Venue poor—what exactly does that even mean?


Essentially, it means you took your overall wedding budget and you used a big ol’ chunk to pay for your venue that, knowingly or not, was well above what you should be spending on this portion of the planning. Then, as you start to move into the other portions of the wedding planning journey, you slowly realize you don’t have enough money left for all the other things you want.


How can you tell if you’re venue poor? Here are a few of the most common symptoms:

  • Having the coolest, most beautiful venue ever but no money to feed your guests, let alone have any decorations. (You: Wait, we have to feed everyone?)
  • Stressing through the remainder of the wedding planning process because you’re pretty sure that you do, in fact, have to feed these people and all these proposals are coming in well over your $50 per person budget that you now have for food. (You: OK, but what if we just do heavy apps and not a full sit-down dinner? Oh, still the same amount…)
  • Having to pack your lunches, cancel your cable and essentially stop doing anything fun for the rest of the wedding planning process so you can afford the food for these people! (You: Why is everyone always so hungry all the time?!)
  • Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, and diarrhea—only joking…kinda. (You: Please pass the Pepto Bismol…)


Eww, but Could That Ever Happen to Me?

Oh, it sure can. No one is safe, and it happens more often than you’d think. That said, there are ways to avoid it. Guess what the number-one way to avoid it is?

1. Yep, You Got It—Hire a Planner

Hire a planner. Hire a planner. HIRE A PLANNER. Seriously! How many blog posts do I have to write before people just listen to me?

Sorry…but, for real, the number-one way to avoid this issue is to hire a planner. At A Fresh Event, the VERY first thing we do is educate you about a Chicago wedding budget.

  • We walk you through the range of what you should expect to spend overall.
  • We create a budget that reflects the amount you wish to spend and the priorities you have for your day.
  • We bring recommendations for venues (and other vendors) to the table that will fit nicely within this amount OR talk to you about what to expect when you decide to splurge on your venue or another area of your day.

We will guide you through the whole process step by step so that you not only fully understand why you are investing what you are into your day but also making you feel confident that the decisions you’re making will not push you over the (budget) edge.

2. Do Your Homework

I know, there really isn’t a whole lot of reliable, consistent information out there specific to Chicago weddings that fully prepares you for what your day will run you. According to The Knot, the average Chicago wedding will cost about $60,000. Now, this does not include all of the different variables that we consider when creating our clients’ budgets, but, ballpark, we tell our clients to be prepared to spend at least $400-$500 per guest* for their day. (This is just for the wedding day and does not include your rehearsal dinner, Sunday brunch and a few other wedding weekend expenses.)

3. 50% Rule

The one piece of advice you’ll see all over the internet that we’ve found to be fairly accurate is that at least 50% of your wedding budget will go to venue, food, and bar. So, this means, if you’re working with that Knot average of $60,000, you should try to shoot for the venue, food, and bar to fall around $30,000–$35,000. This can be tricky, especially if you’re looking at venues that would push you outside of this range.

4. Think of It as You Do Your Personal Budget

Your wedding budget is really no different from your personal budget. As I’m sure you’ve learned the hard way, if you make a few big splurges right after you get paid, it can make the rest of the time leading up to your next payday a little painful. Same with your wedding—a splurge here and there is totally fine, but splurging on your venue and then quickly hiring a band before you really understand your budget and how far it can realistically go can leave you dreading the rest of the process.

5. Realistic Expectations

Oh, realistic expectations! Nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to get you through the planning process in one piece like realistic expectations. The very first conversation with our clients is a tough love one about their budget and what they can expect to see it do for them. We’re not mean, of course, but we just don’t sugarcoat anything. Getting married in Chicago is expensive. If you’re sitting on a $60,000 budget and are inviting 200 people, you’re going to be very limited to where you can host your wedding, and you’ll have to be flexible in other areas of your day as well. Working with a planner early on is going to be a great way to help you understand all of this before you commit yourself to a venue.

I Think I’m Venue Poor. What Do I Do Now?


Hire a Planner

Don’t worry. It happens to the best of us. We’re going to tell you again, hire a planner. We know it might not make sense to spend more money when you are struggling a bit, but no one else is going to be able to better guide you through the rest of the process and make sure the decisions you make from here on out are budget smart. Investing in a planner is a wise money decision. (We know, you think we’re just saying this because we’re planners, but HONESTLY, we have helped so many couples with their budgets, and we have stories we can share with you that illustrate this!)

Tighten the Belt Strap

People don’t like it when we give them this advice, but…Stop going out for lunch every day. Stay away from Amazon and the mall. Put a hold on your jet-setting ways for a bit. Put yourself on a strict budget and save as much as you can. We know it’s not fun in the moment, but it will be worth it in the end. Because, believe you me, your guests will absolutely notice if there is no food at your wedding.

Revisit Your Priorities

Be OK with the decision that you made, and move on with a new plan of attack. You spent a lot on your venue, and there was a very good reason for that: You fell in love with the space and just couldn’t imagine getting married anywhere else. So, now it’s just time to readjust your priorities/budget so that you aren’t feeling stressed and stretched during the rest of the planning process.

*There are absolutely exceptions to the $400–$500 per person advice, but I have found it to be a fairly realistic estimate with couples who choose to work with A Fresh Event.

If you enjoyed this article, may we interest you in any of the following:

To talk more about working with A Fresh Event, head HERE.