I’ve decided to split this installment of The Secret Ingredient into two parts because I think this topic deserves a bit of exploration. The question of means and money has always been a mystical one as it applies to our industry. “To spend or not to spend?” Planning your wedding can be one of the most exciting times of your life. But that said, it could also be an emotional time where it becomes easy to justify exorbitant expenses. Here are a few thoughts that have been bouncing around my head:

It all adds up.
If you dream of a wedding with your twelve closest friends as bridesmaids, then that means twelve dresses, twelve hair and make-up sessions, twelve bouquets, twelve thank you gifts…shall I continue? How about the menu? You could serve a well thought-out and delicious three-course meal, or a complex and show-stopping ten-course banquet. My point is this: whether you’re planning to spend twenty thousand or twenty million, the REALITY is that the components of an event have a tendency to spiral in whatever direction you allow them to. Of course, I would suggest seeking out a professional designer and planner, but if you do decide to go the do-it-yourself route, I implore you to set up a spreadsheet outright with the various vendors you’ll need and start getting on the phone with them early.  You would be amazed at how quickly the bottom line adds up (after all these years in the business, I know I still am). Prices can easily be obtained in just a few phone calls.  With enough information, a vendor should be able to give you a tangible (read: realistic) quote. “I have no idea” is not an acceptable answer from either party. Be brave enough to own your ideas from venue to aesthetics – and be able to give a ballpark budget number to work with. In return, if a vendor can’t or won’t give you numbers, I suggest moving along to someone who can.

Is your wallet bottomless?
Even the rather large fairytale weddings I’ve designed have very real life price tags. One of my friends in the biz once told me about a client who purported to have “no budget.” He responded with “Oh good! I’ve always wanted to design a $100 million party!”  The client immediately and firmly recanted.

By developing a budget right from the beginning (and being adamant about sticking to it), you avoid the assumption on your vendors’ part that your wallet is bottomless. Of course, if it’s a relatively small price difference on something as important as that perfect wedding dress, be flexible. The big take away here is to prioritize your flexibility. Flowers and centerpieces are often the most visible part of the party, so it makes sense to bend toward increases in that area of the budget, as long as you can reasonably afford it.

Where’s the creativity?
Some think that budgets constrain creativity, but I think that’s silly. The reality is that lack of creativity is the only thing that stands in the way of creativity. If there’s anything the economy should have taught us over the past few years, it’s that throwing more and more money at a problem isn’t a very sustainable solution to anything. If, for example, you can’t afford a lot of tall centerpieces, but your venue has a high ceiling that calls for them, then go for low centerpieces and then invest in a grand central arrangement in the middle of the room for a big visual impact.

The point is, of course more money can be helpful, but be cautious of vendors who tell you that the only solution to a snag in the plan is to increase the budget. While it’s a viable option, it’s never the only option.  But be open to the fact that while you may have to make compromises from the original concept, you and your vendor will be the only people that have to know.  What counts in the end, is that you and your guests have a great, memorable event.  Right?

The Secret Ingredient: Cool planning, not hot emotion, is the right way to budget.

Stay tuned next week for Part Two: The Power of Spending.

Image used under Creative Commons from puuikibeach.

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