December 11, 2015

Wedding Files #3 - Guest List + Budget = Venue

The two things that will define your wedding planning are your budget and your guest list, which will lead to your biggest decision of all - the venue. Naturally, though not always the case, the longer your guest list, the bigger the budget you will need. You absolutely cannot seriously seek out a venue without knowing how many people you need it to accommodate. Nor can you evaluate an estimate without knowing how much money you have to work with.

Guest List
Start writing down  the names of everyone you want at your wedding. Get lists from both sets of parents too. Then break it down into 4 columns:
Must Attend || Nice to Have || Only if We Must || Probably Can't Make It

The 'Must-Attends' are obvious. The 'Nice to Haves' might be friends that you aren't crazy close with but would really enjoy to have at your wedding. The 'Only if We Musts' are usually family friends that you really don't have room for but your parents are mortified of offending. It really depends on who's funding this wedding so happy battling there! And unfortunately, there will always be some 'Probably Can't Make Its' from out of town but it's always great & courteous to extend an invite anyway. You might get a pleasant surprise :)

Once you comb through all columns and figure out the number of people you will definitely be inviting, reduce it by 20-30%. There will always be invite declines for various reasons, unless everyone you invite is immediate family. Keep both numbers - total & reduced - in mind when you're budgeting and scoping out venues.

You do not, I repeat, you DO NOT want to be wedding poor once this is all said and done. Near the beginning of our engagement, an already-engaged acquaintance asked us what we thought was a reasonable amount to take out as a loan to pay for a wedding. The correct answer is ZERO DOLLARS! No loans. No re-mortgaging. No spending all of your savings. It's a one-day party, people! Which is why I was totally OK with no wedding at all, but was over-ruled by my mother and then-fiance.

That being said, you want it to be amazing and unique. All of those things can be done within whatever budget you have. And parents will always help here and there, even if they can't pay for all of it. Be realistic with how much you have saved up, and can save between now and the wedding day. From all the budget 'tips' I read, we ended up loosely using the following breakdown:
  • 45-50% Reception
  • 10-12% Photography/Videography
  • 10-12% Entertainment/Music
  • 8-10% Attire (His & Hers)
  • 8-10% Flowers & Decor
  • 5-10% Misc [invites, gifts, transportation]
Anything remaining can go towards an emergency/surprises slush fund. Depending on how important certain things are to you, you can play with the numbers to balance them to your liking. So you may not be able to get that $10K dress from Kleinfeld's but I bet you can get a similar one elsewhere for a fraction of the cost!

Once you've got these factors down, you can start searching for a venue! There will be other venue-specific factors that will play into your choice but those will be unique to your needs, preferences and options.It's not a bad idea to look at reviews and pictures but looking at the real deal is your best bet.

One last tip - don't set your heart on a single date (unless there's a very special reason for it) and look at date ranges within a month or time period to maximize your choices.

Now go on, start your guest list & budget. You'll only change them like, 43 times between now and the wedding... ;)

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