Lifestyle

Cutting hidden wedding Costs

Don’t let surprise wedding expenses put a dent in your wedding budget. Here are a few hidden fees and miscellaneous items that you can prepare for in advance.

Creating and sticking to a budget can be a challenge for couples planning a wedding. The national average cost currently stands at $33,931, according to wedding website the Knot.

Unforeseen expenditures on things like postage, certain rentals or delivery charges can easily drive up costs. Event planners urge couples and their families to keep a close watch on some of these hidden or lesser-known expenses.

If your wedding invitations (or save-the-date notices) are printed on heavy paper or on paper that has an usual shape, be prepared to pay extra to mail them, said Jodi Raphael, a wedding and events planner in Boston. For instance, standard-size, rectangular envelopes start at 55 cents apiece from the United States Postal Service, but square or oversize envelopes start at 70 cents apiece. You can view a full list of prices on the Postal Service’s website.

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Most venues give couples a set time frame for how long they can use their space, typically four to eight hours, depending on the contract. But, “if you’re setting up an elaborate event and your vendors need to access the venue early, your venue will likely require you to pay an extra hourly fee,” Ms. Raphael said.

Plan on taking photographs or videos at a landmark or public park before your ceremony? You may have to obtain permits beforehand. Typically permits are day passes that cost a flat fee — in Washington, for example, a still photography permit to take photos at the Washington Monument, the National Mall and other select landmarks is $50 per day for one to 10 people. Larger groups, such as couples with big wedding parties, would need to buy a $150 permit that allows for photos of 11 to 30 people.

Caterers will usually provide plain white linens, white plates and basic table arrangements for you at no additional charge. But you will likely have to pay extra if you want to upgrade your settings.

“Most caterers will put a ‘rentals’ or ‘linens’ line item in their proposal, but it is almost always grossly underestimated,” said Allison Barnes, a wedding planner based in Washington. Special table-setting fees are charged per guest, and they can vary significantly depending on the kind of tableware you choose (gold-rimmed china can be expensive) and whether your caterer owns the products or has to rent them from a third party.


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Many couples provide goody bags with essentials — bottles of water, snacks, mini-hangover kits — for out-of-town guests. Most hotel concierges will graciously hand out bags at no charge to guests when they check in. Some hotels, though, will offer to deliver bags to guests’ rooms before they arrive, Ms. Barnes said. You can expect to pay an extra $3 to $6 per bag for that service, he said.

Ms. Barnes also noted that some hotels may charge a fee to have their staff hand out bags at the front desk. “Those hotels tend to be part of a resort or higher-end, more luxury hotels,” she said.

Some venues have strict policies about what caterer a couple is allowed to use. Hotels that have their own in-house catering may charge a heavy fee — potentially thousands of dollars — for you to bring in an outside vendor.

Venues that don’t provide their own catering may require you to work with one of their “preferred” caterers, or you’ll get hit with a fee — usually up to an extra $1,000, Ms. Barnes said. These place charge this fee because they “want to trust the caterer with their property, as the catering staff would be doing the majority of the setup and breakdown,” she explained.

Florists generally include delivery and setup in their standard agreements at no additional charge, but some may charge a floral pickup fee, Ms. Barnes said. “Most florists will rent or own the vessels in which the florals are displayed — the arbor, the centerpieces, the votives, etc. — then in fine print, or sometimes not at all, their contract will say the client is responsible for returning said items or has to pay a fee for the florist to come back and pick them up,” she said.

Florists may have a flat pickup fee, typically from $150 to $500, Ms. Barnes said, or they may charge a percentage of the bill, typically about 15 percent.

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“If you are having hair and makeup come to the hotel in the morning, you will most likely need to pay for their parking accommodations,” said Nicole Fauls Maitland, the owner of Urban Allure Events in Chicago. “This can run anywhere from $25 to $60 a vehicle in a big downtown area like Chicago.”

In addition, you may have to pay for parking for your band or D.J., photographer or other vendors.

Many vendors, such as bands and photographers, will require a meal if they’re going to be present when dinner is served. Ms. Maitland said vendor meals typically cost from $55 to $125 per person. “If you are having a 12-piece band, two photographers, a videographer, and a planner, that could be up to a $2,000 difference on your catering bill,” she said.

One way to curb costs is to have your caterer make cold meals for vendors, which tend to be less expensive. But check your vendors’ contracts first, since some may require hot meals.

Do you have a favorite bakery? You may have to pay a fee to serve its cake at your wedding. “If the venue has in-house catering, couples will sometimes see a fee for the venue staff to cut a wedding cake brought in from an outside vendor,” said Leah Weinberg, the founder of Color Pop Events, a wedding planning company in New York. Cake-cutting fees are typically $1 to $2 per slice, according to Ms. Raphael.

Providing your own alcohol for the reception can lower your catering bill significantly. But Ms. Maitland noted that couples may still incur a fee from their caterer to serve the alcohol. Caterers usually charge a flat corkage fee based on how many guests are attending the wedding, though some will charge per bottle. “The cost in Chicago is typically $7 to $10 per person,” Ms. Maitland said.

Make sure the total price for your band or D.J. includes the sound equipment and setup. “I’ve been in a situation before where the sound equipment was not included in the initial contract for the band — when the couple had already booked the band by the time they brought me on board — and it ended up being thousands of dollars to add it on later,” Ms. Weinberg said.

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Be prepared to pay a number of expenses after your wedding day. Customized thank-you notes from websites like Minted or Zola can typically cost 50 cents to $3 per card, depending on the card stock, size, and color (black-and-white cards tend to be less expensive), plus postage.

Dry cleaning or preserving wedding outfits can also add to your overall bill. According to the website WeddingStats, the average cost to preserve a wedding dress is $240 to $285, though prices can vary widely depending on the material. (Elaborate silk gowns with lace trim or beading are often more expensive to preserve than traditional satin gowns.)

Many photographers include a wedding album and photo prints with their packages, but some charge extra for them. And your album could cost more money depending on how many pages, page size, page thickness, and materials you select.

Also, don’t overlook gratuities. Make a list of what vendors to tip in advance and calculate how much you want to give them. (Note: some vendor’s contracts have minimum tipping requirements.)

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