Event Budget: Cutting the Right Corners

I want to go ahead and preface everything I’m about to say with one thing: this is not just for planning an event budget. This is for planning an event budget that will include entertainment.

planning an event budgetCommon costs for an event:

1. Food
2. Drinks
3. DJ
4. Entertainment
5. Decorations
6. Venue

All of these are important. But more importantly than all of those put together is the “P” word…PRIORITIES!

Before you spend one dollar…

If you ask yourself this question before you start event planning, you will likely have a much easier time cutting corners:

What do I want people talking about after this event?

You might be surprised to know that most everything on that list will never be talked about, no matter how much money you spend. I really want you to get that. Most everything on that list will never be talked about! I have performed at events of major Fortune 500 companies where Filet Mignon was served and I’ve never heard one person rave about the food. The only time the food is talked about is when it’s bad. And while we’re at it, I’ve never heard people say, “This alcohol is amazing,” “The music the DJ played was the best part of the event,” or “The decor made my whole night!”

To be fair, in select venues, I’ve heard people speak highly about the location of the event. But when I say select venues, I’m talking about venues that start at $25,000 a night.

Accept this or not, entertainment, magician/comedian/other, will be the most talked about, if not the only talked about, part of your event…good or bad. Trust every word I’m telling you because I’ve never seen evidence to the contrary. 

Why is this the case?

It’s the only part of your event that is truly in the spotlight. A show on stage literally has no competition. Everything else on the list is in constant competition with not only each other, but also with the many conversations being had by your guests and attendees. However, a stage show is the only part of the evening where everything else freezes and all attention is directed to the exact same place at the exact same time by every single guest in the room.

Nonprofits and Fundraisers…seriously read this!

If you’re doing an event where you’re trying to raise money, good entertainment should be the very last thing you cut! Otherwise, you’re eliminating the very thing that can elevate the mood of the whole event. The reason I have returning nonprofit clients try to book me as much as three years in advance is because they’ve seen the irreplaceable result when people are in a good mood. On the other side, I’ve heard on multiple occasions of event tanking because low budget entertainment was used. If you don’t take this seriously, you could end up being in an embarrassing situation. While good entertainment for a fundraiser should be a top priority, I have advised clients to cut entertainment all together before going the low budget route. Too many bad stories.

With that in mind, which corners can be cut?

1. Food

You have to trust me….no matter how good the food is, no one will be talking about it. I’ve seen food budgets cut in half just by switching from steak to chicken.

2. Drinks

Open bars are nice, and if you’ve had them at your events, I don’t have to tell you about the cost. You already know that, depending on the size of your event, this can easily take half your budget. Give each person a free drink ticket. After that, they’re paying for their own. You’ll save thousands, if not much more.

3. DJ

I’ve got no issues with DJs. However, I do have issues with something I just heard about. At a recent event I was hired for, the venue staff told me that the group from the previous week hired a DJ…for $20,000. The kicker is, they said they couldn’t tell the difference between him and every other DJ they had seen in the same venue. If a tenth of that price could’ve been spent for the same quality, was the high price tag worth it?

4. Decorations

I can understand in rare cases that decor is very important. I’ve just seen instances in my career where literally almost an entire budget was spent on decor and not one person made a comment. If you’re shelling out money for an amazing venue, don’t cover it up. Let the charm and character of the venue stand on its own. Keep decorations simple!

5. Venue

It’s hard to find a corner to cut here. The only common way of getting a venue at a lower price is avoiding having your event on a Friday or Saturday. At my own wedding, two-thirds of the venue price was cut just by having the wedding on a Sunday rather than a Saturday.


Priorities. That’s it. I’m not saying cut out anything on this list or anything on your list. All I’m saying is, remember what people are going to be talking about when your event is over. Doesn’t it make sense that the most talked about part of your event should be the part you don’t cut corners on?