Getting Started - rue29 Napa Valley Wedding & Event Planner
There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.
MFK Fisher

Getting Started

Getting Started

Congratulations! You just got engaged – now the fun begins! During my very first phone consultation, I advise couples to begin with the wedding budget. This process is comparable  to purchasing a home. There is absolutely no point in looking at homes you cannot afford. Likewise, there is no point in spending your valuable time looking at venues that are outside the wedding budget. Next question is usually “How do we go about writing our wedding budget?”  There are so many outstanding tools available these days – from The Knot wedding budget calculator to Wedding Wire interactive tools and templates. The wedding business has become a huge industry and the amount of wedding related websites attest to that.  And of course, your wedding planner is very skilled at writing wedding budgets and they know your local pricing for venues and vendors.

Planning a destination wedding can be a daunting task. I understand. Start with a reputable wedding planner who lives and works in the area where your wedding will be held. They are the best place to begin. In order to create your wedding budget, you will need to understand how much vendors cost in the area. There is no point in writing an unrealistic budget that is going to frustrate both of you before you even leave the house. Do your homework in advance. If you are looking at specific venues, ask them for a written estimate before your site visit and also ask if they will share their preferred vendor list.

My advice is to sit down together at the outset and prioritize the importance of each of the vendors. What is the most important part of the wedding for each of you? Is photography very important? Food & wine? Floral & décor? Music &  entertainment? Your honeymoon? Establish a wedding email account. This is a very beneficial tip to help you stay organized. You are going to be getting more email than you ever imagined in the coming months. Look for a credit card with a low APR and  an excellent rewards program. Open a wedding savings account and watch your discretionary spending. Stick to the budget – I promise you will feel a lot less stress as wedding day approaches.

This is a helpful breakdown to get you started. Depending upon their level of involvement, each of these vendor’s percentages will vary. If you want a very elaborate wedding design, then décor will be your most important vendor. Maybe you have a 3-day destination wedding weekend planned, then you may need to allocate more of the budget to food and beverage for the weekend.

  • Reception: 45%-50%
  • Ceremony: 2%-3%
  • Wedding Planner 10%-20%
  • Photography/Videography: 7%-12%
  • Floral Design: 6%-10%
  • Entertainment/Music: 6%-10%
  • Parking/Transportation: 2%-3%
  • Gifts/Favors/Gratuities: 2%-5%
  • Paper goods/ Postage: 3%-6%
  • Attire & Beauty: 5%-10%
  • Wedding Rings: 3%-8%
  • Miscellaneous: 8%-15% (décor, equipment rentals, lighting, linen, supplemental parties, rain plan, honeymoon)
  • Contingency: 3%-5%


Choosing a wedding date – off-season and mid-week weddings can save money. Not only with your venue, but also on lodging and often airfare. However, if you choose a wedding in spring or late fall, make sure your venue has a rain plan in place. You don’t want to be installing a tent unexpectedly, when the whole idea was to save money.

In my opinion, photography is very  important. Ideally, your photographer should be familiar with your venue and the local environs. An efficient photographer on wedding day keeps your day moving and allows you time with your friends and family.

Keep the lines of communication flowing during this process, be honest with each other and with your vendors and above all else, have fun.

Photo credit: Julie Kay Kelly Photography 

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