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Part of my day to day job as an event consultant is staffing my clients’ events with event assistants and sometimes catering staff. This has given me a firsthand look into how the staffing shortage is affecting all elements of event planning and execution. As a couple or an event planner, it’s key to understand how COVID is affecting the costs of event staff. We’ll explain what’s causing the high costs, and how to factor these into your wedding budget.

Staffer serving at restaurant

Higher Staffing Costs are Here to Stay

Even if COVID becomes endemic – much like the flu, a livable aspect of our society- higher staffing rates are here to stay. (Fingers very much crossed COVID becomes endemic by summer, as this article predicts!) Once a market rate has been set, it’s hard to pull back unless an economic apocalypse occurs. Though economic growth predictions have been lowered, the economy is still strong given the last two years; as COVID becomes the new normal, the economy is unlikely to hit many speed bumps.

There’s Still a Staffing Shortage – and Probably Will be for A While. This Means Higher Staffing Rates.

COVID has changed peoples’ outlook on work. The American work ethic was often taken to comical extremes – staying late just to stay late, never taking a vacation. Now, tightening the belt in exchange for having more of a personal life is something Americans welcome (yay!).

In the service industry, with its long hours, physical labor, and sometimes dismissive treatment by customers, burnout is a big risk. During COVID, many of these workers realized how hard the work is and just plain didn’t want to come back – or, don’t want to risk exposure, even in outdoor events (particularly with Omicron being so pervasive and contagious).

And when demand is high and supply low? There’s a premium price. Thus a staffing shortage amongst high need is also propping up staffing rates.

Fruit and pastry Nosh table at Wedding
Food, decor, and staffing are all costs factored into this gorgeous nosh table. Photo by True Photography.

How to Adjust your Wedding Budget for Increased Staffing Costs

Do your research: Talk to caterers and hotels before building your budget. Politely ask for quotes prior to committing to a final total wedding budget to illuminate the full investment. Also, caterers itemize staffing costs, to show per hour how much their waiters, cooks, and bartenders cost. If you are working with a caterer, factor in about 15% for gratuities for the servers, as well.

Don’t Try These Tactics to Save Money on Staffing

A potential client said they were willing to hire their own catering staff instead of going through us. I said if they went through an agency it would cost the same anyways. Some have even offered to hire their own staff themselves. This doesn’t work – caterers need to work with their own staff for fluid, quality service. Also, these staff operate under the caterer’s insurance.

For event planners, florists, and others, they absolutely need to hire their own staff. They’ll source the best people in a candidate driven market, it’s going to cost some money. But not just things – food, flowers, lighting- don’t make the event; people do. All the elements of your wedding won’t add up to much without people to set up, install, plug in, and cook. Try to see the human factor involved. Err on the side of an increased budget for staffing and trim your wish-list items.

Wishful Thinking Won’t Help your Wedding Budget (Unfortunately!)

Take into account the reality of the current state of affairs when building your wedding budget. Now, you can look for things you don’t need so you can remove from your expenses. Do you need that classic car for your getaway vehicle, or will a limo suffice? Do you need large floral centerpieces along your ceremony aisle, or will a border of petals work just as well? Start thinking critically about what you truly need, and what you want – these are two different things, after all.

Investing in the human face of your event will generate long-term rewards in a wedding to remember. If you’re stumped about your wedding budget and need some expert guidance, ping me at The numbers add up, but if played right, the result is a beautiful, cost-effective event!