13 Hidden Wedding Venue Costs That Might Catch You by Surprise

Stay one step ahead of the game by being prepared.
Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
Samantha Iacia
  • Samantha writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in wedding decor, trends, and fashion
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Samantha was a features and weddings contributor for The Baltimore Sun
  • She is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism
Updated May 02, 2024

Every type of wedding venue, from a hotel ballroom to a country barn, comes with a list of associated costs—some you might have anticipated, but others that may have never crossed your mind. These hidden wedding venue costs can pile onto your total wedding budget, but step one is being aware of any potential expenses ahead of time so you can prepare accordingly (or avoid them when possible). Whether you're just beginning your wedding venue search (BTW: you can browse and bookmark venues on The Knot Vendor Marketplace) or already have a location locked in, here's our guide to the hidden costs of a wedding venue and how they might impact your planning.

1. Guest Venue Transportation

For venues that are located far off the beaten path or in complicated areas, it's courteous to provide transportation to make the experience easier—and safer—for your guests. For example, arrange golf carts to drive elderly guests to a hilly or wooded ceremony location, or book a fleet of buses to shuttle guests to and from a venue with limited parking. Keep this in mind when you're scouting potential venues, especially if you're trying to save money on the wedding and won't be able to accommodate transportation.

2. Portable Restrooms

This hidden wedding venue cost mainly applies to remote outdoor locations and nontraditional venues, like a backyard. If your venue doesn't have a restroom nearby, or if the facilities can't accommodate hundreds of guests at once, you'll have to rent portable restrooms for your wedding. And you'll probably want something a little nicer than basic porta potties, like luxury restroom trailers (yes, they exist), which can add onto the cost.

3. Venue Climate Control

Open-air venues, like reception tents, pavilions and courtyards, are perfect places to celebrate when the weather is comfortable and mild. But in the event of an unexpected cold snap or heatwave, you may need to supply space heaters, blankets, fans or patio umbrellas if your venue doesn't have them on hand.

4. Backup Power Sources

Some wedding venues can be heavy on the charm, but if the location hasn't been updated with a robust power system, there might not be enough electricity supply to safely accommodate all of your vendors without causing a surge or blackout. Ask your wedding caterer, band, DJ and photographer about their electrical needs so you can decide if you need to rent backup generators.

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5. Prewedding Venue Cleaning

Rustic vibes are charming to an extent, but insects, dust and dirt are the last things you want to deal with on your wedding day. For venues that are regularly exposed to the elements (like drafty barns) and don't have groundskeeping staff to do deep cleanings, you may want to invest in hiring some help to tidy things up ahead of the wedding day. Be sure to get clearance from your venue coordinator first before moving forward with anything.

6. Additional Lighting

Lighting isn't just a decorative thing—it's a safety requirement, too. This hidden cost of a wedding venue usually applies to outdoor areas that don't have permanent lights or lamps in place, like a countryside field or neighborhood backyard. Even though it's an added cost, you can use decorative lighting ideas to set the mood and safely illuminate your venue after dark. Think: strands of bistro lights or twinkle lights, chandeliers, candles and paper luminaries.

7. Reception Tent Rentals

Rain or shine, the wedding must go on, so having a plan B is crucial. Some wedding venues have reception tents of their own, but otherwise, you'll need to work with a tent rental vendor to secure one. If you're planning an outdoor reception, it's a good idea to reach out to rental companies a few weeks or months ahead of time to ask about their availability, even if using a tent isn't your first choice. Don't forget that tents need lighting, and you might want to spruce up the walls with decor, furniture rentals and flower arrangements.

8. Legal Permits

Getting married in a public place, like a park or beach, often requires buying a permit, paying a location fee and in some cases, getting insurance. You may also need a permit for the tent, alcohol and amplified sound. These hidden wedding venue costs can add up quicker than you might expect, so we recommend working with a wedding planner who specializes in events at that location to guide you through the process.

9. Dance Floor Rental

Depending on the venue, you might be surprised to learn that the dance floor isn't always built-in. If that's the case for your situation, you'll need to rent a dance floor, which comes with an added price tag. Outdoor venues are the most obvious example—you don't want your friends' heels getting stuck in the mud or your grandparents slipping on uneven terrain. But some indoor venues will also ask you to rent a dance floor, especially historical locations that want to prevent wear and tear on their floors. If the dance floor needs a subflooring, that's an extra fee, too.

10. Audio Equipment

It's much harder to hear speeches and vows at an outdoor wedding compared to an indoor one. You don't want to miss a second of the toasts or have your guests straining their ears the whole night, so work with your wedding DJ or wedding planner to add microphones and speakers as needed.

11. Bottle Corkage and Cake Cutting

This hidden wedding reception venue cost sometimes applies if you don't have an all-inclusive wedding package or choose to modify the terms. Supplying your own alcohol or asking your venue staff to cut the wedding cake (versus having a caterer cut the cake) will often cost extra, so be sure to discuss the details upfront when signing your wedding venue contract.

12. Hiring External Vendors

Additional charges can apply if you work with vendors who aren't part of the venue's in-house team or list of preferred vendors. The venue may charge you a fee in order to make up for time spent vetting the new vendor or as a way to compensate for breaching an exclusive contract agreement (in other words, vendors sometimes pay venues to be on their preferred vendor list in return for business).

13. Event Run-Over

This hidden wedding cost might feel like a total vibe-killer, but it's important to know about. You might have so much fun that you just keep begging to hear one more song at the end of the night. That's great, but know that most venues and vendors will charge you by the hour—and sometimes the half-hour or less—for running over your allotted time. A full-service venue will include cleanup and garbage removal in your contract, but those services are usually "same day," which means that if your event goes past midnight, you'll incur a charge.

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