Budgeting 101

Congratulations!  You are engaged!  Break out the champagne! (there is a lot of champagne, am I right??) 

But now what?  If you are anything like me, the wheels have been turning and you haven’t been able to shut your mind off.  Where?  When?  What is the guest list?  Who is in my bridal party?  How am I going to afford this?  These, along with the million other questions you have, are all great!  But the best thing to do is to slow down, and make a plan.

The very first thing you will need to do is to set your budget.  Talk to your fiancé and any parents or relatives who may be contributing, and figure out how much you can afford.  The average wedding cost in 2016 was $38,183, according to http://www.TheWeddingReport.com.  $38,183!  Yikes!  Now just because that is the average, does NOT mean you need to spend that much!  There are plenty of people who have wonderful weddings for half of that amount, and others who spend twice as much.  You need to do whatever is best for you.  The last thing you want is to start off a marriage is piles on debt.  So how are you going to come up with this budget?

First things first:  pick the magic number.  Think about what the two of you can save and find out what your family may be contributing.  Also remember that you will be receiving monetary gifts at the wedding, but I wouldn’t rely on these too heavily when budgeting, as you have no way of knowing what you will actually get.  $100 per person is a good estimate, but be realistic and understand that many couples won’t double up and go to $200, they might only go to $150.  So again, keep it in mind, but please don’t rely on it. 

So now that you’ve picked your number…now what are you spending all of that money on??  From my experience in New England, you can have a lovely wedding for about $25,000 – $30,000 if you stay out of the major cities.  Since these numbers seem slightly more reasonable than the average of $38,000, so we will use that for our example breakdown.  Just remember that I am basing the breakdown on a $25-30k budget, so some numbers may be lower than what you will actually spend if you have special requests or different priorities.  All of these numbers can be higher or lower depending on what you are willing to pay more for, and what you are willing to sacrifice. 

The Breakdown

Ceremony/Reception Venue – 50% ($13,000 – $15,000)

Your venue is going to take up a major chunk of your budget.  This number includes the food, drink, and room rentals.  What the venue itself provides will vary by venue, but the budget should all add up to about the same.  Keep in mind that your costs will be dependent on the number of guests, so the larger the wedding, the more you will need to spend.  All food and drink prices will be based on the number of guests, so if you are looking to save money, keep that guest list tight.  Another major cost to consider when looking at venue pricing is fees.  Almost every venue is going to charge you tax, administrative fees, and gratuity, at a total rate of about 27%.  This additional cost is a major expense.  If the venue is charging $100 per person, you are actually paying $127 per person!  Make sure you are including those fees when comparing venues.

Dress/Accessories/Day-of Beauty- 8% ($2,000 – $2,400)

The dress can be a big variable when it comes to budgeting – it can be an area where you can save some money, or blow your budget.  It all depends on what you want, and what you are willing to spend.  Dresses can range from $100 – $20,000+ so make sure you are shopping within your pre-determined budget.  I would not recommend trying on anything that costs more than what you can spend; you don’t want to fall in love with a dress that you can’t afford.  This number also includes the budget for hair and makeup, which can be costly if you don’t plan for it.  If you are using a professional, you will need to pay for both a trial, and for the wedding day.  Hair and makeup can cost from $150-$400 for the bride.

Photographer – 8% ($2,000 – $4,000)

I put a wide range for the dollar amount here because I don’t account for a videographer anywhere else.  Photographers and videographers can be costly, but you want to make sure you are spending the money where it counts, and you don’t want to cheap out on the photographer and later regret it.  Do your research, get referrals, and check out their work before you make any decisions.

Music – 7% ($1,500 – $1,750)

Music is obviously an important aspect of any wedding.  My estimate is a little heavy, as you can absolutely find a great DJ for less, but you need to consider a few factors.  Deciding on a DJ or a band for the reception will affect the budget, as DJs are usually less expensive than a band.  But like a photographer, cheaper may not always be the way to go.  Make sure you do your research so you don’t end up with a “DJ” who is just a person with an iPod and a speaker. DJs are also the vendor who provides the lighting, so if you are interested in adding uplighting, make sure you discuss with your DJ.  And don’t forget about music for the ceremony!

Florist – 7% ($1,500 – $1,750)

The cost of the florist definitely depends on your taste and vision.  My estimate could be very high or very low, depending on where you want flowers.  One thing is for sure, you will need the florist for the bouquets. Keep in mind that the larger your bridal party, the higher the cost for the florist.  You will also need to decide if you will be doing floral centerpieces, as those will cause the florist budget to be on the higher end.  Money Saving Tip:  floral arrangements for the ceremony can often be reused at the reception!

Rings – 4% ($1,000 – $1,200)

Ring costs will depend on the styles you choose, but you should be safe in this ballpark.  Men’s rings can be very reasonable and cost about $400.  The bride’s ring will depend on the style and the diamonds.  If you choose a ring with large diamonds, you will be moving this number closer to $3,000-$4,000.

Transportation – 4% ($1,000 – $1,200)

Some mode of transportation is likely necessary for your wedding day, at least to transport the bride to the ceremony.  If many of your guests will be staying in a hotel, it is customary to provide a shuttle to and from the reception.  The shuttle will allow your guests to have a good time without worrying about driving home, and assures everyone will arrive when you want them to!

Wedding Planner – 3% ($750-$2000)

Ahh the Wedding Planner!  What a SUPER important part of the budget (wink, wink)!  In all seriousness, hiring a Wedding Planner can be a huge stress relief for you.  I included a wide estimate here because the cost can range drastically depending on what services you require.  If you hire someone to help plan the wedding from start to finish, you may see costs upwards of the top of my range.  You can also hire a professional just for day-of coordination to make sure everything runs smoothly, which will cost less than the full service.  Or you may choose a venue that has on-site coordinators included in the package, so you won’t need to hire anyone at all.

Stationary- 2% ($500 – $600)

Even though it is a smaller portion of your budget, invitations are a place you can save money.  My estimate is based on traditional invitations, save the dates, and programs, but there are may ways to cut these costs.  There are many websites that allow you to design your stationary products for a very reasonable price, especially if you purchase during a sale!  Don’t forget that you will need to buy stamps for all of these save the dates and invitations.  Money Saving Tip:  Use online RSVPs! You can save on the RSVP cards, and that extra postage!  (If you make your wedding website on http://www.theknot.com, you can build it right in to the site!)

Favors/Gifts – 2% ($500 – $600)

It is customary to have wedding favors at your reception (think coozies, match books, candies, etc.).  You can find tons of customizable ideas online, but you can also think outside the box and make a donation to a charity in place of a favor.  Or, skip the favor altogether!  My opinion is that most people are not going to notice.  I also included gifts in this category.  Make sure you are getting gifts for the bridal party to thank them for all of their help and support!

Suit/Tux –  1% ($250 – $300)

The groom also needs something to wear (crazy, I know).  Luckily, it is far less expensive than a wedding dress!

Buffer – 4% (1,000)

I always recommend including a $1000 buffer in your budget.  You may fall in love with a dress that is a little over budget.  You may find a kick-butt gift for your bridesmaids that you can’t pass up.  You may decide you are super pale and want to get a spray tan the week before the wedding.  There will be things that come up that you weren’t anticipating.  So plan for the unexpected and put some money aside so you don’t get sidetracked!





Congratulations! Do You Have a Date Yet?

You’re engaged, congratulations!  Even if you have only been engaged for a week, I bet you’ve been asked approximately 1000 times if you’ve picked a date. 

No, of course I haven’t picked a date!  I haven’t stopped staring at my ring long enough to do anything else!

People love this question, even when the answer is so obviously no.  BUT, now that you’re engaged, you do need to start thinking about actually getting married.  I know, crazy.  One of the first decisions you will need to make is the date.  The actual date will depend a lot on the venue’s availability, so I don’t recommend getting hard set on a specific date too soon in the process, but there are some things you should think about before going on those venue tours. 

Length of Engagement

Start by thinking about how long of an engagement you want to have.  According to The Knot, the average engagement is 14.5 months.  Keep in mind, that is just an average; there are plenty of people who getting married much quicker, and others who wait years.  There are positives and negatives to both a long and short engagement.  A longer engagement gives you more time to plan and save.  A shorter engagement reduces the time you will be stressed and gets you married quicker!  Just keep in mind that a really short engagement does present its challenges.  Many venues and vendors book over a year in advance and wedding dresses can take 8 months.

Choosing a Season

So now you have a basic idea of the timeframe.  Time to pick a season!  The best way to categorize wedding dates is on-season and off-season.  These categories will vary slightly by venue, but typically, the off-season is from November – April. 

What does on-season vs. off-season mean for you? 

On-Season:  These months are popular for a reason.  Early summer and fall have near perfect weather and beautiful scenery.  You don’t have to worry about snow cancelling your big day (I’m knocking on wood – we are in New England after all), or about your guests freezing their bums off.  You can have that outdoor wedding you’ve dreamed of with relatively low risk.

Off-Season:  The weather may be less dependable, but prices are significantly reduced during the off-season, so you can get a lot more wedding for a lot less money.  Additionally, off-season dates are less popular, so you will have less competition to secure the venue you love. 

My best tip?  Look at dates in early November or late April.  You will get the cost benefits of the off-season, but you will practically be in the on-season!  It may be a little chilly, but overall, weather in early November and late April is pretty fabulous!  Totally worth losing a couple degrees to save thousands of dollars.

Choosing a Day

Ok, you’ve picked the perfect month.  What about the day of the week?  I’m sure it is no surprise to you, but Saturday is the most popular date for weddings.  Unfortunately, like the seasons, its all about that competitive market!  Saturday nights usually have higher per person costs, and can have much higher minimums. 

Friday:  Fridays are great because you are usually saving 15-20% off Saturday prices, which is awesome!  But, you need to keep in mind that many guests may have to take the day off from work, miss your ceremony, or miss the entire wedding.  Fridays can also cause extra stress for the bridal party if they don’t have a lot of time off available at work.  While they can probably swing it, most of your party will not want to go to work on Thursday either, especially if they are traveling, so they are looking at 2 days off.

Saturday:  Who doesn’t love a Saturday wedding?  Guests don’t have to worry about taking time off from work, or going to work the next day after a night of dancing (and drinking).  It really is the perfect night of the week for a wedding. But, if you are watching your budget, Saturday may be the worst option.  Saturday night minimums are often thousands of dollars higher than Friday and Sunday nights!  The good news?  Most venues have the same pricing Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the off-season, since you are already getting such a discounted rate.  So if you want a Saturday and want to save, keep those off-season dates in mind!

Sunday:  Sundays are another great cost saver.  Similar to Fridays, you can likely save 15-20% off the Saturday night cost.  An advantage of Sunday over Friday is that guests do not have to take time off of work in order to attend (granted, they probably won’t want to go to work Monday morning…but they can!) and you can have your rehearsal dinner Friday or Saturday night, which is way more fun.  One downside to Sundays is if you were planning to get married in a church – you probably can’t.  Check with your local church, but since normal masses are already scheduled for Sunday, it will be unlikely that you will be able to have your ceremony there.

A Few Things to Watch

Holidays: My advice?  Don’t get married on a major holiday.  The main reason involves your guests.  Guests are not going to be thrilled that you just ruined their holiday plans.  Do you care?  Maybe not; it is your wedding!  But, you also might lose some guests that you really wanted to be there but can’t get out of a previous commitment.  You also may end up paying more, especially when we are talking about the off-season.  For example, New Year’s Eve is during the off-season.  So it’s cheap, right?  Wrong!  There is no better way to lose that off-season discount than to get married on a holiday.  Another reason not to get married on a holiday?  You get to make your anniversary a whole new holiday!  Getting married on a holiday could be a cool idea if you are totally obsessed with a certain holiday and want a super cool themed wedding.  But, for the most part, your anniversary could very likely end up taking a backseat to the other holiday every year in the future. 

Lent:  Anyone looking to get married in the Catholic Church needs to know this! Many churches do not allow weddings during Lent!  The dates of Lent vary every year, but if you are looking in the February-April timeframe, make sure you check.  You don’t want to have a date set with the venue to later find out that you can’t get married at the church until a month later.

Timing:  Ceremony time may be a different topic altogether, but I think it is important to note here.  Remember that the sun sets at different times throughout the year!  This little fact is very important when it comes to timing your ceremony and your pictures.  If you choose to save some money and get married in the off-season, you will likely be dealing with a sun that sets pretty early, so you may need to have an earlier start time, or do a first look so your pictures are done during the daylight.

I hope that helped you get started with picking your date!  Remember – whichever date you pick, it will be perfect!  So don’t sweat it too much!  Do whatever is best for you and your budget, and you will have an incredible day!


Meet Me, Katelynn

Welcome!  I am so excited to have started this new adventure!  I wanted to take some time to introduce myself and let you know why I started The Professional Maid of Honor.  So to start with the basics, my name is Katelynn Rourke and I am 30 years old.  I am engaged, and at the point in my life where everyone is getting married.  I went to a wedding in October, was a bridesmaid in November, got engaged in December, will be a bridesmaid in June, and will be Maid of Honor at my sister’s wedding in September. And I am sure there is more to come.  So, as I said, I am in the heat of it. 

But I love it!  And I will give you a little background on why.  I have always been a type-A, crazy organized, to-do list driven person.  I don’t know if anyone has done an HBDI assessment, but I think my results are the perfect description of who I am.  It is basically a measurement of how your brain works.  I had to do it for a leadership class at work once and the results basically summed up my life.  You answer a ton of questions and it charts your personality into four quadrants.  One of the quadrants is the green quadrant, which is described as “organized, sequential, planned, detailed.”  My results were literally off the chart green.  I had a some blue (analytical, quantitative), a little yellow (holistic, synthesizing), a tiny bit of red (feelings based, emotional), and a line that literally went outside the graph on green.  So it isn’t just me saying I am a planner, it’s pretty much science.

I actually enjoy doing the things that most people hate.  So while I can sometimes be a little intense when planning a relaxing vacation, people appreciate that I take care of everything.  I make sure we have the best flights, good hotel deals, activities ready, reservations made, boom done.  And I love doing it.  I love researching places to go, finding the best deals, the best local spot for dinner, the must-do activities.  I love all of it. 

More recently, my love of planning vacations with my friends has turned into planning bachelorette parties, bridal showers, and weddings.  I enjoy every minute of it, and I think that is why I am good at it.  This isn’t a job for me; it is a passion project.  I am doing it because I enjoy it, and because I think I can help other people.  I know most people are not weirdos like me.  Most people hate wasting time researching and obsessing over details.  But guys – that is what I love!  So I hope that I can use my passion to help reduce stress and anxiety for others.  Whether it is your wedding, bridal shower, bachelorette party, birthday party, or a family vacation – you shouldn’t be stressed.  So let me help with the boring stuff, and you concentrate on having the time of your life!  Thank you for checking out my website, and I hope to work with you soon!