Wedding Budget: Hidden Costs To Be Aware Of

By Kellee Khalil for

When planning a wedding, couples tend to think about their budget in terms of "big ticket" items: the dress, the venue, the flowers, food, beverages. All of these things alone can take a huge chunk of their budget, but add in all of the wedding day "extras," (think favors, escort cards and over-the-top decor) and most couples find themselves on the wrong end of their budgeting spreadsheet. While it's easy to get carried away with all of the pretty things that can make their special day an affair to remember (like those $12/piece Chiavari chairs), it's also easy to come up thousands of dollars short due to unexpected, hidden wedding costs. Whatever you decide, make sure you have a clear understanding and a written contract with all of the fees you will incur on the day of, and the days leading up to, your wedding day.

Here are some of the most common "hidden" wedding costs.

Cake Cutting Fees

Most venues are going in the direction of either providing the wedding cake as part of their package via their own in-house pastry chef, or being specially contracted through a local bakery to use them exclusively at their venue. However, if you find a reception venue that allows you to bring your own cake, beware of cake cutting fees. Meaning, you can bring in Aunt Betty's cake or a lovely confection from your local grocery store, but be prepared for your venue to charge upwards of $3 per slice to cut the cake. It might be cheaper for some couples to use their venue's option in the first place.

Table/Chair/Place Setting Rentals
So you've paid the fee to use your reception site, but what if they only offer the space? You're probably going to need to provide your own if you're going for a swoon-worthy, magazine spread look. Event rentals in major metropolitan areas can run anywhere from $3/per chair for white wooden folding chairs to $22/per chair for clear Chiavari styles. The same goes for tables, linens, place settings and glasses. So, while your venue may offer a basic selection, remember that it might not fit in with your decor or style. Finding a space that fits into your vision may actually be worth spending a few extra dollars.

"On Top Of" Fees
Aside from fees to cut the cake or redecorate your venue, you need to consider what we like to call "on-top-of" costs. For example,


You budgeted enough (or maybe a bit more) for the most beautiful letterpress invitations with multiple inserts -- the map, reception card, wedding website card, photo cards, but that's not the only expense a couple will have when considering stationery and invitations. An invitation suite will most likely need more than one stamp on the actual envelope due to the weight and shape, but it's also prudent to factor in the cost of another $0.45 stamp for the RSVP envelope for guests, if that's what they choose. Postage can easily add another $100-$150 to wedding expenses.

Wedding Dress Alterations
While a bride might get extremely lucky and find a gown that fits perfectly right off the rack, remember that this isn't the typical wedding dress shopping experience. The way most dress shopping/buying works (and there are many different options here, depending on where you go) is you try on a sample of the dress, and order it in your size. For most brides, the size 8 that comes in might have the right fit in the bust or hips, but could very well be too long or too short. Alterations are an "on-top-of" costs in most bridal salons, and are most likely not included in the price of the gown. If you want a bustle for your train or to add some extra padding in the chest, add another $50-$200 depending on the gown.


Make-up trials and hair trials, to be exact. It isn't uncommon for brides to make room in their wedding day budget for professional hair and makeup, but make sure the cost of a trial run is also considered. It makes sense -- they are still doing a job, after all. Charging a reduced fee for a trial of hair or makeup is the norm these days, so if you're going to be paying for these services and getting a full face of makeup or beautiful locks, try to plan them on the same day as say, a bridal shower, engagement photo session or engagement party.

Credit Card Fees/Interest Rates
In 2012, the average cost of a wedding was around $28,000, and with many couples choosing to use credit cards to fund a portion of their weddings, that figure has the potential to increase by the thousands. While it's absolutely smart to utilize things such as credit card points, cash back rewards and the other perks that come with your card of choice, remember, too, that not paying balances in full or in a timely manner each month could result in interest charges, interest rate increases and late fees.

Your wedding day is a day to set a realistic budget, splurge on what matters, and save where it doesn't. Just remember that the little things add up, and wedding days should not be overshadowed by the looming debt from hidden fees that were not accounted for in the beginning. So, couples, have fun, but also, be smart.