When you hear wedding bells, you often see dollar signs. But there are additional costs to consider besides basic ones like the venue, dress, photographer and cake.
Here are some often overlooked wedding expenses and how to budget for them.
Before the wedding
1. Engagement, bachelor and bachelorette parties
You don’t want to blow your wedding budget before the big day arrives. If you plan to celebrate your upcoming nuptials with a dinner, party or getaway, calculate the potential costs involved ahead of time to make sure it’s affordable. Food, drinks, activities, travel expenses and any new outfits can add up quickly.
2. Marriage license
The most important (and mandatory!) expense is the marriage license. No matter where you get married or how many guests attend, you must have the document to make your “I do’s” official. Application fees vary by location but typically range from about $25 to $100.
Purchasing save-the-dates and invitations is hard to forget, but the cost to mail them is often a secondary thought. The total price depends not only on quantity, but on size and weight as well.
“If you’re doing a standard size envelope, it’s going to be standard size times the weight. But if you’re doing a square envelope or another sort of die-cut shape, there’s going to be additional expenses,” says Anne Chertoff, trend expert at WeddingWire, a wedding-planning website.
Check with your post office to determine if you’ll need extra postage.
Getting dresses and suits to fit just right can take extra work — and cash. Tailoring runs anywhere from $10 to a few hundred dollars, depending on the garment type, material and extent of the alterations. Aim to schedule your first fitting about five months before the wedding, so you’ll know what alterations, if any, are needed. Give yourself ample time to research prices and schedule additional fittings as necessary.
5. The rehearsal dinner
A rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding can be pricey, especially if you invite more than just the wedding party. Besides the cost of food, beverages and any new clothing you might wear, you may have to pay to reserve a dining space at a restaurant, hotel or other venue.
Showing appreciation for friends and relatives who serve as bridesmaids and groomsmen or perform tasks like making decorations sometimes takes more than words. If you choose to thank the wedding party, parents or helpers with a thoughtful gift, make sure to leave room in the budget.
You’ve noted the venue costs, but have you figured out how much you’ll pay to get there? Research the cost of plane tickets or gas needed to reach your destination wedding, or to rent a limo, shuttle or other mode of transportation to get to and from the venue — especially if the ceremony and reception are at different sites.
8. Hair, nails and makeup
To be picture-perfect on the big day, some brides hire a stylist or makeup artist for their bridesmaids and close family as well as themselves. Whether you treat your loved ones to these services or request that they pay for them, make expectations clear upfront.
9. A backup plan
Things don’t always go according to plan, so prepare for surprises on the way to the altar.
“If you don’t have a plan B in place for an outdoor wedding, then there could be a number of unexpected last-minute costs,” says Brit Bertino, owner of the wedding planning service Simply Weddings Las Vegas and member of the board of directors at the Wedding International Professionals Association. These might include tents or umbrellas to shield guests, photographers and musicians from the rain, snow or sun.
Many venues provide an alternate space, but some charge extra to move the event or don’t have another option available. Set aside funds to cover inclement weather and other unpredictable scenarios, like if your florist falls through at the last minute or your heel breaks and you need to buy new shoes.
10. Taxes, service charges and other fees
Some reception venues charge extra to provide items like audio equipment and candles, to allow food or drink from an outside or nonpreferred vendor — one that’s not on the recommended list — or to get the space ready. And vendors, like florists and bakeries, often charge their own fees for delivery or setup. Check contracts for cake cutting, corkage, labor and other hidden fees.
On top of rental and vendor fees and gratuities, some venues and vendors will hit you with food and beverage taxes, administrative fees or service charges. Sales tax varies by city, county or state. Specific charges should be spelled out in your agreements.
Maybe you’ll ask the photographer to stick around and take pictures for an extra hour, or guests will get carried away dancing at the reception, causing the party to run past the scheduled time. Situations like these usually come with additional fees, so ask about rates in advance.
If you want to reward the caterer, DJ or other vendors for a job well done, consider giving a tip. Bertino generally recommends between a 15% and 20% gratuity but says the amount should depend on the region and what couples are comfortable with.
13. Meals for vendors
As with gratuities, Bertino says, feeding vendors is a nice gesture, but not mandatory in most cases. However, some photographers and musicians will request meals in their contracts, so add a few extra people to the final head count if necessary.
Some venues require couples to have event insurance. If yours doesn’t, it still might be worth getting coverage to protect you financially in case of wedding day damage, injuries or cancellations. Check your existing homeowners or renters insurance policies before you get quotes; you might have adequate coverage already.
15. Hotel room
After the wedding, you’ll want a place to rest. Some hotels will comp the honeymoon suite or upgrade you from a standard room to congratulate you on your marriage, especially if you had the ceremony or reception there. But this gesture isn’t guaranteed unless you’ve been explicitly promised, so budget for a full-price room.
After the wedding
16. Next-day brunch
Many newlyweds wrap up the festivities with a post-wedding day brunch, which usually means paying for food, beverages and another event space.
17. Dry cleaning
Consider getting your wedding dress professionally cleaned and preserved to keep as a memento. Ask a dry cleaner or specialist about pricing, or purchase a kit — David’s Bridal sells them for $189.95.
18. Thank-you cards
Don’t forget to purchase cards, envelopes and, of course, postage to formally thank guests for their gifts and attendance.
19. Name change
If either of you changes your surname, expect a few associated costs to update your driver’s license, passport and other forms of identification. Driver’s license and ID card application fees vary by state. For example, a standard driver’s license costs $11 in Texas and $27 in California.
If your passport was issued less than a year ago, you won’t have to pay to update it. If it was issued more than a year ago, you’ll pay up to a $165 fee. You may be required to present a copy of your marriage certificate to prove your name change, and obtaining that document usually costs about $15.
How to prepare
Give yourself a cushion. Many experts recommend allocating 10% of your total wedding budget to cover unexpected expenses.
Not sure how to estimate your total wedding cost? Read all contracts closely to find out what you’ll be financially responsible for and how much each fee is. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure about any costs or if something doesn’t seem right. Then, use a budgeting tool like an app or calculator, which often include a list of items that can help you decide what expenses to factor in.
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