Their flawless, festive events begin with a meticulous spreadsheet. Here, our in-house event experts Marcella Kragel and Ina Miller share their time-tested budgeting strategies that will buy you the most fun with your funds.

As event planners, a lot of people assume we spend our days surrounded by beautiful textiles, china and flowers. That we spend hours brainstorming over colorful mood boards and swatches. The truth is, much of our time is spent at our desks, on our computers, pouring over spreadsheets. Yep… spreadsheets!

While spreadsheets might not be glamorous, they keep us organized and enable us to be successful with our clients. If an event is unorganized or over budget, it doesn’t matter how good it looks. Budgeting is also often one of the most stressful aspects of event planning and without proper prep it is easy to get off track.

5 Steps to Basic Event Budgeting

1. Decide how much you can spend. Always do this first. It’s easy to think that you will just pick up a thing or two before the budgeting really begins, but this will almost always cause you to overspend.

2. Create your spreadsheet. Whether it’s on a pad of paper, Microsoft Excel or budgeting software, you build your spreadsheet by listing every element of your event that will require funds.

We like to group elements by subject matter to make sure funds are appropriately weighted. However you decide to organize your list, make sure all your elements are included upfront so nothing will be forgotten. This tip goes beyond budgeting, and ensures you have anticipated all aspects of your guests’ experience guaranteeing a great event.

3. Record your estimates and actual spending separately for comparison post event. Practice makes perfect, and over the years our projections have only improved, because we learn from every budget we make.

4. Overestimate rather than underestimate. When something comes in under budget you have a win, when you are too optimistic and allocate too few funds to an item, you will end up pulling money from other essential areas, often resulting in an event that is both unbalanced and over budget.

5. Don’t cut corners. While saving money is usually a good thing, we budget for a reason. Could you have spent more in one area to really make your event spectacular? When you save on one line-item, consider if the extra money would be best put to use helping enhance another.

Budgeting is a skill and can be applied to all different types of events. Here is how our basic approach can be adapted no matter what the occasion:


When throwing an event to raise funds for a charitable recipient, you need to include the estimated revenue as well. If applicable, make sure to include projected ticket sales, sponsorships and in-kind donations in your budget breakdown so you have a constant big picture as you weigh decisions. Since the focus is on making money at the end of the event, the “actual” numbers will give you real-time information to keep your budget in check as planning progresses.

Family Events

When creating an anniversary, birthday party, or shower budget, think about what you want your guests to remember most. If it’s food, put more of your budget towards hiring a great caterer or more expensive grocery items. If it’s the setting, keep the food simple and inexpensive and focus your time and effort on tablescapes and décor. Don’t shy away from hiring professionals like a bartender, great DJ or photographer to commemorate the evening. Planning for these expenses upfront won’t scare you away from them later in the process.


Weddings are incredibly personal. There are millions of articles and templates out there to assist in wedding budgeting, and almost all will tell you they have the perfect formula for budgeting. For example, they know what percentage you should spend on venue versus food and alcohol. Well, a foodie getting married is probably going to spend more on food, while an eloping couple might decide the dress budget isn’t as important as an amazing destination hotel. These templates don’t know the individuals. Therefore take them with a grain of salt and weight items as they pertain to the couple themselves.

Ina Marcella Events is a full service event planning and creative consulting business co-owned by Ina Miller and Marcella Kragel. With shared backgrounds in the arts and non-profit management, and a mutual passion for community engagement, Ina and Marcella have developed a unique approach to event planning aimed at creating inspired one-of-a-kind events for their clients. Ina and Marcella have been friends for twenty years and each is married with three kids.

Posted on 2019-02-07 by by Marcella Kragel and Ina Miller