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When planning an event, we look far and wide for inspiration. Google, Pinterest, Instagram - it's a rabbit hole of elaborate decorations, musical masterpieces, delicious bite-sized canapes and artistically-plated, locally-sourced, seasonal goodness. We create lookbooks, scrapbooks and mood boards that piece together the details; turning our dream into real life.

And then reality hits. There aren't endless amounts of money; we have to do this within a budget. Is it possible? Will it be the same as the image in our mind? The answer is yes, with a little bit of tinkering at least. And we're here to help - we're giving you some insider tips, explaining how to maximise the function experience while minimising the spend.

1. Set your budget - and stick with it!

Coming up with the magic number is difficult - what is a reasonable budget, and is it affordable? Function planning is stressful - there is no benefit in adding financial stress to an already stressful situation.

Once you've determined the total budget, break it down for the different 'areas' (food, venue, entertainment, for example). Attribute each area a spend amount and allow for a small contingency. If one area goes over budget, reduce the spend in another area to compensate, ensuring you stay within that magic number. And include every single cost - the little things add up; if you're not tracking your spending, you may end up massively blowing the budget!

2. Prioritise - 'need', 'want', and 'nice to have'

Make a list of every single thing you'd like and need at your function. Then divide that list into three: what you 'need', what you 'want', and what would be 'nice to have'. Then prioritise spending on the 'needs', followed by the 'wants', and if there is any money left in the budget, add in those 'nice to haves'.

3. Impact: where will you get the biggest bang for your buck?

What will you remember from your day, and what will everyone forget? For example, consider these for a wedding:

  • Having wedding favours is a nice touch, but would having a videographer film the wedding so you can look back for years to come be more rewarding?

  • Can you repurpose elements throughout the day: your bridesmaids' bouquets as centrepieces on the head table, or moving your ceremony backdrop behind the head table for the reception?

  • Are your guests' dancers or minglers? Would your budget be better spent on a dance floor or lounge furniture?

4. Maximise venue resources

Why pay for something when you can get it for free! At Zenders, our venue hire includes all of our in-house furniture, linen, crockery and cutlery, and in-house speaker system. By building decor around these items, you reduce the overall spend.

We have some additional features which make great photo backdrops, such as the chaise lounge, wooden staircase, bridge and barn doors - so there is no need to go off site for photos. There are multiple spaces meaning you can have your ceremony in one space and reception in another. Or a welcome drink before heading into the main dining area. Or if you're looking for a space for outdoor team-building as part of your planning day, check out the Willow Lawn.

5. Timing is everything

Food and beverage is a large percentage of every function spend. But there are ways to reduce the spend in these areas without compromising the experience.

  • Rather than dinner, consider a lunch - where lower food and beverage consumption results in a lower overall cost than an evening function.

  • Instead of an awards evening with a sit-down dinner, have guests arrive at 7.30 pm and provide a late supper.

  • If you're having a conference, have a slightly later lunch and skip the afternoon tea.

6. Dates matter

Our yearly calendar usually follows a regular pattern. The year starts with weddings, then corporate events begin, and we finish with Christmas festivities and wedding season again. While our prices aren't inflated based on the time of the year, other vendors' such as photographers, performers and hair and makeup artists may have seasonal rates, or reduced availability during times of higher demand during peak periods.

7. Work the bar, and make the bar work!

Beverage-spend contributes to a reasonable portion of overall function spend, but making smart beverage choices can maximise your budget. At Zenders, we encourage guests to use our house selection; aside from being more affordable than other options, it is also delicious! Villa Maria, a New Zealand winery with an incredible story, provides our wine; Good George, the local craft brewery, supplies our tap beers. Our house selection of spirits is comprehensive, meaning there is something for everyone. Our non-alcoholic selection is varied too - everything from kombucha to sodas to juices and punch.

Another way to maximise your budget on beverages is to make use of less expensive, non-alcoholic options. For an outdoor wedding ceremony, serve guests a beautiful punch rather than bubbles, so they quench their thirst from the summer sun before heading to the bar. Have champagne available for a toast only and otherwise serve sparkling wine. Providing cash bars, bar tabs, and subsidised beverages is also an option to stretch your budget.

8. Focus on what's important

Most of all, consider the reason for the function and focus on what is important. Enjoy the celebration, recognise success, and gain information. And remember, no-one else knows how your occasion might be slightly different to that original dream ;)

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