Things you should know: Wedding Budgets

Photo by Kayleigh McCullum

Photo by Kayleigh McCullum

Wedding Budgets.... Where people go wrong

Most of the potential clients bring this up on our first call. They say, "Should we expect to spend 20% more than we tell you we want to spend?" My answer is simply, "That is up to you". The first thing to check in with yourself is your expectations. If you are expecting a $150K look but have $70K to spend, or maybe insist on having a band without knowing what they cost, OF COURSE you will go over budget. Part of my role as a planner is to help you navigate the wedding world and stay as close to that number as possible. Unfortunately we often take the blame for the budget being over the initial amount. I personally ALWAYS offer options for you to stay within budget, but that is not always the direction my clients go.

Photo by Shot With Love

Location, Location, Location.

Depending on the location of your wedding, you may have to add hefty travel and delivery fees to your budget. Sure, getting married at some ranch in the middle of nowhere might be lovely, but you will probably need to pay for hotels, gas, and any other travel fees companies might charge to actually come make your wedding happen out there. Before you start getting excited about specific design elements, it is really important to check out local rental company inventory so you know things like what types of chairs you have to chose from, if farm tables exist in that part of the state, if gold flatware is even an option, etc. 

When to use Pinterest, and when not to use Pinterest.

Honestly, I would recommend using pinterest SPARINGLY. Seeing too many things that are beyond what you can afford might leave you feeling disappointed with the end result. You also don't want your guests saying  "I saw that on Pinterest!" when they walk into your wedding. It will immediately be less personal. Ideally, you might use Pinterest to find a wedding dress designer you really like, maybe a piece of art that has colors that appeal to you, and frankly I find it extremely helpful to communicate with florists about your bouquet and centerpieces. I even like to use images that illustrate scope so they know my expectation for how large or small (but let's be real, it's usually how large) the arrangement should be on the table. Invitation inspiration is another great thing to search for. 

Photo by Jenna McElroy

Photo by Jenna McElroy

People don't think about ALL the elements of the wedding.

Caleb, my husband, told me one night that if he wasn't married to me he would literally think "I need to feed the guests, have flowers on the tables, hire a photographer to capture the day... and maybe a cake?" I would imagine my sweet husband is not the only one that thinks like that. To make things worse, when people seek out all the things to actually include in the budget, places like, their pricing calculator might be accurate for some parts of the country, but NOT for the Bay Area. Again, I circle back to expectations. I might give you a long list of every single possible thing you could ever want on the budget, but you may not want some of those things. Wanting a custom bar built for your reception, but I might not put that in the initial expected budget because thats not a typical item people will spend money on. It is tricky, and best to hire a planner to process what your vision is for the day, and allow them to help you navigate what the expected cost will be for everything. 

As an example, let's use one single item - a chair. Let's use the average wedding guest number of 150 guests for this example. 


 Approximately $2.75-$4.00 on average (depending on the company you rent from)   x 150 guests= $412.50 to $600.00 plus tax, delivery, and sometimes set up/strike ($1-$2 per chair)

courtesy of Standard Party Rentals

courtesy of Standard Party Rentals


Approximately $8.00-$11.00 per chair on average (depending on the rental company) x 150 guests = $1200.00 to $1800.00 plus tax, delivery, and sometimes set up/strike ($1-$2 per chair)


Approximately $15.00-$35.00 per chair on average depending on style.

The cross back style typically goes for $15.00-$17.00 per chair x 150 guests = $2250.00 to $2550.00 (sometimes pads are added for $3-$4.00 per pad)


French Dining Chairs typically cost between $25 and $35 per chair on average x 150 guests = $3750.00 to $5250.00 plus tax and delivery.


So based on this example, you can spend anywhere between $412.50 and $5250.00 plus tax and delivery on just the chairs for 150 guests. Can you see why it's difficult for planners to just throw out a number without knowing what your design expectations are? 

I hope this article was helpful for you all! Keep all that I mentioned above in mind when you are planning your wedding, or maybe consider a consultation to go over the expected budget with a professional (or me!).

Things you should know: Bands vs. Djs

I don't know about you, but I absolutely LOVE to dance. I am that person that doesn't need a drop of liquid courage to get out and be the first one breaking it down on the dance floor. Am I a great dancer? Nope. But I love to just have FUN. The Band or DJ is a really important part of the party atmosphere you are creating when you celebrate your new commitment. There is a difference between hiring a band or DJ for the event. Below are the key things to consider:

photo by Cameron Ingalls


Bands are super appealing because they brig a great level of energy and it feels like a different type of experience. A really great band will be a lasting memory, and can be really fun. This is a wonderful option for those who enjoy live music, seeing concerts together, finding new bands, etc. There are a few things you should know about hiring a band though, things I have learned from my experiences with them. 

They cost a lot more. A LOT more. Bands in the Bay Area that are most popular typically start between $8K to $10k and go up from there. I have even seen some bands that charge in the $35K range! If you find a great band for less, AWESOME, but that starting $10K or so is what I would put in an expected budget to start the process.

You should also consider the extras that come with a band. You need to typically pay for 7 band members plus a sound engineer (sometimes), adding up your vendor meals rather quickly. They also need to eat before they perform, so it is very important to make sure the catering team knows to have 8-10 plates prepared for the band, and they are served DURING guest dinner, not after. They might also have a rider - sometimes this includes alcohol (which I always refuse them - sorry guys, you are working!) almost always includes water, and sometimes mirrors or rags for sweat. Their contracts almost always include a green room of some kind, sometimes with a private bathroom, so make sure you talk with your venue coordinator about where they have done it in the past or how they could provide this for them otherwise.

photo by Rachelle Derouin

When you hire a band, consider that they typically don't include ceremony, cocktail hour, or dinner sound. If you would like them to provide this, make sure you let them know in advance so they can quote you accordingly in the proposal. The band you hire may have lighting included, they might not. Ask! I would say more often than not they are OK making small general announcements in between songs like, "The 9:00pm shuttle is leaving in 10 minutes!" or "LAST CALL AT THE BAR" but they are not always comfortable doing that. 

They need breaks. Every 45 minutes they need a 10 to 15 minute break. Some bands will play 60 minute sets, but again, it depends on the band.   

With song selections, you may be limited to the songs they have rehearsed already if you don't get them your main dance songs soon enough.

With bands or Djs you might want them to be on a raised stage so consider adding money to you budget for that, should that be the case. Also make sure you know the dimensions the band prefers for the stage size before adding it to your rental order.

YO DJ, turn it up!!

I mean, I won't lie to you... I love a great DJ. They are very used to doing the ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing sound so most packages are inclusive of that. In general, they tend to be more flexible and easy to work with from my perspective. If you have a venue where each of the main events (ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing) are happening in different spaces, you may need additional speaker set ups (which will be an extra charge) but best to consult with the DJ company and venue coordinator first if you aren't sure. A standard decent DJ will run about $1700 and when you get to the high end DJs they can run $2500 to $5000 easily.  *Note these prices reflect bands and Djs I have had experience working with in California, your market may have different prices! 



Things you should know: Wedding Day Timelines

There has to be some boundary here so that you guys actually consider hiring me (can't give EVERYTHING AWAY!), but there are a couple things that can impact a timeline so I thought I should bring those up not he blog: 

Photo by Charity Maurer

When can we start?

When I say "we", I mean "me." Knowing what time the venue will allow the catering staff and my team to come in to begin set up on the wedding day will greatly impact the level of staffing needed. At the beginning of your planning process it is important you find out when the vendors can load in and what time they need to strike and be off the venue premises.  

Photo by Cameron Ingalls

Hair and makeup.

Typically hair and makeup artists like about 2-3 hours for just the bride's hair and makeup. For bridesmaids, I typically schedule 30 minutes for makeup and 45 for hair unless the stylists would like more or less time. I always check with them first! Also, make sure to ask the moms and grandmas if they would like to have their hair and makeup done, because we don't want to leave them out of the fun that morning!

First Look.

I love a good first look. Mine was literally my favorite part of the wedding day (we both cried, it was super sweet) I typically like to give about 45 minutes of time for this activity, before the bridal party is invited to participate in photos. Almost always first look photos are the ones you will hang on your walls at home so give yourself some time. 

Photo by Megan Robinson


YEESH. My least favorite thing to deal with honestly. Great for convenience to the guests but man-oh-man. I could probably write a whole blog post about this (and probably will)! "Spotting" is the term they use to talk about the actual arrival time of the vehicle. They will typically "spot" at the first pick up location about 10-15 minutes before the actual pick up time. That's the first thing to address. Then, you need to recognize that people move like cows on wedding days... not sure why but I am totally serious. Give the bridal party about 5-7 minutes to get in and out of the vehicle and give shuttle about 10 minutes to load in and load out guests. Add cushion time to shuttles and limos for travel time and adjust if traveling in the city, adjust more if there is a big event like a Giants game, Pride Parade, or some other function happening that day. If you have multiple stops, make sure they have the accurate address for each stop, and that you allot the appropriate time for load on and off at each place. Aim to have the shuttles drop about 30 minutes minutes before the ceremony start time. 


If you hire a band for your event, they typically play 45 minute sets with 15 minute breaks. They almost always need to eat before they play, and typically need time for a sound check before guests arrive.

Sunset Photos.

Most photographers would LOVE to snag you for 20-30 minutes of sunset photos during golden hour (the hour before the sun sets) so I recommend Googling "Sunset on {your wedding date} in {the city of your wedding venue}" to find out what time to plan for that.

At the end of the day, it's really best to hire a wedding planner to deal with he ins and outs of your wedding day timeline, but I hope that this was helpful to get you going!