I Spy… 50+ Hidden Costs That Can Tank Your Wedding Budget

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hidden costs

 Nirav Patel

Do you ever have that moment when you’re in a restaurant and a waiter asks you whether or not you want tea or miso soup, and you say yes without realizing you’ve just added an extra 3 bucks to your tab?

Yeah. I have those moments all the time. That’s why my wallet currently hates me.

And I’m pretty sure you, at some point during planning your wedding, have figured out that there are all these really annoying hidden costs associated with everything, from your venue tacking on really useless fees to cake-cutting fees (really? Really?? To just cut cake??). You initially planned out your budget to be around 5-20k, and would conveniently section off your budget to your wedding dress, food, venue… but did you anticipate adding 20-30 more percent of your overall budget to your actual costs? I didn’t think so.

I’m going to play a little game and rattle every (legitimate) hidden cost I can think of and tally them up at the end. Here’s hoping that I break 50!

hidden costs

Venue

hidden costs

Brushfire Photography

  • Mandatory gratuity on ALL costs. I heard it can go up as high as 32.5%. That was not a typo, and if that doesn’t give you an aneurysm, I don’t know what will.
  • Licenses to get married on the beach and other areas. That’s an actual thing.
  • Using other areas that have not been explicitly rented out (eg. kitchen, fireplace, etc.).
  • Increase in overall price due to seasonal demand.
  • The cost of setting up equipment as well as renting out equipment in the first place (eg. tents, tables, linens,
  • lights, sound equipment, whatever you need)
    • Tents themselves aren’t that expensive to rent, but the floor will definitely cost you some ice.
  • Overtime charges — this applies not just to extending your wedding past the end of your reservation, but to the rest of the vendors who are still present at your wedding such as your DJ, band, servers, etc.
  • Fees for the service. This includes the waiters, bartender, people in charge of setting up, someone in charge of coat check, and even more. You might have to pay either a flat fee or an hourly wage.
  • Cleaning fee. This is a big one and can range from $100-$500.

So how do you get around these costs? Unfortunately, some of these costs will be unavoidable, so you’ll have to make sure to factor them into your budget. However, to make sure that the costs are minimized as much as possible, make sure you read EVERYTHING that they give you regarding reservation information, whether or not that’s the information packet or the contract itself. Make sure that before you put ink on that paper to make sure that all charges are laid out so you get an accurate guess of what costs are going to be like.

Apparel, Accessories, & Appearance

hidden costs

Clary Pffeifer

  • Bridal lingerie, funnily enough. Then again, weddings are the occasion special enough to justify that La Perla splurge… You’ll probably spend $50-$100.
  • Alterations & additional fittings. Depending on how hard your dress is to alter and how much you’ll need to alter it, some alterations can be just as expensive as the wedding dress itself.
  • Added details. You want extra lace applique on your neckline? How about a corset added into your bodice? The cost that you’ve allotted for your wedding dress already is going to be high, but these extra embellishments are going to burn a hole through the pocket of your dress. I’ve heard that beading can be from $50-$100/hr, and tailors spend a lot of hours on beading.
  • Shelling out extra for bridesmaids or groomsmen who need financial help in securing their apparel.
  • A dress or other clothes for the reception, if you plan to switch out into something more comfortable after the ceremony.
  • Preserving and cleaning your gown post-wedding.
  • Extra trials for makeup and hair. I think this is one of those necessary ‘evils’ that a bride should have, just because you don’t want to surprise your groom with a face full of cakey, overdone makeup and a bouffant.

For these types of hidden costs, I feel the best way to approach them is to have a very realistic sense of how much you want your budget to be regarding apparel. It’s easy to say that you want a wedding dress for 2-3k, but you might not realize that you have to add an additional 1.5k just for alterations alone.

Ceremony

hidden costs

Johns Chnack

  • Getting the marriage license will set you back around $25-$100, depending on the state.
  • You might also have to supply your own wedding march music. Cue the hired trumpets.
  • You might have to rent out the chairs and other furniture if it’s not included in the rental contract with the venue.
  • You’ll either have to tip the officiant or at the very least give him/her a thank-you gift to thank the officiant for his/her services. If your officiant is with the parish, your fee for him/her might actually be a donation to the Church. In that case, you should give the officiant a thank-you gift.
  • In addition to that, if you ARE getting married at a church, you might have to pay extra fees as a “donation” and for marriage counseling.

Having to spend money on your marriage license is unavoidable, as is tipping the officiant. To mitigate these costs, make sure to really hammer the details in the contract and make sure that no last detail is overlooked (especially regarding structural necessities).

Guests

hidden costs

Jonathan Canlas

  • Distributing welcome gifts for the guests
  • Adding on extra shoulder days to hotel reservations because hotels don’t allow “early check-in”. That could be an extra $100-$300 per room depending on the hotel. You might not think it applies to you because your guests are the ones footing the hotel bill, but this is just in case you actually need a hotel room for yourself and your party to get ready.
  • Arranging transportation from the hotel to the venue if it happens to be too far.

Of course, depending on how big or small your guest list is, the number of guests you invite and those who actually end up attending the wedding can really make or break your wedding. If you have a budget in mind, keep these hidden costs in mind and REALLY make sure to tailor your guest list specifically with some margin of error. Don’t let relatives blindside you into inviting someone you don’t want within reason.

Flowers

hidden costs

Jenna Bechtholt

  • Buying flowers out-of-season, because everyone wants peonies in November when they bloom in May. Buying flowers off-season incurs high shipping costs, especially in mass quantities.
  • Delivery costs. If you think it’s feasible to  pick them up yourself, go with that instead. I saw one bride talk about how her florist wanted to charge $75 to deliver flowers two blocks away.

If you’re really looking for a bargain in terms of flowers, don’t be afraid to DIY your own flowers and bouquets. Cost-effective and easy to learn once you’ve taken a class or two. All it takes is buying flowers per stem and a little touch of your aesthetic eye to create some really gorgeous arrangements.

Food

hidden costs

Erich Mcvey

  • Tipping the caterer and bartender
  • Adding extra dishes and options (vegetarian, gluten, etc.)
  • Cake-cutting and corkage fees, because you’re adding a whole bunch of plates for the venue’s workers to clean up. Cake-cutting can cost $1.50-$5 per head, and corkage up to $12 per person.
  • Including yourself and the spouse in the table count. That’ll probably be an extra $100-$200.
  • Food and beverage prices associated with the venue. The venue can get pretty picky with that.
  • Cocktail reception and bar prices if it’s not included in the catering package. One couple had to pay PER DRINK for an open bar. Budget madness ensued.

Once again, read the contract with your caterers and figure out the best pricing per plate or whether or not there’s a discount on plates depending on how many guests there are. Additionally, figure out what you will need for serving your food and make sure that those details are in the contract or at the very least that you’re aware of the costs.

Wedding Paper

hidden costs

J Lucas Reyes

  • STAMPS. Because the cost of stamps goes up the heavier your wedding invitations are (and some invites can be prett-y elaborate).
  • Save-the-date cards, thank you cards, place cards, programs, and the list goes on. Wedding paper isn’t just invitations, you know.
  • Printing costs. We all pay a ludicrous amount for ink on our regular printers. Imagine how expensive it’s going to be when you’re printing on your fancy cotton cardstock.

Anticipate what sort of invitations that you want and the materials you want in them (whether that’s thicker paper, metallic foil font, etc.) and factor in how much they weigh in order to estimate how many stamps and what kind of stamps you will need. I personally would just buy Forever stamps in bulk, as they can cover the cost of really heavy items pretty heftily.

Vendors

hidden costs

Ace Hotel

  • Tipping your many vendors. This includes your band/DJ, your bartender, the servers, and the list drags on.
  • “++” clauses. This essentially means “plus service charge plus tax” meaning MORE MONEY TO SHELL OUT, NOOOOOO.
  • Non-approved vendors. Some venues have a list of vendors that they support or approve of, and it’ll cost extra to hire vendors not on those list. Even more tricky is when you have a venue that only allows you to have vendors from their list.
  • Vendor meals. You gotta feed the people who’re working super hard on your wedding too!
  • Transportation fees if certain vendors end up moving more equipment than needed, even if it’s never used.

With all vendors, they might be very reluctant to state prices up-front if you decide to press them for hidden costs. Reddit user /teachmetonight has some great advice regarding hidden costs & vendors:

I’ve also found that itemized invoices help cut down hidden costs. When looking at a proposal from a venue, caterer, or florist, I would highly recommend asking for an itemized invoice. If they can’t provide you with one, I’d walk away– they’re probably price gouging. In my planning process, this was doubly true for photographers and florists. We had a photographer who, when you looked at his itemized invoice, charged THREE TIMES for photo touch-ups and editing. No. Thanks. Asshat. For the florists, we found that many of them charge based on the occasion of the arrangement rather than the flowers in the arrangement themselves, so a bridal bouquet was about three times the price of an arrangement consisting of the same stems for any other occasion. Then we found a guy who charges per stem and was very transparent with the costs upfront. We went with him.”

Decor

hidden costs

Logan Cole Photography

  • Supplies for your personal DIY projects. This could either end up saving you money depending on how expensive and well-done the project actually turns out to be.
  • Whatever else you decide to add to your floral centerpieces. These could include candles, sea-glass, and more.
  • The wedding arch, if you plan to bedeck it with flowers and branches.
  • How you decorate the ceremony. Are you going to put ribbons or signs on the chairs/benches? That’ll cost ya extra.

While flowers may dominate your decor world, little things like candles, baskets, and more are just the cherry on the top. Or multiple, many cherries that are designed to exploit your budget. Buy these in bulk, and prepare to DIY your centerpieces if time will save you money.

Wedding-related events

hidden costs

Travel + Leisure

  • Bachelor/bachelorette party. Although it’s tradition that the groomsmen or bridesmaids pay for the party, if the groom or  bride has a special request and wants to go to a special destination (Vegas anyone?), they should pitch in for some of the costs as well.
  • Rehearsal dinner. It’s essentially planning a mini-event all on your own. You got to think of the  rehearsal dinner venue, the dinner itself, sending out invites, buying your rehearsal dinner outfits… like you need another event to plan, Jesu Cristo.
  • Honeymoons. Your wedding doesn’t end with your wedding! You gotta pay for plane tickets, hotels, food, and all that jazz. So feel tfree to tack on another couple grand depending on how elaborate your honeymoon is.

If you’re really strapped for cash, not ALL of these events are required. I even left out bridal shower just because I felt like that was an event that could easily be taken out. You could choose to delay your honeymoon for a year or so. Or better, set up a honeymoon fund rather than a registry — the talk of receiving money as a gift is taboo, but I’d imagine that it might be even more rude to turn down a gift.

Budget & Other Miscellaneous Items

  • Buying “extra”, just in case. So you would buy extra invites, extra flowers, extra dishes, etc.
  • Your emergency funds in the case that a freak accident happens (AKA your cake being transported in someone’s car and it gets thrown and smashed around).
  • Bridal party or groomsmen gifts. And gifts for your wedding party in general. Because these people have stuck with you throughout wedding-planning craziness in sickness and in health… gotta show some love for them somehow, right?!?
  • Sales tax — the harbinger of all financial evils! Just kidding, don’t quote me on that. But at 9.5-10% for everything… costs build up. And at a budget of maybe 15 grand, nearly 1.5 thousand dollars isn’t chump change.

So I counted, and I found out that I actually hit 51 hidden costs! WHOOO, GO ME! But the point I want to make is, wedding season is like prime hunting season for vendors and venues, and they often come out of it making a killing. As soon as someone hears the word “wedding”, prices are automatically jacked up. So keep a sharp eye for whatever hidden costs they might make up (and they will make up a LOT, trust me), test how transparent vendors are, and have a very realistic expectation of your budget.

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