How to Make the Most of Your Wedding Budget
Sit down. We need to talk.
No, you're not in trouble. But we need to talk about this purple colored elephant in the room.
Your Wedding Budget.
Why? Well, first off, I think there's a ton of gross misinformation out there that can get couples in a whole world of hurt in terms of paying for your wedding. I want to make sure that all of my couples are readily prepared for the financial aspect of wedding planning, and understanding the monetary aspect of what's going on here.
First, let's hit some definitions -
Market Value - This is an average value in any given demographic for any service. For instance, the last values put out from SnapKnot show that the national average for a wedding photographer was $2814. This is the national average market value.
Perceived Value - This is value that YOU put on the vendors service and product. It's simply a perception. It's a subjective experience - you perceive that a photographer offering 6 hours of shooting who delivers $1000 worth of product is more valuable than another photographer that offers 8 hours of wedding coverage with no product at the same rate, as an example. You find that the products have greater value to you than the extra two hours of wedding coverage by the other photographer.
Differentiating Market Value vs Perceived Value -
Now perceived value is a bit of a nuance. If I bought a TV in 2010 for $1000, it's definitely not worth $1000 today. It's used, technology has changed, there may not be much life left, etc. That's where market value comes in. For instance, in the aforementioned poll by SnapKnot, it said that last year's average photographer price was $2814, but in the Houston market it was near $3300. Why? Mostly because of supply, demand and affluence. A market 100 miles outside of a metro area will probably be less expensive because of socioeconomics. Now, I'm rambling...
The point that I want to drive home is about perceived value. Your perception of value should be your driving force when choosing your vendor. Basically, what of value is this vendor giving me? For example, if you are inquiring with a caterer, and they offer you $10 per plate, you should ask what it includes. If it's buffet style, and they only are providing the food, then you have to see the value in that number. If in further research you find another caterer who will provided glassware, silverware, dining service and busing the tables all for $12 per plate, then you can see the value in the extra two dollars per plate.
An Arm and A Leg
"I want a videographer for my wedding who isn't going to charge an arm and a leg." If there were only a giant pile of arms and legs from brides and grooms that we vendors have chopped off for payment...
Seriously, though. This comes back to the perceived value. As a couple you have to understand what the value is in what that vendor is giving you. Use the market value to determine what your target cost should be for each vendor, and then add the numbers up. If you're not comfortable spending that amount, then find which vendors you can live without, or what details, arrangements, etc. that you can reduce in order to hit your target budget. If you really want to book that videographer, and they're just a little over budget, find out what they are giving you of value. And if you find value in their proposal, maybe you can have plasticware instead of the porcelain plates. Or maybe buffet style instead of dining style. Or maybe a DJ instead of the live band. These are all examples.
But Chance, why are you saying all of this?
Because I'm hoping that I can clear up the ambiguity of shopping for vendors and that you should be realistic with your budgets.
Let me be clear on two points -
1) You should not go into some massive debt to pay for a wedding just because you want to have this illustrious wedding (ergo champagne taste on a beer budget). Find your budget, and stick to it as close as possible.
2) Understand that we as vendors are not out to steal and weasel money from people.
There is an average market cost for every vendor (check this link out). Wedding photographers and vendors are expensive (<- click link for more info), but it's not because "it's a wedding." It's because there are a lot of costs that we use to mitigate the risks because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us. WE WANT YOU TO HAVE THE BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE!! But we want to make sure we do it safely, honestly and with integrity. We want you to have a grand ole' time, and to cherish the memories that we vendors deliver to you.
Ok, I get it. So what should I look for in a vendor?
1 - What's your perceived value? Imagine handing your wedding coordinator a bucket with $1500 and then you ask "what will you fill this bucket up with when you hand it back to me?" A good vendor will demonstrate the value in their service, clearly outlined in a greatly documented format (i.e contract). That value could be time, product, insured business practices, punctual delivery, great communication, positive reviews (even touching base with previous clients), etc. You have to determine what that value is. Also understand that industrial norms. That $3000 for wedding photography shouldn't be for 2 hours; and vice versa in that you shouldn't expect a wedding photographer to shoot your 12 hour wedding for $500 and then give you an engagement session and bridals and a USB and a CD and a high five and their first born - it just won't happen.
2 - Quality. This is a no-brainer. You should expect professional, consistent quality. If it's a caterer, you should want to taste the food. If it's a florist, you should ask to see arrangements. If it's a photographer, you should see consistency across the portfolio and longevity in the industry. These help reaffirm your perceived value.
3 - Communication - They should communicate with you effectively. They should consistently reach out and be available, as long as it's pertinent to the vendor. You shouldn't expect your DJ to check in every week when your wedding is 9 months away. But your coordinator should be checking in with you on the regular to make sure you're being taken care of.
Be the boss, but the boss who has done their research.
You are absolutely in charge of your wedding. Don't get pressured into using vendors because you've set an unrealistic budget for a full day of coverage for videography or Uncle Bob said he'd shoot your video for free. Do your research, love your vendors and love your wedding. If you start with realistic goals in mind, then you can find out how to make it all work.