Uh-Oh – I Overspent On A Vendor. Now What?

When I started planning my own wedding, I talked to my parents on the onset, got a total budget number, and started planning. Everything was going just fine until we got our first proposal from the caterer that we were required to use at our venue, and the total amount was more than the budget my parents gave me in the first place. At that point, we were stuck! We had made the uninformed decision to get married at this venue, and our budget had to increase. 

Did you know the average couple overshoots their budget by around 15% - 20%? If the damage is already done, I have some budget tricks to share with you today.

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But first, let me give you some insider’s knowledge about why people tend to overspend – why has this become the norm? Unfortunately, it is hard to know on the onset of planning how much you will spend for a variety of reasons:

  1. Most couples have never planned a wedding before, or – if this is their second marriage – they planned one a while back and have no idea about how much everything will cost in today’s market. Perhaps, for the size and style of wedding they are planning, they haven’t budgeted enough money from the get-go.

  2. Some couples don’t have a great sense of how many people will attend and/or don’t fully grasp how closely related the budget and the guest count can be. They might add more people to the invite list closer to the date and don’t fully understand that this will greatly impact their bottom line.

  3. Couples receive initial proposals from their vendors, pay a retainer, and then tend to add items and upgrades closer to the event that they have seen or heard of throughout the planning process. These things add to the budget without taking anything away. Think – adding in extra floral arrangements to your floral design plan or a late night snack to your catering bill. These are often emotional decisions that impact the total spend.

  4. Some folks don’t realize when they book their vendors how much coverage they will need, and they have to add hours of coverage to several final invoices towards the end of the process to ensure their photographer, videographer, etc. are there for the entire day.

Many of these budget blunders can be avoided when hiring a planner from the beginning of your planning process. I am talking before you ever book your venue and set your date, or just after you book your venue – we tend to take the guesswork and the “Oops - I overspent!” moments out of the planning process, because we help set a realistic budget from day one. But that is a topic for a different day.

Today, we are addressing the issue of what to do when you overspend. What do you do when you have gone way over budget in a certain category? You really only have 3 options here:

  1. Increase the overall budget to accommodate the additional expense.

  2. Take some of the money from another budget category and put it towards the excess where you spent.

  3. Remove some guests off the guest list, but only if you haven’t sent out the save the dates yet.

I know, I know. You thought I was going to give you a magic solution that would allow you to keep everything else just the same as you planned and still stay on track with your budget. But that just isn’t possible! I am not a fairy godmother! Once you have overspent, the damage is usually done – especially if you overspent on several budget categories or if you aren’t willing to compromise in other areas. So how do you ensure that you stick to your budget, whether it is $30,000 or $300,000?

  • Contain your guest list (mo’ people = mo’ money). This one is big! If you are on a budget, make sure you have a clear number of invited guests going into the vendor booking phase and stick to it!

  • If your budget is not flexible, don’t meet with vendors, try on gowns, or attend tastings that are outside of your budget range. This is a no brainer! You don’t want to fall in love with the out-of-range vendor.

  • Hire a planner! In most cases, we more than pay for ourselves when it is all said and done, and we help you set realistic budget expectations that you can actually stick to because we know the industry norms. We also know a ton of creative ways to save money on your wedding without impacting the quality of the day, and are happy to share that knowledge with you! While we cannot guarantee you won’t go over budget (you are the one writing the checks!), we are wedding budget experts who are happy to help you improvise and brainstorm ways to cut back if needed.

  • Keep track of your overall spend throughout the process. This can help you see that you have exceeded your budget in certain areas and realize the need to cut back in other areas before it is too late.

At the end of the day, wedding budgeting is an emotional process. Sometimes expectations and budgets do not align, and when that happens, having a non-emotional planning partner can be invaluable in addressing those inconsistencies. Now, this is not to say that planners do not become emotionally invested in our clients. We absolutely do! But this is not my wedding, and it is not my money. 

My wedding? Well, in hindsight I couldn't have imagined having it at any other location – I loved my venue and it was perfect for my guest count and my style – but I did have to make some major budget adjustments. Had I been more informed on the onset, I may have been able to stick closer to the budget my parents had originally given me. I have learned the ins and outs of budget management since I started planning weddings professionally, and I could have avoided many pitfalls with that knowledge!

If your wedding budget is freaking you out and you are ready to invest in a service that will help you manage it (and so much more), let’s set up a time to chat! I would love to hear about your planning challenges, big or small, and see if I can help alleviate the stress and make your engagement fun and exciting!