Are you really too busy for your own wedding? Part II – The Budget
In Part I of my series, "Are you really too busy for your own wedding?", I discussed the issues involved in finding the right venue and the very-short-comings of so-called wedding planning services and their feeble attempts to 'help' you find a venue. Now I want to talk about The Budget; perhaps two of the most frightening and daunting words in the whole wedding process.
Don't start with budget!
You may think I want to tackle the budget issue from the very obvious angle that you must have some kind of budget or idea of a budget in order to plan any event, whether it is as massive as a wedding or as simple as a dinner party. This is a given. What I want to discuss is why revealing or providing budget information to a wedding planning company too early in the planning process, may interfere with your getting the wedding of your dreams (that's good dreams, not nightmares).
Don't get me wrong, I believe that you need to know your budget, but your wedding planner does not; at least not at the initial meeting. Once this information is in his grubby little hands - his attitude towards you, your intended and your whole wedding project may change drastically. His enthusiasm towards your wedding may cool substantially, once he realizes that he will not get the big cut (or percentage) he envisioned when you entered his office.
Check out the fine print
There are several caveats here:
1) If you can't afford an extra 'planning/managing' fee, then it goes that you can’t afford a planner and are, therefore you are not too busy to arrange your own wedding. So get this whole wedding planner idea out of your heads and start working.
2) If intend to pay your planner a fee (percentage of the total wedding or flat fee), then this amount should be calculated into the budget from the onset.
3) Wedding planning companies commonly advertise that they do not 'charge' a fee. This is a misconception (I would call it an outright lie), these companies like to perpetuate. I saw the contract for one of these companies. They do charge a fee; it is 'merely hidden' in clauses. According to the business model of the wedding planning company I know, the couple pays the company all the wedding fees for all the services it has engaged through the company and – get this – once the wedding is OVER - the company then pays the service providers minus its own service charge.
This is very worrying as you pay the wedding planning company before the event and they pay the providers after the event. You sign the contracts with all the providers. It was a worrying thought that this company can get all your money and then abscond without paying the service providers.
The caveat here: always see a contract or draft of the contract agreement before you get into any working relationship with this company (or anyone for that matter).
By the way, the company I dealt with did not want to provide me with a contract, or a sample contract before I formally hired them. I told them that I wouldn't hire them without seeing a contract in advance. Needless to say, I saw the contract and did not hire them.
Now back to discussing the Budget.
The Budget should and does comes up in the initial meeting, when discussing the parameters of your wedding: venues, budget (many times 'budget' is number one on the list), number of guests, geographical area of venue and other needed wedding vendors (makeup and hair, invitations, band, photographer and the like).
Full disclosure is for lawyers, not brides and grooms
Let's discuss budget for a moment. This has to be one of the most fundamental and significant elements of wedding planning. However, when you begin with money, you have nowhere to go and no place to move. If a planning company asks about budget do not answer this question, you will be pigeon-holed into a certain framework that most salespeople will not have the experience or ability to work their way out of.
Rather tell them that you will build the budget around your needs, rather than your needs around the budget. You will also get a better idea about the company's contacts and 'deals' they can offer you.
Work this backwards (even if you know your budget to the shekel, pound, dollar or yen!); discuss your wish list/needs: time of year (see my article on Winter Weddings), number of guests, venue type (garden, hall, etc and see my article on Venues) and geographical area. Then you can work out a nearly realistic budget based on these four parameters that will either get you to rethink your budget, your wish list or both.
Remember you are under no obligation to give them full disclosure at this initial meeting. The wedding planning company we met provided us with a (not very comprehensive) list of venues based on the parameters above and my willingness to say that I would not pay an excessive amount for per dinner plate.
Remember service providers (wedding or otherwise) are supposed to have your best interests at heart – because as I see it – your best interest can then be translated into the best interests (fees and call backs/referrals) of the service providers.