I always start a preliminary phone call or meeting with my favorite question: ‘what is your budget?’ This is often met with silence, nervous exchanges and a lot of questions.  There is nothing exciting when it comes to talking numbers around your wedding day but the truth is, you can’t move forward without a solid budget to work from.  Not only is this the foundation for your wedding planning but confirming your budget early will keep you in control, eliminate guilty spending and help to minimize conflict down the line.

 1.       Research – Start by doing some serious research regarding weddings in your area.  Meet with vendors and wedding experts, get printed price lists and gather as much information as possible to form a general figure around your wedding budget.  This allows you to determine the kind of wedding you can have.

2.       Get on that guest list!  In order to estimate venue, catering and rental costs which are typically half of your overall wedding budget, sit down with your fiancé and make a list of everyone you would ever want at your wedding.  I recommend three lists - A (must invite), B (could invite) and, if the list is big enough, C (maybe invite).  From there, estimate that each guest will cost approximately $100 for a selection of passed appetizers, a three course meal and open bar.  If you live in a large city like Vancouver or Toronto, estimate $150 per person.  Reach out to 1 or 2 common wedding venues in your area to get a sense of rental charges and use their prices as a guideline only to formulate your budget.

3.       Speak To Both Sides of The Family -   This can be a tough conversation for many, but it has to happen early in the budgeting process in order to allow your planning to move forward.  Take time with your fiancé to think about the kind of wedding you want. If you suspect you are paying for the venue and catering costs yourself, make it clear to both families that the wedding guest list will stick to your friends and close family.  If your parents want to invite their crew and you are open to it, talk about splitting the catering costs in a few ways to manage the larger celebration.  I often see close family members paying for one part of the wedding (such as a dress, cake or hotel) as a gift to help offset some wedding costs.

4.       Prioritize – Estimating that the venue, catering and rental costs are 50% of your budget, move on to the other major categories:

officiant

florals and décor (like head table draping)

entertainment (band, DJ)

photographer

videographer

transportation and hotel

stationary and print (invites, place cards, menus)

Think about what is most important to you and which items you can omit from your budget, if possible.  In order of priority, allocate more money towards these ‘important’ items and remember to include taxes in your budget. 

5.       Don’t Forget the Hidden Line Items – Aside from the major categories listed above, there are other important items to budget for – hair and makeup, wedding attire, wedding bands and gifts for the bridal party, welcome packages for out of towners as well as party alcohol liability insurance (PAL for short) which protects you if a guest gets injured at your wedding.  Lots of these vendors charge delivery and set up fees so be sure to keep an eye out for those when you start getting some proposals.  Lastly, don’t forget to include your wedding plannerJ She or he will make a big impact in reinforcing your wedding vision and ensuring you keep within your budget.  A professional wedding planner can also help you source vendors within your budget to keep planning as efficient as possible.

6.       Keep your budget handy Repeat after me, refer to your budget often and always! Once you have finalized your budget with your fiancé, print it out, keep it close and update it as you confirm your dream team for your big day!