Hidden Wedding Costs
Wedding Dress Alterations
Hidden Wedding Cost: Even though your bridal salon took your measurements, they ordered the dress that was in the next closest size to you. Translation: It probably won't fit perfectly and you'll need to have some type of alterations once it comes in.
Avoid It: Ask what the store charges for alterations before you buy the gown. If it's too much, don't be afraid to take the dress to a less expensive seamstress for changes. Otherwise, reserve some of your dress budget money specifically for alterations; meaning you'll buy a less expensive dress and spend the few hundred that you have left over to alter it.
Hidden Wedding Cost: Does your rain plan involve tenting a good portion of your outdoor wedding reception area? That could cost extra. Depending on the size and style of the tent, could be a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars extra. Often, you'll be required to make a decision a few weeks before the wedding about whether you want to have a tent on reserve. Even if you don't end up using the tent, you could lose the 50 percent deposit you were required to put down to reserve it. Of course, if you do use it, you'll simply pay the balance.
Avoid It: Go with a venue that has a built-in rain plan (read: they don't charge extra for the tent or they've got an indoor space where they can easily move your reception). And if the rain plan means moving you to another room, keep in mind the cost of any extra decor you may want to add there.
Hidden Wedding Cost: Lots of venues have approved vendor lists -- companies they prefer working with -- for the major players, like caterers, florists and even photographers. If you're not bringing in someone on their list, they could charge an extra 20 percent or more.
Avoid It: Before you book, ask whether you'll be charged extra for using someone not from the vendor list. Otherwise, stick to their preferred vendors (remember: there's a reason they've kept these companies on the list). Or, if you've got a favorite caterer or florist, work backward and ask them about the venues they like most.
Breakdown and Cleanup Costs
Hidden Wedding Cost: At the end of the reception, you'll go off and enjoy your first night as newlyweds -- and someone else will clean up the party. Most venues require a fee for setup and breakdown that will usually happen the same day as your wedding. If your wedding goes into the early morning, cleanup may be time and a half for labor, meaning it can add on a several hundred dollars extra.
Avoid It: Ask about setup and breakdown costs in your initial quote and make sure that the labor charges are clearly spelled out so there's no surprise later.
Before booking your band or DJ, clearly explain the layout of your venue (or better yet, offer them a floor plan with measurements or have them check it out in person) so they know exactly what they're up against. And if they're adding extras, remember that you should be asking extra questions. Have them explain why the equipment is necessary before you sign a contract or agree to pay for anything additional.
Reception Band or DJ Equipment
Hidden Wedding Cost: Typically, your band fee includes paying for the musicians and a minimal amount of equipment. If your reception is in an extra-large space, you'll likely need more speakers, microphones and even an extra sound engineer to make sure everything sounds great. Those additional items could add on anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Avoid It: Before booking your band or DJ, clearly explain the layout of your venue (or better yet, offer them a floor plan with measurements or have them check it out in person) so they know exactly what they're up against. And if they're adding extras, remember that you should be asking extra questions. Have them explain why the equipment is necessary before you sign a contract or agree to pay for anything additional.
Hidden Wedding Cost: Sure those invites are gorgeous -- but that awkward square shape means you'll be paying extra postage per invitation. Even if it's just 62 cents per envelope, that can add up pretty quickly: It's an additional $96 for 150 invitations (and other invites can be as much as $2 each to mail!).
Avoid It: Know your standard mail sizes. (For instance, letters can't be more than a fourth of an inch thick or larger than 11.5 inches long by 6.125 inches high. You can get the complete list at USPS.com.) If you're looking to save, consider putting an odd-shaped invitation into a standard-size envelope, so you won't pay extra. Or skip boxed invitations and cards with multiple layers of paper, which can bulk up quickly and cost more than you have in your budget.
Hidden Wedding Cost: Don't assume that if there's valet parking, it's simply included in the venue quote, because it's almost always additional. The cost can be per car (if they're being parked in a paid lot) or simply by the hour for the entire venue parking lot.
Avoid It: Before you sign, ask about parking options and costs. If you're getting married in an area without public transportation options, check out the cost of hiring a shuttle bus to take guests back to their hotels (it may end up being cheaper than valet).
Hidden Wedding Cost: If you're hiring someone to help make it legal, you'll probably have to pay them. Even if you're getting married in a house of worship, you may be asked to make a donation. Expect to pay between $200 and $400.
Avoid It: Factor your officiant cost (or the amount you'd like to donate) into your overall ceremony budget.
Photo and Video Overtime
Hidden Wedding Cost: When you hire your videographer and photographer, you'll book them for a certain number of hours. If the wedding runs longer than you expected, or you just want them to stick around to the very end, they'll begin charging per hour, which can start at about $250.
Avoid It: As you're planning, factor in extra time for getting dressed and taking photos. Use this itinerary when booking your photographer and videographer to make sure everyone is on the same page. And don't be afraid to ask up front about overtime charges.
Holiday Weekend Fees
Hidden Wedding Cost: Sure, it seems like a great idea at first to hold your wedding over a three-day holiday weekend because everyone already has the day off work. But what you don't know is that venues might raise the price of everything, since they have to pay their employees extra to work on a holiday.
Avoid It: Ask your venue to quote you for a few different weekends, and compare any price differences before committing to a wedding date.
Hidden Wedding Cost: Think you'll end up saving by picking up some cases of wine and liquor from a discount warehouse? Think again. Like the cake-cutting fee, your venue might charge you to bring in booze -- anywhere from $1.50 to $3 extra per bottle -- that isn't their own.
Avoid It: Unless you want a very specific type of champagne or top-shelf liquor, it's probably best to let your venue or caterer stock the bar. If you simply must have a particular vintage, ask the venue first they may be able to order it specifically for you so you can still avoid the corkage fee.
Hidden Wedding Cost: Maybe you paid for your open bar with your catering fee -- but that doesn't always mean a mixologist is included. Bartenders can run an additional $250 an hour.
Avoid It: If your caterer will be providing the booze and bartender, ask for the total cost -- including all waitstaff and bartenders -- in your initial quote. You should have one bartender for every 50 guests during the cocktail hour and one bartender for every 100 guests during the wedding -- anything less and you can expect long lines and annoyed friends.
Hidden Wedding Cost: Just because there's a delivery fee doesn't mean that rental companies will be up-front about the number. Dropping off all of the chairs, tables, linens and other rental items can be $50 to over $500 of your overall rental fee.
Avoid It: Ask the rental company what its shipping and packaging fees are before you book. If the price is too high, don't be afraid to look around. You may end up picking a more expensive company that includes delivery at no extra charge.
Hidden Wedding Cost: Just about everything that you need for your wedding will have taxes added, so even though that may not be a hidden cost, it can definitely add on an extra couple hundred very quickly.
Avoid It: There's no getting around paying the taxes, so it's best to build this into your budget from the start with a little estimating. You can also try paying the entire bill in one lump sum, which can help lower the overall price.
Hidden Wedding Cost: Usually, reception sites offer you the choice of providing the cake themselves or going with an outside cake baker. The catch? An outside cake baker can often bring the venue price up $2 to $5 per slice, since now the staff is responsible for slicing and serving each piece. (And do the math: $5 for a wedding of 150 means an additional $750!)
Avoid It: If you can't live without having a certain cake baker, ask about cake-cutting fees before you sign your contract so it's built into your budget. Otherwise, go with your reception site's cake baker. They'll likely be able to work with the vision you have in mind.
Hidden Wedding Cost: When you book the venue in May, it's tough to remember just how cold December can be. Coat check for all of your guests can start at about $200, depending on the size of your guest list.
Avoid It: When booking your venue, have a good approximation of your guest list so you can factor in the cost of coat check.
Hidden Wedding Cost: While you might think the "service charge" is actually a tip for the event staff, it's really an additional fee that the catering hall charges to cover their own cost of hiring servers, typically 15 to 20 percent of the food and drink fee.
Avoid It: Once you get the proposed fee from your vendor, add in the service charge percentage so it's already accounted for and in your budget. For the less expensive fees (like your hairstylist or chauffeur), make sure you have cash (including smaller bills, like $5, $10 and $20 bills) handy on the day of the wedding.
Hidden Wedding Cost: Most of your vendors -- the venue and the bartender included -- are booked for a certain number of hours. If your wedding runs late or longer than you expected, they'll start charging per hour -- anywhere from $250 an hour and up.
Avoid It: Making a reasonable timeline and sticking to it is key. Not only can it prevent overtime costs, but it helps to keep everyone else (your caterer, officiant) on schedule as well. Once you've worked out a timeline, book your vendors for a realistic time frame and make sure you get any overtime costs in writing in your contract.
Hidden Wedding Cost: If you're getting hitched in a loft or a tented venue, you may have to pay extra for services like garbage removal (up to $250), security (up to $500), freight elevator use to get your decor and tables up there (up to $150) and other little things like fire permits and loading dock fees.
Avoid It: Most full-service venues don't charge for each individual item like this -- they'll just wrap it into your overall quote. If you're not going with a full-service venue, just make sure you get all of the costs carefully itemized in your quote so you know exactly what you're paying for.