The wedding of your dreams can get pricey, fast. According to the latest available annual survey conducted by The Knot, couples spend $31,213 on average to say "I do." (Although that number might be misleading.) But unexpected wedding costs, which can include gratuities, taxes, and pre-wedding trials and tastings, can sideswipe even the most prepared of planners.
Whether you're looking at a peak or off-season date 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% of your budget for unexpected costs. The Knot advises couples to allot an additional 5% 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?
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.
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%, 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 blindsided 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.
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 miraculously under-budget, then you can always blow it on the honeymoon.
This article first appeared at DealNews.