You’ve made a budget, and you’re sure you’ve thought of everything. The flowers, the dress, the getaway car—it’s all covered. But let me tell you: weddings are expensive. On average, couples are shelling out $26,000 on their nuptials, making it one heck of a party!
Usually, it isn’t the 8-tiered cake made of satin fondant that throws brides for a loop; it’s when the linens turn out to be $2 apiece instead of $1. So to avoid sending you into a fiscal frenzy, we’ve compiled a list of extra surprise expenses to ensure that they don’t creep up on you before the big day.
44 Hidden Wedding Costs You Need to Know:
Photos by Shanna Guidry Photography
1. Be a savvy budgeter
Weddings always cost more than you expect. When setting a budget, many wedding experts suggest padding your estimate by 20% to make up for extra costs. While it doesn’t sound fun, it will help you out in the long run!
2. Marriage license
You won’t want to forget this one! In Minnesota, a marriage license costs $115 with 12 hours of premarital counseling and $40 without. If you’re getting married in a destination location, you’ll want to factor in the cost of getting a license there.
3. Bridal party gifts
Being a bridesmaid and groomsman is a time and financial commitment. According to a nationwide survey, bridesmaids can expect to pay upward of $1500 to be a part of your big day. While we think that might be on the steeper end, your attendants deserve to be pampered and properly thanked—they are your closest friends, after all! On average, brides spend roughly $50 per attendant.
Those dresses won’t hem and steam themselves! Since alterations vary so much from bride to bride, wedding shops don’t include alterations or steaming in their ticket prices. Expect to pay $100-$500, depending on where you get your dress altered and how much needs to be done.
Tip: Order the size recommended to you by your consultant, even if the sample fits you. Dresses on the rack can stretch, leaving the sizing up for question. Or avoid the problem altogether and shop sample sales!
5. Bridal accessories
Many brides come to their bridal appointments with a budget for their dress—and their dress alone. Factor in a veil, sash, and jewelry into your ensemble’s final total. Veils generally ring in around $75-$300, while belts and jewelry vary depending on the amount of beadwork and detailing.
6. Paper products
Let’s be real, your 91-year-old grandpa isn’t going to RSVP online. RSVP cards, direction inserts, and programs are easily forgotten costs that can have you shelling out upwards of $1,000.
7. Next-day brunch
Since your closest friends and family flew from far and near, a post-wedding brunch is a great option to spend some more time with them. Typically, the parents of the bride pay for this event, but throwing it yourselves is a nice gesture to thank everyone for all of the work they put in to make your big day happen!
8. Animal housing
Have a dog or cat? It will need a place to stay during your big day and honeymoon. Unless your furry friend is a part of your nuptials, you should plan on arranging a pet hotel.
Factor in roughly a dollar an invite for postage. Don’t forget to stamp RSVP cards, as well. You’ll want to make it as easy as possible for guests to get their RSVPs in on time!
10. Food for the day-of
Your big day will be busy, busy, busy! So make sure that you and your attendants don’t forget to eat by providing lunch and snacks throughout the day.
11. Hotel room for the night before
Especially if you’re getting married out of town, you’ll need to pay for a hotel room for the night before your wedding. In some weddings that I’ve been in, the bride has also paid for rooms for out-of-town attendants as a nice gesture to subsidize the cost of the airplane ticket
12. Food for the vendors
Hungry vendors are unhappy vendors. Don’t forget to include your DJ, photographer, videographer, and any other vendor in your head count for the meal.
13. Decorating costs
The venue that I was married in charged $75/hour for someone to be there while we decorated. If that’s the case for you, rally up the troops to get it done more quickly!
14. Guest damages
Yep, unless you can pinpoint exactly who it was that pulled the fire alarm or ripped the wallpaper while taking down decorations at the reception hall, it’s going on your tab.
15. Proper undergarments
A bra, underwear, a pair of Spanx…necessary evils to get you through your big day!
16. Non-approved professionals
Hiring from outside of your venue’s vendor-approved list may tack on up to 20% more onto your bill.
17. Rehearsal dinner dress
From bridal showers to the rehearsal dinner, you may want to purchase something fancy as you prepare to say “I do!”
18. Welcome bags
If you have out of town guests coming in, it’s a nice gesture to put small welcome bags in their hotel rooms. Fill them with water, snacks, candles—anything to make them feel more at home!
19. Coat check
Winter date? A coat check can tack on upwards of $300 onto your bill.
20. Presents for parents
Thanking your parents is a wonderful gesture that they’ll always appreciate. Write them a lovely thank-you note alongside of a gift that is unique to your relationship with them.
Depending on the favor you choose, you should budget roughly $1-$4 per person.
22. Planner and day-of coordinator
Many wedding planners provide both full-engagement services and day-of coordination. Be sure to check your contract to make sure that you’re getting what you want. In our opinion, you won’t want to skimp on the day-of coordinator, unless you have a crazy-organized relative you can utilize!
On average, having a videographer to capture your big day will run you around $1500, but if you want one that is highly in-demand you can expect to budget upwards of $7000. Yikes!
If you’re getting married outdoors, you’ll want to factor sound into your budget. Churches and venues will typically have a method they use to make sure everyone can hear the ceremony, but you will generally have to provide your own for private affairs. Likewise, some reception halls require a lot of speakers and some DJs will tack on extra charges for equipment.
25. Including yourself in the table count
You may be giddy with excitement, but you and your fiancé will have to eat, too!
Like any other venue, churches cost money to rent. If you’re a member of the church, it will typically be lower—you will just have to pay for the pastor’s time and the cleaning services.
27. A back-up plan
If you’re getting married outside, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan for your ceremony. While this may seem like an unnecessary extra cost, you’ll be thankful you did it when you see the storm clouds rolling in!
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28. Tips and gratuity
Gratuities are often left out of the initial budget. From the florist to the hairdresser, each of your vendors deserves tips! Be sure to check the contract to make sure that they aren’t already included. Factor in 20% of their operating costs to show them they did a great job.
29. Post-celebration costs
The hidden wedding costs aren’t over after your sparkler send-off. You will have to write thank-you notes and order your photos from your photographer.
A basic insurance policy that covers any loss of rings, photos, and attire will generally cost around $155 to $550.
31. Out-of-town vendors
If you have your eye on a photographer, videographer, or musician from out of state, you will have to factor in their plane tickets and hotel rooms.
32. Workout plan
Sweating for the wedding to get in tip-top shape for the big day will tack on an additional column to your budget list. Luckily, this can generally be as much or as little as you want.
33. Valet parking
If you’re looking at a venue that doesn’t have free parking, you will want to consider how much you’ll be forking out for a valet service. Depending on the length of your celebration and how many cars you’re expecting, costs can range from $375 to $4,000.
A simple metal folding chair can cost around $1.00 a piece, while a resin wedding chair usually rings in around $2.25-$2.50. If you’re going big, you can expect to spend anything from $6.00 to $8.00 per seat.
35. Cake cutting
Many establishments will tack on an extra fee to cut and serve the wedding cake—usually around $2 a person.
36. Cork fees
Some venues make money by charging you for supplying your own alcohol. The fee per bottle varies depending on the establishment. Keep in mind that the venue may charge you for every bottle they open, even if only half of it is drank.
Tip: if you want a special libation at your celebration, ask your venue if they can order it in for you. The ordering cost is often lower than the corkage fee.
37. Sales tax
Here in Minnesota we’re lucky to not be charged sales tax on clothing—which will come in handy when you purchase your gown! Unfortunately, vendors, caterers, and decorations won’t come with the same benefits.
38. Delivery fees
If you’re having any flowers, chairs, glassware, linens, or tables delivered from off-site, you will want to factor in delivery fees. Make sure to carefully read your contract to be in-the-know!
39. Overtime charges
Not ready for the party to end? Watch out for overtime charges!
40. Bar set-up fees
When negotiating your contract, keep an eye on the bar set up fee so that you aren’t surprised by it at the end!
41. Kids' meals
If you’re inviting them, don’t forget to include kiddos in the head count!
42. Gifts for bridal attendant “proposals”
If you’re asking your 'maids to be in the wedding in a special way, keep in mind that will cost money, too. Remember that it’s about the sentiment, not about the cash spent. Keep it simple!
43. Bachelorette party
Bachelorette parties are getting more and more extravagant. You may want a new dress for the evening, and unless your 'maids are treating you will need to factor in your dinner and drinks.
44. Cleaning and gown preservation
After your big day, you may want to have your gown cleaned and preserved for sentimental reasons. How fun is the idea of your daughter trying it on before her own wedding? These kits usually ring in around $100-$200.
45. “Other” Petty cash
For those extra-extra unplanned expenses. “Other” cash is for when your first set of alterations goes haywire. It’s for when your mother-in-law’s second cousin and her boyfriend feel offended that they didn’t get invited to the wedding, so you claim the invite got lost in the mail. It’s for when your dog eats your favors and you have to replace them. You hopefully won’t need it (fingers crossed!), but it’s nice to have!
A surprise cost we missed? Write it in the comment section below!