Planning a wedding comes with a lot of costs. Enter setting a wedding budget—and sticking to it! Determining your priorities and allocating expenses early in the planning process will ensure your big day looks like the wedding you’ve always envisioned.
As wedding planners, we frequently assist couples with this step. No matter how big or small the budget, the importance of tracking every expense is a constant! While online calculators exist to help with this, there’s no replacement for an experienced planner to help you build your wedding budget. The calculator can give you an idea of which categories should constitute your overall budget, but its usefulness stops there. Using a generalized percentage system to determine how much of your budget should go into each bucket isn’t realistic. Not only does pricing vary wildly from state to state, but a calculator doesn’t know your unique priorities!
Working one-on-one with a planner is the wisest choice for setting a realistic wedding budget. However, we recognize that a planner’s services may not be in the budget for some couples. We also know that many couples prefer to have a solid foundation of knowledge before talking to their planner! No matter the reason, we’re glad you’re here, and we hope to shed light on setting a wedding budget you can stick to. Here’s your budgeting roadmap!
6 Steps for Setting a Wedding Budget
Talk to Your Families
If your family will help you pay for the wedding, this is the first place to start. Gently initiate a conversation about budgeting to determine who will contribute and how much. Often, people already know which aspect of the wedding day they want their money going toward—usually one of the essentials like flowers or stationery. Likewise, there may be “extras” they’d prefer you to cover. Respect their wishes, and use what they tell you to determine how much you and your partner will be responsible for.
Outline Your Priorities
Sit down with your partner and determine your priorities for your wedding day. Is it delicious food? Gorgeous mountain views? Or an incredible guest experience? Once you know your nonnegotiables, you can ensure they remain the primary focus of your budget. Otherwise, you may allocate too much for items that don’t top your wishlist.
Next, create a categorized list or spreadsheet with each of your budget “buckets”—online calculators can help with this step. Review the list with your budget contributors to determine if the overall budget will encompass each item or if a separate fund will cover certain ones. For example, we often observe that the bride’s dress, couple’s rings, and honeymoon get pulled from the wedding budget and paid separately.
Plug in the Numbers
Hopefully, by now, you’ve chosen and booked your venue. The venue site fee often represents the most significant portion of a wedding budget, so it’s imperative to plug this number into your budgeting spreadsheet as soon as possible. Your venue will also dictate expenses relevant to items like the bar, catering, and décor rentals, depending on what their packages do and don’t cover.
Use Percentage Recommendations as a Guide
Generic budgeting calculators can also come in handy for this step. However, they aren’t the end all be all. You can use their percentage recommendations as a guide when outlining your budget—as long as you keep in mind that these tools advise allocating a lower amount for each bucket than most experienced vendors command. As a rule, it’s better to expect to pay MORE than less to avoid exceeding your overall budget.
Remember Your Priorities
Even after outlining specific “wants,” it’s easy to get swept up in trends and down payments and forget what you want your wedding day to look like. Look at your priorities again to determine if they’re still accurate. If they are, ensure that a realistic portion of your budget gets set aside for them!
Ultimately, the best advice for setting a wedding budget is: to set a wedding budget. We’ve witnessed too many couples make the mistake of skipping this step and paying for it (literally!). As long as you manage your expenses by referring to your budget often and updating it as your vendor team grows, you can count on success. Of course, if you’d like professional guidance throughout the process, Sapphire Celebrations would love to help! Our planning packages encompass the entire wedding planning process, from setting your budget to management on the big day. If our services interest you, we would love to connect!
Your venue sets the tone for the rest of your wedding day. It determines the first impression your guests receive upon arriving, and it can either make or break your overall design. So it’s no surprise that choosing your wedding venue can feel daunting! However, when you ask the right questions, you can simplify the venue touring process. As a wedding planner, I often accompany my couples on these tours to ensure they receive an accurate impression of a venue. Then they can make the most well-informed choice for their big day!
Are you preparing to tour prospective venues without a list of questions in mind? This guide is for you! While you may have additional questions regarding your wedding vision, this list is a great place to start. Without further ado, here are the top eight things to consider when choosing your wedding venue!
Location, Location, Location
Most Colorado wedding couples have some idea as to whether they want a mountain or urban wedding. Location is the first place to start when choosing your wedding venue! Where do you see yourself tying the knot? Do you and your partner spend most weekends hiking or sampling new restaurants downtown? Once you’ve nailed down a general location, your venue search field will narrow considerably.
Also, consider convenience for your guests, especially those traveling by plane. While you may envision exchanging vows in the wilderness, distance from the airport is something to consider. Don’t fret, outdoorsy couples—there are mountain venues with gorgeous scenery mere miles from the Denver city center!
Ceremony v. Reception Site
Some couples prefer to host their ceremony and reception at the same site to cut travel time and transportation costs. However, others prefer to host their ceremony at their place of worship or in a separate, more scenic location. For example, you might opt for an outdoor ceremony in a mountain meadow, then head to a nearby lodge for dinner and dancing. Having a handle on your vision for your ceremony and reception ahead of time will help you choose the venue that most closely aligns with it.
Size of the Space
Before touring venues, you should also know what size wedding you want. Most spaces are designed with a specific kind of event in mind, whether a large celebration with hundreds of people, an intimate micro-wedding, or somewhere in between. Make your guest list first, so you know how many guests will attend your wedding at maximum. We believe it’s always best to find a space that can comfortably accommodate your event with room to grow instead of squeezing into a venue where you’re pushing the maximum capacity.
In-House v. Offsite Catering
In general, two types of wedding venues exist: all-inclusive and DIY. All-inclusive venues typically have an in-house caterer, so you won’t need to look elsewhere for someone to feed your guests. While DIY venues don’t boast this convenience, they afford couples freedom of choice. At a DIY venue, you can bring your favorite food trucks or catering from your favorite date night restaurant onsite—the sky’s the limit! However, for some couples, this won’t outweigh the convenience of an in-house caterer. Determine your top priority first, and find venues to tour from there!
Another feature of all-inclusive venues is décor included in your rental fee. That includes tables, chairs, flatware, glassware, and linens—the base essentials to host your event. Often, this is a great way to save money! However, you’ll want to ensure that a venue’s in-house rentals suit your desired aesthetic before booking. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck paying for additional décor rentals on top of your venue fee.
Always find out if a venue has a list of preferred or exclusive in-house vendors. There’s a good chance the answer will help you make your choice! If the preferred vendors tend to produce work that aligns with your vision, then you’re all set. If they don’t, you’ll find it much harder to find vendors who have experience working at your venue. While this isn’t a requirement, it helps the day run more smoothly if your vendors have familiarity with the venue’s policies and layout.
In addition, consider that the florist or photographer whose work you like the most from your venue’s list may not have your wedding date available. Sometimes it’s best to check with these vendors before booking so you aren’t setting yourself up for disappointment!
When choosing your wedding venue, the most relevant consideration is money. Ask yourself: does this venue fit into my overall wedding budget? If the answer is no, don’t even bother with touring. The last thing you want is to fall in love with a space only to discover that you can’t possibly host your wedding there! Every venue you tour afterward will only disappoint you. However, if you have a realistic perspective from the get-go, you may be pleasantly surprised by what your budget can get you!
Band vs. DJ
While some couples are happy to hire a DJ for their reception, others have their hearts set on a live band. However, remember that a band takes up much more space than a DJ table. If you want live music, you’ll need to set aside a 20’ x 20’ space at minimum to accommodate the band members, their instruments, and sound equipment. As a broad rule, we say that the band/stage area accounts for about 50 guests. In other words, that’s 50 loved ones you can’t invite to your wedding if you’re already pushing maximum capacity. Again, it’s crucial to know your priorities!
If you’re preparing to tour venues, this guide can help you determine your priorities and envision what it would look like to host your wedding at a particular venue. Still, this process becomes infinitely simpler with the help of an experienced wedding planner! Sapphire Celebrations can help you find the perfect Colorado wedding venue to suit your vision and budget. Don’t wait to locate and book the venue of your dreams--get started today!
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Sapphire Celebrations combines the energy, perspective and creativity of two generations when planning weddings and events throughout Colorado. Founded by a mother and daughter team, Sapphire Celebrations reflects their Colorado heritage. With family roots dating back to 1907 and covering the northeastern plains and Rocky Mountain vistas, there is no team better qualified to plan your Colorado wedding or special event.
Pamela and Angie are proud of the high level of service for which Sapphire Celebrations has come to be known. Two principal wedding designers and four event concierges take pride in exceeding the expectations of couples who entrust us with their wedding day.