A Comprehensive Outline of Event Planning Expenses

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It's hard to plan an event budget without a good idea of the expenses you will incur. That seems obvious, but the costs associated with event planning can come from a number of different places. Just when you think you have identified all of your expense categories, another one pops up to send you back to the drawing board.

To prevent this from happening to you, use this outline of event planning expenses while creating your budget.

On-Site Event Expenses

These Include the costs and fees typically charged by the event venue. Often the most expensive category, it's also the easiest to predict since you will get a formal cost estimate to review in advance. Don’t forget to factor in variable costs that change based on your attendance numbers. Catering is an example of a variable expense because the amount of food you need—and subsequently the cost— increases with each addition to your party.

Here is a punchlist of on-site event expenses to put into your budget:

Venue Costs

These are the premises costs:

  • Room Rental
  • Security Deposit
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Parking

Food and Catering

Here's everything tied into eating and drinking:

  • Meals
  • Beverages
  • Bartender/Server Labor Fees
  • Tax and Service/Gratuity Fees


These are your presentation costs:

  • Microphones
  • Screens and Projectors
  • Internet Access
  • Other Specialized Equipment

Third-Party Vendors

This category represents all the items and services supplied by vendors outside of the host venue. Each one will bill you independently, so it is important to keep close tabs on every vendor. Using a spreadsheet will help organize your vendor contacts along with the costs associated with their services.

Event Rentals

These expense relate to anything you need to supply:

  • Linens, Table Skirting, and Chair Covers
  • Tents, Staging, and Amusement Attractions
  • Physical Items Not Provided by Venue
  • Labor and Delivery for Setup/Teardown

Décor Vendors

Making things look good will incur costs for:

  • Accent Lighting
  • Flowers and Centerpieces
  • Balloons


Don't forget the fees associated with:

  • Musicians or DJ
  • Speaker Fees
  • Contract Riders (food, lodging, transportation)

Production Expenses

Production includes all of the staff and resources required to plan and execute the event. These expenses begin the moment the event is dreamed up and continue through the post-event paperwork. In short, this category represents the cost of organizing the event, attracting attendees, and managing the administrative elements.

Marketing and Registration

This category can add up with costs for:

  • Print and Web Design Work
  • Advertisements
  • Invitations
  • Registration Management

Planning and Organization

Events require people and the expenses include:

  • Event Planner Fees
  • Part-time and Temporary Employees
  • Office Supplies
  • Communication Costs
  • Travel Expenses

Administrative Expenses

Don't overlook the paperwork and costs for:

  • Salaried Employee Assignments
  • Accounting Costs
  • Legal Fees
  • Consultant Fees

Cost Overages and Emergency Funds

There is no magic number for what you should set aside for unplanned expenses, but you need to expect the unexpected. Some event planners suggest budgeting 5 - 10% over the anticipated expenses, while others choose a round number to work with. Larger events should, of course, allocate more because an oversight that is billed per person could run into the thousands of dollars.

The purpose of this outline is to make you aware of the different types of event planning expenses that can occur. Every event is unique, so yours may include more or less of the items listed. The important thing is to know where your costs will be coming from. Overlooking expenses associated with a particular vendor or category can wreak havoc on your budget, but the worst case scenario is completely forgetting about an expense until the bill arrives.