How to Plan a Kick Ass Wedding for Under $40K
Updated: Aug 11
Most newly engaged couples feel defeated with the belief that planning their dream wedding will be too expensive and too difficult. Here are some of our favorite tips on how to plan a kick ass wedding for under $40K.
Keep your guest count low. The number one factor in the cost of your wedding is the number of people who attend. Your catering and bar packages will be per person, every table is an added $100-250+ in centerpiece cost, even your DJ package can be affected by the number of guests in attendance since a higher guest count requires more sound equipment. But how low is low enough? There’s no magic number here, but our clients who have been the most successful at keeping their total spend under $40K have had guest counts under 150.
Decide on your priorities. To keep your wedding at or under $40K in and around Chicago is going to require some compromise. You will not be able to have all the things. I know it stings a little to read, but I promise you, if you’re intentional about deciding on your priorities and sticking to them, it’ll be far easier to avoid shiny object syndrome & stay on budget. I’ve written a lot of posts both on the blog & IG on how to set your priorities, but whatever method you choose, I recommend deciding firmly on a top 3 and a bottom 3. That way when shiny object come up, if it’s on that bottom 3 list, the answer is a hard pass. Here is an example of one our past couples’ top 3 & bottom 3:
Here’s how that translated into our spending:
We made food part of the experience for the guests & created interactive stations for them to participate in throughout the night. Apps were hand passed, dinner was filled with action stations (including a Sushi station), dessert was a sweets bar that included to-go bags for later, we brought in an ice cream cart for the last part of the evening & brought in Jets pizza for guests to take as drunk food on the way out. Other experiences included a Caricaturist and an interactive experience with the design through the invitations which had a velvet liner to them. Alternatively, our bride bought her dress off the rack at Nordstroms, hired a DJ with a very basic package and didn’t spend money on favors.
Your power is in setting these priorities first.
Hire your vendors in the correct order. We personally believe there is a right order to book your vendors in.
Your venue or Planner will always be your first hire. A Planner is the only vendor you can hire without a date and you can’t get a date without booking the venue.
If photography is on your top 3, then hire your photographer next. The most popular ones book up quickly.
Then book your catering before doing anything else. Why? Your catering will be most significant total spend you have for your wedding. If you nail this number down early, then you have the power of knowing what’s left and making smart spends from there. We have a couple we’re working with now that all planning has haulted until we make a final decision on a caterer because I cannot intelligently advise them on how to design their wedding or if they can afford some of their B level preference vendors until I know what their catering total looks like.
Then book based on the priorities you set. Want a moving wedding film? Book your Cinematographer next. Is design the most important thing to you? Great, start working through that vision with your florist and get final numbers decided on before moving down the list.
Be willing to think outside the box. We have 2 couples last year that opted out of working with a traditional event caterer. One catered from their favorite restaurant and the restaurant provided servers and one opted for drop of catering from their fave taco spot. In that case we hired an event staffing company to provide servers, bartenders, & staff for setup & tear down. It took a little creativity but they both spent less than half of what most of my couples do working with an event caterer. We offered that option up to another couple who wanted to make sure that the chefs and serving staff were used to working events so the experience for their guests would be flawless. Again… goes back to priorities. We’ve even had clients book their venue off of Peer Space, which has saved them some cash.
Work with a Planner. This is not just a shameless plug. (although, while I have your attention, HIRE US!) But for reals. Planners do this all the time. We know all of the options and the effects of choosing those options, like if the space you booked on Peerspace doesn’t include tables & chairs, where to get those items and how much they’re going to cost. We also know a thing or two about getting creative. One couple last year spent about $45 per table on centerpieces (much lower than our $100-$250 average) because we were able to help them creatively express their vision while staying in budget. We also usually know which bridal boutiques are having trunk shows and which stationers give complimentary return addressing for being a referral of ours. We also know where it is really important NOT to cut the budget (event staff, photo/video coverage hours for example). I know many Planners, that have paid for themselves just in the money they have saved their clients, either in creative solutions, or avoiding last minute fiasco charges.
Planning a wedding under $40K in Chicago might seem like an impossible task, but with these tips, you’re well on your way to having your dream wedding on budget.