Surprise Wedding Costs that are Often Overlooked
The wedding “budget conversation” is often an uncomfortable one. Who is paying for what? How much can we spend? The budget is one of the most crucial steps when planning your wedding. And guess what? Sticking to that budget just so happens to be one of the trickiest parts too. The Knot released its annual report on wedding trends, and the average cost for a wedding in the United States comes to … drum roll please … $35,329. Keep in mind, this number is still an average across the entire country, which means, depending on where you choose to get married, your wedding bill in certain geographical locations may not break the bank as much as other others. Tying the knot in say, Manhattan, can average almost $80,000, while a Kentucky wedding will average around $18,000. Just like real-estate, location is everything! Whether these numbers come as a shock to you, or you already know that planning a wedding requires digging deep into your wallet, the case usually is – weddings are expensive. Between the venue, catering, decor, photography, and entertainment, costs can add up quicker than people often anticipate.
It’s easy to overlook some basic costs. Any budget can become easily inflated when unexpected and extra expenses start popping up. To keep yourself on top of your budget, and to ensure you are not scrambling last minute trying to scrape pennies together, I suggest setting aside 15-20% of your estimated budget to cover these unexpected/extra costs. While this may not sound ideal at the moment, you will thank yourself in the long run. I put together a list of things that I find a lot of couples overlook and may not know are included in wedding expenses. Some are even just last minute expenditures that may have slipped your mind in the planning process. Stay one step ahead of your credit card!
1. Bridesmaid Proposals:
For many brides, asking their best friends to be a part of their wedding day isn’t something they want to do via phone or text anymore. This has become a big-to do for brides-to-be because they want to make it fun and personal! You can check out some bridesmaid proposals here. This is something most girls do right away before they even sit down to discuss any sort of wedding budget. As thoughtful and special that this gesture may be, don’t forget these gift costs can add up fast, especially if you have a larger bridal party.
2. Postage Fees:
You may fall in love with the textured, square, extra-thick invitations, but keep in mind that wedding invitation costs don’t end at stationery. Oversized, bulky envelopes can cost double or even triple to ship compared to a standard invitation. Remember, you will need stamps for Bridal Showers, Save-the-Dates, RSVP’s… and the postage expenses don’t stop after the wedding, you can’t forget your Thank you cards! To avoid the hassle, put some extra money aside for postage fees right away in your budget! You would be surprised how easy it is to spend a couple hundred dollars just on stamps. Let’s say for example you have 120 wedding guests, the postage rate is 50 cents per stamp, most likely you will have more than one stamp on your invitation due to size, but let’s just add up the standard, bare minimum amount of postage fees for 120 guests:
Save-the-Dates – .50 cents x 120 = $60
Invitations – (.50 x 2) 1.00 x 120 = $120
Pre-stamped RSVP Cards – .50 x 120 = $60
Bridal Shower Invites: .50 x 40 = $20
Thank You Cards – .50 x 120 = $60
Total Stamp Expense: $320!
Postage fees clearly add up!
3. Dress Alterations:
In a perfect world you would say “Yes to the Dress” it would fit perfectly right off the rack, your exact size, length and you would be good to go. Unless you are extremely lucky this probably won’t be the case. Most likely, your dress is going to require some sort of alterations anywhere from having the gown hemmed, adding a unique touch like buttons down the back, taking it in, structural changes like lowering the back or adding straps, adding lace etc. Making sure your dream dress fits like a glove is absolutely necessary. You don’t want to spend the big day fixing fallen straps, feeling like you cant breathe, or tripping over your gown! Even if your dress is custom made, chances are they won’t have your exact measurements. You may need to keep in mind your weight may change from the day you purchase your dress to your next fitting when the dress is complete. Sometimes you may even need more than one alteration. Alterations can run you several hundred dollars, and it’s easy to forget to factor this into the final cost of your dress.
4. Accessories & Undergarments:
Accessories are going to complete your wedding look, but often times don’t get accounted for when preparing a budget! Save room for the “extras” like your veil, the perfect pair of shoes (or two), garter and hair accessories. Perhaps you will need a special bra/bustier for your dress & undies that are undetectable. Jewelry and your “getting ready outfit/robe” are so cute for pictures, and you may want to buy your bridal party matching robes/outfits as well. This can set you back another couple hundred dollars.
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5. Beauty Treatments:
You most likely are planning to have your hair and makeup done for the big day, and I assume you’ve already worked your hair and makeup team into your overall budget. However, don’t forget all of the other pre-wedding prep that you might have done such as: teeth whitening, hair coloring, massages, extensions, lash extensions, facials, botox, filler, manicures, pedicures, workout classes etc. You should absolutely treat yourself, but don’t forget beauty treatments are usually pricey, so set aside that extra “treat yourself” money.
6. Bachelorette/Bachelor Parties:
These parties are increasingly getting bigger than ever. A one night event is now turning into weekend-long parties, and even week/weekend getaways away from home. Beach Trips, Cruises, Vegas… the parties can get over-the-top! Even though wedding etiquette says the bridal party should be splitting the tab, you also can’t assume this! Many brides and grooms will end up paying for their own airfare (especially if they were the one to push for an out of town party) to give the bridal party a little bit of a break. With your bachelorette party will come wanting to buy cute new outfits or bikinis, or even some sort of coordinated outfits to show off your party. Keep these costs in mind, if you don’t it’s easy to go overboard.
7. Wedding Gifts & Favors:
Gifts for your parents is a must in my opinion, especially if they helped pay for the wedding. A special, personalized gift will go a long way and show your gratitude—and it’s wonderful to make sure your parents feel extra loved! Next comes a little gift to your spouse-to-be; you know your significant other best so this can vary in price but if you set aside money prior to the weeks before you can buy whatever you like. It’s very popular for the groom to buy his bride jewelry or perfume. Ladies—you may want to buy your hubby a new watch, special cuff links, or whatever keepsake you know he will associate with your beautiful wedding memory. It isn’t necessary, but it’s just an added special touch if you have the money set aside to spoil your spouse. Then comes gifts for your bridal party. Especially for the girls this can add up quick: robes to get ready in, jewelry, or maybe you are paying for their hair and makeup. Just keep these expenses in your head early on! And we can’t forget the groomsmen! The men deserve gifts just as much as the girls do, this can be a gift as simple as some favorite alcohol, or maybe something to wear on the big day like pocket squares. Although wedding favors are not required on the big day for your guest, they do add a personal touch and guests love bringing home a special keepsake from your wedding.
8. Wedding Bands:
By now you’ve probably been staring at that beautiful ring on your left hand this entire time, and it will only get better once you add the matching band! Before the wedding you will have to buy your fiancé a wedding band, and just as he bought and designed you the perfect engagement ring, just as much thought should go into his! Unless of course he is easy going and is down for whatever. Either way both bands are going to cost you a couple hundred dollars, maybe even thousands more if you are having a band custom made to match your ring. You are also picking out something that symbolizes your eternal love that you will be wearing forever, so this isn’t a step you want to cut corners on because you didn’t set money aside! Diamonds & Gold aren’t cheap.
9. Marriage License:
Depending on your state, this can range from $20-$50, but let’s be real — it’s pretty damn important. I know it seems like a small cost, but when budgeting you really want to try to factor in EVERYTHING. And the whole point of a wedding is a marriage, so you don’t want to miss this step.
10. Set-Up/Teardown Fees:
Unless your venue comes with everything you need, chances are you are bringing in your tables, chairs and any other rental items from an outside company. Furniture, tents, lighting and even food stations may come with more than just the price you see listed. If you want it done by the professionals, set-up and teardown is often an extra fee on top of the rental price. To avoid surprises, clarify what each rental fee covers and that the total given to you has these fees included so you are not shocked when you get the bill! Also, be sure to check with your venue about what your options are for hired help.
11. Delivery Fees:
Many companies will include their delivery free in the final cost, but also be sure to double check! Some companies have a separate fee for deliveries! Take your cake for example, you may design the perfect cake but the company has a certain radius they deliver to for free and your venue is outside of their free delivery… this means you will be paying to have your cake delivered to your venue. Also don’t assume that delivery for your cake is always included, some companies may expect someone from your wedding team (planner, coordinator, friend, family member) to pick up your cake, so just to be safe check if delivery is included. This hidden delivery fee may apply to almost everything that does not come with your venue (florals, rentals etc).
12. Vendor Meals:
Any vendor you hire who will be working for more than 8 hours needs to eat too! Photographers, Videographers, Dj’s, Band members and wedding planners will have a contract that will most likely include that they need to be fed at some point during the night. Vendor meals are typically much cheaper than the guest entrees, and your catering company will give you a list of options that you can pick from to feed your team, however depending on how many vendors you hire these meal costs can add up! You want to keep the hard working professionals happy and make sure they are full and fueled to ensure they are working at maximum efficiency! Consider giving your vendor dream team a nice meal like your guests, they are working hard to make your wedding day perfect and it will show your appreciation.
13. Food Tastings & Hair/Makeup Trials:
Speaking of meals, did you know that when you go for your food tastings you have to pay to sample your wedding meals! And you definitely want to know how your wedding dinner will taste instead of taking the risk of just picking what sounds delicious. This cost will vary on your catering company, but keep in mind you may need to go to multiple tastings until you can pick the perfect wedding menu! It’s one of the best parts about wedding planning, but believe it or not, the tasting alone can easily add up! Many catering companies charge up-to $15 per extra person that is there with you, so be selective on who you bring.
You are definitely going to want to do hair and makeup trials, and these are not free! You may need to go to a few different artists or a few trials before you nail your dream wedding look, so set aside a couple hundred dollars for trials. And consider if you are planning on changing your hair color, buying extensions, etc. You are going to want to do all this before any of your trials because you want to mimick your exact wedding day look. You don’t want to show up on the big day with different colored hair, it may not match your makeup anymore.
14. Overtime Fees:
Your well-planned wedding schedule may run over the time you had signed up for. Maybe your makeup and hair takes a little longer than your trial-run, you decide on the day-of you wanted to take longer with your first look pictures, the ceremony started later than anticipated while waiting for guests to arrive, or dinner is running late. There are plenty of tiny little things that can cause your schedule to run a little off. You will book your vendors like your photographers, videographers, DJ or band for a certain amount of hours, so if your wedding is running longer than expected they will charge per hour after they have reached the time allotted in their contract. To ensure they don’t miss any special moments, and you don’t get stuck with another surprise fee at the end of the night, build in “bumper time” to cover any delays or hiccups. Always double check your vendor’s contracts, but this can be something that is easily missed. Be upfront with your vendors and ask for their overtime fees and policies in writing and keep their cost in mind on the day-of. This way you don’t feel pressured to rush things because you prepared by setting aside money for their overtime fee! Overtime fees can run upwards of $250+ an hour. I can definitely say you won’t regret having your photographer stay a little later, you never know what must-have pictures could take place!
15. Cake-Cutting and Corkage Fees:
If you use the cake or liquor/beverages provided by your venue, this charge is normally included in your cost. Bringing in your own cake and drinks will raise your price. When you bring in outside cakes and drinks this means the staff on site are responsible for slicing and serving your cake, all clean up that comes with it, and overall more work for the venue staff, so of course this will come with an extra fee. Sometimes each slice of cake can cost up-to 5 dollars per plate, so if you have 150 guests that’s $750 dollars just to have your cake served! To avoid this, you can always opt-out on cake serving and have a dessert bar! Corkage fee’s range from from $1.50 to $3 for every bottle the staff opens. I’ve probably said this over and over again but I can’t stress how important it is to be up-front with your venue and vendors! If your venues cake-cutting and corkage fees are going to cost you more than the cake and drinks alone, you may just decide to go with their in-house services.
16. Rentals & Upgrades:
While many venues come with tables, chairs, linens, and place settings, you can’t always expect them to be anything too fancy! To get the look you really want, you may need to go through a rental company or expect to pay for some upgrades through the venue.
17. Taxes & Gratuities:
Even though taxes shouldn’t come as a surprise—we all know there are taxes on almost everything in life—I think what can be surprising is how much these taxes can add up. There are food taxes, service taxes, sales tax, and they are unavoidable. The taxes will definitely vary depending where you live as every state or province has different tax laws, but there is no getting around the fact you will be paying taxes. Carefully check over all contracts to ensure the taxes are included in the quoted prices. And just like you would tip your servers at a restaurant, its extremely nice to tip all the hard working staff and vendors who helped contribute to the success of your wedding day!
DIY is great for that budget savvy and creative bride, but its also easy to get sucked into Home Sense, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Target, consignment stores, the list goes on. Set yourself a DIY budget, I promise you will thank yourself later. With DIY it can be so easy to lose track of what you’re spending. Even though DIY is a great way to save money, it can also end up costing you way more than you expected if you get carried away. Especially if you are scrolling through pinterest constantly you may find yourself buying a lot more little things than you first thought, and this will eventually add up. Let’s say for example you want candles to add to your décor, and each candle only costs $3.99… seems reasonable when you look at the price on its own… multiply it by how many tables you have and you have a much larger number in front of you! Its best to put aside a good amount for DIY so you aren’t scrambling at Hobby Lobby the week before trying to buy last minute things or crafts that you realize you need to complete your wedding look.
19. Including Yourselves in the Final Count:
Sorry! Even though its your big day, the bride and groom don’t get a free pass. You have to include yourselves in the guest count! I know this may seem obvious but don’t feel alone if you didn’t consider this factor. I’ve worked with many couples where I had to remind them they are part of the guest list. Your food, plates, and rentals are the same cost as all the guests!
20. Post-Wedding Expenditures:
Unfortunately your wedding costs don’t end after you tie the knot. To avoid spending any of your wedding gift money, be prepared with money from your budget for these post-wedding to-dos. Preserving your gown is a big one that I think most brides will want to do. Dancing the night away, train dragging on the ground, accidental spillage.. let’s just say white is the easiest color to get dirty. After your wedding, you will want to have your dress professionally cleaned with the option of having it boxed up beautifully to keep in mint condition and hopefully pass on one day! Once you receive your wedding photos, your photographer will most likely offer a package to buy a beautiful wedding album and perhaps you will want to buy a few! (For yourselves and your parents) Even if you don’t order your prints through your photographer you will most likely have them printed or an album made somewhere. Set aside some money for this sweet gift to yourself. And of course as previously mentioned its proper wedding etiquette to send out Thank You cards. To be prepared, make sure that however you decide to do your guestbook you find a way to make sure everyone who attends is accounted for. In my opinion you should send a thank you card to everyone! Not just the guests who gave you a gift (Sorry, it’s the truth, there will be some guests who show up empty handed). You are thanking them for celebrating your special day with you! I recommend ordering your Thank You cards with your invitations to keep the style consistent, and you may also be able to get a deal! However, it is super popular to have one of your favorite wedding pictures printed on your thank you card, so you will have to wait for your photographer to send over you edits.
I was going to add this in post-wedding expenditures but I feel like it needed its own section. Yes you may have paid for your honeymoon in advance, but depending on where you are going for your honeymoon its nice to be prepared and have extra spending money. New bikinis, outfits, nice dinners. It’s not a fun feeling being on a wonderful vacation and worrying about your bank account and what you can and can’t spend. Be one step ahead, so when you are on your honeymoon and decide to do a fun spontaneous day trip, or upgrade your room or book massages, you can just do it and not worry about your bank statement after the trip! You both deserve it, so soak up the newlywed bliss and don’t hold back on spoiling yourselves.
Just one final-reiteration-of-a-tip that will help you be on top of your budget game, as well as avoid getting hit with any surprise costs: BE UP FRONT! Don’t be afraid to ask everyone you hire or work with for clarification on any terms or phrases in contracts that seem ambiguous or can cause miscommunication. Some red flag phrases to look out for include: “Subject to change”, “Estimated Cost”, “Additional cost if necessary”, “Plus set up and delivery” “Taxes TBD” or anything “TBD”. Before you sign that dotted line make sure you know every last detail and exactly what you are signing. Contracts are legally binding, so there’s no going back once you sign your names. If something needs to be clarified, adjusted or reworded to avoid misinterpretation don’t be afraid to ask and ensure everything in writing is based upon what you agreed on! Making sure everyone is on the same page will ensure there is no confusion and no surprise fees creeping up on you! If you prepare for the unexpected ahead of time, you won’t be left scrambling to come up funds you didn’t expect at the last minute.