10 Unexpected Wedding Expenses


bride and groom

Don't let a surprise expense ruin the most important day of your life.

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10 Unexpected Wedding Expenses

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."

Did You Know?

The average wedding cost in the United States is $23,657. Engagement ring and honeymoon not included [source: smartmoney.com].

10: Sales Tax

When quoting your budget to a vendor, it's easy to forget Uncle Sam's piece of the pie. An extra 6 to 10 percent adds up quickly -- especially on bigger purchases -- and can create a cost overrun that leaves your benefactors feeling less than joyous. Make sure to check all vendors' estimates to make sure tax is included in the total.

wedding cake

You will most likely have several vendors working to put your wedding together. Don't insult one by stiffing them on a tip.

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9: Gratuities and Tips

Just like tax, gratuities and tips are often left out of the initial wedding budget. Your caterer may tack a whopping 25 percent gratuity onto your bill for the privilege of serving their chicken skewers and manning the beef carving station. It's in the fine print, so be sure you read over your contracts and estimates carefully. According to some industry insiders, it's customary to also have tips ready for the band, DJ, photographer, florist, cake delivery, hairdresser, coatroom attendants, limo driver, bartenders and servers.

Did You Know?

Like vacation rentals and golf courses, weddings have a high season that you'll pay a premium for. Plan your wedding for the off-season months of November through February, and you'll save across the board.

8: Gifts for the Wedding Party

The people that accompany you down the aisle are the most special ones in your life. You've got your childhood best friend, your closest friend from college, two sisters and a sister-like cousin, and of course, your two favorite work compadres. And don't forget their escorts, the seven accompanying groomsmen in your husband-to-be's lineup. They've all dedicated a lot of time and probably a good deal of coin to stand up with you on your big day, so all 14 are candidates for a lovely remembrance from you. With the average attendant gift expenditure hovering around $50 a person, you do the math.


Getting everything to the reception site may not be a part of the package deal.

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7: Delivery Fees

The 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.

Did You Know?

Sometimes people forget to write their name on the RSVP card before returning it to you, so spend a few extra minutes numbering the backs and keeping a corresponding list. This is a big time saver in the long run.

6: Postage

If you're hoarding your Forever stamps, a regular envelope will cost you 44 cents to mail. But special envelopes -- 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.

wedding photographer

Not all weddings end exactly on time, so make sure you know the overtime plan -- and price.

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Most fees for wedding services and venues are based on a set amount of time. Your venue, band, DJ, photographer and videographer are all likely to be on the clock, so make sure you understand exactly how long you have and plan accordingly before chicken dancing till the wee hours.

Did You Know?

The reason restaurants and other venues charge corkage a fee is because alcohol sales are a big profit line on their business plan.

Even when you decide to take cost-cutting measures, there are still hidden fees you can incur. For example, if your venue allows you to supply your own booze 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. But the good news is they'll probably throw in the glasses free of charge.


Keep tabs on your guest list -- it can easily spiral out of control.

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When your aunt's BFF comes with a husband and three children, these additions to the headcount mean more mouths to feed, more chairs to sit in, more wine to sip, more cars to park, more silverware to eat with and more glasses to drink out of. Because you don't want to hurt any feelings, the body count can add up quickly. And because many of these expenses are on a per-head basis, the tab is going to reflect that. Get a number in your head, and work backward from there. If that second cousin twice removed needs to go, then so be it.

Did You Know?

A great tip for saving money on your cake is to get a smaller version of the wedding showpiece cake and get a sheet cake version to serve to guests. This can be a huge savings for a big wedding, and if you have it plated in back, guests will never know the difference.

One of the last things you think you'll get charged for is the cutting of your cake. After all, you bought it from a separate bakery, and the cake already cost you a small fortune. The fee is really a provision for the plates and forks, and then the subsequent washing of those plates and forks. Everything costs something, right? Fees can range from 50 cents to three bucks a slice. Consider serving cupcakes instead -- they're all the rage, and no plate is required.

outdoor wedding

Even the great outdoors aren't free of charge.

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It's important to read the fine print of any venue contract before setting your heart on that location. There are many additional fees associated with almost any venue, from overtime to cleaning charges, and some of these may make or break the deal. For example, that reception hall may require dripless candles that you have to purchase from them -- at $5 a pop. Or their lovely white chairs -- at $10 apiece. Some even have contracts with caterers that lock you into their menu and service options. So be sure to ask before mentally committing.

Related Articles


  • Gomes-Luis, Nicky. The Celebration Studio, 2010. http://www.celebrationstudio.co.nz/_blog/Celebration_Studio_Blog/post/Hidden_Costs/
  • "How to Address, Assemble, and Mail Wedding Invitations." Wedalert.com, 2010. http://www.wedalert.com/content/articles/address_invitations.asp
  • Kennedy, Shawn G. "Coping/With Wedding Expenses." nytimes.com, February 9, 1991. http://www.nytimes.com/1991/02/09/news/coping-with-wedding-expenses.html?pagewanted=1
  • "They'll Never Know: Eight Hidden Ways to Cut Wedding Costs." Smartmoney.com, June 11, 2008 http://www.smartmoney.com/personal-finance/marriage-divorce/theyll-never-know-eight-hidden-ways-to-cut-wedding-costs-13918/
  • "Unexpected expenses?" weddingbee.com, 2010. http://boards.weddingbee.com/topic/unexpected-expenses
  • Webber, Bridgette. "10 hidden wedding costs." helium.com, 2010. http://www.helium.com/items/1418694-10-hidden-wedding-costs