You may have an incredible vision for your event, but it can be hard to translate into a realistic budget.
Guests who attend a successful event experience something beautiful, exciting, and memorable. However, a smooth function takes hours of hard work to organize and pull together. An event budget is one of many important parameters you must work with in the planning process. Successful events require a financial investment, but every purchase should support your goal. Unfortunately, it’s easy for your imagination to outpace your wallet. Here are nine tips to help you stick to your spending plan without sacrificing your vision.
Related: The Absolute Best Free Wedding Budget Template
1. Clarify Your Goals
It’s important to get specific about your event goals before you build a budget. For example, planning an outdoor wedding is very different from hosting a fancy fundraiser. Think about the people attending your event and the experience you hope to give them. What venue, theme and activities do you need to achieve your objectives?
Take a moment to envision your event. Imagine it’s been a brilliant success, and people are thanking you as they leave. Now, write down what triumph looks like in your brain. Be as specific as you can and use numbers – like how many people came and what kind of reviews they gave. Once you have a clear goal, you can use your budget as a tool to get there.
2. Compile Funding
The next step is understanding how much money you have to work with. Some events pay for themselves in tickets and sponsorships. Others connect people but don’t make any profit to cover the expense of putting them on. Think about the financial resources available for this function and tally everything up.
You need a solid estimate of funds before you start talking to vendors or looking at locations. If you don’t have enough financially to achieve your vision, consider connecting with more sponsors or putting a smaller event on first. You can use extra proceeds from the first to fund the second.
3. Estimate Your Expenses
The second part of budgeting is understanding your expenses. Although you might not have hard numbers yet for different event costs, you can get good estimates with a little research. Make a thorough list of everything you need and write estimates for every item. Some of these fees might surprise you.
Every event is different, but there are a few expenses you’ll need to consider for all of them. These include securing your venue, providing food and beverages, and hiring entertainment. You may also need to consider the cost of renting technical equipment, vendors, transportation, decor and a cleaning crew.
4. Refine Guest Count
The guest count has a direct impact on your budget. This impacts the size of your venue and determines how much food you’ll need. Refreshments are often one of the largest expenses for organizing an event. This means you can stay within your spending plan simply by controlling your guest count.
Sometimes, it’s better to invite more rather than fewer people to your event. You can get things in bulk or make deals with vendors to reduce the cost of items after a certain number. Use a calculator and experiment with the numbers to see how your guest count could affect your function.
5. Focus on Impact
Make the most of your budget by spending more on items that will make the most impact. Take a conference, for example. You can allocate funds toward comfortable lodging for guests, excellent speakers and good food. It’s OK if you don’t have incredible gift bags afterwards. Start with the basics and always keep attendees’ convenience in mind.
You can also strategize to achieve multiple goals with single purchases. For example, you could host a wedding in a rose garden. This combines two things – the venue and decor – so you can spend a bit more on other things. Investing in a gorgeous locale can also increase the value of wedding photography and videography.
6. Think Creatively
It may seem impossible to achieve your vision with your available funding. This is the perfect opportunity to exercise your creative muscles and find an unlikely solution to your problem. You may have to shift your vision, but you don’t have to ditch it entirely.
To do this, you have to start by looking at the most expensive option you want. Examples include hiring a famous speaker, getting a live band or decking an entire ballroom in fairy lights. Now, think about how you can achieve a similar effect for less. Could you hire a speaker that’s not as well known? Could you enhance the atmosphere by dimming the lights and adding candles?
7. Question the Norm
A huge part of budgeting well is breaking through assumed stereotypes. For example, guests tend to expect certain things at events. Examples include wine at a wedding reception, breakout rooms at a conference and entertainment at a fundraiser. These expectations can help you structure your event, but they can also significantly strain your finances.
What if you reinvented the norm this time? The guest experience should still be your priority. However, there are many creative ways to work around expensive assumptions so you save money and your guests still have a fabulous time. Question every decision you make during your planning process to ensure it will help you reach your goals.
8. Keep Good Records
One of the best things you can do is to keep good records of your entire process. Write down your expected budget, each decision you make and how they turned out. Record actual financial costs and adjust your budget in real-time – it’s not set in stone until the event ends and the last dollar comes in.
You may also want to consider investing in project management software. It can be difficult to keep everyone on the same page and stay on top of the process if you’re organizing a large event. Project management tools can reduce stress and ensure everything is ready before your function. It also gives you one place to store contracts and other official documentation.
Stick to Your Vision and Your Budget
Working with a strict event budget doesn’t mean your event will be boring. Your spending plan is only one of many tools you can use to accomplish your vision and throw a party your guests will remember forever. Understanding your finances is the first step toward using them most effectively.
After an event is over and the guests go home, you should always take time to review the process. Think about what went well and areas you could improve in the future. Money is only useful if you know how to manage it well. With time and practice, you’ll learn to throw an incredible event that uses every dollar to its advantage.
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Cora Gold is the Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine Revivalist, and she enjoys keeping up with the exciting world of event planning and hospitality. Follow Cora on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more life, style, and home inspiration.