6 Unexpected Wedding Expenses and How to Cut Back

Weddings are elaborate events and, as such, often come with hefty price tags. From the dress and the tuxedos to the food and decorations, wedding expenses can be overwhelming. Creating a budget and wedding expenses checklist can help you manage costs as you prepare for the big day. But beware — the items that aren’t on your checklist are often the ones that blow your budget.

From the ceremony to the reception, we review unexpected wedding costs to keep on your radar, as well as tips to help you cut back on wedding costs. 

Hidden Wedding Costs to Watch For

These are the top unexpected wedding expenses that can blow your budget.

1. Fuel Surcharge

If you rent items like furniture, linens, silverware and decorations, delivery may be included. Some vendors, however, will still require you to pay a fuel surcharge. Even if gas prices aren’t sky high, the big trucks needed to move these pieces could add $100 or more to your final wedding tab. If you’re having your cake or catering delivered to your venue, make sure you ask about the fuel surcharge for those deliveries, as well. 

2. Corkage and Cake Cutting Fees

That beautiful five-tiered cake you ordered to feed 150? There may be an additional cost to cut into it. Plan to pay roughly $2-5 per guest for cake cutting. What about the wine you sourced from your favorite winery? Corkage fees to serve wine or champagne can run up to $3 a bottle. It sounds expensive, but even if you’re not using the venue’s caterer, the venue’s servers are responsible for slicing and serving the cake, pouring and serving the wine, and then cleaning the dishes. Such fees can be a significant hidden cost when renting a venue, so make sure to ask your venue about the fees associated with this service. 

3. Service Charges and Gratuities

Service charges are not always the same as gratuities. You’ll need to plan for both costs if you plan to hire servers. Keep in mind gratuity, though not taxed, is likely set between 18-20%. Service charges are taxed and can run upwards of 20%. Make sure you get these fees in writing at the time you sign with your vendors to avoid unexpected wedding costs later. 

4. Overtime Charges

It’s your wedding, so you should have fun celebrating! But keep in mind your vendors are only booked for a certain amount of time. If your event runs late and you want service to stick around, expect to pay overtime costs. Get those in writing and factor in additional time when booking your vendors.

5. Alterations

Whether you buy an off-the-rack or a custom gown, it’s normal to need a few alterations before the big day to achieve the perfect fit. Simple dresses are often easier and less expensive to alter than layered or intricately detailed ones. The cost of alterations depends on your wedding dress’ fabric and embellishments, as well as your height and body type. You should factor in extra time and allocate additional money as part of your wedding expenses in case of last-minute changes. 

6. Postage

Sending out your wedding invitations might be your most expensive trip to the post office ever! Depending on the size and weight of your invitations, the standard 55-cent first class stamp may not be enough. It’s often the size and shape — not the weight — that requires more postage. Take the extra step and go to your post office to get an estimate beforehand so you don’t get a surprise when you show up later. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of stamps for the RSVP cards, as well.

How to Cut Wedding Costs

Now that you know which wedding expenses are most likely to blow your budget, find out where you can trim with these tips on cutting wedding costs.

Go Digital

The average costs of wedding invitations and other stationery is $590 — not including postage. Save money on this wedding expense by going digital with your invitations. While most digital platforms will charge a fee based on the number of invites you send, the fee is significantly smaller compared to paper invites. Plus, you’ll enjoy the simplified RSVP process.

Take Advantage of Public Spaces

Parks, historic libraries, beaches — all are potentially beautiful locations for a wedding that come at a much smaller cost than the average $13,000 couples spend on a traditional wedding venue.

Crowdsource Reception Photos

Photos are one of the best ways to capture memories from your wedding day. But photographers are also one of the biggest expenses in your wedding budget — costing $2,400 on average. To trim this cost while still capturing precious memories, consider hiring a photographer for the ceremony and asking friends and family to take pictures during the reception. Creating a social media hashtag that guests can use when they share photos will make it easy to find your images later.

Skip the Fancy Cake

Cut down on this wedding cost by opting for cupcakes over cake, or have a smaller decorated cake for photos and a sheet cake in the back for easier cutting. 

Go Smaller

Set a guest limit that you can afford — and stick to it! The higher the list climbs, the higher your costs will climb, too.

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