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Monday, March 21, 2011

Wedding Budget Tips From a Wedding Photographer | Maris Ehlers Photography

Last week I introduced a series for the MEP Blog called "Helpful Tips from a Wedding Photographer - Part 1".  Here is a look at the fist in-depth topic, BUDGETING.  I hope you'll find it informative, valuable and timely.  Please feel free to ask questions or share your own experiences.  

Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde - Wedding Style

Planning a wedding is like suddenly experiencing the onset of split or multiple personalities.  Why?  Because there are two sides to every wedding, regardless of how big or how small:  The Creative Side and The Business Side. More often than you'd think these two very different sides are in conflict with one another, and the bride and groom often feel they have to defend one side to the detriment of the other.  The good news though, is that with careful upfront planning, it can all work out in the end.  

The creative side is what wedding dreams are made of.  The dress, the flowers, the style, the details that make your wedding gorgeous and YOU.  The details are what makes a wedding worth remembering.  Have you ever heard Aunt Jane exclaim months later "Did you SEE that gorgeous contract they negotiated with the caterer?"  I didn't think so.  But she may proclaim to anyone who will listen how gorgeous your centerpieces were, how delightful the day, and that's what most couples are after.  Beautiful memories of a gorgeous day. 

Knee Deep in Dreams

At some point however, reality sets in and the business side of the day must be dealt with.  Many people hide from the realities of wedding budgets until they are knee deep in dreams, and that can be problematic. It is helpful for couples, once the excitement of their engagement has settled a bit and they are ready to dig in planning wise, to sit down and tackle their budget before doing anything else.  Even if it's just a first blush.  At this point, close is good.  You don't have to have it down to the penny, but you should have a pretty specific total in mind and then assign rough "buckets" for each major category.   Many sources share that the average cost of a wedding today is at least $15,000.  

You might think that's a pretty grim way to start of the process, but it's the best way to ensure that once you are actively looking to book your vendors and make major purchases that you know where the proverbial lines in the wedding planning sand are - or, more accurately, where the "0's" are in the checkbook.  There is nothing worse than falling in love with an idea, a dress, a cake, or even a photographer's work and then realizing you can't afford it.  That $6,000 Vera Wang dress just might be the dress of your dreams, but if you buy it and your guests will then be gnoshing on cheez-its and ritz crackers, then it just might not be the Best. Dress. Ever.

Forget the Veil, Sweetie.  Where's Your Business Degree? 

If you think weddings are all about party favors, stationary and tulle, think again.  Here is a sampling of the "business transactions / activities" you will need to be prepared to work through when planning most weddings. 

  • Project Management - the timelines and to do lists for some weddings can rival the most complex Microsoft Project product launch grids.  More people, more complex.
  • Interviewing - you'll have to "vet" out or "pre-qualify" a variety of vendors before getting down to the nitty gritty and selecting the ones you want.  Have a list of must have's vs wants and your budget bucket before you start looking. Narrow it down to 2 or 3 before you start talking. 
  • Negotiating - some vendors do, some vendors don't.  The art, dear bride and groom, is to know who to try to negotiate with and what is realistic.  Remember, value is more than the price tag.  It's also about the experience you get.  
  •  Contracts - There is a contract to sign with just about any vendor you will use.  The venue, photographer, caterer, DJ, musicians, florist, cake artist... the list goes on and on.  
  • Cash Flow - Know it, manage it, and don't waste it. 
  • Human Relations - I have yet to see a wedding where someone somewhere in the mix didn't cause an issue or complicated situation that needed dealing with.  
  • Other Business Terms - Not only should you learn about the different types of wedding veils for your day (blusher, chapel, cathedral, finger tip, elbow, mantilla, etc), but you also need to learn about a variety of general business terms in order to make good business decisions when planning your wedding.  A small sample:  deposit vs retainer, cancellation, breach of contract, etc. 
While the amounts you may assign to various categories can be fluid and might change as you make decisions (a little more here for table decorations, a little less here on attire), you head into dangerous territory if your overall budget keeps increasing, especially if you don't have piles of cash sitting around somewhere to pay for it.    

Here is a list of what I think are the top wedding budget blunders:

1.  Not having an overall budget amount to begin with.  If you don't know what you have, how can you make the most of it?
2.  Not being in the same book, let alone on the same page. You both will have expectations for the day.  Don't forget to share them BEFORE you start planning.  
3.  Thinking that you have to outdo so and so's wedding in order for your wedding to be beautiful.  Every wedding, every couple is different.  Making your wedding "YOU" is much more important than having your reception at the "right" place.
4.  Inviting the neighbors' neighbors' neighbors.  Being selective can not only save you money, but it can also create a much more meaningful and intimate environment where you are surrounded by those who truly love and support you.
5.  Not doing your math.  You owe it to yourself, your fiance and your vendors to not waste time with a list of wants and demands that will not match up to reality. If your budget and their pricing is just too far apart, you're probably better off either revising what it is you are wanting, revising your priorities, or looking at other, lower cost vendors.
6.  Ignoring your budget because of a "want". Your budget can handle only so many "I just have to have it" items. If it's not on your priority list, it's way over budget but you do it anyway, get ready for budget karma.  It's ugly. 
7.  Not paying attention.  Some of the wedding planning minutia isn't fun.  I know that.  But it's important.  It's your responsibility to know the details of the contracts you sign.  Don't end up not getting something that you really wanted because you were too busy to read what you were signing.  Remember, if a vendor offers something that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
8.  Not being flexible.  Every successful venture requires some flexibility on the part of all. If something just can't work from a budget perspective, don't make everyone miserable about it, including yourself.  Stop for a minute and think about it.  Will it be important in a year, 5 years, 10?
9.  Being Impulsive.  I know you have a deadline, and you have a lot to do, but when getting ready to make a major purchase or decision regarding your wedding, take a step back and sleep on it if you can.  This goes beyond the budget.  I can't tell you how many times a bride or groom knew they would regret asking a person to participate about 10 minutes (or seconds) after the words came out of their mouths.
10.  Risking your future by financing one day.  If you are planning on taking out a loan or using interest-bearing credit to finance your wedding, PLEASE, PLEASE do not do this.  You are risking your future for ONE day.  A wedding is important.  It's the start of what should be a wonderful life together.  However, putting yourself in debt for the next several years to finance it is a REALLY bad idea - no matter how you dress it up.

Some recent wedding posts to enjoy: 

Wedding Wednesday - Walker Art Center Style
What to Wear - Engagement Photography Session by Guest Blogger Dawn Fryxell
March Madness Engagement Session Preview 

1 comment:

kris said...

Great information Maris! Wish I had this when I got married!!