Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your wedding budget.
You've probably already factored in the wedding budget basics, but what about those unanticipated costs that you wouldn't be aware of unless you worked in the wedding industry?
You know Here Comes The Guide has got your back! We're calling out 21 pesky hidden wedding costs many couples get blindsided by.
We see you, hidden fees.
Hidden Wedding Cost #1 → Venue Fees
This may come as a surprise, but not all services and equipment are covered in the venue site fee (also known as the rental fee or facility fee). So don't get lured in by a low site fee, thinking that it will cover everything! A site fee typically covers rental of the space for a certain number of hours. And it can be misleading to see an enticingly-low rental fee compared to the true cost of renting a space! Site fees vary from venue to venue, can be in addition to "per person" fees, and can even fluctuate throughout the year—so it's important to understand what's included in the site fee for each venue you're considering.
Be aware that it's possible to get nickeled and dimed for all the extras: tables, chairs, linens, dance floor, cake cutting, corkage, valet service, A/V equipment, lighting, and so forth. You can also end up paying more than you expected for setup, breakdown, security, and cleanup! These additional charges can really add up, so save yourself a big headache by understanding exactly what's included in the rental fee—and what's not—before you sign any contract.
Hidden Wedding Cost #2 → Venue Rentals
Some venues are what we like to refer to as "blank slate venues" which are essentially just the space: we're talking 4 walls, a ceiling, and the floor. They are clean canvases that can be transformed to create the wedding style of your dreams; however, it does mean you'll have to essentially build your event from the ground up. (Insert dollar signs here.)
The benefit is that you have total control of where to save and where to splurge, but just keep in mind that a blank slate venue could require everything from tables and chairs to generators, heaters, kitchen equipment, and even portable restrooms! This could lead to extra expenses that may not have been included in your original budget, so get a clear picture of what your dream wedding will entail before booking that beautiful blank slate venue.
Hidden Wedding Cost #3 → Taxes and Service Charges
We're all familiar with sales tax in our everyday lives, but don't forget that sales tax applies to your wedding, too! Know your local tax rates so you can build that cushion into your budget. We recommend setting aside between 5%–8% of each line item for taxes, to be safe.
Then there are service charges. A "service charge" is a mandatory fee that gets added to your venue and/or catering contract (on top of any "minimum" you're required to spend). This extra fee is applied to things like venue maintenance, service personnel, and administrative costs.
Now brace yourself when we tell you: A service charge of anywhere from 15%–25% will be applied to your food & beverage total—so it's going to be a sizable addition to your final bill. (Deep breaths.)
Taxes vary by state and service charges vary by venue, so it's important to get these line items built into your estimate.
Hidden Wedding Cost #4 → Tips and Gratuities
Yes we realize that you're already spending a lot of money on your wedding, but tipping to show your gratitude for above-and-beyond service is always appreciated by your vendors. Keep in mind that unless it's built into your contract, tipping is never mandatory—so you are free to do so at your discretion. We recommend taking a good, hard look at your wedding contracts to see if a gratuity is already included. It's pretty standard for it to be covered in your venue, catering, and even transportation contracts. When it is included, no additional tipping is required.
Also, you technically aren't required to tip the owner of a business—just their employees. The thought process behind this is that you're already paying what the business owner has deemed an adequate price for their service. However, feel free to ignore this rule if they rock your socks off.
Tipping can be tricky to navigate, so we highly recommend checking out our comprehensive guide to tipping your wedding vendors with suggested monetary amounts. And make sure to scroll to the bottom to pin our handy "How To Tip Your Wedding Vendors Cheat Sheet" for easy reference!
Hidden Wedding Cost #5 → Outside Vendor / Catering Fees
Some venues may impose a fee for bringing in your own caterer / vendors outside of their "preferred" list—and it can cost a pretty penny. So be sure to ask your venue about their vendor policy before you sign the dotted line or set your heart on a specific vendor. Do they allow outside vendors? Are there fees associated with bringing in your own caterer or vendor team? Are you contractually obligated to stick to the venue's preferred list or in-house caterer? In some areas, an outside caterer or vendor must be licensed and insured, so get clear on all the details before you book a particular venue.
Hidden Wedding Cost #6 → Contingency Plan Rentals and Permits
We all know the importance of a solid contingency plan for outdoor weddings. Just keep in mind that a Plan B isn't always free! It may cost you to reserve that extra "just in case" event space, those outdoor heat lamps, or that gorgeous sailcloth tent. And in some areas you may be required to obtain a permit for tents, canopies, and other accessories such as heaters and generators. Check with your venue about potential contingency plan costs, and whether or not you'll need a permit. You want to make sure that if a contingency plan does need to be activated, it won't bust your budget.
Hidden Wedding Cost #7 → Parking and Transportation
If your venue isn't equipped with on-site parking, you may be faced with a dilemma: Is it your responsibility to pay for guest parking? Or should you hire a shuttle to transport guests from the parking location to the venue?
Here's the good news: In terms of wedding etiquette, transportation expenses to and from the wedding venue fall to the guest. However, if nearby parking is limited or you're concerned about accessibility or guests getting back to their rooms safely post-open-bar, you can consider arranging and covering the costs of a shuttle service. Which, of course, you'll want to budget for.
Hidden Wedding Cost #8 → Vendor Meals
Vendors aren't superheroes who can work a full wedding day with no breaks—so please remember to feed them! Ask your caterer what they offer for vendor meals, and give them the final "vendor meal" count at the same time you confirm your final guest count. You should provide a meal to any vendor who is on-site during your reception including your photographer, DJ/musicians, wedding planner, and videographer. It's also a great idea to check in with your vendors beforehand to ask about any food allergies or dietary requirements.
Vendor meals generally have a less expensive price per person than your guests' meals, but if you really want to spoil your vendor team you can add them to your total guest count so they receive the same delectable dish as everyone else.
Hidden Wedding Cost #9 → Travel Fees
If you hire vendors outside of your local area, you may be responsible for covering their travel fees. This additional fee helps pay for things like gas, travel time, tolls, car repairs, flights, accommodations, and so on. Some vendors will charge standard mileage rates while others may charge an hourly travel fee, so it's important to discuss this with prospective vendors before booking.
Hidden Wedding Cost #10 → Overtime Charges
It's easy to get swept up in the whirlwind of your reception: the drinks, the dancing, the champagne! But be mindful that extending the party will cost you—per hour. Your venue and on-site vendors will charge to stay past their contracted times, and oftentimes at a higher dollar amount than their typical hourly rate. To avoid this extra expense, carefully schedule your wedding timeline with a bit of extra cushion, and plan out an afterparty in advance where everyone can meet up to keep the party going.
Hidden Wedding Cost #11 → Insurance
Wedding insurance may financially protect you against not only the financial impact of unforeseen scenarios, cancellations, or postponements, but also against vendors who do not fulfill their obligations. Whether your venue requires it or you simply want to safeguard your wedding investment, wedding insurance is something you'll want to inquire about.
Policies and coverage vary not only from company to company, but also from state to state. But the good news is, it's typically quite affordable and many companies like WedSafe offer a free, no-obligation online quote.
Hidden Wedding Cost #12 → Setup, Breakdown, and Delivery
If your wedding incorporates professional floral installations or large-scale décor rentals, you'll want to set aside extra funds for setup, breakdown, and delivery to your venue. These fees cover transportation to and from the venue, the cost of additional labor, and the time it takes your rental company or floral designer to set everything up and break it all down.
Hidden Wedding Cost #13 → Tastings and Trials
Typically vendors will charge a fee for a tasting or trial that gets applied to your total...if you book them. If you don't book them, that money may be theirs to keep. But even if you do end up booking them, keep in mind that multiple changes to the menu, mockup, design, or styling could cost you extra. To avoid an upcharge, ask about their tasting and/or trial policies and whether or not additional revisions come with a fee.
Hidden Wedding Cost #14 → Dress, Tux, or Suit Alterations
Unless you can find a fits-you-like-a-dream dress or suit right off the rack, chances are you'll need some alterations. And unfortunately, those don't come free with purchase. In fact, depending on how much work needs to be done, alterations can end up costing hundreds of dollars! And let's not forget the wedding-day accessories and shoes needed to complete your look. Factor all of this into your wedding attire budget so you don't break the bank.
Hidden Wedding Cost #15 → Wedding Ring Resizing Fee
Whether it's your engagement ring or wedding band, there's always a chance you'll have to get it resized for a perfect fit. The price depends on the ring metal and style, as well as how far up or down it needs to be resized. Minor adjustments could cost less than $50 while major overhauls could go into the hundreds. Oftentimes the jeweler you use to purchase your ring will offer a resizing service free of charge, so be sure to ask about that!
Hidden Wedding Cost #16 → Marriage License
This may seem like a small detail, but you can't get legally married without a license! So the cost of this mandatory piece of paper must be kept in mind. The amount depends on where you live and varies greatly, but you can expect to pay somewhere between the $20–$120 range. And extra copies of your marriage certificate could cost you as well.
Hidden Wedding Cost #17 → Snail Mail Postage
If you're sending save the dates, invitations, thank-you notes, and more in the mail, be sure to factor the cost of postage into your stationery budget. The cost will depend on the weight and dimensions of your envelopes, so err on the side of simplicity with your invitation suite. Oversize packages, oddly-shaped envelopes, or heavy-duty layered enclosures could really cost you—especially when you need to send them out to a large guest list, or ship them off internationally! We recommend mocking up an idea of your stationery suite and getting it weighed at the post office before you commit. That way you can factor in the exact cost of postage before you purchase all of your invites.
Hidden Wedding Cost #18 → Day-Of Items and Gifts
Those day-of details can really make your wedding special. Imagine getting ready with your wedding party in a plush suite amongst bottomless mimosas and brunchy bites, while your guests delight in the curated welcome bags you put together and your soon-to-be-spouse gets teary-eyed over their surprise gift. But let's be real: these special moments come at a cost!
You'll want to factor in the cost of a getting-ready space if you don't already have one, as well as any gifts, guest favors and/or welcome bags, and even morning-of drinks and snacks. Just be aware that some hotels charge a welcome bag delivery fee to take the packages to your guests' rooms. Asking the front desk to hand them out to your guests at check-in may be a more budget-friendly (or even free!) option.
Hidden Wedding Cost #19 → BYO Alcohol
Although bringing your own alcohol can potentially save you big bucks (booze gets an insanely high markup), be aware of the potential hidden costs! For starters, your venue may charge a corkage fee to cover the cost of serving, which is typically calculated per bottle. Or you may need to hire licensed bartenders to serve your alcohol. Or if you'd like your caterer to staff the bar, they may charge a fee or require you to purchase liability insurance—or extra security! And let's not forget you'll still need to provide mixers, garnishes, glassware, barware, napkins, ice, limes, etc. depending on your cocktail menu.
Ask about all of these details before booking a BYO Alcohol wedding venue, and be sure to purchase your alcohol from a supplier that has a buy-back policy so you can return any unused bottles!
Hidden Wedding Cost #20 → Pre-Wedding Event Attire
Cuz you know you'll want to look cute for the bach party. Factor in any dresses, suits, swimsuits, shoes, undergarments, or accessories that you'll want to purchase for your shower, bachelor / bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, etc. This goes for your honeymoon, too!
Hidden Wedding Cost #21 → Post-Wedding Purchases
There may be some additional costs to consider after the wedding such as cleaning and preserving your wedding dress, ordering framed prints of your wedding photos, purchasing thank-you cards, or buying souvenirs on your honeymoon. Aaaaaand we're spent.
⟡ The Moral of this Story ⟡
It's safe to assume you'll encounter surprise costs while planning your wedding, so our best advice is to:
Build an Emergency Fund / Unexpected Costs Buffer of at least 5% into your overall wedding budget. This will safeguard you against going into debt for your big day.
Refer to our Wedding Budget Checklist and the Hidden Fees above to build out a realistic and roomy budget—right from the start.
Get everything in writing!!!! Seriously, before you sign the dotted line on any venue or vendor contract, make sure you know exactly what is included in your package—and what's not. A well-written contract locks in the pricing you have agreed upon, and spells out precisely what you're purchasing, eliminating any surprise changes to fees or services.
The more you know.
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