12 Hidden Wedding Costs You Probably Haven't Thought Of

Don't let these fees sneak up on you.​
by Rachel Torgerson

Having a wedding is expensive as it is, which is why it's important to prepare yourself for these inevitable fees so they don't sneak up on you and surprise you later. We're here to help—below, check out a list of 12 common charges couples tend to overlook, so you can start factoring them into your budget now.

1. Wedding Band Equipment

Why It's Hidden: The cost of the wedding band includes fees for the musicians' time and the minimum amount of equipment needed. If your reception space is extra large, additional speakers and microphones could be required to project the best sound quality.

The Cost: Anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

How to Avoid It: Before booking your wedding band or DJ, you need to clearly explain the layout of the space (or have them check it out, if they can) so the pros know exactly what they're working with. If they want to add in extra equipment, have them explain why it's necessary before signing a contract or agreeing to pay for anything else.

2. Postage Stamps

Why It's Hidden: Stationers don't advertise shipping costs. If they did, you might decide to go with simpler (read: cheaper) invites.

The Cost: Oversize, uniquely shaped, heavy or bulky invitations can cost you about $2 each to mail.

How to Avoid It: Skip the fancy boxed invitations and multilayer cards, which can bulk up quickly and cost a lot more than you bargained for.

3. Wedding Dress Alterations and Steaming

Why It's Hidden: Most stores don't include alterations (or steaming) in the price of the wedding dress, and they're not doing it for free—it can take up to three hours just to alter the bustier.

The Cost: A simple hem can be less than $100, but completely rebuilding a bodice can send the price up to $500.

How to Avoid It: Ask about what the store charges for every alteration you may need before purchasing the gown so you're not blindsided by the extra costs.

4. Overtime Fees

Why It's Hidden: Your band, DJ, wedding photographer and videographer are booked for a certain amount of time, so if your wedding runs a little longer than you expected, they'll charge per hour after they've reached the time specified in the contract.

The Cost: Starting at $250 per hour (although some vendor's per-hour overtime fees are more expensive than their typical per-hour charge).

How to Avoid It: Factor in additional time for getting dressed and taking photos—that way, you can book your pros for a more realistic time frame. Get overtime costs in writing (they shouldn't be more than 50 percent more per hour than the regular rate), so you'll know what to expect if you decide to keep the party going.

5. Welcome Bag Delivery

Why It's Hidden: Most hotels don't factor in a welcome bag delivery fee when you block rooms. And they may fail to mention the rate unless you ask—and they'll just add it to your final bill. They may even charge you a fee for holding the welcome bags if you drop them off before guests arrive, so make sure to ask.

The Cost: Up to $7 per bag.

How to Avoid it: During the booking process, ask about the hotel's policy on receiving and delivering welcome bags to guests' rooms. It may be free or cheaper if they hand the bags out at the counter as guests check in.

6. Rental Transport

Why It's Hidden: You'd assume the rental companies would include these extra fees in the per-item costs (do they honestly think you're going to fit 150 Chiavari chairs in your car?), but surprisingly they don't.

The Cost: From $50 up to more than $500.

How to Avoid It: Ask the rental company what its shipping and packaging fees are up front—if the cost is too high for your budget, shop around a bit. You might actually save some money by renting items from a more expensive company that includes delivery costs at no extra charge.

7. Taxes and Gratuities

Why It's Hidden: Even though these aren't exactly hidden—we all know there are taxes on almost everything and gratuities are expected for almost any service—most couples don't think about how much they'll end up owing during the planning process, or how tons of vendors don't include gratuity in their pricing quote up front. 

The Cost: This will depend on the total amount of money you're spending as well as the location of the event (taxes vary by state), but you should set aside at least $800 to give to your vendors for their hard work. 

How to Avoid It: There's no getting around paying taxes, but paying the entire bill in one lump sum can help lower the overall price. A safe bet: Tack on an extra third of your total costs to your budget for tips and taxes.

8. Service Fees

Why It's Hidden: No, these service fees aren't a tip for the event staff—but another fee that venues charge to cover their own cost of hiring servers, coat checkers, and bathroom and parking attendants. Additionally, going with an outside baker or your own wine can raise the price. Why? Because your venue's workers are responsible for slicing and serving each piece, then cleaning the dishes—and this means more work for their staff. (But know that if you use the cake or liquor provided by your reception site, the charge is usually wrapped into the cost.)

The Cost: Service charges can typically amount to 20 to 25 percent of the event's total food and drink fee. Cake-cutting can cost anywhere from $2 to $5 per guest, and a corking fee can cost anywhere from $1.50 to $3 for every bottle the staff opens.

How to Avoid It: Be up front. Ask about any service fees (like cake-cutting and corkage) before you decide to go with an outside source for either.

9. Vendor Trials

Why It's Hidden: Yes, a florist or other vendor's demo may be gratis the first time, but if you make repeated changes, you definitely risk being billed. And of course, you'll want to factor in your hair and makeup trials with your stylist into your overall beauty budget.

The Cost: It depends on the total cost of your vendor and where you live. 

How to Avoid It: Ask about trial fees (and additional changes) up front. If you want to avoid trial fees altogether, feel free to skip and simply describe to your vendors exactly what you want—but know you're taking a risk by doing so. 

10. Cleanup and Breakdown Costs

Why It's Hidden: Many couples spend so much time planning the actual day they forget to budget for what happens when it's all over.

The Cost: While a full-service venue won't charge for these things, if you're paying a flat fee to rent only the space, anticipate additional charges for garbage removal (up to $250) and cleaning (up to $500). And even most full-service venues require same-day setup and cleanup. So if you're getting married on a weekend, expect to pay time and a half for labor, and if your party goes into the wee hours of the morning, you may face extra charges for late-night pickup and cleanup.

How to Avoid It: Read your contract carefully—the setup and breakdown costs should be included in the labor charge.

11. Non-Venue-Approved Professionals

Why It's Hidden: Some venues require you to use caterers or florists from their preferred pros list—and tack on a fee if you don't.

The Cost: Usually an extra 20 percent or more.

How to Avoid It: Stick to its list of preferred vendors, or choose a venue without one.

12. Marriage License Fee

Why It's Hidden: Yes, even a city hall wedding will cost you. And you might just shrug it off since it's such a small fee, but like any tiny detail (for example, the ribbons for your wedding favors), it's just one thing you'll need to factor into your budget.

The Cost: It depends where you live. In the state of New York, the marriage license fee is $35. 

How to Avoid It: Unfortunately, you can't get around this one! 

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