The dress, flowers, invitations, someone to play dance-worthy tunes — you’ve probably factored them all into your wedding budget, whether you’re planning to get hitched in your backyard or at the Four Seasons. But it’s those sneaky little extras that really add up as the big day approaches. “When you set your budget, make sure to account for things like vendor gratuities, taxes, set up/clean up fees and even postage for your invitations,” event planner Mindy Weiss writes on her blog. “These things will add up!” Here are 12 hidden wedding costs you should look out for so you can stay on budget!
Like Mindy says, postage adds up. It’s customary to include a stamped RSVP envelope with each invitation, so you’ll have to pay for at least two stamps for every invitation you mail. If your invite envelopes are rectangular and weigh under one ounce each, expect to pay $0.49 per stamp. But if you’re using square envelopes or heavier invitations, you’ll have to pay at least $0.70 per stamp. (The smaller inner RSVP envelopes may not require the more expensive postage.)
2. Dress Alterations
If your budget is $2,000 and your dream dress is $1,600, you’re good to go, right? Wrong. First, you’ll pay sales tax. But unless you luck out and find a dress that fits perfectly off the rack, you can anticipate paying a few hundred dollars for alterations. A dress that needs a ton of changes may require more than $500 in alterations.
3. Dress Preservation
While it’s totally optional to have your dress professionally preserved, you’ll be glad you did if your daughter wants to wear it in 30 years — or if you just feel like reminiscing over that perfect dress. Preservation costs between $200 and $1,000.
4. Wedding Day Stationery
Your paper purchasing doesn’t end with invitations. Factor in the cost of paper for reception programs, table numbers, menu cards and any other signage you’re planning to use. Some venues will provide these, but many won’t. Factor in the cost of printing, too. Even if you’re going the DIY route, you’ll probably go through several ink cartridges printing your programs alone.
5. Cake Cutting
Unless you get your cake from your venue’s in-house pastry chef, you’ll probably be hit with a cutting charge that covers the slicing and serving of your cake. It can be as much as a few dollars per guest. So that $400 cake could end up costing $800 if your venue charges you $2 each for your 200 guests.
6. Clothes for Pre-Wedding Events
Your rehearsal and rehearsal dinner may not be captured by a pro photographer, but your loved ones will probably snap hundreds of photos of you walking down the aisle and toasting them at dinner. You’ll probably want a new outfit, and your soon-to-be spouse might too. Same goes for bachelor/ette parties and showers. And don’t forget about the beautiful frock you’ll need for your pre-wedding photoshoot if you’re having one!
7. Welcome Bags
Gifting out-of-towners with snacks, drinks, and mementos is a sweet gesture — and an expensive one. Between the bags themselves, the items inside and the delivery fee, some hotels charge a per-bag fee of $5 or more to deposit these gifts in guests’ rooms, so you could be out a few hundred dollars.
9. Vendor Meals
Yup, the photographer and musicians have to eat, too. Your reception venue may provide meals to your outside vendors (non-employees of the venue) at a reduced rate, but it’s your responsibility to cover that cost. The more outside vendors you hire, the bigger the bill.
9. Your Own Meals
You’re already paying the price of a new car for your guests to feast on a delicious meal, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch — or a free wedding dinner. Some venues will include the couple’s meals for free, but many don’t. So if your dinner costs $75 per plate, factor in an extra $150 to feed yourself and your beloved.
10. The Officiant
If you’re planning to have a religious official marry you, you might not think about paying the person. After all, priests and rabbis aren’t in the habit of invoicing constituents. But it’s customary to thank your officiant by making a donation to the house of worship in which you get married. You can ask the point person (the person you communicate with about coordinating the ceremony) for guidance. Usually, couples give anywhere from $100 to $500.
If you’re being married by a judge or court clerk, you don’t have to pay anything other than the court fees.
Your guests might be having the time of their lives, but to the venue staff and your own vendors, an extended reception means extended pay. Check the fine print of all your contracts carefully — you’ll probably see that you’ll be charged extra if your reception runs past its designated end time. That goes for DJs, photographers, bartenders, and other venue staff.
12. Staff Tips
Brace yourself: Gratuities are probably the biggest hidden wedding cost. An all-inclusive venue may automatically add in gratuities when they quote you their total price. If not, you’ll be responsible for tipping the staff. And even if your venue includes gratuities, you’ll still have to take care of your hairdresser, limo driver, makeup artist, musicians and other vendors that you hire.
As for how much to give? Like you would in a restaurant, factor in about 15 percent of the total bill for each vendor. To tip the wait staff and bartenders, calculate 15 percent of the food bill and bar tab, respectively, and dole it out among all the involved staff.