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How To Budget for Your Wedding

It’s your money and it’s your wedding.

This is the single biggest issue couples face and why I wanted to write this article to help you. Here’s what I’ll be talking about in this article:

Budget, Vendor considerations, Problems and Solutions, How to Save Thousands - Are you ready?

First of all, budget is the wrong word. There, I said it. Whew.

Budget is the allocation of the amount of money required to achieve a desired result.

It is not a wild guess, steadfast “I’m only willing to spend more than $x”, or “I can get “that” for $500, but you charge $1500.” If they could have, they would have, which proves $500 was not a real price and certainly can’t be expected to produce the results of a vendor charging three times more.

Any vendor who charges and, more importantly, gets paid what they’re charge, what the market will actually pay, is worth that price and that’s the price you should expect to pay to get those results. This reality is exactly how any really good vendor dials in their price point in any business, marketplace or state of the economy.

Great vendors do more, are more, and charge more. Cheap vendors do less, are less, charge less and are more likely to be an epic failure. You already know this.

You also know this to be true in the retail space and at restaurants. If the price is too low, the quality suffers. If the price is too high, business volume drops and companies either revise their prices or go out of business.

You really need to know who you’re hiring and what you’re getting, or not, so you can make a very informed decision. It’s your money and it’s your wedding. It is not a business space that you have the same experience in as your day job, which is why I want to help you. I have decades of this wedding industry experience. Please ask for help.

We advise our clients to become experts in every vendor category, as if this is their new career, not just accept that they’re only planning one wedding and will never use the info again. It’s your wedding! How important is your wedding to you? Exactly. Become an expert, or, let me show you all of this in a couple hours so you can pull the trigger and plan an awesome wedding for yourself - no drama, no drama, no stress, no mess.

On that note, social media is not paying for your wedding. You are. You’re not hiring a website, or a company - you’re hiring a person, a human being and how much they truly care goes a long way to ensuring the integrity of what they offer, regardless of price. Will they do whatever it takes to deliver the results, or cut corners, renege, or just plain cancel on you? Get to know your vendors as people. It makes a huge difference. The chemistry creates peace of mind.

In 2022 we saw a record setting number of vendors cancelling on their clients. Our research showed that they were vendors who offered a low priced service just to get booked and then something better paying came along and bye bye client #1. I personally serviced several events with as little as 4 hours to go when their music providers cancelled and other weddings where the vendors overbooked themselves due to poor tracking, no paperwork. One DJ in Sudbury called me in Toronto at 10 pm Friday to do a wedding there on Saturday. Their officiant was 20 minutes late and blasted through their entire ceremony in 4 minutes. Did they get real value? That’s just wrong. Can you even imagine how you would feel? Even a refund isn’t the answer.

Therefore, budgeting requires extensive research to confirm that the resources are actually available and ready to contractually commit to deliver the results you require for the price they quoted and that requires that you then allocate that amount of money. What you can’t afford, you can’t include. It’s really that simple. Don’t get all caught up with FOMO. Hire what you need and not everything out there. You’re not missing out.

The key is not to compromise trying to hire all 30 vendor categories just to have more stuff. It’s better to have fewer vendors, each at the highest quality, for best results. In our experience, there are 10-15 entire vendor categories you don’t even need to hire to have a great wedding, despite what they say. Let’s face it, everybody is jumping on the wedding band wheel, flogging their stuff and looking for your credit card. It’s kinda nutty.

In fact, some vendors actually detract from the wedding, dilute and even interfere with other vendors’ contributions. What a mess, eh? I can show you photos of actual events where these things happened, so you know what I’m telling you is the real truth.

Perhaps hard to swallow, but it’s the reality of the wedding hype. Do you really think they’re all going to tell you the whole story? We will, and we have the evidence to prove it. All we hope for is to help you make the most honest and fully informed decisions. If you want to hire us for our actual wedding day services (DJ/MC and Officiant), I can promise you outstanding results and we have the testimonials to prove that, too.

So, let’s start with the right words: Budget means allocating the right amount of money to get the right results. The key is allocate, not nickel and dime your way to the lowest price and hope for the best.

If the dancing is important, you’ll spend more on the DJ than say, flowers. If the food is a big deal to you, then you’ll have a 5 course meal, and accept that the party won’t start till 10:00. I did a wedding at a venue that closes at 11:00. Speeches went till 10:30. Does that make any sense? Clearly, somebody didn’t tell the somebodies the whole story and the other vendors didn’t get to deliver their intended and best results. Not their fault. The client chose the venue but didn’t know all the other details. The real challenge is how to plan a wedding, get everything you want that you can afford and... just have it all. Not asking much, eh?

The reality is that you can’t have every wedding service you’ve seen online or at a wedding show. You don’t need them all either. This brings us to the Want-Need Paradigm. This is a great concept. We get this all the time: “ I want a DJ for my wedding.” Then, it turns out they need someone for the ceremony music, a second sound system, wireless mic, music licence, insurance, backup equipment.... and then a DJ and MC and Lighting Tech and.... That’s what you need, and it’s way more than you thought you wanted. And the price changes, too.

I had a call one day from a corporate client. She hired a DJ for a major pre Christmas blitz at a major shopping mall in downtown Toronto. The DJ showed up. No music, no computer, no sound system, just the “DJ.” A person. How was that supposed to work? The store manager was furious beyond words I could type here. She didn’t ask (and should not have had to) and the DJ was so out to lunch that he didn’t describe what he does, brings, needs, expects... so the whole event just didn’t happen. All the hype, posters, promotion... was a total waste of money all leading to Christmas when they do 40% of their entire annual business. Blown.

If the vendors you talk to don’t take the time to describe what they do, in copious detail, address many aspects of their service, how they fit into the whole wedding day puzzle, rather just answer your (so wrong) question: “How much do you charge?”, then you are exactly this vendor’s prey. Someone who only wants a price, no details and that is just the wrongest way to hire any vendor.

Our wedding planning process highlights the difference between want and need, the conflicts, problems, solutions and avoids the cost overruns that happen far too often as couples add and add to the wrong vendor trying to get what they now realize they need, when they originally hired what they thought they wanted.

We can help you get it right the first time. In fact, our process plans your entire wedding before you even finalize the date ! You don’t even book a single vendor - until you know the cost of the entire wedding - will get the right results - and know all the pitfalls and problems so you can avoid them. This is how we get these video testimonials. Would you like these results?

A key concept here is fixed and variable costs. Sorry to turn this into Accounting 101, but, well, it is. Fixed cost vendors’ prices have nothing to do with your guest count. There are 5 such vendors: The Dress, Officiant, photographer, videographer and DJ. 20 or 420 guests, no matter. Food, flowers, centre pieces, size of venue, chair covers and most other wedding costs are tied to your guest count and even that is a complex topic we cover in detail in our Wedding Planning Strategy Session. We’ve created a relational database driven cost predictor and you’ll see the savings on the big screen. We can save you thousands of dollars and ensure you invest what it take to get fabulous results where it matters most. Results or Regrets. Pick one.

If you’re having a smaller wedding, expect to pay more per person for fixed cost vendors, because, well, their price is not related to how many or how few guests you’re having. It’s still a full day of commitment. Good news: you’ saved $20K on food you didn’t have to serve. So get the best DJ, photographer and videographer and have a fabulous time and the pictures to prove it.

Here’s a news flash: many vendors don’t gravitate to smaller weddings, because there are too few guests to form a large referral pool. How many people at a 20 person wedding could also possibly be engaged and become future clients? Likely zero. 420 guests? Now we’re talking. To me, it’s not about referrals. A great job generates more work because our couples want their friends to have a great wedding with no risk of reducing their own wedding day magic. We are small wedding experts with events ranging from 22 to 2000 guests. Good enough?

Another hugely misleading trend we see is social media postings that seek “ISO average, budget friendly, economy, low cost (insert: vendor type) for my wedding.” First of all, average is the level just above poor. Check your worst school report card ! A “C”. Yuck. You’re not average. You’re special. Do you want an average wedding? Consider two vendors, one who charges $1000 and $11,000 are vastly different prices. The average is $6000. The cheaper vendor will never produce $6000 results and the expensive vendor will never do an event for almost half their fee. And you don’t have a $6000 or average vendor to work with either. So average is useless.

Worse, is the concept of range. The range for this service is $1-11 K. If you do that with 30 wedding vendor categories, your wedding will range from $10K to $250K - how does that help you? Range is useless because you can’t budget because you have no actual vendor price point to allocate towards and you still don’t have any tieback to results. We have a super smooth process to dial this in, and you’ll love it. It ties results, risks and costs, with no regrets. Hmm.

Budget friendly - based on who’s budget (that’s why this is the wrong word). I see many postings and “ISO a venue” without indicating with city, province, country (!!!) It’s a useless request and an even less useful answer. Worse because all the other metrics are missing.

Is Boho chic rustic modern really a thing?

I’ve seen couples spend more time ordering a fancy coffee drink than choosing a vendor.

So as you can see, I’m very pro-self research - to really understand what you’re getting, because without knowing the results, price is completely meaningless and most misleading, too. It’s why nearly 100% of couples go 30-40% over “budget” because the budget or cost was more than the money they had to start with. Should have never started spending because they end up stuck, arguing, even breakups happen as a result. This is so sad.

Here’s a fun example: My vehicle has a 500 horsepower engine. Pretty impressive, right? Until you find out I have a 50 foot yacht and it blasts along at 20 miles a hour. Pretty slow and not so impressive any more. FYI - I don’t have a yacht, but pretty good analogy, eh? Without the results (the speed - what you get) the price (the horsepower - what you paid for) doesn’t matter. You need both to determine Value.

You get what you pay for, so be sure you get what you paid for.

We all started somewhere. I sure did. I had the benefit of many skills and formal education in electrical and acoustics engineering, was (am) a dance instructor that fed my decision to become a DJ, long before I took on the responsibility for someone’s once in a lifetime wedding. Since then, I’ve added being an author, trainer, wedding planner, an officiant, keynote speaker. And still, I keep on learning and improving my skills and my clients results. It’s a thing I do. I can do this for you. Just ask.

I see lots of people posting their photography services as “building my portfolio and looking for couples’ weddings to shoot for a low price.” I get the idea, but, do you want YOUR wedding to be the one they learn at? There are a million things that could go wrong and you could end up with no photos at all, so even free is too expensive. You have other choices, so make the right one.

Given that most couples we talk to both are working, busy, and the possibly overwhelmed with complexity of weddings, some couples chose the Divide and Conquer Method. The bride deals with the flowers and decor, the groom finds the limo and the DJ. That’s fine at the grocery store. The problem I see is that it’s both your weddings and you both need to be 100% on top of the money, the vendors, the results and your combined life experiences, preferences, positions and even what you may not have thought you cared about all of a sudden really matters as the dollars start to add up this could be cause for concern. We had a couple do this: The bride spent a ton of money on something she wanted and the groom flipped out.

So, he rented a Ferrari to drive himself and the best man to the ceremony. They went broke, fought, broke up and never even had the wedding. Sad, but true. I highly recommend that you both be 100% involved with every decision, not because you have experience in every vendor category, but because you should want to learn, understand the investment, layer on your combined life experiences, involve your parents to add their financial and emotional support in your big day, and get comfortable with the people you’re handing your hard earned money over to and, more important, to whom you are entrusting your biggest single day investment (yes, more than a car or house, per day, by orders of magnitude!). It matters.

So now what? We offer a super fun and hugely informative wedding planning strategy session, aimed at sharing decades of experience, data driven wedding advice, case histories, vendor attributes to get best results, focus the money on what matters, avoiding the Top 10 mistakes we see every week, so you have an even better wedding for thousands and thousands less. We saved one couple $30,000 off their wedding and another so much, they moved their wedding a year sooner, because they didn’t need to save for another whole year just to pay for it. They have since hired us for officiating, DJ, MC, lighting and offer day-of coordination of their entire wedding. You can listen to their wedding planning testimonials here.

To summarize, we love to help couples plan an even better wedding that they can actually afford, enjoy the planning process, learn and appreciate what all the great vendors can do, will do and what they can expect, knowing with 100% confidence it’s going to be magical. If that’s what you would like, contact me today before you do anything else wedding related. I am positive I can save you many times our low Wedding Planning Strategy Session fee, so you’ll be miles ahead with, not drama, no trauma, no stress, no mess.

Ron Finlay, B.A.Sc., P.Eng., WPICC

Perpetual Rhythms Entertainment Services

647 528 3548 (DJ4U)

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