One of the first questions asked at our consultations is "what is your cake budget?" I would say a solid 90% of the time I'm met with a deer in the headlight look followed by, "we just want something nice, but not break the bank." Ok...great...what does that mean? Most couples do not talk about a budget in advance and let me say this...you are sabotaging your consultations.
A itemized budget should be the very first thing you and groom-to-be do prior to sending one email or calling a single vendor. Why? Because they can't help you otherwise. When couples visit us without a budget we have no way to gauge or direct them as far at their expectations for their wedding. Rather we go through the motions. We find out exactly what they want...their dream wedding cake. Go over their dream flavor and size...which may or may not be realistic for their needs or pocketbook. Then comes the quote. Dun dun dun. Sticker shock overwhelms the couple to which they "need to think about it" go home disappointed and I never hear from them again.
Let's back up now. Same couple walks in and gives me their realistic budget. I say realistic because, of course we would love to pay $200 for an elegant Peach Chiffon cake that serves 150 guests, but well...our ingredients cost more than that. So, the couples comes in with their budget. We discuss their dream flavors, dream design, and size. We match it with their budget. If it all fits...excellent! If we are a bit over budget, we can talk and discuss and I can give the couple ways to change their cake and still make it beautiful and something they would love without spending more then they have allotted to spend. Now...we are working together to get the couple what they want for what they can afford! It's a win win for everybody!
And if I may give one more suggestion; when making your budget add an "overage" item. Make it small, just a few hundred dollars give or take. This is an item in your budget for something that you just love, but underestimated the cost. This way if you really really love something, but it is over your budget a little you have an extra cushion in your budget to afford that extra special thing (or two or three if they are smaller items). This also allows money in your budget for those last minute, "oops...forgot I needed that!"