To help you out, we checked in with wedding vendors and financial experts across the country to uncover the top items that couples forget to think about when allocating their wedding finances.
Asking Bridesmaids in a Special Way
For many brides, asking their nearest and dearest to stand up with them on their wedding day simply isn’t something that can be done via phone or text — or even just on your regular girls’ night out. Brides are popping the question to their ‘maids with creative gifts, personalized cards, or taking them out to a nice lunch or dinner, according to Plum Pretty Sugar. But remember that those little costs can add up!
You’ve already set aside money for your professional hair styling and makeup application on the wedding day — but remember that you may need more than one trial for each in order to feel fully comfortable on the big day. Also, keep in mind any pre-wedding beauty treatments you may want to indulge in, from a mani/pedi to a spray tan to a massage. “If there’s a more expensive service you are dying to try, look for deals via daily deal sites like Groupon,” said Andrea Woroch, a consumer money-saving expert frequently featured on Today, Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, and more.
Your Bachelorette Party
Bachelorette parties today are bigger than ever; more and more groups are planning weekend getaways, like a Vegas excursion or a girls’ beach trip. And even though the maid of honor and bridesmaids are supposed to pick up the tab for the party, many brides end up paying for their own airfare or part of the hotel bill to help alleviate costs for their girls — especially if the bride-to-be is the one pushing for an overnight excursion. “Stay close to home to avoid extra travel costs. You will have fun with your girls no matter where you go. Choose a luxe hotel or find a big house to rent near your home, and plan activities to keep the fun going,” said Woroch.
Don’t forget to make it legal! Your marriage license will typically cost between $20 and $100, depending on where you’re getting married. And in most states, you won’t automatically receive a copy of your marriage license after it’s been filed — you’ll need to pay for that, too.
If you’re having a destination wedding, keep in mind that you may need to fly in a few days before the wedding or even make a second trip to the locale in order to get your marriage license, depending on the waiting period, according to Abra Millar of Hopkins Bay Resort in Belize. This means incurring extra travel fees — more nights, more meals, and possibly a second round of airfare.
Don’t blow your entire stationery budget on your save-the-dates and invitations — you also need to think aboutprograms, escort cards, place cards, menu cards, and any other day-of needs you may encounter. “We suggest adding a separate line item in the budget for day of stationery so brides can budget accordingly,” advised Wedding Paper Divas.
When choosing your invitations, be sure to weigh it carefully — if it’s more than one ounce, you’re going to need additional postage. Some invitations can set you back $1 or more in postage fees. Keep in mind that extra postage is also required for square invitations, regardless of weight.
Also, don’t forget that you also need stamps for your save-the-dates, RSVP cards, and thank-you notes. And try not to obsess over matching your postage to your invitation theme, which can sometimes lead you to choose a more expensive stamp just for the design — “No one will remember the stamps,” said Woroch.
A Hotel Room the Night Before
If you and your bridesmaids are planning on getting ready in a hotel suite, pay attention to check in/check out times — you’ll often need to book the room for two nights in order to have the morning to get ready. “Many hotels will not guarantee an early check-in on the wedding date,” said Karen Bussen, A-list wedding planner and designer of Simple Stunning Destination Weddings for Palladium Hotels and Resorts. “To be safe, and especially if you have a larger bridal party, you might want to consider reserving your room for not just the wedding night, but the night before as well. This way, you can check in at your leisure the night before, sleep a little late, order room service, and invite the ladies to join you for a relaxing day of pampering and getting dolled up.”
Meals on the Wedding Day
Whether you’re getting ready at home or in a hotel, your bridesmaids will likely be with you every step of the way. Don’t let them starve! Keep it simple with bagels and fruit for breakfast and a platter of sandwiches for lunch. “And don’t forget the champagne!” said Damon Dietz of Absolute Media Productions.
“Wedding brain” can affect even the best of us — and if you’re not getting ready in your own home, it’s far too easy to forget something and need a last-minute replacement. At one wedding Diane Warner, author of Complete Guide to a Traditional Wedding, attended, the groom didn’t realize he’d neglected to pack his dress shoes until he arrived at the ceremony venue; “This required a hasty trip to the closest shoe store,” she said. We recommend starting your packing list at least a week before your wedding, and have a trusted loved one look it over as well to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.
Unless you’re extremely lucky, your wedding gown is going to require some alterations, whether that means hemming the gown, taking it in (or letting it out), or structural changes (like adding straps). Some salons offer a flat fee, while others will charge you for every alteration. This can run you several hundred dollars, so don’t blow your entire fashion budget on the gown.
Undergarments and Accessories
Also, save room in your fashion budget for the extras: Your veil, shoes, undergarments and/or shapewear, and jewelry, which can set you back $200 to $500 or more. You can cut costs by making your veil or jewelry your “something borrowed.”
Pre-Wedding Party Attire
Another forgotten fashion item: Cute dresses for your pre-wedding events, said Woroch. From the engagement party to the bridal shower to the bachelorette party to the rehearsal dinner to the day-after brunch, you’ll be celebrating all year long with your nearest and dearest. Save money by re-wearing dresses you already own — you don’t need a little white dress for every party just because you’re the bride.
Transportation for Guests
While you’re generally not responsible for how guests get to and from your wedding, it becomes your concern if a guest gets too intoxicated to drive home. “If you can’t recruit a friend or family member to provide the necessary transportation, you’ll need to pay taxi fare,” said Warner.
Inevitably, a guest who RSVP’d “no” will turn up anyway, a clueless friend will show up with an uninvited plus one, or your cousin will bring her kids even though you specifically said no kids were invited. “As rude and upsetting as this may be, it should be anticipated by planning ahead for a couple extra dinners and place settings,” said Warner.
While these are certainly not required, gift bags are a lovely touch if you’re hosting out-of-towners. “They may include handwritten welcome notes from the bride and groom, fresh fruit or flowers, disposable cameras, bottled water, a schedule of events, brochures for local attractions, and a city map,” said Warner.
Presents for Parents and Other Family Members
You already know that you’ll need gifts for your hardworking bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, and ring bearers. Butdon’t forget about your parents! Consider an engraved frame, an IOU for a parents’ album after the big day, or even a second honeymoon package. “It doesn’t have to be costly — the emphasis should be on remembering them. But if you calculate these costs, you won’t be surprised down the road,” said photographer Elisa Bricker. Some couples also opt to give small gifts to other family members, like grandparents and any siblings not included in the bridal party. “Purchase these gifts early in the planning process so the expense doesn’t hit you at the last minute,” recommended Warner.
Favors can cost anywhere from $3-8 (or more) per person, according to Ann Taylor of A Chair Affair Inc., which can make a sizable dent in your wedding budget depending on the size of your guest list. A few ways to cut costs: Opt for one favor per couple rather than per person; go for a DIY option if you’re feeling crafty, or skip favors altogether — they’re definitely not required, and most guests won’t even notice if you don’t have them.
So many DIY brides decide at the last minute that they’ll need a little help on the big day. “You really don’t want to be stuck taking calls from your florist and band on your way to your first look, do you?” reminded Woroch. Enter the day-of coordinator, which can run you about $500 to $2,000. “It’s best to plan this into your budget ahead of time. Then, if you feel you got it all under control, that’s just extra cash in your pocket.”
Your photographer and videographer will be with you for 8+ hours on the wedding day; they’re going to need some fuel to keep making sure you look your best all night long. “Vendor meals are usually much cheaper than guest entrees, but depending on the size of your band, number of photographers, videographers and coordinators, you may be looking at a few hundred dollars extra,” said Woroch.
“Couple often think they don’t need a videographer because photos will be enough,” said Dietz. “Then they come to the realization the month of the wedding that they have made a big mistake. Trying to squeeze in a major vendor like videographer without properly budgeting for it can be a cause for concern.” Fees for videography can vary wildly, from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re wishy-washy on video, set aside the money anyway — then, if you decide you really don’t need it, you can reallocate the money later on.
“A simple addition of up-lights around a reception area can cost around $1,000, so it is best to plan ahead,” said Stacey Lynn of Stacey Lynn Design. Other popular lighting options: Pin-spotting (to highlight centerpieces or accent areas, like the cake display), a wash (general room color or dance floor), and a custom-designed gobo projection, such as a monogram. But lighting isn’t just an “extra” — if you’re planning an outdoor wedding, it’s a requirement. Consider hanging bistro lights, chandeliers or lanterns to create the perfect rustic-chic space, said Stacey Lynn.
Having an outdoor wedding? Invest in a sound system if you want your guests to actually be able to hear your vows. “It doesn’t matter if you’re only having 50 guests — without a sound system, your guests will struggle to hear your ceremony, and that means they’ll miss out on the heart of your wedding,” said event planner Amy Kaneko. “And if you’ve hired musicians to play as you walk down the aisle, they also need to be amplified, or those songs you’ve so carefully chosen will be wimpy instead of powerful. Spend the money on a sound system, even if it means you need to trim elsewhere.”
Décor Beyond the Flowers
The majority of your décor budget will likely be allocated to flowers, but set aside $25-30 per table for the non-floral elements: “Candles, glass hurricanes, mercury votives, specialty linens, flatware and even how you will identify your tables are all important details that can drastically change your budget if you have not accounted for these details,” said Lindsey of L. Brook Events. And if you’re looking to add additional elements like lanterns or vintage décor rentals, you may want to save as much as 40% of your total décor budget for these pieces.
Also, always overestimate how many items you’ll need. At one wedding Warner attended, the couple planned an elegant candlelit wedding ceremony. “However, as friends and family members began decorating the ceremony venue, they realized they needed at least a hundred more candles to provide enough light at the front of the chapel,” said Warner.
Including Yourselves in the Final Count
Sorry, the bride and groom don’t eat for free at the wedding. “I always have to remind my brides and grooms to include themselves in the table count!” said Douglas Hoagland, director of catering at SLS Hotel Beverly Hills. “I have had seen it too many times where the couple forgets to include themselves when making their table arrangements.”
A Backup Plan
You know that if you’re planning an outdoor wedding, you should have a tent on stand-by in case of rain. But even if you luck out with sunshine on the big day, the previous day’s weather can become an important factor. “At one wedding, it rained hard the previous day, which left the grass soft and soggy. The last-minute solution was to add a wooden floor to the cost of the tent rental,” said Warner.
“If there is the slightest issue with bugs or any dew or moisture on the ground (let alone an actual rainstorm!), your whole event could be ruined,” said Bussen. “I suggest planning a floor with your tent from the beginning.” For a more budget-friendly option, opt for an interlocking plastic floor, which is typically covered with carpet or Astroturf. The more spendy option is a sub-plywood flooring, where the tent company builds a floor and covers it with your choice of coverings. “It’s more expensive, but the advantage is this type of floor is level and polished.”
When you’re already paying astronomical costs, it can feel downright painful to add a tip on top of that — if you didn’t budget accordingly. Poppy & Plum Events recommends allotting 5 to 10% of your overall budget to gratuities. The general rule of thumb is that if your vendor is also the business owner, a tip is not required (though it’s always a welcome bonus). Also, some vendors (like your venue or caterer) may already include gratuities in your quote, so check your contracts carefully. According to Bobette Kyle, author of Dream Wedding on a Dime, some of the often-forgotten vendors include bartenders, servers, valets, coat check attendants, officiants, makeup artists, hair stylists, the cake delivery team, and limo drivers.
Sales Tax and Service Charges
Check over your contracts carefully to ensure that sales tax is included in the quoted price; otherwise, you may be in for a surprise when you receive your final bills. ”It may sound insignificant, but when you’re talking amounts the size of a reception bill, the taxes can add up,” said Kyle.
Also, service charges are not the same as gratuities; “Sometimes, for example, a private club will just charge an 18-22 % service charge for administering the wedding,” explained Bussen. “This money is not distributed to tipped employees and gratuities may be left to your discretion, which could double the money you need for ‘service.'”
Additionally, the “plus plus” can make a huge difference. “If a caterer quotes you $110 per person ++, that means that you will also need to add service and tax on top of that quote,” explained Kaneko. “Those two tiny plus signs can add as much as 30% on top of the base cost. In this scenario, that miscalculation would equal $5,000 of unexpected catering costs for a 150-person wedding.”
Whether your wedding runs over the allotted time because you got a late start or because you choose in the heat of the moment to extend it, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for any time outside of the contracted time. “When you’re in party mode, it’s easy to say, ‘party on!’ But be sure to know ahead of time what the overtime charges will be,” said Dietz. “The venue usually has an option to extend — for a price — but don’t forget your other vendors, such as DJ or band, photographers and videographers. They will also have overtime fees and will most likely need to be paid on the spot to continue.”
Sorry, but your wedding costs don’t end after “I do.” Unless you want to be spending your wedding gift money on thank-you cards, cleaning and preserving your gown, and making prints of your favorite wedding photos, set aside that money ahead of time. “Consider adding a few hundred dollars to your stationery budget for printing pictures and thank you cards,” the events team at the Shade Hotel recommended.
When it comes to preserving your gown, Bussen advised: “Try to book in advance — it may save you money if you reserve to preserve early. And your bridal retailer may have discount deals or coupons to share.”
Already included all of the above items in your budget? Congratulations, you budget-savvy bride! But regardless, every bride should set aside 10 to 20% for “the other.” Lara Goldman of RomanticTravelBelize.com explains: “’Other’ is when the flower delivery got stuck in a storm, and you have to hire a local florist to use local flowers. ‘Other’ is for when the power suddenly goes out and you have to go buy 200 candles. ‘Other’ is for the ‘dear friend’ who cried that she and her new boyfriend weren’t invited, and you have to lie and say her invitation got lost in the mail. ‘Other’ is for the broken nail that broke so low you have to get a full set of acrylics at the last minute so your hands don’t look like a ditch diggers’.” If you prepare for the unexpected ahead of time, you won’t be left scrambling to come up with extra cash at the last minute.