Planning an event on a budget

Event Planners: On a Tight Budget? Read This!

Everyone wants to save money these days. But in your event planning career you might encounter one or two clients who expect a lavish party or event on a very strict budget. There are ways to keep your costs in check and still give the client a taste of luxury!

Set expectations early!

As a planner, your first duty is to set your clients’ expectations right off the bat. Sit down with your clients and explain to them that their budget will not get them everything they want. Together, talk about where your clients are willing to scale back to save on costs, and where they want to spend the most. Have examples of some compromises ready for them to choose from.

Such as:

The Location

Renting a space for an event is expensive! If you can hold the event at someone’s home or in their back yard, that can save you quite a fair chunk of change. If it’s a corporate event, consider holding it at the company’s headquarters.

If those aren’t options, consider other non-traditional locations for your event. Museums, cinemas, out-of-season sporting arenas are a few examples of locations you may want to contact for your event. While these locations may not advertise their venues, most of them do rent out space at a very reasonable rate. After all, it doesn’t hurt to call and ask!

Plan the event location carefully

The Date & Time

If you do have to rent a space, consider holding the event on a weekday rather than a weekend. Many venues offer discounts for weekday events.

Also, you can save a heap of cash by holding your event during the day rather than in the evening. By holding an earlier event, the guests will not expect a five-course meal with wine, etc. You can do a simple brunch or tea service for food, which are both elegant and far more cost effective than the dinner alternative.

Ditch the Print

Instead of spending money on printing & mailing invitations, create a website for the event and send invitations via email. Guests can RSVP on the website which will not only save you money, but loads of time as well!

Does your event have a program? Don’t print it out, either. Post it on the website and have a single, large, printed copy made available for all to see at the entrance to your event.

Food & Drink

Depending on the type of event you’re holding, and how tight your budget is, you can consider holding a potluck where all the guests bring a little something themselves. This really only works, however, at informal parties where only close friends/family are invited.

If you are serving food, a buffet will always be less expensive than a sit-down meal. You should also limit the amount of alcohol available. Ditch the open bar and instead opt for a few bottles of wine per table, period.

Also, whatever your final food budget is, you can probably get away with slashing it by a good 10% or so. Planners always have the tendency of ordering too much food. Cut the food budget up-front, and you’ll still end up with happy guests and fewer leftovers!

Don't order too much food for event


Here’s where most planners break the bank without even intending to do so! As you well know, you should always have a vision of what the event will look like before you start spending. If you’re on a budget, go even further. Once you have your vision in mind, consider where you can make some concessions and save on costs. For example, you can purchase cheap balloons, streamers, etc. at the dollar store for a fraction of the cost at a party store. Sure the balloons won’t have anything written on them but in the end, will anyone care?

Staying away from the floral is another sure fire way to save some dough. Instead of flowers as centerpieces consider a simple candle arrangement (which you can also get at the dollar store!) or have fun with other types of table toppers. Nothing screams elegance and intimacy more than a few well-arranged floating candles!

Avoid these areas

No matter how much you want to save on costs, there are two areas where I strongly discourage you from doing so.


If your event is something like a wedding or a sweet sixteen party where the clients want to document the milestone with photos, get a good photographer and pay them what they’re worth. There are plenty of other areas to cut costs. Your clients will never forgive you if they end up with terrible photos or even worse, no photos at all!

Event Photographer


While you can probably cut costs by going with a DJ instead of a band, it’s important that whichever entertainment professional you hire, they have a good reputation and are committed to your event. We’ve heard countless horror stories of clients trying to save money by hiring cheap DJs, for example, only to have their event ruined by their unprofessionalism.

In the end…

As long as you set the expectations with your client when you first get started, I’m sure the event will end up being a smash! Just one more, very important point:

Don’t devalue your services!

Especially if you’re just starting out as a new event planner, you may be tempted to price your services lower than the industry standard, just so you can get a few clients through the door. Here’s our advice: don’t. Don’t work for less than what you’re worth. And certainly don’t work for free!

You charge for your services, and the client came to you because he/she doesn’t mind paying for that service. If the client tries to save money by negotiating on your prices, don’t play that game. Instead, offer to scale back on your services to stay within the client’s budget.

Got any tips for how to work on a budget? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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