Top 10 Hidden Wedding Expenses

We all know that flowers are expensive, and the site, and then there’s your perfect dress. But what about those little expenses that you hadn’t thought about, but can really add up? Here, 10 hidden wedding expenses you should know about, and ways to keep the costs down, or avoid them if possible.

1. Overtime Fees: A biggie in the wedding world, as almost all vendors charge overtime fees. Sometimes it’s worth it, like if your party’s still swinging past the site’s shut-down time, and you have to pay them extra to keep it open.  But other fees can be avoided if you read the fine print, and stick to the schedule. Check the fees for D.J.’s, bands, the caterer, and anyone else you’ve signed a contract with, and then stick to the time frame. Have a reliable friend or relative watch the clock.

2. Postage: With the price of stamps going up almost daily, it’s easy to forget how much it’s going to cost to send out 200 Save the Date cards, followed by 200 invitations, followed by 200 maps, followed by 200 thank-you notes... The latter is a must, but you can cut down on some of the other postage by including as much information as possible in the invitation, and posting other necessary items on your wedding web site. Many Green companies encourage less filler in invitations as a way of helping the environment, and encouraging free Save the Date e-cards—the bonus is that it also helps your wallet.

3. Cake-Cutting Fee: Imagine hiring your own baker to save money on the cake, and then finding out you still have to pay a cake-cutting fee. It happens more often than you think. Before you decide against the site’s cake to save money, find out what their policy is on cake-cutting fees. If they do charge, it could add up to 5-7 dollars per guest. It might turn out cheaper to use their baker.

4 Gratuities: Sure, you know a tip is expected, but have you stopped to think about how many people are on the list? Caterers, stylists, the band, transportation, valets…the list goes on. If you’re having a big, formal affair there isn’t a whole lot of ways to cut back on tip costs, so you should factor them in. Add up every vendor’s fee, then add 20% to the cost. Once you get to the bartenders, you’ve probably hit a whopping sum. If you’re trying to cut costs, use this time to look for services (not gratuities) that you can do without.

5. Musical Equipment: Once you know what the band and/or DJ charges, and what their overtime fees are, you need to know if they charge another fee for extra equipment. If your site doesn’t have proper speakers or microphones, the band will have to bring them in, and most likely charge you for the service. You don’t need to switch to a harmony trio instead of the 12-piece swing band, but you can make sure the band has seen the site ahead of time and laid out any additional fees. Do not sign any contract you haven’t read thoroughly.

6. Coat Check:
  If you booked that fabulous lodge in June, remember that everyone’s going to be wearing coats for your winter wedding. Coat checks aren’t a major bill, but it’s yet another price that can add up, especially when you factor in that gratuity. Also, some sites have rules about how many coat check people are needed, so you might not be able to reduce the number to save money. You can’t avoid this fee, nor should you try, but it’s one of those little costs that you need to keep in mind as you’re adding everything up.

7. Dessert Dishes: Although it’s not exactly a hidden cost, it can be an unnecessary one. Before you decide on a three-course meal, figure out if your guests are going to need the sweets. If you’re having a cake, it’s perfectly acceptable to substitute that for a dessert course. (Some people also save by having a dessert station.) If you have a lot of single friends, they might even thank you for keeping their eyes off the plate and on their dance floor curves.

8. Alterations:
Most wedding dresses need alterations, and most dress companies charge you for them. If the dress you want is heavy on problems (you want to remove the sleeves, for instance), it’s often a smarter idea to find a more wearer-friendly gown. If you think the alteration charges are alarmingly high, check out other seamstresses; unless there’s a contract saying you have to have the gown altered where you purchased it, you might find a cheaper source elsewhere.

9. Saturday Night: Saturday Night’s alright for just about everything, it seems, including weddings. Saturday evenings after 7 p.m. are the most popular time to get married, and the most expensive. While most people know that day weddings are cheaper, as are weekday nights, many don’t realize that Friday night tends to be cheaper too. It’s merely a matter of supply and demand, so if you want that dazzling weekend wedding, but are worried about costs, find out if Friday’s free.

10. Do Yourself a Favor: Times have changed, and favors are not a requirement anymore—nor are the once-ubiquitous matches. Favors are a sweet gesture, but watch out for soaring costs. Fancy chocolates are not cheap, nor is anything engraved. You can easily cut out a couple of hundred dollars from your budget if you stick to something simple, and don’t overdo it. Before you shell out a huge amount for framed photos, go for a simple keepsake—you can always wrap up pieces of the groom’s cake as favors. Now that’s sweet savings.

-David Toussaint

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