As you begin your planning process, your new pocket-friendly budget in-hand, and work to obtain a stellar vendor team, there is a reality that you will ultimately come across: “Things cost what they cost”.
Pinterest is a God-send as a wedding designer. Our brides are able to go peruse limitlessly, pin easily and share instantly – and when they do, I have the pleasure of unlocking information about their preferences, design preferences and personalities in one glance. LOVE!!
But, the bi-product of this instant opportunity is a skewed understanding of vision and reality. Pinterest and magazines, overflowing with beautiful ideas and chic concepts, does nothing to give bride’s an idea of what the real costs are. Often, some of the most pristine, innovative photos are impractical in application and were, in fact, done in the luxury of a photoshoot – where perfection could be obtained and managed for the purposes of many amazing, beautiful shots. That amazing table scape you see printed on the page of your favorite magazine; the photo showing 40 elegant candles, luxurious linen, dripping crystals and breathtaking floral accented perfectly by a beautiful napkin, stationery item and glass-beaded charger may have easily cost a client $1,000 to $5,000 for that one table! No. I’m not kidding.
A good vendor is going to carefully listen to your vision, pour over your photos and learn about you as a couple. They are going to take your inspiration photos and determine a plan that offers a version of the pieces you love. They are going to speak candidly with you about what will work and what will not work without dousing your enthusiasm and excitement.
You’re sitting in a vendor meeting, having gone through the photos and ideas and beauty of the event you’ve crafted in your mind’s eye. There’s synergy. You like this vendor – you can see working with them. It’s a match made in heaven. The vendor says: “Ok, wonderful – I can’t wait to get started! Tell me where it is you would like to be on budget.”
You’re fight or flight response kicks in, you begin to sweat… you panic – you completely ignore the fact that you had a budget drafted – a number that was comfortable and doable… and you respond: “I have no idea. As cheaply as possible”. Why do you say this? Because we live in a world where everyone feels they are going to get “took”. There have been many-an-expose on the wedding industry over the last 10 years – even after the economy tanked and many companies revamped their overall strategies – and even more went out of business completely. Because couples don’t realize that if a company has done hundreds of events a year, has obtained GREAT references and has been in business for many years that they likely got to that point because they were honest with their clients, worked to meet or exceed their expectations and did so with fair pricing.
Give your vendor a number. You have one in mind – just tell them. Yes, it’s ok to undershoot your real budget… this is part of the negotiation process. If you have $2,500 to spend on flowers, it’s ok to tell them $2,000. This will leave you breathing room should the vendor come back with a great plan that’s almost perfect. You will have the additional budget to help bring the plan to where you want it, exactly. What does NOT work well (for you OR the vendor) is you’re your response is: “I have no idea. As cheaply as possible.”
Imagine you were meeting with a home builder – you want to build a house. You tell the builder how many square feet will likely work for your family; how many bedrooms, bathrooms, garage spaces and acreage you want. You talk about the finishes in the kitchen, the bathrooms, the flooring – you get the idea.
When the conversation is over, the builder asks you: “What’s your budget?”… do you respond “I have no idea. As cheaply as possible”? No. You provide the builder with the information provided to you by your bank when you were pre-approved for the construction loan/mortgage. You share with them the budget the bank approved – based on your income, debts, etc.
Planning a wedding is no different.
When you share the information with your builder, they are going to know which finishes to recommend, which ones are not within the scope of your budget, etc.
When planning or designing your wedding, a good vendor will make recommendations, right out of the gate, that fit within your budget. They are going to value your time and offer suggestions that are beautiful and price-friendly. They are going to share with you areas where a little additional budget may be hugely valuable and offer suggestions when your requests are out of budget. They are going to collaborate with you, respect your budget, honor your aesthetic preferences, and want to impress you from the very first proposal.
The Price Tag
There is a truth you already know going into this process: Things. Cost. Money.
The more reputable the vendor, the more in demand they are, the more beautiful work they do, the more things are going to cost. The event industry, like every industry, derives is pricing based on a) supply b) demand and c) market competitive-pricing.
There are plenty of times I sit across the table from a wonderful couple – a couple I adore, a couple I would hang out with, a couple I would invite to a bbq if I could. To say that I would love to work with them would be a drop in the bucket to how much I love them. Even better – there are couples who wedding vision is so AMAZING and spectacular that I would do pretty much anything to be the one working on it. But, there are times when their budget simply doesn’t support working with us; when our products are not financially palatable to them… and they move on to other vendors. I never take it personally when I lose a great job to a competitor, but my heart breaks just a little bit as I mourn the friendship or the project.
When everything is said and done, a vendor will do whatever they can to make working together a reality – but they will not sacrifice the brand they have built to do so. If their cakes are $9.00 a slice, they will not sell you the same cake for $5.00 per slice. If their drape is $18.00 a foot, they will not sell you the same drape for $12.00 a foot. If filet mignon is $60.00 per plate, your caterer will offer alternative cuts, but will not offer filet for $20.00 per late instead. If you find yourself trying to negotiate every line item, chances are the vendor is not the right fit for you. Either they didn’t do an effective job in listening to your preferences and budget or they are too costly for your particular budget.
…. Never the Twain Shall Meet
If you find that you are encountering budget struggles with everything vendor you encounter, there is trouble. As I so eloquently (and by “eloquently” I mean “bluntly”) explained in the last section, “things cost money”. If you are finding each vendor category is exceeding your budget, it may be time to take a look at whether your budget is practical.
The national average for weddings at the time of publication was $25,656 with the majority of couples spending between $19,242 and $32,070 nationally. In the Tampa Bay market (where Event Design is located) the average was between $18,612 and $31,000. If that’s true, Jack+Jill do not have a very easy budget to work with ($12,000)! If you find that you are struggling to meet your vision and your budget it may be time to consider the following:
1) Postponing the wedding. Use the budgeting described in our first two chapters to establish how long it would take you to have a reasonable wedding budget, then push the wedding back.
2) Revising your vision. Not many brides wants to do this, but some of them do. If you’re the type of bride where the wedding/ceremony is what matters and you aren’t that enthused by the details, put Pinterest away and just get married.
If you are interested in more information about budgeting and planning information for your particular market, there is a great website: www.costofwedding.com.