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Top 10 Unexpected Wedding Expenses

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Keeping an eye on your wedding spending? Don’t forget to budget for these often overlooked wedding expenses.


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 busting your budget. When you’re deciding how much to spend and how much money to allocate to which things, it’s important to also prepare for these often unexpected wedding expenses.

1. Marriage License

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.

2. Postage

You’ve picked out the perfect wedding invitations, spent hours looking at fonts, and finally selected the right shade of off-white. Now, it’s time to mail them. But what about postage? Actually paying to send your save the dates and invitations can be pricier than you think.

As of 2021, a standard stamp costs $0.58. This means if you send out save the dates and invitations to 100 guests, you’re looking at about $58 in postage alone. However, many save the dates, and invitations cost even more to mail if they’re made of bulkier paper or are thicker, such as magnets. To estimate this expense, you can take one of each to the local post office and have them weighed officially.

3. Transportation

If you’re planning on taking a limo to the wedding or arriving in a rented historic car, make sure to add those expenses into your budget. Some car services also charge extra if you end up staying late at the wedding and need to change your departure time. So, make sure to ask about extra fees, as well. 

4. 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, manicures, pedicures, waxes 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.

5. 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.

6. 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 you need done. And a veil, shoes, and jewelry can even range into the thousands.

7. Pre-Wedding Attire

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.

8. 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. They’re still considered guests and will need 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 into the budget.

9. Cleaning and Setup Fees

Cleaning and setup fees for vendors and the venue aren’t always included in the face price. If you have an itemized quote from your vendor, check to see if these are listed. If not, make sure to double-check. These fees can be a few hundred dollars for small weddings or a few thousand for large ones, so it’s an important expense to be aware of.

10. Taxes and Gratuity

Taxes and gratuities are two of the most commonly forgotten wedding expenses, but they’re also two of the most important because they can make a huge difference in your budget. This is because the items and services themselves are already pricey, which means the percentage-based taxes and gratuity are also pricey. For example, if your wedding cake is $350 and sales tax in your state is 6%, that’s an extra $21 on the price. If your catering service is $3,000, a 20% gratuity is $600. 

Multiply this across all the taxable items and all the services that would need gratuities and it can add thousands to the overall cost of your wedding. If you aren’t prepared for it, it can also mean any joint finances after the wedding get off to a rocky start.

Even if you plan for all the normal expenses and this list of unexpected ones, it’s almost a guarantee that something else will pop up. A member of the wedding party gets stranded at the airport and you have to call them a cab, or a few more guests show up having never RSVP’d. It’s always a good idea to build in a buffer—anywhere between 5% and 15% is good—for unexpected expenses so you know you have the funds and are free to enjoy your big day without any extra stress.

DISCLAIMER. The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to be, legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only.