The Joys (Ugh, and Finances) of Wedding Planning

With wedding season in full swing, we asked a good friend planning her upcoming November wedding to offer her insight on the process so far. Take it away, Rachel!


The venue is the easiest part. They give you a price on the space and a minimum on food & beverage and you sign the contract. Not. I’ve been in the wedding planning game for a few weeks now and have truly put every negotiations class I’ve ever taken to the test. You just order however many invitations you need, right? Wrong. Apparently, they come in lots of 25 if you want a certain print type. So sending 100 save the dates, like we did, is the worst number you can send. What if we wanted just one invitation for ourselves as a keepsake? Are we really spending an extra 25% to order 125 so we can have just one? Which friend do we ask “chicken? Or beef?” rather than mailing them a formal invite so we can keep one? Maybe one of our parents will sacrifice theirs…

As a financial services professional by day and amateur event planner by night, I’ve learned the first number is never the final number. A “minimum” is never the minimum, and there is always room to negotiate. We’ve also found that anywhere you can avoid surprises, you should. Things like a flat rate per person bar versus paying by consumption can help keep that scotch loving uncle (we all have one) in check towards the end of the night. Just lock numbers down (after negotiating them down) so you don’t wake up to a 30 page invoice under your door the morning after your wedding. Are you really counting how many tequila sunrises your mom’s cousin has? There is no way to verify the legitimacy of this invoice (aside from the condition of your guests the morning after at brunch).

Music can be another budget killer. A memorable band has 10+ members, right? In my extensive 6 weeks as a wedding planner, we’ve found you can plan to spend $1,000 for each of these members… and you also get to pay to feed them the same surf & turf you’re serving your grandmother and second cousin. There is nothing wrong with this, just make sure that this is something that is important to all parties involved in the financing of the most expensive 6 hours of your lives.

Oh, and everything is taxed and has a service charge (an involuntary tip I guess?). In the great state of our wedding, every single number has a 22% service charge + 8% tax added to it. So you can plan to add one third to every number you sign off on. That adds up a lot faster than anyone would like it to!

I could babble on and on about the expense of a wedding, but I think the most valuable thing we’ve learned is to never accept the first number you receive. There is always the opportunity to widdle that huge honking number down, just do so before putting pen to paper… because that my friend, cannot be reversed. And on second thought, I probably should have hired a professional event planner from the start!