Unfortunately many couples start the wedding planning process with a list of their “wants” and then set their budget accordingly. A better idea is to set your budget first, then figure out how to get what you want without going over. You’ll be much better off in the long run. One of the things that makes planning a wedding difficult, is that there are a lot of moving parts, and unseen costs that even the best budgeters could miss. A vendor’s advertised prices don’t necessarily include all of the actual expenses you’ll incur. Be thorough when reviewing the contracts, and look out for line items that may not have been mentioned in your initial discussions.
Here’s our list of hidden wedding costs to watch out for:
Whether you have your cake made by a bakery or by your caterer, someone is going to have to cut and serve the cake for your guests. Usually this will be done by your waitstaff, which may be provided by the caterer or the venue. Often there is an additional fee for this service, which could cost you $1.50 per slice.
Supplying your own booze can save you a lot of money if it’s allowed at your venue. However, there may be a corkage fee for your waitstaff to open bottles and provide table service. Standard fees vary, but it could cost you anywhere from $5-$20 per bottle. Even at the higher price point, this still may prove to be more of a bargain than using the site’s wine selection, which is generally sold at a substantial markup.
Wedding favors can add up quickly. Something that does’t seem like an expensive favor can break your budget when multiplied by a large number of guests. Many common wedding favors fall in the $2-$4 range. With 150 guests, that could cost you anywhere between $300-$600 not including any shipping costs.
Some vendors include necessary service charges or gratuity in their contract price, but others may not. Gratuity and service fees are usually included in catering prices at 15-20% on top of the food cost. If you’re paying for the bar (hosted), make sure you take care of any tips for bartending staff ahead of time, so your guests don’t feel obligated. Be sure to ask before signing the contracts if any gratuity or service fees are included, or expected when the service is delivered. It’s also a good idea to have some extra cash on-hand at the wedding for any unexpected tips you want to give.
When budgeting for invitations, many people get so caught up in the designs that they forget about the cost of postage. This might not seem like a large expense, but when you’re planning a budget wedding, every penny counts. Let’s assume you’re mailing 100 save the date cards, 100 invitations with a pre-stamped reply card, and 100 thank you notes after the wedding. That’s 400 stamps you’ll have to buy. At $0.49 per stamp, that’s almost a $200 on postage alone. Also, many invitations require extra postage due to size. Be sure to ask your stationer about this.
Understanding the wedding timeline will help you plan more efficiently. Ask the venue to write the time frame in the contract—e.g. 5pm-11pm. Make sure you stick to this! Some venues charge an extra hourly fee for overstaying at the end of the night. If you need access to the space to decorate before the wedding, or need to clean up the next day, make sure you’re not going to incur additional costs.
There’s really no way to avoid taxes, so make sure you budget for them. When setting your budget factor in what the tax will be on each purchase. If you determine that you can spend $1000 on a wedding dress, then you’ll need to fins a dress that’s closer to $950 plus tax.
Getting married in a church? If you have to pay a ceremony fee, it might be tax deductible as a charitable donation. Be sure to ask.
You can also donate items used for the wedding to charitable donations, which will allow you to write off the expense up to the full purchase price. Things like linens, votives, and decorations can be donated if they are not needed after the wedding.
Meals for people working the wedding, and unexpected guests
Your photographer, the wedding planner, your officiant—they’re all working your wedding pretty much all day long. Feeding them is a nice thing to do, and sometimes it’s even part of the contract.
You may also have guests who show up unexpectedly, or guests who bring an uninvited plus-one. This happened to a friend of ours—he had several people show up to the wedding who had never RSVP’d. He had to step away from his own wedding to deal with the problem, and had to pay extra to cover additional meals. If this happens to you, the best thing to do is be a gracious host and feed them, so it’s usually a good idea to add a few extra meals to the total just to make sure you’re covered. That way you won’t have to worry about it on your big day.
Setting a realistic wedding budget is all about planning ahead. If you plan for these hidden wedding costs, you’ll avoid surprises and stay on-budget.