As wedding professionals, it’s our job to bring our clients’ dreams to life—but, when budgets are tight and expectations are high, we can feel more like crushers of dreams than granters of wishes. Add stunning social media images to the mix and you’ve got directions that will send you straight to disappointment disaster town. A bride may see a gorgeous floral arch on Pinterest and get her heart set on having something similar, without realizing that achieving that same look might eat up half (or even more) of her entire decor budget. So, how do you help clients reign in their expectations and redirect their focus on what they can afford, without turning into the grinch who stole their pretty Pinterest dreams? We’ve got a few ideas for you below. Read on for tips on keeping tight-budget couples on track:
Set Realistic Expectations From the Start
The best advice we can give is to be realistic from the get-go. As planners, couples come to us after getting engaged—they’re excited (maybe more excited than they’ve ever been about anything) and full of ideas, and, while you certainly don’t want to be a dream-crusher, it’s your job to reign in those ideas and set realistic expectations about what they can afford from the get-go. While it may feel harsh or uncomfortable to get real from your very first meeting, you’re not doing the couple any favors by waiting until halfway through the planning process to tell them that floral chandelier they’ve had their eyes set on is galaxies away from what they can actually afford. Be kind—but honest—from the start of your relationship; that way, your couples are never left surprised or feeling like they were misled.
Choose an Area of Focus
If your couple can’t quite afford to recreate every single one of the stunning Pinterest images they have their heart set on, a great option can be to have them choose an area of focus: reception or ceremony. You can suggest a romantic, understated ceremony and save the bulk of the floral and decor budget for the reception; or, vice-versa: throw an over-the-top ceremony dripping in florals, and opt for a chic, modern/minimalistic aesthetic for the reception. Some couples would rather go big in a single area and have one wow-factor (a jaw-dropping ceremony), than spread the budget evenly out across the entire wedding, and have nothing in particular worth swooning over.
Location, Location, Location
Venue choice can make all the difference for a couple who may have a tight decor budget. If they can’t afford a ton of florals and added decor to dress up a space, you want to start with the most stunning foundation possible (a gorgeous beachfront ceremony, a reception in an all-glass art museum, etc.). If your couple is hoping for gorgeous images from their Big Day, but can’t afford to transform a blank-slate space into a wedding wonderland, you want to emphasize how important choosing a pretty venue can be—that way, they’ll still wind up with stunning photographs and guests who leave in awe, without having to break their budget to dress up a lackluster setting.
Set a Strategy to Repurpose
They key to both a stunning ceremony and reception on a tight budget? Repurpose. If your couple is using floral garlands for their ceremony arch, figure out how you can use those (rather than brand-new florals) for the reception—maybe you scrap the arrangement they had planned for the sweetheart table and use the ceremony garland to add some life to their table instead. Encourage your couple to start looking at every item they choose for their ceremony as something that can be repurposed for the reception—it’s a strategic and budget-savvy move, and one of the most overlooked ways to save when it comes to wedding planning. From cocktail-hour centerpieces to swags on the back of ceremony chairs to linens, figure out ways to make every single design detail work a double-shift on their Big Day.
Select a Single Must-Have Item
Wedding planning can be a bit like house shopping—which means you, as the planner, are the realtor. We recommend having your couple choose a single non-negotiable (just as they would when house-hunting). Whether it’s a stunning floral arch, those hand-painted pomegranate place cards the bride’s been wanting, or a crystal chandelier over the dance floor, there’s usually one single design detail that will make the couple’s Pinterest dreams come true. Find out what it is they absolutely have to have, and then play with the budget to scale other design details back in the name of getting them their must-have dream decor item. It can also help to offer couples a clear understanding of how much they’re paying per guest and how much their dream item will cost. (I.e. The floral chandelier you want is the equivalent of 13 guests.) That might encourage those who’ve invited everyone under the sun to take a long, hard look at their guest list and make cuts where appropriate (sorry, second cousins) to ensure they can afford their dream decor item.