Evening photo of The 228 taken from the patio side. the patio is decorated with twinkle lights and the fire pit has a fire in it.

Having a clear event budget set before booking venues and vendors for your event makes it less likely costs will spiral out of control. However, not everyone has experience creating event budgets. The following few tips may come in handy.

Start With the Overall Event Budget

First, determine exactly how much you can afford to spend on the event. All expenses should come out of this pot of money.

Determine the Guest List

Creating at least a proposed guest list is essential. It’s hard to figure out a budget without knowing how many people you expect. If the overall budget isn’t enough for the proposed number of guests, cut the guest list before sending out invites or increase the budget

Consider All Types of Expenses

Next, divide the overall event budget into smaller budgets for each expense category. This includes things like venue, food, beverages, activities, decorations, lighting, transportation, equipment, the printing of invitations and other materials, gifts, and a contingency fund for unexpected expenses. Allow for a contingency fund of between 5 and 25 percent of the budget, preferably nearer the high end. For some types of expenses, break down the costs even further. Create a new line item for each expense within the category. The catering budget may include lines for linens, alcohol, food, service fees, and other expenses.

Prioritize Expenses

Consider which items in the event budget are most important to you. Perhaps you want amazing food but don’t mind cutting back on the decorations. Maybe having a live band for dancing is essential, but don’t need a fancy venue. Determining your priorities helps you reallocate money within the different categories to stay within your budget.

Do Your Research

Before committing to any vendors, research how much different items typically cost. Then you’ll discover if you’re allocating an unrealistically low amount to a category before it’s too late to compensate and stay within the overall event budget. Use this research to determine the expected expenses, then include a column on the budget to note actual costs.

Check Budgets From Past Events

If you or someone you know has held a similar event in the past, the budget and actual costs from that event can be a starting point for the budget for this event. Look into areas where the actual costs were higher than those originally budgeted to get an idea of what may cost more than you’d expect.

Beware of Minimums and Package Requirements

Some event venues or vendors may have minimums. This means even if you only have 80 guests you may have to pay for 100 guests. They may have packages that require you to purchase certain services from them whether or not you wanted to use those services. Sometimes packages can be a good deal but not if they include costs for unwanted items.

Be Creative

With a little creativity, you can work around budget stumbling blocks. If all the venues close by cost more than you can afford, book a venue further away and book transport to the event. Sometimes you can save money doing this instead of using the original location. Talented friends and family members can help with some tasks to minimize expenses. For example, sometimes couples ask friends to perform a service related to their profession (such as taking wedding photos or making the wedding cake) instead of giving a wedding gift.

Include Amounts

When noting the event budget, include amounts, such as “100 bottles of wine” instead of just “wine.” This makes it easier to see where you can cut costs by purchasing less of an item rather than removing it altogether.

Watch Out for Hidden Expenses

Sometimes all the fees associated with a service aren’t obvious. A wedding venue may charge for cutting the cake. Other vendors could also have hidden fees. Ask if there are any other fees or charges you should know about when you get quotes.

Get Multiple Quotes and Negotiate

Get quotes from multiple vendors and be willing to negotiate. This can get you a substantially better deal. A preferred vendor may match the price offered by another vendor or at least add other services or items while staying at the same price.

Update the Budget Regularly

Once you lock in vendors and pay deposits, regularly update the budget to keep it balanced. If you need to spend extra for the venue, cut costs elsewhere to stick within the budget.

Tips for Cutting Costs

Start by eliminating the little things that are nice touches but that guests probably won’t miss. These include programs and save-the-date cards for weddings. Skip entirely or limit the extra gifts for attendees, use fewer flowers in the décor, and consider changing the event to a less popular date or time to save on the venue cost.

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