After You Say “Yes”…. What Comes Next?

 In Branding

These friendly words of wisdom and insider advice (as well as a detailed tell it like it is budget breakdown like no other) is “wedding gold” from our very own DreamGroup Founding Planner, Genève McNally.  You’re welcome. 

After you’ve said “Yes!” and have embarked into the world of wedding planning things can sometimes start to feel a little daunting, but they don’t have to. The best advice we can share is that a couple should start by talking to each other about what they really want for this important moment and day. Simple enough you’d think, but many couples excitedly dive in without really contemplating or talking with each other about what they actually want. Do you imagine a big dance party?  An intimate dinner?  Something elegant and dramatic or perhaps bohemian chic is more your style.  Do you want a wedding that is interactive and keeps guests moving or one that allows a lot of relaxed mingling and inspires great conversation?  The wedding style options in the beginning are endless and now is the time to think about what’s important and what you feel is worth investing in. The next step is to chat with parents if they are to be involved in the planning or supporting of the budget so that an overall budget can be established. Then comes the all important allocation of the money available. It’s important to start with a realistic budget plan, not a wishful thinking one! Weddings are not cheap. Incorporating all the products and services the average couple wants these days will often be as much as double or more what they initially thought they might want to spend.

“The average Vancouver Wedding for 100 people costs between $40,000.00 and $70,000.00 pending tastes, inclusions, and means.”

Create a detailed budget allocating ALL the potential wedding costs. Don’t guess – find out what the average is by contacting a few local vendors to inquire. Be upfront with the vendors about it and you will get the help you need. Once you know the average costs there’s nothing wrong with rethinking the plan in the event the sticker shock is higher than anticipated!  You might consider hosting a Breakfast Wedding, a lunch wedding, a late night candle lit champagne dessert affair!  And of course the quickest way to reduce wedding costs is by reducing the number of guests invited.  Made a little easier these days with the guest number restrictions due to Covid-19.  Although once these restrictions are lifted I won’t be surprised to see a rise in the number of weddings kept on the more intimate side.  Intimate weddings are a wonderful thing after all! And not just because of the budget benefits.

Once you’ve determined what the food and drink costs might be — which often make up 50%-60% of an overall wedding budget — it’s time to allocate the balance of the budget to everything else from invitations, hair + makeup, dress, suit/tux, and photography to videography, music, transportation, flowers and décor. The reason it’s important to understand where the money goes from the beginning and come up with a plan everyone is comfortable with is because budget stress is one of the top two reasons couples end up being disheartened and unhappy with the planning (family dynamics is the other, but let’s save that for a different blog).  And that’s so unfortunate because the 6-18 months in lead up to one of the most impactful days of your life should be fun and filled with exciting decisions and beautiful memories.  Once a couple has a solid understanding of what their ideal wedding might cost and determines together that it’s doable from a budget standpoint then they can happily and confidently move through the process knowing what they have to spend and find the right people to help them do it!

As a professional planner, one of our first steps in the planning process is to establish a realistic budget that encompasses ALL the wedding costs… even the ones that are often first overlooked and not yet understood.  I’ve included below some of the most budget influencing categories of a wedding and the average Vancouver costs associated with them to help give you a good idea of what to expect.  These are not DIY costs as those will always be cheaper (and sometimes more expensive if you don’t do your homework – measure twice, cut once).  They are the average costs one can expect to pay when hiring someone else to do the work for you from a more modest investment through to the average top end (and yes, it’s always possible to spend more).  As with anything there are always ways to save, but that almost always involves more work on the part of the couple and their lucky family and friends.

My parting last bit of wisdom for you all is that just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean every area of the wedding needs to be cut back.  Decide on 3-4 Priority areas whether that’s the food, the flowers, the photography, the music, the videography or the dress and allocate a nice amount of money to each of those areas and scale back or eliminate in other areas.  In the end it’s about being authentic and having the wedding that after all is said and done will leave you proud and with happy memories of a “perfect for you” day that you will cherish forever.

“My favourite saying to share with couples who continue to add more wants to an already stretched budget is — More is More. If you can’t afford more, be happy with less.”

Average Vancouver Wedding Budget Breakdown:

  • Ceremony Location... $500.00 – $2500.00 **depends on whether you choose a standalone venue for the ceremony, a church, or simply decide to take advantage of a beautiful reception venue that also offers a suitable ceremony option.
  • Ceremony Officiant… $150.00 – $1500.00 **the options range from a government appointed marriage commissioner to independent celebrants catering to various religions and styles. 
  • Reception Venue… $0.00 – $7000.00 **some venues have a rental fee separate from the Food & Beverage minimum requirement and others will waive a rental fee with a minimum guarantee. Keep in mind things like a Liquor License and Venue Insurance are sometimes also needed depending on the venue.
  • Food & Drinks… $150.00 – $400.00 per person **influenced by the calibre of venue, what you choose to offer, whether you are working with the venue’s in-house services or bringing in a caterer, and in what capacity (cash vs. host bar, welcome hors d’oeuvres, decadent plated meal, vs simplified buffet, late night snacks, etc.). Costs may or may not include service, setup, and cleanup so be sure to inquire into those costs ahead of time so there are no labour related surprises! Labour isn’t cheap.

“Don’t forget the tax and gratuity which in British Columbia add approximately 30% to the overall food and drink spending.”

  • Stationery (Invitations, Place Cards, & Menus)… $1200.00 – $5000.00+ **the costs will range depending on whether you order pre-fab invitations online with self assembly (some great options are available), mailing/addressing or decide to work with a more hands on stationer or calligrapher who can design, assemble, address, and mail them for you. Menus can be a nice to have or a necessity depending on the style of menu and lineup of food offered.  Hotels typically include a basic menu option personalized with name and date, but couples often choose to upgrade and have their stationer create a more custom, decor enhancing version along with printed place cards for that added extra.
  • Welcome/Seating Signage… $150.00 – $500.00 **this can be as simple as a printed alphabetical seating chart or escort cards to something more Pinterest Popular along the lines of witty and welcoming messages and seating assignments displayed creatively on mirrors, chalkboards, and plexi walls enhanced with the help of a talented calligrapher.
  • Wedding Cake… $6.00 – $15.00 per person **will vary depending on the intricacy of the design, labour involved and types of ingredients used, also doesn’t include the typical cake cutting fee charged by the venue/caterer which covers associated labour, plates, forks, and cleanup required.
  • Ceremony Music… $250.00 – $1500.00 **live music is almost always the preferred choice of professional planners as the flexibility it affords — too slow or fast aisle walkers, distracted children as they carefully meander down the aisle, and the greatly dreaded technical issues that can arise as a result of prerecorded DIY music efforts — is priceless.
  • Flowers & Decor… $2000.00 – $25,000.00+ **this is one area where we see the largest range as it comes down to the size of event, the venue chosen, the money available, and of course the style and vision one has for the day.  Tent Weddings with ceiling draperies, lounge furniture, rented chairs, custom dance floors, linens, and tabletop accents like candles and charger plates will increase your decor budget.

“If budget is an issue than opt for a smaller guest list, smaller arrangements with seasonal flowers, or roll up those sleeves and DIY the pants off the situation!”

  • Wedding Planner… $1500.00 – $15,000.00 **Wedding Day Management/Coordination/Month of will cost far less than hiring a planner in a Full Planning and/or Design capacity. Think of it like the difference between an automated drive through car wash and a full service detail!  Planning fees are determined based on a planner’s reputation and experience as well as the complexity and calibre of your wedding plan.  And certainly as a wedding planner I am going to be a loud advocate for involving a professional planner in your wedding plan in some capacity even if only for the day of!  I’ve seen many weddings with planners involved and weddings without (not all bad mind you, but most noticeably lacking in support with unexpected and unwelcome surprises arising as a result), reputable planners with experience and planners whose only experience is that of their own wedding and a couple friends who did not pay for their services. It runs the gamut, but what I do know for sure is that a wedding plan with a great planer by your side will without a doubt be the best decision you make. We are the game changers and the joy makers! Our sole purpose is to make sure that every part of your wedding planning journey from the initial discussions to the wedding day is everything you deserve and imagine it to be. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.
  • Photography… $2500.00 – $8000.00 **most couples know what they like when they see it and are excited to hire their photographer without too much confusion or apprehension and that’s wonderful!  There are a few things to keep in mind however which will enhance the experience and help make you a savvier consumer.  Discuss number of hours needed, if there are multiple locations therefore affecting number of shooters that may be required, inclusions like coffee table books, prints, rights to the images (not a given and should be discussed ahead of time if important to you), whether the person you are meeting with is the same person who will shoot the wedding on the day or whether another company representative will be sent instead (sometimes okay, but worth understanding).  Also I can’t say with enough enthusiasm how important it is to not just like, but love your photographer!  You’ll be spending more time with them than anyone else on your wedding day so liking them is very important.  In fact, hiring a photographer you admire and genuinely think is super awesome often ends up being one of the highlights of the wedding day experience as the energy and synergy created as a result of a good fit can make a magical day even more spectacular.  On the flip side, choosing a photographer solely based on their work and/or price can leave you feeling very disappointed with the on day level of interaction with you, family, and guests.
  • Wedding Dress… $1000.00 – $10,000.00 **be sure to allocate additional costs for alterations, steaming/cleaning, and accessories like the veil, jewellery, shoes, etc.
  • Suit/Tux… $200.00 – $1500.00 **many gentlemen choose to rent, however, these days with more and more options available for suit/tux design, opting for a stylish custom suit to be worn many times after the wedding can be a worthy investment. Also, word to the wise… cheap often means stiff and hot so make sure you aren’t sacrificing wedding day comfort for a couple hundred dollars.  You’ll be wearing the suit for 8-12 Hours after all. Comfort is key, especially on a hot summer day!
  • Wedding Party Attire… $200.00 – $500.00 per person **not everyone chooses to cover these costs, but if you can please do!  Being in a wedding party is not inexpensive once you add up all the costs associated with celebrating YOU! From dress and suits or bachelorette party, showers, and wedding day gifts, babysitting, and more anything you can do to offset will no doubt be appreciated.

“It’s always a good idea to have a Contingency Fund of 10-15% of the overall budget to allow for the little surprises and newfound wants that pop up along the way.”

  • Mobile Hair & Makeup… $150.00 – $500.00 per bridal party member or mom **Typically on the higher side for the bride and may or may not include a trial which is highly recommended.  This is not a time for guessing games. Also doesn’t usually include on day touch-ups if desired. That’s extra.
  • Wedding Rings… $600.00 – $3000.00 each **as good as it might sound right now to save on the rings, please don’t make the mistake so many couples make and give this area some solid thought as you will be wearing these rings for the rest of your life (hopefully).  You want it to be a quality timeless design that you will love well into the future.
  • Reception Music… $1200.00 – $6000.00 **from independent DJs to well known local cover bands… the choice is yours to make based on personal preference.  Just make sure your venue permits live music before you sign on any dotted line! And here’s something to know… Dancing is not mandatory!  If you or your family are not the dancing kind then it’s perfectly okay to keep the reception authentic and opt instead for more mingle time, after dinner games, and even live or recorded music that inspires great conversation instead.
  • Favors… $3.00 – $10.00 each **this is one area that has seen a bit of a change in recent years… many couples are opting to skip the mini candles, soaps, and seeds for something more useful like a keepsake custom wood or metal design place card. Or better yet skip it altogether and spend the money on interactive elements like a Photobooth (guests can take home a photo), a drink ticket in the event you are offering an after dinner cash bar, a donation to your favourite charity on your guest’s behalf, or something super practical like a Pashmina, flip-flops, or a mini bottle of your favourite beverage. 
  • Videography… $3000.00 – $8000.00 **just because I’ve put this one last doesn’t mean it’s not important!  In fact, NOT hiring a videographer is very often at the top of the list of post wedding regrets.  The day goes by so quickly and with the modern, creative, and inspiring wedding film options available these days it’s almost tragic to think the wedding won’t be captured in this way.  

Extra costs might also include Gifts for the Wedding Party and Emcee, Dance Lessons, Live Streaming, Valet, Tents (and related flooring, walls, heaters), Party Rentals including chairs, dishware, flatware, glassware for build your own venue scenarios, Washroom Trailers, Drone Filming, Fireworks, Guest Transportation, Hotel Accommodations, Vendor Travel Costs, Luxury Car Rentals, Pre-Post Events like Rehearsal/Welcome Dinners and a post wedding Brunch as well as the flowers, stationary, and other costs associated with these additional events.

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