16 Hidden Wedding Fees That Might Surprise You

You’re happily engaged, scrolling Pinterest for inspiration on the daily, cruising along with wedding plans when BAM, you get to the wedding week and realize you’re gonna go over budget after all. Why? Those pesky hidden wedding fees that more than one couple has forgotten about AND those miscellaneous items you don’t think you’ll need until you are scrambling around wedding week because you realize you do need them after all. One of the reasons we recommend hiring a wedding planner to not only execute your wedding day, but guide you through the planning process, is that they can often help you avoid certain fees or at the very least, adjust the budged allocations in each vendor category accordingly so that even with all the “extras”, you’re still sticking to your budget.

Hidden Wedding Costs

So what should you be on the lookout for after all? We’ve rounded up 16 of the most forgotten wedding fees before, during and after the big day so that you can work smarter and have a totally stress-free day.

Hidden Wedding Fees 01 Hunterryanphoto
Photo by Hunter Ryan Photo with planning by Amore Events at Pippin Hall

1. Wedding Insurance

When the inevitable happens, you’ll want to be prepared. You’re not putting out any negative vibes into the universe by investing in wedding insurance. Trust me, you’re setting yourself up for success where many couples are caught off guard. Say you’re getting married along the East Coast and a Category 5 hurricane becomes your uninvited wedding guest. Wedding insurance will protect you from losing your entire wedding investment, so that it might be possible to reschedule for another date. Insurance will protect you against anything like weather, injury or other unforeseen circumstances like property damage, a no-show vendor that has to be replaced, stolen gifts, a damaged gown, etc.

Before signing the dotted line on an insurance policy though, ask your venue + wedding vendors for copies of their policies so that you can see what their’s covers and avoid overlapping in your own policy.

There are typically 2 types to look into – Liability Insurance and Cancellation Coverage. Sometimes you can get a bundle that includes both, but on average, you’re looking at approx. $200 for liability insurance that give you $1 mil of coverage for accidents, while a basic insurance policy that covers financial losses will probably cost between $200-500.

Tuscany belmond wedding
Photo by Say Cute Photography from this Belmond Tuscany wedding inspiration

2. Venue Requirements

It might be tempting to skim through a contract with a venue you’re dying to get married at, but this is no time for “light reading” per se. Certain venues will require a minimum number of wedding guests, a minimum spend for food & beverage or even a tent requirement as a rain backup booked via a specific company. These are pretty normal, and some venues are more lenient than others, it’s just best to understand what you’re dealing with up front and be okay with whatever the requirements are.

Too, some venues will have a list of preferred vendors that they require you use. In these cases, some will allow you to work with vendors not on their list, but this might incur a separate fee.

3. Gratuities

While tips are not necessarily required, they are generally expected and appreciated for services, especially if you love the work your vendors did for you! You’ll want to set aside 10-20% for gratuities for your service-based vendors, so be sure to keep this in mind as you’re setting up your allocated budget at the beginning of the planning process. You can withdraw cash from your bank the week before the wedding and separate vendor tips by envelopes labeled with their names for a trusted family member or your wedding planner to hand out to each party on the wedding day. Double check with each vendor that gratuity isn’t already included on their invoice, and do keep in mind that “service fees” for venues or catering companies don’t always equate to tips for the staff.

handmade wedding invitation suite with cloth paper and pink and blue tones
Photo by Audra Wrisley from this spring garden wedding inspiration in DC

4. Vendor Meals

Often, it’s the wedding vendors who will be on-site the longest that will be present during the reception. The rule of thumb is to provide a vendor meal via your caterer for each wedding vendor who is on-site during the reception, which typically includes your planning team, photographers, videographers and/or band/DJ. These meals will cost you much less per person than your guests’ meals, but it’s always good to keep the cost in mind when working on your budget!

5. Snail Mail

Postage seems to come as a shock to most couples, as shipping is not typically included with the cost of your invitation suites. Keep in mind that bulky, oversized or uniquely shaped items may cost a little more than what you’re used to (sometimes $2/pop). Be sure to think about where your guests are coming from too, as international postage will cost a bit more than domestic.

Another consideration when mailing your invitations is the delivery process. If you want your envelopes to arrive in pristine, picture-perfect condition, consider getting them hand-canceled by your local post office. This way, they’ll avoid going through the sorting machine which can bend/stamp/damage them. Hand-canceling will take a little bit of time, so try to go to the post office on a mid-morning when the crowd might be lighter.

Bonus: Those fancy, vintage stamps you often see on invitation suites are the real-deal! You can find them at places like Verde Studio, Vintage Postage Shop and Darling One, but keep in mind that you might end up paying a little more for specialty bundles.

Hidden Wedding Fees 04 Jenniferfujikawa
Photo by Jennifer Fujikawa with gown by Hayley Paige

6. Welcome Basket Delivery

If you’re curating welcome bags for your gifts, A) be sure to budget for these special items in general and B) do some research on the delivery method. If you’re providing welcome bags to your guests staying in a hotel room block, ask the hotel if room delivery is included with the room block or if it will incur an extra fee.

7. Gifts for Loved Ones

If you’re including warm fuzzies in your overall wedding budget, be sure to think about what you’ll be gifting to your bridal party from the moment you pop the question to them to the wedding day itself. It’s always nice to think about a special gift for your parents as well to say thank you – be in a specialty frame with an archival print from the wedding day, a spa day for them while you’re on your honeymoon, etc. These costs can add up fast, so it’s always nice when they don’t come as a surprise to you!

Hidden Wedding Fees 05 Juliewilhite
Photo by Julie Wilhite with planning by Westcott Weddings invites by Fine Day Press

8. Beauty Treatments

Guys + gals, you’re probably well-acquainted with the price of beauty these days. Haircuts + coloring, mani-pedi’s, waxings, facials, and the like don’t come cheap! You’ll probably book most of these treatments during the week before your wedding, so be sure to set aside a pocket of cash for these services. And don’t forget gratuities!

9. Marriage License

For as crucial an item to have for a wedding, many couples forget that marriage licenses do cost money! While usually a small fee, it is a fee nonetheless (and one that can’t be avoided). Also, look into how much it costs to become ordained if you’d like to have a friend officiate your wedding vs hiring an officiant.

10. Emergency Fund

Many couples will set aside a percentage to be their Emergency Fund in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Not a replacement for wedding insurance, but a good place to pull from if you get hit with overtime charges by certain vendors because the party was just so good, you lost track of time. Or even if you have a rainy wedding day and need to bring in some extra umbrellas or rent a wedding tent.

Hidden Wedding Fees 06 Heatherwallphoto
Photo by Heather Wall Photography with planning by Taylor Dawn Design and florals by Gardenia Floral Design

11. Unexpected Guests

As much as no one likes to think that someone would show up to their wedding uninvited, your third cousin twice removed just might decide to bring her 3 kids after all. It’s a hassle to deal with, and in the midst of your celebration, you might just rather let it go so you can focus on you. It’s always a good idea to have a couple extra meals + place settings available on standby for unforeseen circumstances like this or be prepared that a few extra guests may show up or rsvp last minute, so the final catering bill may be slightly higher.

12. Sales Tax + Service Charge

These fees might not always be included in the quote a vendor provides you with, so be sure to ask about it as you speak with them and review the contract to make sure there are no surprises. Sales tax is typically a requirement by state, while a service charge is a venue’s way of covering their own costs of doing business (hiring staff, additional labor, etc). Again, the service charge is not a tip for the catering or venue staff, so that would need to be a separate line item you budget for! Service charges are typically about 20-25% of your total food & beverage bill, but be prepared for extra fees like corkage and cake-slicing as well in certain cases.

hand-tied bridal bouquet
Photo by Mon Soleil Photography from this fresh and colorful bridal inspiration

13. Labor

An umbrella category, this includes things like hiring extra staff for set-up and clean-up (whether the venue requires it or not), delivery fees with your rental company, perhaps a childcare service during the reception should you choose to include kids in your wedding.

14. A/V

When you’re chit chatting with your band/DJ, be sure to enlighten them on the space they’ll be working in. Maybe provide them with a floorpan and confirm number of power outlets, voltage capabilities, etc. with your venue so that they know in advance if they will have to bring in extra speakers or amps, which would appear on the final bill.

Not necessarily A/V, but in terms of equipment, you’ll probably want to set aside a sum for renting a generator too so that you’re prepared against power loss if you’re having a backyard wedding. You wouldn’t want the party to stop mid-dance party to Shout!

honey colored tablescape with drippy petals
Photo by Lorely Meza with florals by Lavenders Flowers from this roundup of 2019 wedding trends

15. Vendor Trials

You’ll probably want to lock in a hair and makeup trial, as well as a menu + cake tasting, prior to the Big Day so you have a good idea of both what to expect and how to change your plans in the event you weren’t exactly thrilled with a certain hairstyle or entree. Sometimes, vendors will include a trial in their package complimentary, but this is not always the case. Be sure to read your contract with each vendor thoroughly so you have a nice heads up if this is a cost that should be factored in.

16. The Morning Of

If getting ready photos are high on your priority list, or if you just want the ease of having everyone together prior to the wedding day so your wedding morning is that much more relaxing, you may want to consider booking a hotel room or Airbnb for the night before. Since this isn’t really related to any category specifically, couples sometimes forget to factor this in. So don’t miss it!

In the same vein, any meals or beverages you want to bring in for the wedding morning will add up to, so be sure to plan for it.

an assortment of wedding favors
Photo by Cavin Elizabeth from this honey bee wedding inspiration

Phew – that was quite the list, huh? Many of these costs are minor, but they are costs nonetheless! And every little bit counts as you’re preparing your wedding budget. Even after the wedding, you’ll have a few costs to consider! Think gown preservation, print orders from your photographer, thank you notes, etc. So before recording the flat rates for your vendors and calling it a day, be sure to scan this list again and make sure you’ve accounted for every line item before, during and after the big day. Your wallet (and your parents’ if they are helping $) will thank you!

For more of our top wedding planning tips, read along here!

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