As a wedding planner, one of your main responsibilities is managing the budget for your couples. But, in addition to being a master of finances, you also need to be a master of setting expectations and walking the line between what the budget will support and what the couple wants.
Budget planning starts the moment you first communicate with potential clients and it doesn't end until the very last vendor has been paid. And, because a wedding budget influences just about everything in the wedding planning process, you've got to get your ducks in a row. So today, we are going to talk about step 1 of the budget management process - what to do before they book with you.
Ask the Right Questions
After you have exchanged hellos and and talked about the general vision for a wedding you'll want to get a general idea of the budget. So, it is important to ask questions about how much money they are budgeting for their wedding and if other family members are going to be covering some costs. You definitely want to end your initial consultation with a clear understanding of the couple's resources as well as what they have envisioned for their big day.
Once you sit down to start preparing a proposal budget strip out or line item anything that you wouldn't be directly responsible for managing. This includes things like their attire, rings, honeymoon, travel, accommodations - and even though these are important to account for in the overall spend, you want to make sure that what you are responsible for is clear. So make sure to ask pointed questions so that you learn about their priorities. Knowing what their must-have items are not only gives you insight about the couple in general (you can tell a lot about a couple if they favor good food, a full bar and entertainment above all else vs. a couple who favors floral, decor and lighting) but it will also gives you precious insight on how to work within their budget.
Let Them Know What Things Cost
Now that you have asked all of the right questions and done your initial budget assessment, it's time to (potentially) have the tough conversation. Couples reach out to you because you are an industry expert and you know the ins and outs of the vendors in your area. So, if at the end of your assessment, the couple's wedding wishes match their budget - GREAT! If not, it's time for the expectation talk.
Having to tell someone that they can't have the wedding they want is close to one of the worst things you might have to do as a wedding planner. But, remember, it is your job to manage expectations. Broach the subject lightly and frame it within the context of your professional expertise. Let them know that based on your knowledge of what things cost in your area, their expectations and budget do not align. Address your concerns right off the bat (again, managing expectations so they aren't disappointed in the end when they have either gone over budget or they didn't get what they originally wanted, even though they stayed on budget) and determine if working with you is really the best use of their resources.
Define Their Budget Boundaries
Since most couples have never planned a wedding or large event like this before, it can be hard for them to anticipate unexpected or last minute costs. It is your responsibility to educate them about what may be on the road ahead; especially if the couple has given you a small budget to work with. So regardless of what their wedding budget is, educate them properly and most likely you'll be able to align their budget with their expectations quite easily.
One of the final details that you need to determine about their budget is how set in stone it is. Make sure to ask them which statement represents them the best so that when they book you and you start working on building their budget, you are respecting their boundaries.
- My budget is set in stone and I don't have another penny to spend.
- I'd like to stick to my budget but I might be flexible if there are certain things that I want to splurge on.
- I want what I want and I don't care how much it costs.
In the end, you should never try and force a square peg in a round hole when it comes to the budget. Take it from us (and we can say this with confidence) that smaller budgets often take WAY more work to pull of effectively - especially if the budget and expectations are misaligned.
Budget management is no joke so getting onto the same page as your clients from the from the get-go is really important. It can set up your partnership for success or create a series of headaches along the way.
Hero photo courtesy Jen Wojick Photography