Under the veil: Wedding experts reveal 13 unexpected wedding costs

A smiling bride and groom stand outside on a deck under an umbrella on a rainy day.Image: A smiling bride and groom stand outside on a deck under an umbrella on a rainy day.

In a Nutshell

If you’re planning a wedding, there’s more to budget for than the dress, venue and food. These experts break down 13 unexpected wedding costs you should know about.
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Summer kicks off the most popular time of year for couples to tie the knot.

This also means that it’s the season for couples to shell out a lot of cash. Couples spent an average of $33,900 on their wedding in 2019, according to The Knot’s 2019 Real Weddings Study.

Once you start planning for your wedding, you might get hit with sticker shock and find yourself paying for a number of items you weren’t quite prepared for.

We asked wedding experts to share some common unexpected wedding costs, and we’ve also included how much you might expect to pay for them (though these can vary considerably depending on factors such as your location, the vendor and venue).

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1. Cake-cutting fees

“As an event planner, I know firsthand that there is one unforeseen expense that usually blindsides the wedding party — cake cutting! Most vendors charge a fee per slice. If you have 150 guests and there’s a $1.00 fee per cut slice, you can owe an additional $150 solely for cake cutting. This is a key service to factor into the budget.”

— Nicole Marie Harris, event planner and marriage proposal planner, One Last Frog

Potential extra cost — $1.50 or more per guest

2. Postage

“Avoid sticker (or stamp) shock by researching as much as possible when budgeting for wedding invitations and postage.

“You know you’ll need stamps for your outer envelope, but don’t assume you can get by with a standard stamp. An invitation with more pieces, such as a direction card or map and separate RSVP envelope, which you may also want to pre-stamp, will be heavier.

“Your cost per invite can quickly jump from the standard $0.34 [for a postcard] to as much as a couple dollars. If you have a guest list of 150 people, the additional postage quickly adds up.

“Also, invites that are oddly shaped [may be] more expensive to mail.”

— Kristen Ley Green, wedding publicist and vendor resource at Something New for I Do

Potential extra cost — Up to around $2 per invitation

3. More time at your venue

“In order for a couple to have their wedding at some sites, they may need to buy additional time from the venue — if the site will sell the extra time. Be prepared for extra costs for securing more time.”

— Joyce Scardina Becker, designer-in-chief, Events of Distinction

Potential extra cost — $500 per hour isn’t unusual, depending on the venue, but can even be up to $1,000 to $2,000 per extra hour if you don’t negotiate beforehand

4. Additional power

“At a hotel, having a band perform or utilizing lots of specialty lighting could require additional power, called a ‘power drop.’ This is something many couples don’t foresee.”

— Dezhda Gaubert, owner, No Worries Event Planning

Potential extra cost — $300 to $500

5. Event liability insurance

“The venue may require event insurance. This ensures that the venue will be able to repair or replace anything that the wedding guests or vendors break.”

— Amy Nolan and Carolyn Johnson, owners and wedding consultants, An Event Less Ordinary

Potential extra cost — Depends on the amount of coverage, but budget for $100 to $500

6. Gratuities

“It’s both greatly advised and appreciated to tip your planners, musicians, rental crew, officiant and transport drivers or valets. Your gratuity for food service should be included in your quote from the venue or caterer — but if not, make sure you plan for this as well.”

— Anastasia Stevenson, “The DIY Wedding Planner

Potential extra cost — Can vary depending on your vendors, but here’s a helpful wedding vendor tipping cheat sheet that can guide you

7. Alterations

“Whether you buy off the rack or have your attire custom-made, this is a cost that most couples forget to add to the budget. If you purchase your dress or suit early in the planning process, there’s a good chance you can lose or gain a couple of pounds, which may require you to have the outfit altered.”

— Cat Feliciano, certified wedding and event planner, Events by Cat

Potential extra cost — Around $500 for a wedding dress or $150 for a suit

8. Additional staffing fees

“Many catering proposals are written with ‘minimal staffing.’ For a seated, plated fine-dining experience, you may want one wait staff person per table of eight and one bartender per 75 guests. Be prepared for extra labor charges if excellent service is important to you.”

— Joyce Scardina Becker, designer-in-chief, Events of Distinction

Potential extra cost — Typically $20 to $30 per hour for each additional wait staff, depending on the vendor

9. Childcare services

“Brides and grooms may have strict rules about children at their weddings. But a lot of parents feel they shouldn’t have to be responsible for finding childcare, especially if they’re traveling to the wedding. Some parents also don’t want to be far away from their children.

“What couples may not know is that they may be left paying for childcare [at or near the venue] if they don’t want children [attending the] wedding.”

— Rachel Charlupski, founder, The Babysitting Company

Potential extra cost — Upward of $100 per hour, not including agency fees, parking for sitters and a meal

10. Guest transportation

“It’s become more and more popular to transport guests to and from the venue, even if that venue is easily reached by car. Transportation for guests is often in the several thousands [of dollars], depending on the amount of guests the couple would like to transport.”

— Dezhda Gaubert, owner, No Worries Event Planning

Potential extra cost — A 45- to 55-passenger coach generally runs around $1,000 (from pick-up before the wedding ceremony to end of the wedding)

“Typically, wedding photography packages are based on consecutive hours. If there’s a break slot within your wedding day, a photographer will most likely charge you for this time anyway.

“[Another fee you may encounter is] for the limo driver to wait while the couple and wedding party take portraits. Most limo companies request that the driver leave and return after the portraits are complete. However, if the couple requests that the driver stays, the couple may be charged an additional fee.”

— Alice Bil, owner/photographer, studioEPIC (Canada)

Potential extra cost — A photographer may charge $250 or more per hour for overtime, while a limo driver may charge between $50 and $150 per hour (plus tip) of wait time

12. Trial hair and makeup

“Brides usually budget for the cost of hair and makeup services day-of, but often forget how important it is to have a trial done to ensure the look you’re going for can be achieved.”

— Cat Feliciano, certified wedding and event planner, Events by Cat

Potential extra cost — Anywhere between $50 and $150

13. Vendor meals

“When you’re planning an event that will have your vendors working long hours, you should prepare to include your photographers, planners and musicians in your count to the caterers.”

— Anastasia Stevenson, “The DIY Wedding Planner

Potential extra cost — Anywhere from $27 to $40 per vendor staff member (assuming the cost is similar to feeding your guests), according to Wedding Wire statistics on the national average spend on buffet vs. seated meals per wedding person

Next steps

To cover unexpected wedding costs, you may want to leave room in your wedding budget in anticipation.

By expecting the unexpected when it comes to wedding costs, you’ll find yourself better prepared — and more relaxed — for when your big day rolls around.

About the author: Mika Bhatia is an Editorial Content Strategist for Credit Karma. She's worked in financial services and tech, and has now found the perfect union of the two at Credit Karma. When she's not busy strategizing about cred… Read more.