Budget setting tips for weddings—and other celebratory events
Are you budgeting for a wedding or other once-in-a-lifetime event and worried about expenses? Not sure what all to include in your event planning budget or how much those items or services cost? No worries! Our wedding budget checklist includes all of the critical expenses and fees you should expect—from that special dress to event venue costs and more. Plus, we provide some great tips for keeping costs in check.
Before diving in, we’d like to share some important wedding budgeting tips. If you want to avoid blowing your event planning budget:
- Plan far in advance (at least one year if not two).
- Set a realistic wedding budget.
- Tap into your creativity.
- Enlist friends and family to help when needed.
- Be flexible!
Being flexible is the most important rule of thumb to follow when planning an event. For example, you may need to spend less for your dress or cut your guest list to get the venue you want—or vice versa. Decide what amenities and expenses are most important to you and trim back in other areas that matter less.
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Wedding budget checklist: The eight biggest expenses at celebratory events
1. That once-in-a-lifetime dress!
According to Brides.com, the average cost of a wedding dress in 2020 was $1,631 (including alterations), with prices ranging between $500 and $4,000. The average cost for a quinceañera dress runs between $200 and $1,000, estimates quinceañera dress designer Q by DaVinci.
Thrifty brides planning a wedding on a small budget and moms planning quinceañeras can spend a lot less on a dress for that special day. You can save by opting for less expensive fabrics, shopping online retailers and sample stores or buying during winter or summer when you’ll find the best deals. You could also consider buying a simple, less expensive dress and adding your own embellishments.
2. The celebratory cake
Based on a 2019 survey of 27,000 couples, TheKnot.com found the average cost of a wedding cake was $500, with cost per slice ranging between $1.50 and $12. You can expect celebration cakes for other special events, like quinceañeras, to run about the same—it all depends on what you want. At our event center in Dallas-Fort Worth, we typically see cake prices starting at $2/slice for a basic cake and $4/slice and up for more elaborate cakes.
To rein in cake costs, choose buttercream over fondant icing, stick with standard filling flavors and skip fancy shapes and handcrafted accents like sugar flowers (price out fresh flowers instead). You could also purchase a smaller tiered cake for display and serve sheet cake to guests.
If you have a friend or family member who bakes, or you want to DIY, you could save hundreds of dollars. Just be sure to ask for a cake tasting before committing to a cake designer or friend, that way you can avoid any surprises on your big day.
3, 4 and 5: Event venue, catering and alcohol
If you search online (like we did), you’ll find the average cost for venue rental is all over the board. Based on TheKnot.com survey mentioned earlier, the average wedding venue cost in 2019 was $10,500—about 30% of a bride’s typical wedding budget. That cost pertains to traditional wedding venues (like hotels, resorts, vineyards and banquet halls). You’ll spend a lot less if you go non-traditional and hold your celebration at a local park or even a friend or family member’s farm or expansive backyard.
IMPORTANT: When choosing a venue, it’s critical to look at total costs and review items line by line. Many of the costs associated with celebratory events are tied to the venue. In other words, you may be forced to purchase some services through the venue that would cost considerably less if you arranged for them yourself.
This includes catering and alcohol, two of the largest ticket items in the typical wedding budget. You can literally save thousands of dollars by renting a venue—like DFW Celebrations—that allows you to bring in your own catering and alcohol (you just need to hire a TABC-licensed bartender). We also offer a fully functional prep kitchen onsite for your caterer’s use.
Before committing to a venue, be sure to check what amenities the hotel or banquet hall offers, what services the venue rental packages include and what amenities cost extra. For example, some venues don’t provide ice, and require clients to bring in their own—what a hassle! We have a commercial icemaker onsite, available to clients at no additional charge.
Get details on banquet halls and event packages at DFW Celebrations here.
6. Entertainment (band or DJ)
The best bands and DJs cost more than you think, with bands running almost 4X more than DJs. According to WeddingWire.com, the average cost for a wedding band is $4,500. If your budget is tight, a DJ may be a better option—you pay for one person’s services instead of several— with the average cost for a wedding DJ running about $1,200.
Again, you can expect to pay comparable fees for other celebratory events, like quinceañeras, graduation parties or corporate events. Keep in mind, fees for entertainers do vary widely depending on popularity, size of group and other factors, like number of hours performed. Make sure to get references before committing, and even better, ask if you can drop by one of the band or DJ’s upcoming events to make sure they’re a good fit for you.
7. Flowers and florist services
The cost for flowers at your special event can also run thousands of dollars. When it comes to budgeting, a good rule of thumb is to allot 10% of your budget to flowers for weddings, which includes the flowers themselves and the labor to deliver and set-up floral arrangements at the venue. Costs for flowers for other types of events vary depending on the host’s goals.
Some venues, like DFW Celebrations, include floral arrangements and center pieces in their event packages. That amenity can save you thousands when budgeting for a wedding because you’ll only have to pay for flowers for the bridal party or other guests of honor at your event. You can also save on flowers by adding in some plants, choosing flowers in season and mixing expensive and inexpensive flowers together.
8. Photography services
For most special event photographers, you can expect to pay by the hour and based on experience. According to Snappr.com, the average cost for a four-hour wedding photo shoot in Dallas is $1,909. Popular photographers can cost significantly more, and you will pay additional for any prints you purchase.
To keep photography costs in check, consider limiting photo shoots to two hours and make a list of the different types of shots you’d like to get. That way you’ll stay on schedule and be sure to capture the most important memories of your special day.
Other expenses to include in your budget
When budgeting for a wedding or other special event, there are a few other expenses to consider. Some venues include these event services in their packages, while others do not. Additional expenses to include in your event planning budget may include:
- Décor for themed events
- Sound and lighting
- Photo booths and other photo opps
- Parking (we’ve got plenty of free parking here!) and valet services
- Hair and make-up
- Other entertainment (motivational speakers for corporate events, clowns for kids events, etc.)
Need a banquet hall in Dallas-Fort Worth for your wedding or other special celebration?
Our friendly team of event specialists is here to help. To learn more about our event packages and the amenities we offer, contact DFW Celebrations today.