What Should I Spend Money on and Where Should I Cut Back: Allocating the Budget for Your Wedding
Updated: Jul 7
You have the dazzling ring on your finger, you have announced the wonderful news to friends and family, and now the reality sets in. You have set aside a certain amount of money to pay for your wedding, and now it is time to decide where it goes!
According to The Knot in 2017, 45 percent of couples spent more than they had planned to spend by a whopping average of almost 25%. 2022 is projected to be one of the most wedding packed years in recent memory as people are ready to gather and celebrate again. Unfortunately, demand usually predicts vendor pricing, so it’s time to get savvy about where to put those wedding dollars!
Did you know that working with a wedding planner can actually save your budget? So instead of looking at a wedding planner as an extravagant item on your list, perhaps you should start seeing a planner as your budget’s best friend. With all the knowledge we have in the industry we can not only guide you to vendors within your budget, but sometimes those vendors give discounts to trusted planners they have a great working relationship with. Sometimes professional planners will pass on that discount to you! We also know where the hidden costs are, so we can guide you and direct you so that you are not blindsided by things like service fees, delivery fees and gratuities.
With that being said, where would that planner tell you to spend money and where to save it? Here are some of the things Two Girls in Pearls would discuss with you about budget allocation. Bottom line...what is the most important thing on your wishlist to make your wedding day the best version of what you envision?
The Joule Hotel, Dallas, Photo courtesy of Lindsey Shea Photography
1. A gorgeous atmosphere. In general plan to spend about 50% of your wedding budget on your reception space, food, beverages and service charges. If you are dreaming of an amazing venue with Dallas skyline views from the 30th floor, that is going to be a very specific want. While there are quite a few venues downtown with this description, many come with a fairly high price tag. However, booking one of these venues (especially if it is a hotel venue) can come with some perks such as: a complimentary suite on wedding night, discounts on spa services, discounted room rates for your guests, and perhaps a multiplier on hotel points if the hotel is part of a large hotel family (such as Marriott or Hilton). Most of the time your linens, chairs, and place settings will be included in the price which can actually save you money as opposed to having to rent or purchase these separately.
You may be surprised to know that the meeting room prices for these venues are usually quite reasonable, it is the Food and Beverage minimums that will be where cost is involved.
Many of the exclusive downtown Dallas venues will usually charge between $10,000-$25,000 for Food and Beverage minimums depending on the space size.
If you are on the search for a beautiful blooming garden space for your festivities, know that you must always have a Plan B for outdoor weddings in case of inclement weather. There are some absolutely stunning garden venues in Dallas, but sometimes the venue's plan B is less than practical or not as charming as the outdoor option. You could rent a tent for the wedding as a weather backup, but be prepared that depending upon the type of tent you rent this can add an additional $10-$15,000 to the budget.
There are also peak wedding months and off-peak months at most wedding venues. So, if your desire is over the moon and your budget is about skyline high...remember...sometimes venues will negotiate pricing if you are flexible on your date.
2. The memories you can look back on. If pictures are the most important aspect of your wedding, be prepared to spend a large chunk here. Photography will usually be approximately 10% of your budget if you are just wanting a reasonable price with an average photographer and limited hours of coverage. Many times, brides will choose a photography group rather than an individual photographer that suits the style of photos they are drawn to. Be advised that these photography conglomerates aren’t very personal, and sometimes you won’t even get the name of the photographer until a few days before the wedding. With any photography package, if you want a second shooter, be prepared to pay an additional fee.
If you have a specific style you are looking for (dark and moody, light and airy, editorial, fine art) then be prepared to allocate a larger percentage of your budget to photography. We have had brides who have brought in photographers from other parts of the country or even world to achieve the photography look they want. If this is the most important part of your day you can spend upwards of 25% of your budget on photography. If you wish to add videography, the cost can be upwards of 30-35% of your budget.
Factor in how many hours of coverage you will need as well. Unfortunately, if you have contracted your photographer for 6 hours and time runs out before your grand exit, you will either have to pay for extra hours or not get those great pictures!
Jordan Kahn Orchestra "Manhattan", The Room on Main, Photo Courtesy of Lindsey Shea Photography
3. A Band versus a DJ. This all depends on the environment you want for your wedding. If you have a big dancing crowd on your invitation list who thrives on high energy and non-stop entertainment, a band is the way to go! We work with some amazing performers who can really be showstoppers when it comes to wedding entertainment. Be prepared to pay $10-$20,000 for a great Dallas wedding band. However, the costs sometimes don’t end there. Look over contracts carefully! Bands will usually require a stage. The size of the band (usually 5-10 pieces) will dictate the size of the stage you will need to provide. Don’t forget delivery and set-up of the stage...and if you are wanting a pretty stage facade!
You will also be feeding more vendors with a band (and yes, you should feed the vendors who are staying for the duration of the wedding). Sometimes they will also require a separate space to use as a Green Room (where they can get ready, eat and gather during breaks separate from your guests). They will also usually require bottled water and perhaps other convenience items.
Great DJ’s will usually cost from $1500 to $5000 depending on experience, reputation and items they can provide such as up lighting, gobos, etc. Sometimes DJ’s will also have add-ons such as photo booths and other specialty items (think dancing in the clouds).
The Bowden, Keller, Photo courtesy of J. Bailey Photography
4. Food and Drink. Are you a Foodie and want your wedding reception to be something you and your guests look back on as an adventurous feast? Do you have a favorite caterer and want to use them to make your meal memorable? On the low end of the spectrum, catering can cost around $20 per person for a basic meal. On the other end, high end food can be $100 or more per person. Be prepared to pay high dollar for extravagant meals, especially if you have a large guest count. Some venues will charge an outside catering fee if you do not use their on-site catering or one of their preferred caterers if at all. Be sure and check this before booking your venue if you know you want to bring in your own caterer. Also, be prepared to set aside a percentage (usually 20-25%) for service fees whether you use the venue caterer or your own.
What type of bar will you have? Soft drinks only? Wine and Beer? Full Bar? Top Shelf?
Some venues will allow you to bring in your own alcohol as long as you have a TABC bartending service (many of these venues have an approved list of bartending services). Others will insist you use their staff and bar packages.
Floral and Décor by Botanica International, The Vinoy Golf Club, St. Petersburg, Florida, Photo courtesy of Lockwood Studios
5. Spectacular décor. Is the look of your special day the most important part of your vision? Florals can run from 10 to 25% of your budget depending on the amount of flowers, type of arrangements and bouquets (peonies over roses, dahlias over daisies, etc.), number of bouquets and so on. Factoring in rentals such as seating areas, specialty chairs and linens, place settings and other touches can add another 10-20% cost to your budget. Don’t forget to include set up and tear down fees for these items. Sometimes shopping in one place for all your floral and décor needs can save separate delivery fees.
We at Two Girls in Pearls Events can sit down with you and go over your budget with a fine-tooth comb. At our first planning session we will talk about your vision, what’s important to you and what can take a backseat. This really helps everyone decide where to allocate the money in the budget to help you use those dollars most effectively.
Where would we tell you not to spend money on so that you can have more of your budget for those things that are most important to you?
Favors: In addition to the fact that you are already feeding and entertaining your guests, we find that so many of these items get left behind or aren’t used.
Menus and Programs: Printing prices can be expensive. If you are having a plated dinner with multiple entrée options, you have probably already sent menu selections to your guests. If you are having a plated dinner with one entrée option you can always place one menu on the table for your guests to see what they are having, but individual menus usually aren’t necessary. For buffets, no menu is needed.
Programs get left behind and are often not even looked at. Most of your guests aren’t actually concerned with the order of events during the day or evening. Unless your programs are serving a dual purpose (perhaps as a fan during warm weather outdoors) they really aren’t necessary.
Excess cake: If you want a multi-tiered cake and only have 100 guests, do faux tiers! This is a great money saver and means you won’t be eating leftover cake for 2 months unless you really want to.
Specialty items: One of the trends we have seen the past year are masks and excessive hand sanitizers being provided at weddings. While this is a very kind gesture, we have found that most people who are still choosing to wear masks will come prepared with their own. Hand sanitizer is usually provided by your venue in places such as buffets, bars and other stations.
We can find you other money saving ideas in just about every area of your wedding so that you don’t have to go over budget! We want to make sure that you spend only what you want or have on your wedding and still achieve everything you want.