One of our main tasks – and definitely the most important one – as wedding planners is to help our clients stay within budget. To do so, we create spreadsheet after spreadsheet, update those spreadsheets at least once a week, and project, predict, and estimate every cost a couple is even remotely considering incurring. Why? To prevent going over budget, which is one of the most stressful and problematic events that can happen during wedding planning.
Sometimes, our clients come to us in the middle of planning. Many times, these clients have reached out to us at that stage because they’ve found that they’ve lost control of the budget.
“Help! I’m halfway through wedding planning and already over budget. How can I fix this?”
The good news is that fixing an over-budget wedding halfway through planning is not impossible. In fact, fixing this problem at this stage only requires some work and serious decision-making. The great news is that it’s better to fix an over-budget wedding earlier (no matter when that earlier happens) rather than later.
The main way to fix an over-budget, half-planned wedding is to revisit your previous decisions. Yes, you might have put down a deposit with a vendor, and that deposit might be non-refundable. However, with very few exceptions that deposit is always applied towards your final bill. Therefore, you can change your order and not lose your deposit.
For example, if you deposited $500 for a $2,000 floral order, if you later amend that order to $1,000, your $500 deposit still applies against your final bill. Not only do you now have a smaller (and hopefully within budget) total floral bill, but you have a smaller check to write when final payment is due ($500 versus $1,500).
To start fixing your budget, you must begin with the budget. Many times, couples find themselves over budget because they did not create a realistic budget, did not investigate average prices for vendors and other wedding costs in their area, or, even more problematic, did not create a budget at all.
Clearly, if you didn’t create a budget and find your bank account stretched beyond its limits, now is the time to create one. To find out how to format your budget and what values to put into it, research typical wedding budgets in the nation and average budgets in your area. And, as always, be realistic: start with your maximum amount – the total that you and anyone else contributing to the wedding add up to. Don’t anticipate receiving money or that promises of money will come through , only count on what you have in hand.
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Next, with budget in hand, enter in the amounts that you’ve already spent. Compare those amounts with what you should have spent (which you entered in during the first step in this process) to determine how much over you spent. That overage is the amount you need to cut. To keep with our floral example: if you have a $2,000 floral order but your budget only says that you could spend up to $1,000, then you must cut $1,000 from the floral order or somewhere else.
“Wait, cut from somewhere else? What do you mean?”
Yup, somewhere else. If you absolutely cannot cut your floral order (you love flowers or your mother put so much time into picking your flowers that you cannot imagine changing her selections) then you need to delete $1,000 from somewhere else, like your dress, accessories, or photography. Moreover, unfortunately some expenses cannot be cut. If you’ve already put down a deposit on a venue and cannot find another one in time or will lose your deposit if you switch, you’re going to have to reduce your expenses in another area of your budget to accommodate that venue.
A budget is like a balloon: you can squeeze one part tight and the air moves to another part. With a budget, you can lower (squeeze) the cost of one item, say your dress, and the money will shift to another part, like your floral bill.
The key to fixing an over-budget wedding is to cut, cut, cut. When you think you’re done, cut some more. No, cutting is not fun, but it’s necessary.