That Costs How Much?: The Bride's Guide to Budgeting for an Unforgettable Wedding

David Tutera

St. Martin's Griffin

THAT COSTS HOW MUCH?: THE BRIDE’S GUIDE TO BUDGETING FOR AN UNFORGETTABLE WEDDINGThe Big White Book of Weddings

Money makes the world go ’round . . . and when you budget properly, you can absolutely prevent your number-crunching from spinning out of orbit.

My rule of thumb: There’s no need to spend a ton of money to have an elegant wedding; you just have to spend the money you do have wisely!

The budget is the number-one place I see my brides go from wishful to woeful . . . and it’s all because they don’t create a good, solid strategy of how they are going to afford all the wonderful accoutrements of their wedding. The stress of finances (in addition to the wedding commotion) takes them into uncharted—and unpaid for—territory. How I wish they all knew this was preventable! You just have to be a well-educated bride—and now that you’ve “done your homework,” you’re ready to graduate to part two! Sounds like a perfect time for a few life lessons on bridal bucks, so let’s hit the budget books, my lovely bride-to-be, and save you some cash for the honeymoon!

CREATE YOUR BUDGET BEFORE
YOU SPEND A DIME

Before you make any financial commitments to anything (a dress, a caterer, even a venue), it’s important to first plot out how you will pay for the wedding shebang as a whole. What good is it to have a gorgeous fancy wedding gown . . . and no reception to show it off at? (“All dressed up and nowhere to go” is not what we’re going for!) Ensuring you have enough money to purchase what you want (and keeping you out of a disaster zone of debt to come home to from your honeymoon) is our priority here.

Tutera Tip:

Don’t forget that you don’t have to buy a lot of things or have an abundance of trinkets to have a lavish, well-done wedding. Anyone on any budget can have a beautiful ceremony and reception. There is beauty in extravagance but there is also beauty in simplicity!

Each bride’s budget is different. Instead of giving an exact dollar figure of how much should be spent on each element, here is an idea of the percentages of your budget that should be allotted.

The Budget Breakdown

WHAT TO EXPECT (AND QUESTIONS TO
ASK WHEN RESEARCHING COSTS)

Budgeting is a constant work in progress throughout the duration of the wedding-planning process. Many variables come into play that determine how much you have to spend in other areas, so it’s a continuous bridal balancing act. To get you acquainted with what will be in your wedding equilibrium, here are some tips to keep you from toppling (in order of what the most expensive items, from highest to lowest, will traditionally be).

Food and Beverage Expenses

Food and beverage expenses, being the most costly (and most controlling) element of your budget, play a large role in your budget and will give you the best idea of what you will be left to work with monetarily.

When you decide how much your food per person will cost (or when you decide how much you can pay for food per person, whichever comes first), you can then determine the general cost of your wedding. A very simple equation can get you there:

YOUR GUEST COUNT: ________

×

COST PER PERSON FOR FOOD AND BEVERAGE EXPENSES (for both cocktails

and reception): $ ________

+ TAX: $ ________

+ SERVICE CHARGE: $ ________

+ GRATUITY (separate from the service charge): $ _________

YOUR FOOD AND BEVERAGE COST: $ ________

Is the number higher than you were expecting? Before you panic, remember that food and beverage will be your highest cost (and this is the category that makes a wedding costly from the get-go).

Tutera Tip:

Guarantee the lowest guest count possible. You can always go up from there, and you won’t ever be contractually obligated to pay for more people than you can guarantee.

Tutera Tip:

Tax and tip amounts (often referred to by caterers as your amount per person followed by a “plus plus”) are important to remember, especially when dealing with large numbers. “Tax” may have the connotation of being just a few dollars here or there on an item of clothing or a slushy from the convenience store, but when you’re dealing with large numbers, it can be a pretty big chunk of change that you need to actually budget for. In your contract, you will find a line item for tax and service charge, and often a blank line for additional gratuity that you will determine yourself. (“Service charges” go to the establishment to pay for the actual labor wages, so that “additional gratuity” is the tip for your servers, captains, and maître d’.) Don’t assume anything is included if it’s not listed: Look for any hidden fees and ask if there are any charges you haven’t seen yet. Is there a charge for rentals or for using or traveling to your venue? What about coat check or valet? It may be a lot of question asking, but better safe than sorry! It’s your right to know what you will be paying for. Protect yourself when it comes to your signature and your money.

SMARTLY SPEND, SMARTLY SAVE

Beverages are the fastest route to send your budget through the reception hall roof. Ask about special packages. Inquire about the difference in price and quality between a “premium” bar and a “top-shelf” bar. Can you save money by bringing your own alcohol, and paying a corkage fee to do so?

Ask for options: Do you need a four-course dinner or can you scale down to three? Do you need stations or can you save by having passed hors d’oeuvres? (While you’re at it, ask what entrees and hors d’oeuvres are priced lower than others.)

Do they include a wedding cake in their costs? (If it’s optional, is it cheaper than hiring a bakery?)

Often, catering companies will include basic linens, flatware, glassware and china, tables and chairs, and table numbers and accessories. Some provide centerpieces and/or candles. Find out all the details of what’s included in the price-per-person cost up front.

Discuss any upgrades that are possible—don’t wait to find out when you’re too late and a dollar short (no joke!).

Ask what your catering company may have in stock that you can rent (or have included), down to the color of linens to match the napkins and the ties of your servers.

How many waiters are you getting? Ask about staffing, and what will be provided. The typical need is one waiter per every ten guests for regular service, and two waiters per every ten guests for formal service.

Flowers and Decor

Your major costs for flowers and decor can be broken down into three categories: Personal Flowers, Ceremony Flowers, and Reception Flowers. Here’s a worksheet for you to “plug and chug” your numbers:

PERSONAL FLOWERS

YOUR BRIDAL BOUQUET: $ ________

YOUR TOSS BOUQUET: $ ________

MAID OF HONOR BOUQUET: $ ________

BRIDESMAID BOUQUETS: $ ________

× ________ (number of bridesmaids) = $ ________

JUNIOR BRIDESMAID BOUQUET: $ ________

FLOWER GIRL ACCESSORIES (crown, basket with petals): $ ________

CORSAGES FOR WOMEN (mothers, grandmothers): $ ________

BOUTONNIERES FOR MEN (groom, groomsmen, fathers, grandfathers, ushers, ringbearer): $ ________

THAT COSTS HOW MUCH?: THE BRIDE’S GUIDE TO BUDGETING FOR AN UNFORGETTABLE WEDDING. Copyright © 2009 by David Tutera.