Budget is something we all come back to when planning a wedding; it will absolutely determine what your wedding is going to feel and look like and it can always be bigger. A question many couples ask is “how much should I budget for my wedding” and there are a few ways to answer this; on one hand, the average QLD wedding is about $34,000; on the other, having less than $34,000 does not mean you can’t have a wedding but it does mean you might need to invite fewer guests or change your venue ideas. Want to know more? Let’s keep talking about how to build your wedding budget.
Disclaimer: Please note that I am not an accountant or anything similar; I am offering this advice based on my knowledge and experience in planning weddings and tracking budgets with clients during their wedding planning process.
Know the overall budget
This can be super hard to determine but start with a number that doesn’t seem crazy to you and then calculate. For example, if you want to only spend $15,000 on your entire wedding but are expecting to have a two to three-course sit-down dinner at a high-end venue, you need to reevaluate.
Some starting calculations: take the number of people you want to invite and multiple that by about $110-$250+ per person; this is the average cost of a sit-down dinner per heard (2-3 course with cake as dessert). Don’t forget to include $35-$56+ per person for a drinks package. For about 80 guests, let’s say that’s $145 per person which is a total of $11,600; that’s more than ⅔ of our imaginary $15K budget and that’s only the basic package without food or bar upgrades.
What else do you want to include? Remember, at a minimum you need a celebrant, a dress, a suit, music and flowers. Not to mention decor, favours, cars and transport and any fun extras you dreamt of like a photo booth or gelato cart.
Start with your priorities
I have said this so many times and I will keep saying it; know your priorities and allocate how much you want to spend on each vendor based on what’s most important to you. For me, it was my photographer so I actually changed my date (before locking anything in with venues and vendors) three times to ensure I had the photographer I wanted.
Write out every vendor you think you need or know you want and then number them from 1-10+ according to which is the most important to you (number 1) and the least important (number 10). I recommend doing this as individuals to start (not as a couple) and then coming together to discuss your priorities until you’ve agreed on what your budget priorities are as a couple.
Based on where you land with this, allocate your budget in percentages to each list item, always knowing that your food/drinks/venue hire will account for at least ⅓ of your budget overall.
Mark which things are Must have and what are Nice to have
Continuing on with this idea of prioritising budget items, also note which ones are must-haves and nice to have. You absolutely must have a celebrant (otherwise your marriage won’t be legal) and it would be nice to have wedding favours. These are the things that you can look at and know that the wedding cannot and will not function well without – e.g. celebrant, photographer, wedding planner – versus things that you don’t need to have for your wedding to be successful – e.g. favours, photo booth, gelato cart.
Now that we know how much we want to spend overall and where we want to spend it, it’s time to research and see if your estimations and calculations are truly accurate and possible. Start calling or emailing vendors you know or have seen and liked and see what packages and prices they offer. Many offer their services based on time; eight or more hours is the most popular timeframe to hire a photographer or a photo booth for, whereas for a celebrant it comes down more to experience, style and pre-ceremony care and work.
A few things you need to include in any enquiry to get the easiest and quickest are:
- Location – approximate or specific depending if you already have a venue booked
- How many people (not needed for photographer, celebrant etc.)
- Any personal preferences or inspiration photos
I have never encountered a vendor who will price match so don’t expect them to, but feel free to ask if they offer any off-season or mid-week specials; some vendors do and some don’t but if you ask politely no one minds.
Once you have a few quotes (look to secure about three to five for a well-rounded price comparison), check these against your allocations and budget and see if your estimations look realistic or not. Remember, you can always find a more expensive vendor and a cheaper one, but you are paying for quality and low prices are not always worth the risk, especially with something like food or photography.
DIY – is it worth it?
If you’re crafty or handy in any way, you can probably save a bit of money by DIYing a few parts of your wedding, like centrepieces, bouquets or wedding favours. Something that needs to be accounted for though is the time and stress organising these things will take. It might be cheaper to make your own centrepieces, but will you spend more than five hours shopping, building, testing and retrying? If you want to do your bouquets yourself, you need to do them on the morning of your wedding so they’re fresh; are you going to go to the market at 5am, buy flowers, make bouquets and have your hair and makeup done?
It’s doable; I know dozens of couples who have chosen to save money with DIY and sometimes it has worked out beautifully, but go in knowing the risk of stress, time-wasting and with a backup if your first plan fails.
Also note that if you DIY something that needs to be put out at your reception, not allow venues will put them out for you and you may need to ask a friend or family member to do so; you might be okay with this but I know some couples are not. If you have a wedding planner they may be able to do this for you, but you must consider all the pros and cons of DIY.
Overall, consider time and stress vs cost and determine which you prefer and can afford to outlay.
Still not feeling confident on where to start? Check out my approximations table for wedding vendors below. Please note that these are very general estimations and a number of factors will affect the final price of each. This list is not exhaustive and is relevant to QLD pricing in Australia.
If you remember only one thing from this post, remember that you can always spend more and prioritise according to your personal preference.
Until next time, keep making your special moments unforgettable x
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