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10 Essential Event Budget Expenses for Any Template

10 Essential Event Budget Expenses for Any Template
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Event budgeting. Expenses. Ugh, math! Let’s be honest; event planners rarely enjoy the budgeting portion of their jobs. For many, it’s a necessary evil that they'd rather not deal with. The top event planners, however, understand how important budgeting is to their success.

Whether you’re planning the ultimate party or a corporate event, it’s all about efficiency. If you want to give people the experience of a lifetime, you need to be efficient with your money—and that means budgeting. Plus, you always want to be able to return your client’s original investment. That’s why over 80% of corporate event planners and 60% of non-corporate event planners judge their event’s success based on the event budget above all else. 

Of course, budgeting isn’t always easy, so we’ve put together this article on ten essential event budget expenses to help you create an event budget. And, we’ve created an event budget template to help you get started ASAP! Keep reading to learn more.

What is an event budget, and why are they so important? 

Event budgets are projections about what your potential event income and expenses may be. They help event planners determine the economic viability of events, make spending decisions, measure post-event success, and much more. Without an event budget, it’s difficult to determine the return on investment (ROI) for corporate events, and it makes for a very nervous father of the bride at a wedding. That’s why the best event planners are all budgeting masters.

Budgeting for events keeps the event planner and their clients on the same page and it can help event planners stand out from the crowd in a competitive industry. After all, there are over 140,000 event planners for companies to choose from in the US alone. Whether you’re planning an event or hosting one, event budgets are about as critical as it gets. 

Top tips before creating an event budget

Before you start creating your event budget, there’s a lot of research to do. Look into similar past event budgets to see where you over or underspent. You’ll want to find the right venue, confer with your clients or management, and, of course, nail down your expense list.

But before you do any of that, we have a few top event planner budgeting tips that can help make the budgeting experience much easier. 

  1. Think staffing and venue first. The two largest expenses of any event are usually staffing and venue costs. That’s why it makes sense to find and start negotiating with venue options as soon as possible. You also need to ensure you won’t be stuck spending thousands on staffing agencies at the last minute to staff your event. So make sure you have a staffing plan in place (more on this later).

  1. Lock in vendors and entertainment well in advance. Another expense that can make or break an event is entertainment and catering costs. Many event planners use Angie’s List or Punchbowl to find reputable catering, decor, and other vendors in advance and negotiate prices to secure better deals. It’s similar with entertainment as well. 

  1. Leverage keynote speakers and staff for a social media boost. If you manage to secure your speakers early, include social promotion in their contract to post about your event on social media. After all, it pays to use every marketing method at your disposal. Take advantage of the free promotion.

  1. Create a contingency fund with as much as 25% of the budget. Events are kind of like home renovations—they can go over budget in the blink of an eye. Make sure you’re ready with a contingency fund. The less detailed your budget, the larger your contingency fund should be.

  1. Seek out sponsors. Advertising for events isn’t just about attracting attendees. You can also bring in new sponsors if your event has the right branding and enough engagement online.

The budget allocation for each event differs based on a wide range of factors. For instance, a corporate event might allocate a large portion of the budget to securing a swanky venue. A sweet sixteen may divert more of the budget towards entertainment for the guests. Wherever your priorities lie, it’s a good idea to have a rough idea of where each portion of your budget will go. 

Here is an example of an event budget breakdown for an average large scale event: 

  • Catering ~ 20%
  • Contingency ~ 25%
  • Decor ~ 10 % 
  • Entertainment ~ 15%
  • Marketing ~ 7 %
  • Transportation ~ 3% 
  • Venue & Equipment ~ 20%

If your event is a wedding, marketing costs can be switched out with the costs of invitations and wedding favors which should comprise roughly 5-7% of your budget.

Budgeting isn’t easy, but having a strong budget makes an event planner’s life much easier. And it increases the chances for event success in the eyes of the host. That’s why it’s important to create a budget that covers all the essential event budget expenses.

10 essential event budget expenses for any template

An event budget template can help you track expenses and income so you can feel more in control come event day. Plus, by filling out an event budget template, you can create and then verify profit projections, keeping stakeholders happy.

Inside your event budget template, you should include all of the following expenses customized for your unique event:


Recruiting and hiring enough staff for an event can be challenging, especially for larger corporate events or weddings. You have to create job descriptions, input them into job boards, sort through resumes, conduct interviews, and hope you have enough qualified candidates that will show up on event day.

It can be difficult for busy event planners to get all of this done, so many of them turn to expensive recruiters for help. Temporary staffing agencies often focus on quantity over quality when it comes to attracting candidates. In light of this, they often provide candidates that are unprofessional and unreliable. Furthermore, these agencies typically need a good deal of advanced notice to gather the staff that will fulfill your request so don’t hold out on them helping you in a pinch. 

There’s a better way. Try taking advantage of the gig economy. Flexible staffing platforms like Qwick allow you to schedule all your event staff quickly from an easy-to-use app. All you have to do is post the shifts you need filled, then they'll be matched with vetted, qualified Qwick freelancers that are the best fit for the role. Not only can you save time on staffing, but you can rest easy knowing the staff that will show up on event day are going to be reliable and experienced.

Venue + equipment

For most events, venue costs make up the single largest expense on your budget. It’s important to find a venue with ample space that adds to the experience for your guests. You want a venue that will work with you to meet goals, find catering, and even prepare for the event. Equipment is often provided by the venue so these two parts of the budget can go hand in hand. 

Still, staying on budget should always be a priority. You don’t want to blow your budget on venue costs, then be stuck without enough entertainment. After all, 39% of event professionals agree that ‘engaging attendees’ is the most crucial element of a live event.

Common venue costs include:

  • Room rental
  • Climate control
  • Security deposit
  • Insurance coverage

Having the correct audio and visual equipment is critical to your event success. Microphone issues can quickly turn an awesome event into a disaster. Some venues provide A/V equipment so be sure to check with your point of contact to see what is available for use. 

Of course, you’ll also need the right staff to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. Technology can help with that. There’s a reason why 85% of event planners use event registration software, and 54% use survey tools. These tools can help you save time and money while making the experience better for your guests, so don’t miss out!

Common A/V equipment and technology costs include:

  • Event app
  • Speakers
  • Ticketing partner services
  • Event live streaming
  • Generators

Keynote speaker or entertainment

Keynote speakers and entertainment are more important to event success than ever before. In fact, according to a recent survey, 57% of event professionals believe the event industry is trending toward adding more event experiences that require more of the budget. So you may have to spend more on better keynote speakers or entertainment, but it’s often worth it if you can find other areas to save money. And, remember, if you start negotiating early, you can get better deals.

Common keynote speaker or entertainment costs include:

  • Stage/dance floor
  • Appearance fees
  • Video production
  • Graphics
  • Travel

Signage + branding

Event branding is incredibly important if you want to build buzz for your event and impress potential sponsors. You can even create a unique event brand image. However, creating that brand and securing signage can be more expensive than you think. Some companies charge up to $2,000 for ‘premium event branding’ alone. That doesn’t include signage for your event. 

Include a substantial chunk of change for signage and branding in your event budget. You can save money by creating your brand, but signage will always be an expense, so be prepared. 

Common signage and branding costs include:

  • Creation of event brand
  • Physical signage
  • Digital signage


Decor costs can get out of hand quickly. For example, uplighting a wedding ballroom alone can cost up to $2,500. That doesn’t include flowers, wall decorations, or other touches. You’ll have to pay for the setup and takedown of your decor as well unless you want to do it yourself. Remember to include that in your staffing expenses.

Common decor costs include:

  • Lighting 
  • Cleaning
  • Balloons
  • Table centerpieces

Gifts for guests

Leave your guests with a reminder of the amazing time they had at your event by giving them a small gift to take home. You can include branded gifts or several other small items. Gifts for guests are a small line item in your budget expenses, but they can leave a lasting impression on guests.

Common gifts for guests include:

  • Take-home treats
  • Branded items
  • Gift cards


The quality and type of catering you choose can make or break your event budget. For example, if you want full catering with an open bar, you could spend up to 30% of your total event budget. If you can make it with just appetizers and a few free glasses of champagne, the costs can drop significantly.

Catering costs differ based on the number of people in attendance, the type of cuisine, the service style, the city you are in, and more. The cost of hiring servers for an event must also be taken into consideration. Because there are so many variables involved, it’s difficult to predict what the catered meal at your event will cost. 

Fortunately, the costs of caterers are not hidden. Based on information from multiple providers and our own experience working with venues, we developed some catering price ranges to help you get an idea of the costs:

  • Buffet meals can fall into the $25-$65 per person range 
  • Corporate events can range around $50-$70 per person. 
  • Formal dinners can cost up to $125-$180 per person   

As you can see, there's a wide budget range for catered meals. However, most catered meals fall between the $20-$145 range. 

There are a few general pieces of information to keep in mind when calculating your event budget for catering:

  • Plated meals cost more per person than buffet style meals because there is a need for more servers. 
  • Dinners cost more than lunch or brunch meals. 
  • Many caterers have minimum order amounts that you must meet in order to utilize their services.

To discover the right caterer for you, don’t be afraid to shop around. Use a catering directory like Eventective to locate caterers that fit your event budget and cuisine preferences. Then, create a list and schedule a series of tastings before selecting the ideal candidate. Bon appetit!  

Common catering costs include:

  • Food and beverage
  • Alcohol
  • Table settings
  • Bar setup/rental


Do your guests need to leave in stretch limos or is rideshare good enough? The type of transportation you choose will depend on the event and can greatly affect your budget. If you expect people to drive themselves, don’t’ forget you’ll need plenty of room for parking.

Common transportation costs include:

  • Shuttles
  • Rideshare for guest
  • Parking
  • Delivery
  • Valets


Corporate events need more marketing than regular events. After all, their goal is to make money and build a company’s brand reputation, not just have a great time. Traditional advertising used to be enough for event marketing, but these days corporations are throwing the full weight of advertising behind many events. That includes using email marketing to talk directly to potential attendees, paid search advertising on Google, search engine optimization, social media, and the list goes on. 

It’s important to work out a marketing budget ahead of time and stick to it. Ad spending alone can end up taking a huge portion of your budget and hurt event results. 

Common marketing costs include:

  • SEO
  • Social media
  • Paid advertising
  • Email marketing

Do you need a way to reduce your event expenses?

Are you looking at your event budget for any opportunity to reduce expenses?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. At Qwick, we can help you save time and money staffing events, so you can use those extra resources to create a memorable night for guests.

Take advantage of the gig economy to staff banquet servers, bartenders, event chefs, and other qualified hospitality staff.

Qwick’s flexible staffing platform provides qualified staff at the touch of a button. Our Qwick professionals are vetted, certified, and come ready to hit the ground running. Exactly what an event planner needs.

Create a free account and post your event shifts with Qwick today. 

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