Prioritizing Your Wedding Vendors

By:Meghan Cease, M. Elizabeth Events

Make no mistake, this is a tough economy and engaged couples are looking for ways to cut costs on their wedding and stay within a set budget.  Before you set your budget you must look at what areas of your wedding are important to you as a couple. Is it the photography? Is it the food? Do you HAVE to have an 8-piece band? An amazing cinematic wedding video? If you’re on a budget (and really everyone has a budget whether its $10,000 or $60,000) you may not be able to have everything you’ve ever dreamed for on your wedding day, but you can still have a good chunk of what’s important to you. And yes, this means that you will have to cut costs elsewhere, but as long as you have the things you REALLY want, you probably won’t even notice the other stuff.

For example, almost every couple I work with says that wedding photography is a HUGE priority. And so the bride and groom go on a large-scale search for the perfect wedding photographer, and meanwhile, they book their ceremony and reception venues, hire a caterer, hire a band, start shopping florists, the bride buys a beautiful dress, and finally amidst it all they come across a photographer with amazing images and style and a great personality to top it off (cue the choir angels!). Turns out, this photographer is a little pricier than anticipated, so they go back and crunch the numbers, surely they can find some wiggle-room in that wedding budget somewhere, right? After all, they did find out what an average photographer cost in their area and budgeted for that so they shouldn’t be too far off. But after adding up everything they’ve spent so far and committed to spending they realize…uh oh…we’ve already spent 80% of our wedding budget! And still need flowers, a videographer, and gifts for the wedding party, in addition to photography! Whoops.

At this point they start to realize, they probably could have hired a DJ instead of a band, possibly held the ceremony at the same place as the reception instead of paying for a whole other venue, spent a bit less on the wedding dress, but now it’s too late, as this bride and groom has already placed quite a few non-refundable deposits. So the photography search continues, for someone less expensive, closer to the “average” photography cost, although now the bride and groom know they’ll be settling instead of having the vendor they truly wanted. If only they had prioritized their wedding budget from the beginning.

Moral of the story? When creating your wedding budget, pick the top 2-3 things that are a priority (I sure hope a wedding planner is on there!  – sorry had to throw that in, couldn’t resist) and budget high for those items. Don’t just base your budget on those online wedding budget calculator things. Usually they are way off and don’t account for variations by region. Work with your wedding planner who will be very familiar with vendor costs and budgeting, or do some serious research and find out what the low end and the high end rates are for vendors in your area and budget high for those vendors that you know are really important to you. Then cut costs elsewhere and work around your priorities.

A final word of advice: add a miscellaneous column to your budget. This way you’ll have a little extra for that dream wedding vendor or for anything you might forget and realize you really do need later. It’s much easier and less painful to budget at the beginning for all those extra expenses that are sure to crop up (and trust me, they will crop up).