Surprise Wedding Costs + Fees and How to Avoid Them
Don’t get surprised by these unexpected wedding costs and fees. Learn what the common oversights are and how you can avoid letting them bust your wedding budget!
When you are planning your wedding, the best thing to do first is to set your wedding budget. Weddings are one of the most expensive life events you can have, and the sky really is the limit on how much you want to spend.
But what is a normal wedding budget? The average cost of a wedding reception in 2021 comes in around $22,500, according to The Knot. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend that much.
There are plenty of ways to still have the wedding of your dreams without breaking the bank. When you’re deciding how much to spend and how much money to allocate to which things, it’s important to also prepare for unexpected wedding expenses. There are actually quite a few surprising costs involved in hosting a wedding that you might not have even thought about!
Below, we share 20 surprise wedding costs that sometimes feel “hidden.” Look out for these items in contracts and plan ahead to avoid any financial miscalculations with your wedding budget!
While many couples focus on the ceremony itself, it’s important to remember that it isn’t the legally binding part of your marriage. You’ll still need to apply for, pay for and complete a marriage license. While fees vary by state, a marriage license usually costs between $50 and $100.
If you’re hosting your wedding at your home, at a park, or on a beach, you will want to apply for a permit with the town or township where the event will occur. The cost to obtain a permit is typically as low as $50, but the cost can increase to $250+ depending on your area and where you would like to host your wedding.
Because we’re certain the thought has crossed your mind, no, it’s not in your best interest to not apply for a permit! 😉 The relatively low cost of a permit is worth the peace of mind that comes with being able to say you’re able to legally host your guests in your chosen location without fear that authorities may ask you to cease celebrating.
The cost of wedding insurance varies depending on your state and how many guests you will be hosting at your event. Generally speaking, policies typically cost under $100 and increase from there. Without a doubt, the cost is worth it!
Most wedding insurance policies include General Liability Insurance, which is the core component venues may ask you to present proof of having on hand. Insurance protects your venue from a lawsuit if any of your guests get injured (highly unlikely, but it happens). Policies also offer protection for any property damage to a venue during an event (again, highly unlikely but this also happens). Sometimes policies also include wedding cancellation terms that help to protect the financial investment you have made into your wedding.
Make sure to read your policy carefully prior to purchasing. If you’re looking for a resource for wedding insurance, Event Helper is a great option.
One often-overlooked expense during the wedding planning process is vendor trials. From hair & makeup services to catering tastings or florist mockups, these trial-runs can add an extra line item in the budget. Check your contracts to see if they include tastings and mockups. Chances are, you might have one trial included for free while additional changes may come with a fee.
Pre-Wedding Beauty Treatments
Many brides and grooms can use the weeks prior to the wedding to get picture-perfect. This can mean getting facials or a chemical peel for smoother, brighter skin. Pre-wedding beauty prep could also include manicures, pedicures, waxes, a spray tan or hair color touch-ups. All these beauty treatments can add up to a significant expense of hundreds if not thousands of dollars. So, your pre-wedding skincare routine should be part of your overall wedding budget.
Alterations and Accessories
When you’re shopping for your wedding dress, tuxedo or suit, don’t forget to add a little extra to the budget for alterations and accessories. If your dress budget is $2,000, the perfect dress at $1,900 may seem like a deal. However, wedding dress alterations can be hundreds of dollars, depending on what tailoring is needed. And a veil, undergarments, shoes, and jewelry could add even more into the total cost of your wedding day look.
While your wedding dress may be the main event, you’ll probably want something special to wear to pre-wedding events, including the bridal shower, bachelorette party, rehearsal, and rehearsal dinner. Some couples also like to have a second outfit for the reception so they can be a little more comfortable. If you plan on doing a few costume changes around the big day, make sure to consider that in your planning.
Wedding Night Accommodations
While you may already have your honeymoon plans reserved, many couples might not actually leave for the honeymoon the night of the wedding. If you have a late flight and a layover, you’ll want to make sure you’ve added the hotel expenses for that night to your budget. Some couples who have their weddings in a venue that offers accommodations may decide to stay there overnight after the ceremony so they can mingle with friends and enjoy the festivities as long as possible.
When you’re reviewing the packages your wedding professionals present, particularly those from photographers and videographers, pay careful attention to the amount of time each will be on hand at your wedding. Many professionals offer packages that vary in cost and time, and adding additional time to a package almost always increases the cost. If a vendor has to stay longer than their contract outlines, you could be charged additional fees (or even overtime rates like time and a half.)
The best thing to do is to talk to your wedding vendors about the timeline of your wedding day (i.e.: your ceremony and reception start and end times) in order to receive guidance on the best option. When in doubt, choose the package that offers more time from the beginning rather than realizing you need to add time to a package on your wedding day. The latter usually happens at a higher cost than you would have paid originally.
If you are working a band, DJ, or production company, review your contract for a list of included equipment. Companies that offer lighting, power, or sound equipment in their services might have a range of packages. Typically, the starting cost for a band, for example, includes a minimum number of players. For each additional instrument, the cost increases because you’re adding additional equipment and people who will play. The same is true for DJs and production companies – there’s a base package and then there are add-ons. Make sure you’re on the same page regarding what you are receiving!
Vendor Travel Fees:
If your wedding is occurring outside of a wedding professional’s general area, they may charge you travel fees. Many professionals are upfront about these costs, and they most often include things like mileage, hotel accommodations, and food. Some list the fee as a separate line item, while others will wrap the fee into your total cost. Either is fine, but it does impact your cost. Ask your wedding professionals if you will be charged for travel fees before you sign your contract.
Whether you’re taking a limo to your wedding or arriving in a rented historic car, there will be costs involved. Make sure to add transportation expenses into your budget so they don’t come as a shock. Some car services may charge extra if you end up staying late at the wedding or change your departure time. So, make sure to ask about any potential extra fees or penalties, as well.
Delivery, Setup, and Breakdown Fees:
When working with florists and rental companies, many will charge delivery, setup, and breakdown fees. These costs cover them for the time each will spend setting and cleaning up on your wedding day. More importantly, these fees typically cover the cost of the team the wedding professional will have on hand to help them. The cost of these fees range, but they are most often listed as a separate line item on your proposal. Make sure to review and look out for them so you know how much you’re paying.
Taxes and Service Charges:
If you are working with a professional who is offering a tangible product like catering or flowers, or a service such as photography, you will likely be charged taxes, service fees, or both. These are all normal fees and many are based on percentages determined by your state. Make sure to look out for fees or taxes on any proposals and contracts. Taxes cannot be confirmed until your final balance calculated, so you won’t really know your total until you receive your final bill. Ask your vendors for an estimate so the amounts are not a total surprise, but make sure to allocate funds either way.
Taxes are some of the most commonly forgotten wedding expenses, but they can make a huge difference in your budget. Percentage-based taxes can be hefty when they’re calculated based on high-cost services. For example, if your catering service is $3,000, a 10% tax is $300. If your wedding cake is $350 and state sales tax is 6%, that’s an extra $21 on the price. Multiply across all taxable items and services and it could add thousands to your overall wedding cost.
Postage for Invitations:
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s an overlooked wedding expense. Many couples forget to factor the cost of wedding invitation postage into their budget. Whether you order your save the dates and invitations online, design them yourself, or work with a pro, that’s only part of the cost! Once you have your wedding paper goods on hand, you will need to mail your pieces to your guests. Don’t forget about the cost of postage!
Wedding invitations cost more to mail because they typically weigh more. Some wedding invites are also a different size or shape than traditional mail, which also increases postage cost. Make sure to keep this in mind when budgeting for your overall stationery total. Weigh at least one piece of each type of stationery you plan to mail (with the envelope!) before you add postage. You will want to know the exact (and correct!) cost.
A Note about Postage Costs:
As of 2022, a standard stamp costs $0.58. If you send save-the-dates or invitations to 100 guests, you’ll spend $58 in postage alone for each mailing!
Breakfast, Lunch, and a Cooler:
Your wedding day includes plenty of fun events, but it’s also a long day. Make sure to plan ahead, especially for breakfast and lunch, so you’re not counting down until dinner at your reception. Consider room service if you’re getting ready at a hotel, or plan to have a local restaurant deliver. If you’re taking a bus, trolley, or limo from your getting ready location to your ceremony and then to your reception, you will want to know if you’re allowed to provide a cooler of drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic!).
Meals for the Vendors and Wedding Party
When you’re totaling up the final RSVPs to get a headcount, don’t forget to add in the vendors who’ll be at the event and the wedding party. Your vendors are considered guests in terms of your total headcount and they will also need a meal. Your wedding planner, photographer, or videographer are vendors who are often on-site for the full wedding day and will certainly expect a meal. There are some exceptions where vendors don’t eat, but they usually let you know this in advance. So, if your photographer hasn’t specifically said they won’t be eating, make sure to add them to the count and include vendor meals in the budget.
In terms of unexpected wedding costs, this one takes the cake! Did you know that some food service providers actually charge a fee to slice your wedding cake? When working with a venue or catering company, make sure to ask about their cake cutting fee. If there is one, it is oftentimes $1-$2 per person or per slice cut. This is one wedding cost that can add up and often takes couples by surprise!
If you provide your own alcohol at your wedding, be prepared to pay a corkage fee. The fee is, essentially, the cost for your catering or bartending team to open each bottle of alcohol they will serve. Corkage fees are often added charges for service staff to pour wine and champagne. The cost of corkage fees typically begins at $1.50 to $3 per bottle and rises from there. Not every company will charge a corkage fee, so it’s important to ask in advance!
Vendor Tips or Gratuity:
Let us preface with this: tipping your wedding professionals is not mandatory. While vendors certainly appreciate a monetary tip, it’s definitely not required! If you feel your team is going above and beyond, then you may want to offer an extra amount. We go into great detail about how much to tip each wedding professional on your team in this post, so make sure to check it out! Generally speaking, however, plan to tip those who do not own their own businesses. This could include associate photographers, servers, banquet captains, venue managers, and the like.
Even if you plan for all the normal expenses and this list of unexpected ones, it’s almost guaranteed something else will pop up. Maybe a member of the wedding party gets stranded at the airport and you have to call them a cab. Or a few extra guests show up who never RSVP’d. It’s always a good idea to build a buffer into your wedding budget for unexpected expenses. Setting aside between 5% and 15% is sufficient and will give you peace of mind. You’ll know you have spare funds at the ready so you are free to enjoy your big day without any extra stress.
If you aren’t aware of or prepared for these unexpected wedding expenses, you could go over budget. Or even worse, you could end up with wedding debt– starting your marriage and joint finances on rocky footing. By being aware of these unanticipated expenditures, you can work to avoid them as much as possible!
Have you encountered a surprise fee or cost associated with your wedding that we haven’t mentioned?
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Check out our Wedding Budget Tips for tons of ideas for how you could save money on your wedding!