PSA: We are currently in the throes of Peak Engagement Season, which means Peak Wedding Season can’t be that far away.
Planning a wedding can be crazy-fun (or just crazy) and while you’re probably aware that there are going to be some very big-ticket items in your matrimonial future—for starters, the wedding dress, the venue, the food, the music—there’s a host of other hidden costs that, if left unchecked, could add tens of thousands to your initial budget, Jung Lee of New York City-based event company FETE NY tells us.
“While some vendors may intentionally not mention these things, most aren’t trying to deceive you,” she says. “The problem is most couples are inexperienced buyers, so they don’t know what to ask for.” That’s why couples should plan on having a “miscellaneous” budget that can cover unexpected costs. Below, 10 things most brides-to-be might not think of before her big day.
“Many vendors never mention tax—which is often not included—so people forget to factor them into their budget,” Lee explains, though there are some loopholes. Bands and houses of worship don’t charge tax, but likely everything else will. Cake and flowers also can’t be taxed (yay).
2. Service Charges
But don’t think you’re out of the clear when it comes to hidden fees. Venues with in-house caterers like hotels and private clubs charge a service charge in lieu of a gratuity charge and t’s often tacked on top of their per-person charge, Lee says. So if your caterer quotes you at $225 per person, there’s usually a 22–25 percent service charge on top of that, which is then also taxed (talk about adding insult to matrimony!). Other vendors have a clause in their contract that all of their staff must be provided with a warm meal at the reception, “so if you don’t arrange to bring meals for them in from the outside, your caterer will charge a lot,” Lee says. With most caterers charging at least $100 a head, this can add up, and quickly.
3. Everything to Do with Food
Whether you want to personalize your menu or upgrade it to include special items like sushi or a Cronut station, it’ll cost you. “Many caterers charge you when you try to bring in outside food or beverage,” she says. That means even if you want to bring in your favorite wine or spirit, many caterers will insist on buying it for you, marking it up several times over. And they could charge a corking fee too.
4. Unexpected Paper and Postage Costs
“People think all the paper products you need are the invitations and the save-the-dates,” Lee says. Not so. Something as simple as postage can cost as much as $2 per invite if you’re shipping a large envelope, not to mention prepaid postage for the RSVP cards. Then you add in calligraphy, menu cards, place cards, escort cards, and ceremony products, and you’re looking at thousands of dollars in extra costs.
5. Guest Transportation
Even if you were thoughtful and booked a limo or bus for guests, read the fine print. “Rates are usually for a minimum of hours, but many places charge starting the moment the vehicle leaves the garage.” That means if you budgeted for six hours, you could ultimately get charged for eight or nine.
6. Welcome-Bag Delivery Fees
Greeting guests at the hotel with a welcome bag full of little goodies is a lovely personal touch, but Lee says most hotels charge a welcome-bag porterage fee, which, because it’s associated with your wedding, will be marked up from the get-go. The cost varies by hotel, but once you include a tip for the porter, could be another pricey problem.
7. Extras for the Band
Depending on your contract, some musicians could charge extra if they play beyond the agreed-upon amount of time. Factor in your entertainment’s meals and drinks on top of everything, and you’re looking at a big chunk of change.
8. Wedding Dress Alterations
Sure, you may have budgeted a small fortune for the perfect gown, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Then there’s the matter of getting it fitted to a tee—if only a few alterations are needed, you might only be set back $50 or so, but if you need significant alterations, like having the bodice redone, expect to shell out $400 or more.
9. Cleaning Costs
Once the actual wedding is over, don’t expect to go home without forking over even more money, especially if you partied like a rock star. Cleaning costs for the venue can mount—up to $250 for garbage removal and as much as $500 for the actual cleaning. However, if your venue offered an all-inclusive price, you’re probably in the clear (but best to check now and avoid any unpleasant surprises later).
10. Wedding Dress Preservation
After the big day, there’s still the matter of cleaning and preserving your dress. Sally Lorensen Conant, the executive director of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists, tells The Knot that brides can expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $700 and more to clean, package, and preserve their gowns.