Four Expensive Wedding Planning Mistakes
The budget is often the most stressful component of planning a wedding, and there are several mistakes that I repeatedly see couples making. These mistakes can really add up and impact the entire planning process.
Mistake One - Booking your venue before you solidify your budget
Wedding planning lists commonly start with booking your venue. While this should really be the first thing that you book or lock in, it's definitely not the first planning task you need to tackle.
If I could talk to couples right after they get engaged, I would make sure that they have the dreaded budget discussion before even looking at venues or other vendors online. In the second episode of The Wedding Planning Collective Podcast (Don't Plan Your Wedding Backwards) I told you how to make sure that you are properly putting together your budget.
If you haven't listened to that episode yet, make sure to check that out. Most couples will spend between 40% and 50% of their budget on their venue. Until you sit down and work through your budget and not just briefly discuss a general number, it's impossible to know what the dollar amount associated with that 40% to 50% is. If you commit to, or fall in love with, a venue or a catering company that will take up significantly higher percentage of your budget, you'll be forced to either make tough cuts in other areas or more likely end up being over budget from the beginning.
If you're in a traditional banquet hall or hotel type venue, that 40% to 50% is going to include the venue rental fees, ceremony and reception, the catering and bar costs, any service or staffing costs, so wait staff, bartenders, and taxes, service fees, and gratuities. If you're hosting your wedding in a unique venue, or maybe your backyard, that 40% to 50% would include all of the above. So the catering food service and staff, taxes and gratuities, but you're also going to need to include the rentals like the tent, tables, chairs, dishes, etc., into that 40% to 50%.
You can see a lot goes into that number, which is why it can be a huge expensive mistake if you don't have a solid understanding of your budget prior to committing to your venue.
Mistake Two - Thinking a backyard wedding will save you money (versus a banquet hall)
While you can pull off a simple and cheap backyard wedding, it often ends up being just as expensive as a banquet hall or another traditional wedding venue. It also means a lot more work and planning to make sure that you have everything that you need.
Most couples still want to have the structure or formality of a traditional wedding, even when they're in their backyard, which means that you need to essentially build the venue from the ground up. If you're thinking about a backyard wedding (or a non-traditional venue like a farmer's market or a building that is more a shell of a space and you have to bring in everything), you need to make sure to get the backyard wedding guide. It's a complimentary resource where I've listed out all of the items and things you're going to need to consider when you are building your own venue.
When you're in a space where you need to bring in a tent or all the tables, the caterer, the ice, the forks, the knives, the napkins, you need this guide to make sure you have thought about everything and what the cost will add up to BEFORE you make the official decision. Take some time to add up what those estimated costs will be for those items, and then compare it to the top choice.
If you were to have your wedding at a venue, don't forget that you'll also be taking on the role of the venue or event planner. So there will be more planning time involved with a backyard event than there would be in a more traditional venue.
Mistake Three -Hiring your (non-professional) family and/or friends
This one might seem obvious, but you would be surprised how often I hear some form of "my aunt is making our cake", or "I have a college friend that wants to be a wedding photographer". And while the idea of saving money on these vendors can be appealing, it often results in added expenses and or last-minute scrambling to hire somebody else if they back out. And because we're talking about budgeting mistakes here, let me share some real wedding scenarios that have cost my clients a load of money.
A friend of the bride's family that was supposed to cater the event. Unfortunately they bailed after the couple had booked the venue, which was only in their budget because they were getting such a good deal on the catering costs. This meant that they had to go with a more traditional caterer that had a higher price point, and it cost them thousands more than they had anticipated because they were counting on a non-professional family caterer to help them out with this.
A bride's cousin messed up the invitation designs, forcing them to submit a rush order from a template website. They ended up paying a lot more for overnight shipping than they would have if they had gone with that company a few weeks beforehand.
Friends of the groom offered to pack and clean up at the end of the night to avoid the cost of the caterers staying through the end of the party. Instead, the friends got drunk and left for an after party and the couple lost their security deposit because the staff had to stay overtime to clean up.
The mother of a bride wanted to make the desserts for a sweet station. While she was a really good baker, their oven broke two days before the wedding and they had to find another bakery last minute, paying again for rush service fees. And they did also pay for rush repair fees that didn't end up solving the problem with the oven. So that was a very costly issue and added a bunch of stress in the couple of days before the wedding that they did not need to deal with.
I do want to be very clear here. If your family member or friend is an actual wedding or event professional, that's not what I'm talking about here. You do want to be a little bit cautious about essentially mixing business with pleasure. If you are hiring a professional that also happens to be a family member or friend, I still recommend you go the route that you would if you did not know them - get that contract, get the pricing, get everything written down on paper. Make it as much of a professional relationship as you can to avoid awkward issues in the future.
Mistake Four - Not having a miscellaneous category within your initial budget
It does not matter how detail oriented you are with your budget and planning, there will always be surprise costs along the way. These typically pop up in the weeks or months just before the wedding.
If your wedding will be at a traditional venue with minimal outside details or vendors involved, I suggest you plan on putting about 5% of the budget aside for miscellaneous costs. If you're at a unique venue or a backyard tented reception that we were talking about before, I recommend having closer to 10% for these unexpected costs.
Here are some of the most commonly overlooked last minute costs:
Stamps for the invitation and the RSVP cards
Delivery and service fees for rental items
Late night or after hour pickup fees
Gratuities for vendors or staff that go above and beyond for you (Get more info on vendor tipping here!)
Overtime fees for transportation or other vendors
Printing costs for things like programs, menus, place cards, etc.
One last budget tip for you - I always recommend having between $200 to $500 in cash on hand on the day of the wedding. The amount would again depend on the number of vendors or variables that you have. If you have a lot of moving components, you might want to have more and smaller bills ready to hand out for those that are helping out. This way you can be prepared if you need to purchase something or have somebody run out to grab something for you, or if you want to tip an amazing staff member that's made the day extra special for you.
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