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Ten Unexpected Wedding Expenses

Updated on April 26, 2018
VVanNess profile image

Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.

10 Unexpected Wedding Expenses
10 Unexpected Wedding Expenses | Source

You're most likely familiar with the traditional wedding expenses, like flowers, a cake, a dress, a location and food.

However, even after all of the typical expenses have been logged on your wedding budget and allocated money, you're going to want to make room for miscellaneous expenses. These should be given at least 10% of your wedding budget.

There are a variety of little costs, and even some big ones, that will pop out of nowhere, and attempt to hijack your wedding budget if you're not prepared.

Don't let a surprise expense, or two, ruin the most important day of your life, and leave you in debt at the beginning of a new chapter in your life.

First comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes the bill before the baby carriage. Weddings are a lot of great things, but cheap isn't one of them.

Even a budget wedding can get out of hand due to costs you didn't anticipate. Here are 10 unexpected expenses to keep an eye out for as you prepare to say "I do" (TLC Weddings) in a smallest to largest format.

I hope this helps you to be prepared for the unexpected!

#10 Sales Tax

When a wedding vendor shares their cost with you, it's easy not to consider taxes, as you'd typically expect the vendor to have your interest in mind and include this in their price.

Not true. Wedding vendors have their own interests in mind. If they can give you the lowest price possible to get you to agree and sign a contract, they can easily slip in taxes, fees, and extras increasing the price later, and tell you that these are just typical taxes and fees.

This way they get more money from you, and more business overall. All of those "taxes and fees" add up quickly and can pour over into other areas of your budget without you even knowing, leaving you wondering what happened.

"But they said that they were within my budget?!" They were . . . well, at least the initial price they gave you was. Make sure to check all vendors' estimates beforehand to make sure that all taxes are included in the total.

Tipping Wedding Vendors
Tipping Wedding Vendors | Source

#9 Gratuities and Tips

Now I want to make sure you know where I stand on this topic from the get-go. I do not agree that you should be required, nor should anyone expect you, to tip them for their services.

A "tip" defined is a sum of money given for extraordinary or above and beyond services rendered to a customer or client. If you think about it, you have paid them, likely a very large sum of money, for their services already.

If your vendors do as outlined in their contract, they have been recompensed accordingly. Only if they go out of their way to do a stupendous job and give you more than expected, should you tip them. However, just like taxes, gratuities and tips are often not considered in the initial wedding budget.

Your vendors, though, may not be quite as honest with you. In addition to hidden taxes and fees, you will want to be aware of gratuities that are added automatically to your bill without you being the wiser.

Your caterer will likely tack on a whopping 25% gratuity onto your bill for the privilege of serving you and your guests. They'll say that it was in the contract and you should have read it.

It's in the fine print, so be sure you read over your contracts and estimates carefully.Even better, have a lawyer or your wedding planner read them all over for you ahead of time so that you know you are protected.

Tips should ultimately be a choice, not a requirement.

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How many people are you planning on standing at your side on the wedding day?

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#8 Gifts for the Wedding Party

So it's traditional for both the bride and groom to have one special person to stand by their side at the altar, along with anywhere from the average 3 to 6 additional bridal party member on each side.

These people listen to you while you're planning, go to all of your dress appointments with you, spend money to buy outfits, shoes, and parties to help you celebrate, and ultimately honor you by standing by your side and supporting you during your wedding.

Wedding planning is hard work. Without these important people helping you along the way and dragging you away to relax, or at least take your mind off the planning, the whole process would have been a lot harder and more stressful.

This is why couples typically purchase gifts for the members of their bridal party, to show them your appreciation, say thank you, and give them something special to remember your big day.

However, at the traditional $5-$15 a pop for bridal party gifts nowadays, this expense could potentially wrack up quickly and become much more than you or your budget can handle.

Keep checking back with me for my article on saving money in this area to learn how to do something special for these wonderful people without having to stretch your budget to accommodate them.

Unexpected Wedding Expenses
Unexpected Wedding Expenses | Source

#7 Delivery Fees

One great part about the wedding industry is its full-service feature. You can have your fairy tale setting delivered right to the doorstep of your reception hall.

Sure, we'll deliver your dress from the tailor - just sign here. Tables and chairs, food and flowers, linens and glassware -- anything your heart desires will land in the right place at the right time, but you're gonna have to pay the people who make it happen.

Getting everything to the reception site may not be a part of the package deal. Make sure to check your bills and ask all of your vendors for any additional delivery and set-up fees before signing. (TLC)

And then . . . after your wedding, how are all of those beautiful items getting back to the rental company. Do you have room for 10-15 tables, 150 chairs, 150 sets of dishes, glasses, and napkins, and 10-15 table linens? I didn't think so.

If you can't get that stuff back yourself, and be super careful not scratch or break anything (I don't recommend this to anyone!), you'll also need to pay to have everything taken back to the rental company.

Just like any of your other wedding vendors and taxes, they will share with you exactly the amount it will be to rent your items, but won't lay on the "extra" expenses until you've signed your contract.

Just be careful and super thorough. After all, this is YOUR money.

#6 Postage

When you think about wedding invitations, you are normally expecting the cost of the invites you choose, the programs, the menus, etc. You may even consider the delivery cost for the company you order from to send them all to you.

But I bet you didn't think of the postage to mail them out. Did you consider the RSVP card envelope? What about the thank you card after the wedding?

This is the main reason why so many couples getting married get off track so quickly and go way over budget before they even realize it.

If you're hoarding your Forever stamps, a regular envelope will cost you 44 cents to mail. Special envelopes however -- the kind you'll probably use to complement your fancy invitations -- get an extra surcharge.

Tack on stamp costs for the RSVP envelope, and you're well over $1.00 per invitation, which doesn't even include the cost of the design and printing of the actual invite.

If you want to be really thorough, remember to budget yet another stamp for thank you notes. (TLC Weddings)

To tell you the truth, there's no real reason to spend nearly this much on your invitations or your postage. Check out my article on Saving Money on Your Wedding Invitations for some great tips on lowering this cost and finding a happy medium between what you truly want and what you can afford.

Unexpected Wedding Expenses
Unexpected Wedding Expenses | Source

#5 Overtime

When you sign your vendor contracts, you will most likely be not only documenting the beginning and ending time for your event, but also the specific times that each particular vendor is being contracted to work.

For instance, your photographer (which is the most likely vendor to fall into this category) might be scheduled for 9am to 9pm on the day of the wedding.

This means an early start to catch the bride and her bridesmaids getting up and getting ready. Then staying until the wedding is over at the end of the night.

However, what if you decide to keep the party going for another 30 minutes after your scheduled time? What about an hour? What does this mean for the time you rented your venue for?

Yup. This is yet another extra expense that will be thrown at you at the last second if you don't ask ahead of time. I've worked with some great wedding vendors that are generous with their time, figuring that they are already there and couldn't schedule any other events in the meantime.

These people would be willing to stay an extra 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour just to give you exceptional service. However, 98% of wedding vendors are not this generous.

Just like every other reason to thoroughly read through your vendor contracts, this is just one more. Please take the hint and ALWAYS read through every contract you sign from top to bottom, and consult someone if you don't understand them.

Quick Poll

Do you plan on letting the venue handle your alcohol or buying it yourself?

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#4 Bar Set-up Fees

Even when you decide to take all cost-cutting measures you can find, there are still hidden fees you can incur that will surprise you when you least expect them.

For example, if your venue allows you to supply your own alcohol for the bar to avoid their costly markup, you'll probably still end up paying a bar set-up fee or a corkage fee that can quickly eat up all your savings.

We will cover all of these items in upcoming articles regarding buying alcohol for your wedding and saving money on your bar.

The good news is that your venue will probably throw in the bar glasses free of charge. Either way, bringing your own alcohol is the best overall cost-wise.

However, you will want to make sure that they serve each different type of alcohol one bottle at a time to use your alcohol wisely and not waste any, and will return all unused alcohol at the end of the event.

That way, you can return unopened bottles to the store where you purchased them and at least save money on the alcohol you didn't use. More in future articles! (TLC)

In How to Cut Your Wedding List Down, and How to Make Your Wedding Guest List Easy, I thoroughly explain how to navigate the perils of creating your guest list, deciding who to invite and who to leave off, and then, even worse, who to cut when it gets too big.

I strongly recommend you check these out because (unfortunately) making mistakes, or handling situations incorrectly, can create waves that will last a lifetime.

#3 Guest List

Of all the places for your budget to soar way out of control, this is going to be one of the biggest and ugliest places.

Your mom will have her best friends on her list, your dad his poker buddies. Your fiance's mom will want to invite family members five generations back that don't even know you exist, and his or her dad will insist on having children at the wedding.

Saying no to any of them will inevitably break hearts. There will even be guests that are invited that will bring three extra guests without letting you know.

Guest lists are one the most unpredictable parts of a wedding. People show up that aren't supposed to and people don't show up that are. It's crazy.

High emotions also prevent couples from saying no to parents and end up having almost twice as many guests as originally decided. Think about the cost per guest if you want some real numbers. Each guest is one more chair, one more table setting, one more plate of food, slice of cake and wedding favor, and it doesn't stop there.

See how it can easily get out of control?

Unexpected Wedding Expenses
Unexpected Wedding Expenses | Source

#2 Cake Cutting Fee

This is one of the most ridiculous fees I've ever seen in the wedding business.

Whether you purchase your cake from the caterer or from a separate bakery, when it's time to serve the cake, the caterer will want to charge you a cake cutting fee. Why? Because it's just one more dime they can convince you to pay.

Yes, I'm a little jaded. lol This fee can run anywhere from 50 cents a slice to $3.00 a slice. Essentially, they want to charge you just about as much to cut the cake as you originally paid for it.

Is it really that difficult? Absolutely not. Can anybody cut the cake? They sure can. In fact, I will be supplying an article specifically explaining how to cut a wedding cake. It's a little bit different than a birthday cake, but still not difficult, just different.

If the caterer (or sometimes the venue) insist on this fee, I highly suggest that you simply get someone else to cut the cake for you.

Sometimes the venue will do it for you, maybe you can have a friend or family member take care of it, or you can simply have a wedding planner that will not only take care of all of these other details for you, but she will also cut your wedding cake for free.

#1 Venue's Fees

In the wedding industry, nothing is free of charge.

This is THE biggest unexpected expense, which is why it is at the top of our list. Not only are wedding venues one of the most expensive wedding expenses, but they have the most extra (hidden) expenses that can truly blow your wedding budget to smithereens.

As I've already stated, it is absolutely critical for you to read all of your vendor contracts from top to bottom, especially the fine print. However this is one of the most important contracts you'll sign, next to your marriage certificate of course!

Venues like to have tons of restrictions like dripless or flameless candles, food and vendors for outdoor weddings requiring tents, charges for using their furniture, linens, dishes and chairs, some even have contracts with caterers that lock you into their menu and service options.

There are then set-up fees, cleaning fees, service fees, bartending fees, cork fees for the bar, gratuities and tips, and the list goes on and on forever.

So please be sure to ask before mentally committing.

Unexpected Wedding Expenses
Unexpected Wedding Expenses | Source

Obviously these rules apply for any vendor you work with. Pay attention, ask questions, and protect yourself, or hire someone who will.

I'm hoping that you'll read this article and just be more aware of details, finances, and the nature of most people. In order to come out on top at the end of this process, you'll just have to take some simple steps to stay clear-headed, avoid emotional attachments if possible, and protect yourself legally.

If all works out right, you will be prepared, have set aside the right amount of money in your budget for just in cases, protected yourself with your contracts, and will feel good about yourself and have money to spare afterwards.

I know you can do it!!

Quick Poll

Did any of these miscellaneous expenses surprise you?

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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness


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