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5 Event Budget Guidelines to Live By

November 6, 2015

When planning the event of your dreams, things can add up quickly. It’s easy to forget about the small (yet essential) stuff in favor of the far more exciting decisions and overlook the cost of upgrade after upgrade.

We aren’t here to put out your fire, we just want to give you some guidance. That’s why we’ve compiled these important event budget guidelines every event organizer should live by.

Maybe these were already on the forefront of your mind, or maybe they hadn’t even crossed it. Either way, these are the budget decisions that shouldn’t be trifled with.

IMG_39151. Remember Lighting

This is probably the biggest budget expense that goes overlooked. It’s hard to imagine that beautiful, sunny venue you reserved looking dark and scary, but that’s what happens when the sun goes down and your event doesn’t have proper lighting.

Make sure you consider the time of day your event will be taking place and plan lighting accordingly. It’s probably the least fun accessory you need to plan, but it’s also one of the most important. The lighting of a venue can completely determine the mood.

Instead of dreading this cost, get excited about it. Imagine how to give your event that perfect glow or fun aesthetic and plan your lighting accordingly.

2. Plan Extra Services

Are you going to offer valet parking? How about a full bar? Who does your clean up crew consist of?

It’s easy to forget about these knitty gritty details, but it’s the small things that count when throwing an unforgettable event. Figure out what services your event needs to offer in order to make the guest experience the best it can be.

Once you figure out what services you need, it’s time to look at manpower. Do a cost-benefit analysis on extra services like valet and coat check and see where you can cut costs. Maybe you can find a creative way to let people hang their coats themselves or hire neighborhood kids to help with clean up instead of a professional crew.

Sundance Party Dining Room3. Be Realistic With Catering

We know how awesome it would be to have a four course dinner catered, or to offer three different kinds of cake, or to make sure all of your food is organic, but those special somethings can add up quick.

Have a straightforward discussion with your caterer about what the extras are going to run you and then figure out your priorities. Maybe you drop a course to make sure everything is organic, or you skip on an elaborate dessert for a simple fondue fountain. These little compromises will keep your budget in check.

Besides the food, you have a few other catering decisions to make. Will you serve guest individually or buffet-style? What will your plating and linens look like? It’s worth asking yourself these questions and coming to the caterer with some ideas in mind, then you can have an effective budget discussion when the time comes.

4. Know Your Audience

If you plan an event for 200 people, but only 40 show up, you’ve spent a lot more money than you needed to. You should have metrics in place that will help you get a realistic idea of how many people are going to attend your event.

The converse can also be an issue. If you plan for a few hundred guests and a few thousand show up, you’ll burn cash trying to accommodate the extra attendees.

To accurately hit your budget, you need to accurately estimate your attendance. Have guests RSVP or register before the event (well before if you can help it) and make sure to remind guests to do so as the event approaches through emails, save the dates, and other marketing materials.

IMG_34125. Prepare Promotional Materials

You could design the greatest event that’s ever happened, but it won’t matter unless people show up.

It might seem like a no-brainer to budget for promotional materials, but they can have a larger price tag that you may realize.

Just sending invitations isn’t too costly, but designing them, making a logo, creating a landing page, sending follow up invitations, and so on, can definitely cost you a pretty penny. Make sure you have a game plan going into your event planning of what and how many marketing materials you need. That isn’t something you want to do last minute.


These event budget guidelines come from years of organizing events all across the country. If you feel a bit overwhelmed and need some extra guidance planning your event and hitting your budget, feel free to contact us. We are happy to break it down for you.

What other event expenses are you unsure or nervous about? Is there an expense you feel that we missed?

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