Wedding Planning Perspective
Welcome to this article about how to plan your wedding and save money, too. I hope it helps you to dream big and have the wedding of your dreams and more.
You’ve waited a long time to get to this stage in your life. Your parents have waited even longer! This is a long article, because to plan your wedding is a huge undertaking, regardless of the size of the wedding. Please invest the time to read and appreciate what’s here to help you. The minutes you save skipping could cost you a fortune. Imagine learning how to save thousands of dollars in a matter of minutes! Enjoy!
2020 brought weddings into a whole perspective. Forced to be smaller, or delayed in the hopes of the original larger wedding, couples were faced with even more difficult choices.
With about 30 vendors to hire, and interviewing a few of each to learn what’s available, means that to plan your wedding, it could really take about 100 interviews. No wonder it’s stressful.
Don’t worry. Help is Here. I can help you here (as this article is already pretty long) with some great value from this article and I’d love to hear your thoughts. For more help, just contact me.
We all know that weddings can be expensive. So, just as in everyday life, we plan and save in order to get the things we want and value the most. If a beautiful wedding is what you want, and your vendor research provides an accurate amount that it will cost for the wedding you want, and want to remember, then the die is cast. Let the planning begin! Prepare to spend what you must to get what you want.
About the Author
By way of introduction, my name is Ron Finlay. I am an electrical and acoustics engineer. On my creative side, I started teaching ballroom and latin dancing in 1976, DJing in 1981, became a certified wedding planner in 2009 and a wedding officiant in 2020. Now I do all 4 things, and love, love, love weddings. So, I know a lot about weddings and have so much to offer people like you who want to have a truly amazing wedding. I invite you to contact me directly.
Before going further, please accept the tough love, the hard facts and the raw advice that follows. I love weddings and few things bother me more than to see a couple not have their dream wedding. I have done so many weddings, I can’t even count.
Each time, I see the same “mistakes” over and over, that I know are costing a lot of money, and I see the same corners being cut to try to save money to make up for over expenditures in other areas. I say “mistakes” to mean “an expense that renders little to no value and even acts as a catalyst to bigger problems.” “Mistake” is just shorter!
In some cases, it’s a lack of knowledge or experience and sometimes it’s a lesser vendor who got hired without the couple realizing the impact on their whole wedding. So, I’d like to help, with real world experiential advice, stories and tips, so you can have your dream wedding – and afford it, too. It’s like having your cake and eating it, too!
This wedding planning article has been created for Best For Bride, because I know the wonderful owners and wanted to contribute to their website to help even more couples plan their weddings.
Before Your Spend a Dime…
In my role as an engineer, I always get all the costs before spending a dime. There is no point in buying “stuff” for something I can’t afford to finish.
I suggest that for each vendor category you hire you gather real prices, not guess or pick a number at random. I’ve handled thousands of calls from engaged couples: “We’re planning a wedding and have $x to spend on our (vendor).” The problem is that this amount of money seldom has anything to do with the actual fees charged by the many vendors available. In short, it’s a guess.
Further in this article, I’ll share some of what happened to couples who cut corners to save money. I have a better way.
I offer zero-waste wedding planning strategy sessions, to help you save thousands of dollars on your wedding and have a better wedding, too. You’ll learn that there are:
350 dates in a year you should not chose for your wedding;
25 things to consider when choosing your indoor venue;
44 if it’s outdoors (tent / barn);
34 things to consider when hiring your DJ.
and much, much more.
I know this sounds daunting, but it’ll be OK. I’ll help you.
You know those wedding planning checklists in bridal magazines? Well, there’s a $15,000 mistake in the checklist! It’s been that way for over 40 years and no one seems to have caught it. My engineering eyeballs did, on first glance, and so I wanted to make a difference… for you.
I can’t give a step by step process, because the number of options along the way make that wrong by definition, and that’s the core problem with other checklists. We take a client, like you, one couple at a time and walk you through our proven process where your answers direct the path. It’s how we save you time and money. The rest is easy.
I have my own experience-based lists of things to consider for every major vendor category to help you navigate the wedding planning jungle. I’ve compiled all that I’ve learned about weddings and applied some engineering principles to create a simple template that could save you $5,000-$10,000 on your wedding, and you’ll have an even better wedding, too.
The reason for this range of savings is related to the size and calibre of wedding you are planning.
Did you know that hiring the exact same vendors, in a different order, can actually cost you thousands of dollars more for the “same” wedding?
My first piece of wedding planning advice is to get all the prices before you book anything – even the venue, which typically confirms the date for your wedding. Couples tend to rush to book a venue to get a date they want, and then plan from there. The problem is that they have just committed half their budget and have a deadline to get everything else done, and if some things take longer, they risk disappointment.
Before you can expect realistic pricing from the many vendors, you need to know what the options are, so you can compare apples to apples. There is no point comparing the price of a wedding dress to that of a limo and wonder why the numbers are different. You need to be able to level the playing field to truly compare what you get for what you’re spending.
In our wedding planning strategy session, I’ll tell you all the other things that can cost you thousands of dollars, just because couples rush to book the venue so quickly.
Imagine booking your wedding venue six months in advance, only to learn later that your dress won’t be ready for eight months. Certain bridal dresses simply take longer for a whole bunch of reasons. The choices are then to delay the wedding or select a dress you didn’t chose first, just to meet the timeline. Let’s optimistically call that dress your second choice. If you do this “second choice” thing with all your vendors, you’re risking a second rate wedding, not the one you set out to plan and enjoy.
Testimonial – Wedding Gone Wrong, Almost
This testimonial from a past DJ client serves us twice in this article alone. First, let’s look at it from a budgetary perspective. They had a number in mind to spend on the DJ. Turns out, it was a guess. They met me at a bridal show, but chose to hire a cheaper DJ to match their number. After the wedding, here’s what they wrote:
They say every cloud has a silver lining, and you were the silver lining to our cloud.
Having our DJ “bail out” on us just two months before the wedding was a horrendous experience. Your professionalism showed through in every aspect and you helped calm some very ruffled feathers.
As if that was not enough, to have the same thing happen again with the video, and this time with less than a month to go, was a disaster of “Titanic” proportions.
One more time, you “pulled a rabbit out of your very talented hat.” All of this proved one thing – “YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!”
D & B (names withheld to respect their privacy) Blackstock, Ontario
So while D & B found a DJ whose price matched their number, the DJ found another client willing to pay more, so the DJ simply dumped D & B. That’s wrong, but it happens more than you could imagine. From this painful experience, D & B called me in a panic and hired me to DJ their wedding. Suddenly, it wasn’t about money, rather results. Even if they got their deposit back, do you think they deserved what happened to them?
The problem with lower priced vendors is the ease and high likelihood that a higher priced client will come along. It’s the age old supply and demand curve. With the over flow of 2020 weddings into an equally turbulent 2021, couples are well advised to be sure of the integrity and financial stability of each vendor they hire. A whole new set of questions have recently emerged to ensure successful results.
My company, Perpetual Rhythms, has a policy: we appreciate the clients who hire us and once we’re almost fully booked with events, we stop looking, even reject other higher paying enquiries to safeguard the clients who hired us first and we still have backup staff just in case of an unforeseen emergency. It’s cost us thousands of dollars in lost opportunities and with COVID, we turned down dozens of weddings, as many as 6 on the same date, because we were booked to help clients who simply hired us sooner and we were totally happy with that. Greed can be a bad thing in business, especially weddings.
The second lesson that comes from D & B’s testimonial is that they lost sight of the fact that the two services (me and the other DJ) were not offering the same quality, “package” or list of what’s included. While we do not have packages, because our weddings are customized a-la-carte from a number of options, I will use the term package in this article. It stands to reason that since the packages were different, the prices would be, too.
By sticking to their lower price decision, they got caught and it nearly cost them their wedding. If they didn’t follow up with the DJ to make sure things were on track, they would have never found out until their wedding day that the DJ had booked another client. Fortunately, there was enough time and being off peak season, we had an opening and could help them out. Note that the DJ didn’t call them. That’s really wrong, too.
I was delighted to then be hired to DJ their company holiday party.
As you can see, it is mission critical to understand what each vendor is offering, really compare the finest details and make an informed decision.
Believe me, it takes a lot of time and effort, to call, or respond to calls/emails from vendors, to listen, learn and evaluate what they have to offer. The value is that you will know exactly what it will cost and who will do the best job. If you don’t, what could you be missing out on? I use a spreadsheet for everything. You?
If you call a vendor and simply ask for a price, without understanding what you get, you put yourself at risk of a repeat of what happened to D & B, or worse… having a lack lustre vendor show up alright, ruin your wedding and you can’t do a thing about it. Even worse (!), you limit yourself to what is typical, not what is possible. Let the vendors who are industry experts tell you what they can really do. Especially now!
Wedding Budget Over Budget?
The next two paragraphs explain what happens when you get the budget wrong. Then I’ll tell you why.
A 2019 survey in The Knot determined that couples go over budget by 30-40%. For a small wedding with a $20,000 budget, that means they would have spent $26-28,000. For a $42,000 budget (Canadian Average), means the couple ended up spending $54,600 to $58,800. That’s $12,600-16,800 OVER budget. Clearly, it cost what it cost, so the budget was very misleading, costs spiralled out of control.
Alan Berg, a prominent DJ industry speaker in the United States said that “budgets are made up, without the benefit of real data.”
I’ve seen couples get so stressed, fight and even break up and call off the wedding. This surpasses the concern for money because it can destroy the relationship. Perhaps there was an underlying personality trait whereby they should not have gotten married. It’s been said that “Love is Blind.” Some couples don’t “see” the problem and planning a wedding can be so stressful, it brings out the worst, or at least tests the relationship. If you can survive planning a wedding, just like a home renovation, you can survive anything! Amazingly, at that point it’s not even about the money, or over spending any more. So, how can planning your wedding be way more fun? My way!
I believe that if you plan your wedding with a real world prices, not a budget guess, and you can afford the wedding you’re planning, you can afford ANY vendor you consider. So choose the best you can get. If you can’t afford the vendor, perhaps you can’t afford the wedding and if your budget is off, you’re going to stress over everything and that’s just not fun.
I offer a 2-hour wedding planning strategy session to help at any stage, but the sooner the better for sure. If you fall in love with a wedding you can’t afford, you’ll hate the one you end up with. I can help you:
- pick the perfect wedding date
- save you thousands of dollars on your whole wedding
- show you the exact order in which to hire your vendors
- decide what price to expect to pay for key services
- provide some key questions to ask your vendors, and more.
Let me help you.
2 Ways to Plan Your Wedding
Here are a few tips to make Planning Your Wedding easier.
Planning a wedding must be viewed from 2 vantage points. Only 2.
- the “you want what you want wedding”, and the money will come from your own savings, parents, family… which I call the unlimited budget wedding.
- the “fixed amount of money wedding.” By far, this is the most common situation.
Most interesting is that 1) is not necessarily better than 2). It’s not only about how expensive the wedding is that makes it great.
From there I further subdivide weddings in “want the best” and “want everything.”
If you chose the “want everything” wedding, all 30 vendors worth, you will have to compromise on all of them to fit the budget or risk going over budget – a lot – and still not have the wedding you wanted.
If you chose the “want the best” wedding, you spend what it takes to get the best vendors in the most important and most impactful categories only and not even bother with other vendors who’s impact can be proven to be less significant. This is by far the best way to plan a wedding. I have a detailed process and rationale to help you decide where the spend the right amount for your perfect wedding.
To plan a “fixed budget want the best wedding”, you must accept that there are some vendors/services you just won’t be able to afford to have, opting instead to have the very best the market has to offer in other areas. The results can be spectacular, regardless of the size of your wedding. You can have the best dress, best food, best DJ, best photos, best party and best memories.
This is where our wedding planning strategy session can help you have a high quality wedding:
- prioritize the vendor categories that mean the most to you with our vendor impact calculator
- determine the amount of money you need to put towards each of the services you are having with our wedding vendor price allocation formula.
This is what happens next:
- You can follow my advice and simply not have every service that you would have liked to have had if money was no object or
- as 85% of couples do, make 3 more mistakes, two of which are that you fall victim to thinking that, for example, a DJ is a DJ is a DJ, so they’re all the same, so just hire the cheapest one as well as trying to DIY certain elements to save even more money, both of which put your wedding a great risk.
John Ruskin (1819-1900) was an art critic. He has many profound quotes. I include 3 of my favourites here to show that nothing’s changed in 200 years.
“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.” John Ruskin
Even couples who limit their vendor count may still go over budget. There are just so many options, that without a proven system like I have, you risk that as well.
I hope you chose Option 1 and ask for my advice, as I would love to show you how I can help save you $5,000 – $10,000 with my wedding planning strategy session. It could be the best two hours you invest to plan your wedding.
The Biggest Problem with How to Plan Your Wedding
The biggest problem with planning your wedding, is that there is no do-over. You only get one shot to get it perfect, on the one day you’ve chosen. If you hire a vendor or service at a lower quality level or attempt to do it yourself, for perhaps the first and only time, you need to consider the risk that comes with that.
Here’s another one of my favourite John Ruskin quotes:
“It is unwise to pay too much for something, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought is incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.” John Ruskin
Please note, that only YOU are taking on the risk of bad results, not the vendor. A cheaper vendor, already knows they are cheaper, and likely they also know what they don’t have or don’t include, which is why they are cheaper. You are taking a risk, hoping “it” won’t happen to you. If you’re lucky, “it” won’t. More likely, “it” will and as has been said many times, the small amount of money saved will be of little consolation if your wedding is spoiled in any way by this price-based decision.
Risk Vs Responsibility
Taking on risk is different than taking on responsibility to provide a service. If the vendor provides “their” quality of service, at the price they charge for “that”, they’ve met their “responsibility obligation.” If it’s less that you wanted, you took a risk and lost. So, here’s some other people’s advice to consider:
Speaking of decisions and risk, on-line reviews come to mind. I have lots from weddings I actually DJ’d and have the written copies to back them up. Other vendors have lots and lots. You have two choices (do you notice a theme here, with the number 2?):
- you can trust the on-line review and hire the company, excluding all others, or
- you can do your own research despite the reviews and know what to expect.
In the end, you’re hiring the vendor, not their clients’ reviews. Get to know the vendor, and you’ll get to know the results you can expect, and deserve.
A while back, I heard a great comment: Don’t take advice from someone who is not responsible for the results. So why take the advice from an on-line review from someone you don’ know, about an event you weren’t at, to plan your wedding? Do the work, learn and reap the rewards of a fabulous wedding. So why take my advice? I hope the content in this long article has you thinking and all I ask is that we talk about your wedding, so I can help you decide what’s best for your particular situation. My advice is based on experience gained from hundreds of weddings or many decades of commitment to helping people like you.
Another thing that’s interesting to me as an engineer, is called “cause and effect.” Most times when something goes wrong, it’s something much farther up the chain, called the root cause, that started a domino sequence resulting in a totally and seemingly unrelated failure or effect. Weddings are no exception. Pretty cool, eh?
As an example just how much can go wrong, I was hired to teach a couple to dance for their wedding. Then, they invited me to their wedding. They had already hired the venue and went with the in-house DJ, or as they said, they would have hired me for that, too. The key failure was the DJ’s lack of knowledge running a wedding, despite claiming to have 10 years of experience. His sound system was cheap, all setup wrong, and the music was totally distorted – at dinner. He then failed to make 2 announcements on the mic. How hard could that have been, to pick up the mic and say something? It cost the bride $9,000 in the room. Nothing to do with the music directly, but it created a huge problem. The bad sound caused 150 of the 200 guests to leave at 9:30. His failure to announce the centre piece give away, meant that they sat there and no one knew they were allowed to take them home. Our DJs make this a really fun part of the dinner period. The second thing he didn’t announce was the late night buffet which was outside in the lobby, behind the closed doors of the ballroom. Sadly, most of the guests had long since left and even the few that tolerated the bad music never even knew about the food. $6,000 worth of centre pieces went unappreciated and $3,000 worth of food went uneaten. The bride had no issue with spending the money (!), so long as she got value. It was the lack of value that infuriated her. The DJ did “what” he does for “that” price, so he thinks he met his responsibility obligation. The lack of DJ experience impacted many vendor expenses: the decor (centre pieces), food (late night buffet), party (empty room), photography and video (nothing to capture). The guests did not have a good time and neither did the bride and groom as they watched their wedding day walk out the door. They lost a lot more than the money they saved hiring a cheap DJ, hence, the John Ruskin quotes. So profound. Here’s another:
“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives, the cumulative experience of many masters of craftsmanship. Quality also marks the search for an ideal after necessity has been satisfied and mere usefulness achieved.” John Ruskin
I think the root cause of the problem was not asking enough questions about the DJ, sound equipment, tone and volume and over 30 other things many couples shouldn’t assume to be in good standing or take for granted. We have 40 on our list of features, advantages and benefits to you. Interested? This is where I recommend you invest the time to learn all about the vendors and really understand what you’re getting and what’s missing.
Personally, by the time I hire a contractor to work on my house, I know more about their trade than they do, and I also know where they cut corners to save time (time is money) and hope I won’t notice. As a result, I do all my own renovation work to a level they can’t hope to touch, because I invest the time to do it perfectly, reap the rewards that come with pride of workmanship and save a ton of money not paying for a contractor more fixated on getting on to the next job sooner than doing my job right.
Wedding Vendor Price Enquiry
Here are two more examples of enquiries we receive daily. I’m sure it’s the same for most wedding vendors.
- Wants a range of prices
- Wants a quote (a price)
1) Wants a Range of Prices:
When a prospect calls and wants a range of prices, it really doesn’t help them. Here’s why, based on 50 people. Notice, that before I even start, I’ve already added a specification – the number of guests. Some vendors need to know this, or they can’t even start talking price. Imagine asking the venue for a range of prices: $80-120 per person. Your actual total cost depends on the number of guests or $4,000-$6,000 in this case. Secondarily, that impacts the size of banquet room and that is further affected by availability on any given date. If they aren’t available, price doesn’t matter. So, there are specific questions and order in which to ask these questions. We have that help available.
Then, the photographer is asked, and replies with $2,000-4,500. Then the DJ offers range from $750-1,500. With just these three vendors, we get a range of $6,750 to $11,500, or a difference of $4,750. That difference alone, with only 3 vendors, is the cost of another whole slightly smaller wedding!
So the rhetorical question already is “are you planning between 1 and 3 weddings?” Sounds silly, but, ranges from vendors are useless for a dozen reasons. Suppose after calling 100 vendors in 30 categories, you end up with $20-50,000. How can you pull the trigger to start booking and paying for these services and know you won’t run out of money? Is it $20,000 or $50,000?
To make this worse, some vendors charge a gratuity, such as food and beverage vendors, and it’s 15-18%, and most vendors charge the sales tax (In Ontario, Canada, it’s 13% HST), so a $100 meal is now $129! That’s 29% over budget, with only one aspect of what this one vendor (venue) may be able to offer you.
Coincidentally, a wedding enquiry came in while I was writing this article. The bride is planning a wedding for September 2021. No indication or where, when, what hours, number of guests, ceremony or not, MC needed, lighting… and in the comment box she wrote “Bride will contact the DJ once she has a quote.”
How can anyone offer a quote when there is so little known as needed by this particular vendor category? I fear she’s going about this all wrong and while she may get a vendor to offer a quote, it could be so far off, she could get caught with a vendor who only wants her money or a vendor who can’t deliver the actual results she wants. Neither is good. Be careful.
I’ve had brides refuse to tell me the date, or location. If I’m already booked on their date, the price is not going to matter, because they can’t hire me anyway. With no location, how would I know where I’m being expected to travel, in order to know how to price things? Would you agree that for many vendors to provide their services, they would need to know at least these two things and more? So why not just include them in our first conversation? I thought asking about the date and location were reasonable questions. What do you think?
Please realize that you need to offer up the specific details that you think each vendor might need to know to provide their service, and likely at least that much to quote it.
I’ve done it myself: Called a company to ask about… roofing. Learned stuff. Called another company, and learned something else. Called the first company back, now able to ask better questions, so when I compare their offers, I’m comparing the same outcome. One company tried to sell me shingles with a 10-year warranty for $6,500 and one with a 50 year warranty for $18,000. The latter said “you have to derate the shingles by 10 years, because the weather impacts one side of the roof more than the other, and you need some plywood replaced, double layer of ice shield, 22 more soffit vents, 8 more roof vents and a 25-foot ridge vent…” Wow. Who Knew? OK. 50-10 = 40. 10 -10 = 0. Hmm. Three times the price, 5 times the warranty, 4 times the actual life expectancy and a host of problems solved which would have ruined the rest of my internal renovations costing ten times this much. I love my more expensive, best value roof!!!
My offer of help is to provide you with the questions in the first place, so as you research your vendors, you’re getting a better sense of what they offer. On that note, if they don’t mention something, they may not offer it!
Be prepared to talk to the vendors, listen to their “story”, judge how much they care, and learn what they actually need to know in order to provide their services. You also stand to gain a huge insight into what they can really do for you, and then, set aside the money to have that level of wonderful service and amazing results. The more vague you chose to be, the less accurate the pricing will be and the more over budget you will go trying to get what you later realize you want. What if the vendor just can’t do what you want?
In the DJ space, I can tell you that many DJs don’t offer lighting. Of those that do, few offer DMX control and fewer offer computerized DMX control, like Perpetual Rhythms does. So if you hire them as your DJ and then decide you want room decor lighting, or head table lighting, or dance floor lighting, and they don’t/can’t do it, and surely won’t spend many thousands of dollars to buy the lights and hundreds of hours to program them… for one wedding, what can you do? If they rent on the day of, where’s the time for programming? A whole other set of problems await and you simply won’t get the results you now realize you want. If you cancel the DJ to hire a better one that has all the extras you want, you risk losing the deposit paid to the first DJ because you cancelled them. And so it goes… Sad.
Be careful with vendors who rent what you’re hiring them to provide. We’ve seen DIY backdrop decor rentals that fell down (making the bride 20 minutes late for her own wedding!), DJ rentals that are broken, failed during the event, or where a lack of skill or preparation rendered the rental unusable. Perpetual Rhythms owns everything we use, and it’s kept in meticulous condition. Rental failures are especially true in the DJ space because equipment is treated roughly, because “it’s not the renter’s gear”, and can impact couples who try to DIY their own music from a playlist. Would you rent two of everything, to have backup on-site? Not likely, and yet, with only the minimal rental, you are risking everything. We bring everything in duplicate, triplicate and more, so we are sure to provide the most reliable service as we promised. I’ve seen DIY weddings with no dancing, because there was no music, because the equipment could not be made to work, or failed. Saved a few dollars though. Talk about cause and effect!
The more you talk to your vendors, to more you’ll learn and come to appreciate what they do, what it takes and what it will cost to have what you now realize you want. Ever gone to a restaurant, planning to have a certain entree and upon viewing the menu, notice a new item that you love, just didn’t know they offered that?
A vendor’s website is their “menu.” If they don’t mention “x”, they don’t want to talk about it, and that’s a big red flag. This holds true for all your vendors, each of which should be intent on continual improvement, enhancements to put themselves ahead of the competition. You benefit.
Finally, buying local is another great way to plan your wedding and support local businesses. It’s great to google vendors such as your dress from the far east, but, what if there’s a problem, delay in shipping, or it needs alterations? What if you need extra fabric or lace? Local shops may be reluctant to touch a dress they didn’t make and may not be able to get the exact material. Best for Bride has hundreds of dresses and will you’ll be thrilled.
When you hire local vendors, you can build a great and trusting relationship with them. Having them travel to your wedding, even hours away, brings their expertise that far away vendors you’ll never meet or experience and hope for the best may not. The more rural your wedding location, the most important this is.
We are located in Toronto, service a wide area and are happy to travel all over Ontario to create the most emotional wedding experiences and we’d love to have you discover what that means for you. I have dozens of ideas to help you have an epic wedding.
Call me, Ron, at 647 528 3548 (DJ4U) or email me, with thanks.
I wish you all the fun and success as you plan your wedding.
Check Best for Bride blog for “How to Select DJ Entertainment for Your Wedding.” Coming Soon.