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10 Hidden Wedding Costs

It's all those pricey extras that slide in under the radar. We've asked the experts to clue us in on their insider secrets for avoiding those little-known financial pitfalls and sticking to your wedding budget.

1. Wedding Band Equipment

Why it's hidden The cost of the wedding band includes fees for the musicians' time and the minimum amount of equipment needed. If your reception space is extra-large, then additional speakers and microphones could possibly be required to project the best sound quality.
The cost Anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars
How to avoid it Before booking your wedding band or DJ, you need to clearly explain the layout of the space (or have them check it out, if they're willing) so the vendors know exactly what they're working with. If they want to add in extra equipment, you should have them explain why it's necessary before you sign a contract or agree to pay for anything else.

2. Postage Stamps

Why it's hidden Stationers don't advertise the shipping costs; if they did, you might decide to go with simpler (read: cheaper) invites.
The cost Oversized, awkwardly shaped and bulky invitations will most often run you as much as $2 each to mail.
How to avoid it Skip the fancy boxed invitations and multilayer cards, which can bulk up quickly and cost a lot more than you bargained for.

3. Wedding Dress Alterations and Steaming

Why it's hidden Most stores don't include alterations (or steaming!) in the price of the wedding dress, and they're not doing it for free -- it can take up to three hours just to alter the bustier!
The cost A simple hem can be less than $100, but completely rebuilding a bodice or moving zippers can send the price upward of $500.
How to avoid it Ask about what the store charges for every alteration you may need before you purchase the gown.

4. Overtime Costs

Why it's hidden Your band, DJ, wedding photographer and videographer are booked for just a certain amount of time, so if your wedding runs a little longer than you expected, they'll charge per hour.
The cost Starting at $250 per hour
How to avoid it Factor in additional time for getting dressed and taking photos; that way, you can book your vendors for a more realistic timeline. Get overtime costs in writing (they shouldn't be more than 50 percent more per hour than the regular rate) so you'll know what to expect if you decide to keep the party going.

5. Welcome-Bag Delivery

Why it's hidden Most hotels don't factor in a welcome-bag delivery fee when you block rooms. And they may fail to mention the rate unless you ask -- they'll just add it to your final bill. Inquire within; they may even charge you a fee for holding the welcome bags if you drop them off before the guests arrive!
The cost Up to $7 per bag
How to avoid it During the booking process, ask about the hotel's policy on receiving and delivering welcome bags to guests' rooms. It may be free or cheaper if they hand the bags out at the counter as guests check in. If you don't want the extra charge, you can distribute them at the rehearsal dinner.

6. Rental Transport

Why it's hidden You'd assume that the rental companies would include these extra fees in the per-item costs (do they honestly think you're going to fit 150 chiavari chairs in your own car?), but surprisingly, they don't.
The cost From $50 up to more than $500
How to avoid it Ask the rental company what their shipping and packaging fees are up front -- if the cost is too high for your budget, shop around a bit. You just might find that you'll actually save some money by renting items from a more expensive company that includes delivery costs at no extra charge.

7. Taxes and Gratuities

Why it's hidden Even though these aren't exactly hidden -- we all know that there are taxes on almost everything -- most couples don't think about how much they'll end up owing during the planning process.
The cost This will depend on the total amount of money you're spending as well as the location of the event (taxes vary in different areas).
How to avoid it There's no getting around paying taxes, but paying the entire bill in one lump sum can help lower the overall price. A safe bet: Tack on an extra third of your total costs to your budget for tips and taxes.

8. Cake-Cutting and Corkage Fees

Why it's hidden If you use the cake or booze provided by your reception site, the charge is typically wrapped into the cost. Going with an outside baker or vino can raise the price. Why? Because your venue's workers are responsible for slicing and serving each piece, then cleaning the dishes. This means more work for their staff!
The cost From $2 to $5 per guest for the cake; from $1.50 to $3 for every bottle the venue opens
How to avoid it Calculate the cake-cutting and corkage fees before you decide to go with an outside source for either.

9. Cleanup and Breakdown Costs

Why it's hidden Many brides spend so much time planning the actual day that they forget to budget for what happens when it's all over.
The cost While a full-service venue won't charge for these things, if you're paying a flat fee to rent the space only, anticipate fees for garbage removal (up to $250), freight elevator use (up to $150) and cleaning (up to $500). And even most full-service venues require same-day setup and cleanup. So if you're getting married on a weekend, expect to pay time and a half for labor, and if your party goes into the wee hours of the morning, you may face extra charges for late-night pickup and cleanup.
How to avoid it Read your contract carefully -- the setup and breakdown costs should be included in the labor charge.

10. Non-Approved Vendors

Why it's hidden Some venues require you to use caterers or florists from their preferred vendor list -- and tack on a fee if you don't.
The cost Usually an extra 20 percent or more
How to avoid it Stick to the list, or choose a venue without one.


Special thanks to Lindsay Landman, event designer; Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, wedding expert and founder of RSVP Soiree Luxury Event Rentals; and Marcy Blum, event planner and founder of Marcy Blum Associates

-- Tia Albright

See More: Wedding Planning Basics