of any item!)
Once the research is done and decisions are made, of course it's up to you to keep the wedding within the budget.