The Wedding Planning Triangle: Budget, Guest Count & Taste Level

Hi everyone!  Planning your wedding is such a joyful time in your life!  You said yes and you're on a high.  Now you're ready to plunge into planning your dream wedding!  Let's go!  But wait - how many guests should you invite?  Who's paying and what level of taste do you have? What should your budget be? As we are planning more and more weddings, we constantly find ourselves explaining what we call the three constraints of wedding planning.  Bear with us, we're going to get a bit heady here.  I'd like to show you a concept called the WEDDING PLANNING TRIANGLE.  Our colleague Rhonda from Precisely as Planned introduced us to this idea and we just love it!


If you've been to business school or have studied project management at all, you've probably heard of the "project management triangle."  Basically there's a project with three constraints in opposition and they mesh to create your overall  project.  Well, isn't a wedding just a giant very personal project?  Let's visit Wedding Planning Graduate School.  Insert the WEDDING PLANNING TRIANGLE.

The constraints are budget, guest count and level of taste.  The way this works is the following: You get to pick two and the third is determined by the other two.  Here are a few examples:

1) You set a budget of $20,000 and have a guest list of 300 guests.  I hate to break it to you, but with the average wedding coming in around $30,000 with an average guest count of 150, you may have limited your options.  Instead of caviar and surf and turf, you may be looking more at fast food options.

2) You know you are a champagne tastes kind of girl, so you are high on the taste level scale.  Your budget is $40,000.  Great!  If those constraints are set, your guest count will be determined by them.  Altar Ego Weddings performed a calculation based on statistics provided by The Wedding Report in THIS blog post.  The average cost per guest for a wedding these days is around $200.    Therefore, for an "average" wedding, you could invite 200 guests.  But - remember, you have champagne tastes and know what you want tends to cost more than average.  Let's estimate you will spend $300 per guest.  Based on that, reduce your guest count to 133.  You will have less guests, but the more extravagant options you prefer.

 Mercedes Morgan Photography

Mercedes Morgan Photography

3) You have a non-negotiable guest count of 250 people and you absolutely must have a seated 4-course dinner, open bar and the best band in the city.  With these constraints, your budget needs to be higher.  From our blog post calculation, you can extrapolate that you will need a $50,000 budget to have an "average" wedding.  Let's assume an average wedding has a buffet and a reasonably-priced, but decent quality DJ.  You will need to up your budget significantly to get your must-haves.

We've just sucked all the joy out your your wedding planning, haven't we?  We've reduced your wedding to a project in an MBA class.  Not exactly.  As wedding planners, a good portion of our job is educating our clients.  You haven't planned a wedding before.  We've planned over 100!  We can look at things objectively just like this.  We can help you work through your planning without having all the emotions and dreams you have.  We know how much things cost and how to work within these constraints.  

You can probably see that a lot of your "project" boils down to guest count and budget.  Most of this constraint situation can be resolved by just changing your guest count.  Another option is to accept trade-offs within your budget.  So maybe you have to have that band, but you're OK with not having the most expensive invitations in the world.  Or maybe you decide you're willing to up your budget for something you've absolutely fallen in love with.  This happens more often than not.  What we want to communicate how the relationship between the three constraints can affect your wedding planning.  We are here to help you walk through this!  We will listen to you and help you make wise decisions during your planning process.  We can help you understand the impact of making a certain choice over another.  Contact us today to get started!  We want to relieve your stress!  From full-service wedding planning to pointing you in the right direction with our month-of coordination package, we have a level of service you can use!  Visit our Services page to find out more.