If you walk into a venue or talk to a vendor and you don’t have a budget – don’t be surprised if you experience severe sticker shock. Figuring out your event budget can be stressful, but no matter how stressful it is necessary. It’s more stressful to start shopping without doing some baseline research to figure out the costs to begin with… Without a budget, even an estimate, it will be hard to shop for what you can afford.
Determine What You Want
Likely, you’ve already considered it. Don’t get too caught up in the specific details just yet, but you should consider the general feel you want your event to have. The atmosphere you want to create will help you determine how your budget is divided based on what you want. No one is asking you for the color of the flowers just yet, but if you want to include floral there needs to be space for it in the budget. So consider the different big picture items you want to have and make a list. Each of those categories are different elements of your budget you’ll need to research and make decisions about.
Do Your Initial Research
Don’t just research the venues and vendors you want to work with, research many and any venues and vendors. Most will have their pricing available on their website. Use this to your advantage to get an idea for what events like yours might cost in the area you are looking. This will help you establish what you are comfortable spending. When a venue or vendor has their information available online, there isn’t a need to contact them yet. If a venue or vendor doesn’t list their pricing online, feel free to contact them and ask them for it. However, note that doing this could open a door and a flood of emails that you aren’t quite ready to read through. If you contact a venue or vendor and they don’t want to give you general pricing, be a bit weary.
Crunch Some Numbers
Once you’ve gathered some prices from venues and vendors, determine some averages. By using the average cost of a venue or a vendor, you’ll have an average baseline to work off of. It’s up to you if you want to spend more or less than what you’ve discovered, but keep in mind it is an average and that average could be lower than what is realistically available. Another number that needs to be crunched at this point is your guest count. No matter where you are or what type of event you’re planning, the number of guests you plan to invite will make a huge impact on your budget. As mentioned before, if you take your per person catering price and multiply it by the number of guests you want to invite, but it’s higher than what you can afford or are willing to allocate – it might be time to cut the guest list.
Prioritize What You Want
Pick your top three priorities for your event. They can be just about anything like music, photographer, décor, or any other detail you feel strongly about. Having a short list of top priorities is a good idea so you can focus a little more money and time or energy on the things that matter. Take a closer look at your budget categories and the averages from your number crunching. Start to specify what you’re willing to spend based on your priorities. You might need to take a little from one element to have another.
Keep it Real
Once you know how many guests you want to invite and have a realistic idea of costs for your event, along with what you’re willing to spend, use that information to find out if it is possible. Contact venues and vendors that match what you’re willing to invest. They may be some of the venues and vendors you browsed the first time you did your initial research. You’ll be given more information but you’ll also be able to set up a tour to see the space to see if what you are envisioning is feasible with their given layout. The unfair truth about events and the investment in them is that sometimes things we would work, just won’t. (Think feeding 250 people a sit down dinner for $4,000.)
Re-evaluate and Estimate
If your original vision and your numbers from your initial research and budgeting don’t mesh, re-evaluate. Is it feasible to spend a little more? Is there something you want that you can sacrifice or spend a little less? Can you change the type of venue, overall look or feel to make it fit in your budget? If your budget and vision are in direct contradiction, you have to find ways to level out the plan.
The most important thing to remember is that no two events are alike. Your budget and how it is allocated will undoubtedly change and need adjusting throughout the planning process. But don’t stray too far from what you’ve determined to be affordable for yourself. Use a budget tracking template or program to keep yourself on track with what you’ve spent, what remains or keep an eye on those line items that are getting a bit out of control.