Unexpected wedding costs that can blow your budget

Unexpected wedding costs, like gratuities, alternations, and taxes, can sideswipe even the most prepared of planners. Here are 10 wedding costs that could break the bank.

Jacques Brinon/AP/File
Kim Kardashian and U.S. rap singer Kanye West arrive at a luxury shop in Paris, Wednesday, May 21, 2014, as they prepare for their wedding. There are many unexpected costs, such as taxes and dress alternations, that can take a toll on your wedding budget.

The wedding of your dreams can get pricey, fast. According to an annual survey conducted by The Knot, couples spend $29,858 on average to say "I do." But unexpected wedding costs, which can include gratuities, taxes, and pre-wedding trials and tastings, can sideswipe even the most prepared of planners.

Since we are fast approaching the most popular months of the year to have a wedding, we decided to break down these hidden wedding costs, so you know what to anticipate before the big day.

Your wedding budget

Alan Fields, co-author of the book Bridal Bargains, says you should set aside a safety net of 20 percent of your budget for unexpected costs. The Knot advises couples to allot an additional five percent of a wedding budget for a "just-in-case" fund. That means up to a quarter of your budget should be dedicated to costs that you didn't anticipate. Having trouble keeping track of your spending? Brides.com's Budget Tracker can help you stay on top of your wedding expenses and allows you to add in custom categories for those unforeseen expenses.

So what exactly might you spend that additional money on anyway? 

Pre-wedding expenses


It isn't often that a dress fits perfectly off the rack. Bridal stores do alterations, but these are often flat fees that can amount to half the cost of the dress itself. Fields says you can take your dress to an independent seamstress, but they should be vetted to determine whether or not they are skilled enough to do the job. For those skittish about the risk involved in taking the dress elsewhere, factoring in this unanticipated cost from the get-go may be the simplest way to put your "does it fit" fears to rest. For more tips on alterations, check out advice from TLC's Say Yes to the Dress Alterations Manager Vera Skenderis.

Welcome packages and bridal gifts

Looking to welcome your out-of-town guests and treat your bridal party to something extra special for all their hard work? Gifts can also add up quickly, especially when you have to consider parents, groomsmen, bridesmaids, ring-bearers, flower girls, welcome goodies, favors, and that special brunch for out-of-towners the following day. Keep costs low by filling welcome baskets with homemade treats or small keepsakes that won't put a huge dent in your wallet.

Pre-wedding trials and beauty treatments

Hair and make up trials are often an additional fee and can sometimes cost as much as the actual cost of the service on your wedding day, which means that you could potentially need to add to your budget to feel and look your best. Top it off with pre-wedding treatments like facials and manicures, and you end up racking up a number of additional expenses well before the actual day.

Pre-wedding party attire

The bridal shower. The rehearsal dinner. The brunch the day after. Remember, you'll need to allot some cash for party wear for days other than your nuptials. Prioritize the days you know you want to wear something new and bring out old favorites for those you consider less important.

Day of wedding expenses

Transportation for your guests

For out-of-town guests, you might need to look into group modes of transportation from the hotel to the ceremony or the reception. Whether that's a limo, a shuttle, or a party bus, you'll need to account for the cost each way, not to mention tip for the driver.

Set-up fees, delivery costs, cake-cutting, and corkage fees

Décor, floral arrangements, and rentals, such as sound equipment, projectors, and microphones may require set-up and delivery, which could also mean additional fees depending on your agreement with each vendor. Similarly, cake cutting fees can be embedded into your contract if you go with an in-house vendor at your reception site, but getting a cake from an outside bakery may amplify your costs because in-house staff will still need to cut and serve the cake to your guests. These costs can be anywhere from $1.50 a slice to $5 per guest to slice, serve, and clean up afterwards.

The extras

Taxes and service fees

Some online purchases are still exempt from taxes (for now), but items purchased in person are inevitably subject to state and city sales taxes, which can be as much as 11 percent, depending on the state in which you reside. A budget of $20,000 for a catered reception would really need to be whittled down to around $18,000, with the remainder allotted for taxes. And this still doesn't account for service fees and other miscellaneous add-ons that venues tend to tack on for large-scale events. Fields says to stick with trusted vendors that will be mindful of your budget and transparent about these additional costs, so you aren't blind-sighted when the day arrives.


Standard tipping etiquette dictates that you shell out a pretty penny for gratuities, too. Mandatory gratuities at venues range from 18% to 20%. Generally, you'll also need to factor in tips for everyone: the ceremony officiant, wedding delivery or set up staff, stylists and make up artists, valet attendants, and the band, just to name a few. For more on tipping vendors, check out The Knot's wedding vendor tip cheat sheet.

Overtime hours

Not sure how long the ceremony will take, or how late your guests will stay to dance the night away? Overtime hours for vendors like the make-up artist, the photographer, and the band will involve additional fees, so find out in advance how much they charge per hour and strategize whether or not you'll need them for the entire function. Don't forget; you'll also need to provide these vendors with some type of food depending on how long they stay.

It may be painful to take these expenses into account, effectively making your budget smaller. But this planning could actually help you achieve your dream wedding in the end. And if you miraculouslyunder-budget, then you can always blow it on the honeymoon.

Summar Ghias is a contributing writer for Dealnews.com, where this article first appeared: http://dealnews.com/features/10-Unexpected-Wedding-Costs-That-Can-Blow-Your-Budget/1054791.html

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.