11 Extra Wedding Costs to Budget for at the Beginning

You budgeted for your venue and your food–now watch out for these extra wedding costs that can add up quickly.

By Alanna Nuñez

wedding couple at floral altar extra wedding costs
Photo by Dolce Photography

Your partner asked the question! You said yes, showed off your ring on Instagram, and shed some happy tears. Now it’s time to get down to the details of planning a wedding—and you should probably start with a budget. You may already have a rough idea of how much your favorite venue costs or how much you want to spend on flowers. However, it’s not uncommon for extra wedding costs to pop up seemingly out of nowhere throughout the process. Here are a few surprise costs to keep in mind as you create your wedding budget.

Vendor Meals

Depending on what kind of reception you plan to have, you may be responsible for providing your vendors with lunch or dinner. Typically this rule doesn’t apply to vendors like your florist who may only be at the venue for a short time setting up and breaking down your flowers. The same goes for ceremony musicians who only play through the ceremony and cocktail hour. However, if you’re planning to dance the night away to a DJ or band, you’ll want to factor this into your budget–since they’ll be with you for hours. It’s considered a courtesy to check in and make sure they get to take a break and eat something. Other vendors you’ll want to feed:

  • Photographer and/or videographer
  • Day-of wedding coordinator or planner
  • Venue staff
  • Bartenders/Food service team

In most cases, you can serve your vendors the same meal you serve your guests (for the same price). Be sure to factor those numbers into your final catering plate count. Keep in mind that catering in New York City and other big cities is going to be more expensive than catering in rural areas. Just as you would for your guests, double-check for any food allergies, sensitivities, or dietary restrictions that your vendors might have. Some vendors won’t require meals—again, it’s a courtesy to check. Chances are, they’ll have something in their contract that outlines exactly what they need so that there’s no confusion.

Average Extra Cost: $30-150 per person

INLINE MantasKubilinskasPhotography 1080x720 Photo Credit // Mantas Kubilinskas Photography

Extra Flowers

Centerpieces and bud vases and bouquets, oh my! You’ve probably counted up how many bouquets and boutonnieres you need for yourself, your venue, and your immediate wedding party, but have you checked in with some other key players? Ask your parents if they’d like to wear a corsage or boutonniere for the ceremony. Ask your grandparents, too. Consider all of the people playing a role in your ceremony and decide if there are additional floral adornments you want them to wear. For example, do you want a flower crown for your flower girl?

Flower costs can vary wildly, depending on location, type of flower, and how elaborate your floral designs are. Make a list of the extra flowers you’ll need. Your florist will help you breakdown the costs. You may even strike a deal for group-ordering a few of each item.

Average Extra Costs: $25-$100 per additional floral arrangement

Wedding Party Gifts

Chances are you’ve been waiting for the opportunity to “pop” a question of your own to your best friends. While there’s no shortage of fun, creative ways to ask your closest pals to be a part of your special day, keep in mind that the more elaborate the “proposal,” the more money you’ll spend.

Additionally, it’s customary to show your appreciation for your wedding party members with gifts closer to the wedding day. Of course, these gifts can be as elaborate or useful as you like. For example, many brides will purchase and gift the jewelry they’d like their bridal party to wear for the wedding. They may tack on a few cute extras, too.

Average Extra Cost: $20-$200 per person

Wedding Weekend Activities

It’s easy to think of a wedding as a one-day affair, but for some couples, it’s a whirlwind weekend–especially if you’re having a destination wedding or have a large number of out-of-town guests. In that case, it’s common to opt for a welcome dinner a night or two before the wedding for guests to meet and mingle. Many couples also will host a goodbye brunch the morning after the wedding.

Note: A welcome dinner isn’t the same as the rehearsal dinner. A welcome dinner is a party that’s open to your entire guest list while the rehearsal dinner is traditionally reserved for the wedding party (after the ceremony rehearsal).

If the idea of a pre-party, an after-party, and a rehearsal dinner is making your head spin, don’t panic! They’re a nice gesture, but not at all mandatory. Some couples opt for one or the other; some couples decide to do away with both. You do you!

Average Extra Cost: $1000-$5000

Marriage License

Without a marriage license, you’re not legally married in the eyes of the law–period. Many couples are surprised to learn that these do, in fact, cost money. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to obtain one. The process varies from state to state but generally, you apply for a marriage license and pay a fee. You may also have to undergo a short waiting period. The fee varies from state to state—and, in some states, county to county. You won’t typically have to pay more than $100.

Average Extra Cost: $30-$75

INLINE OneLovePhotography 1080x720 Photo Credit // One Love Photography

Cake-cutting Fees

Less common than it used to be, a cake-cutting fee is sometimes applied by venues when couples opt for an outside catering vendor instead of the venue’s in-house option. The venue loses money when couples don’t use their preferred or in-house chef or catering service. Cake-cutting fees make up some of that lost revenue. Double-check your venue contract to make sure there’s no confusion when it’s time to pay.

Average Extra Cost: $1-$3 per person

Corkage Fees

Another old-fashioned hidden fee that still makes an appearance: corkage. Some venues will charge you a fee to “uncork” and serve outside alcohol. Similarly to cake-cutting fees, it’s a way to recoup losses on the in-house alcohol they’re not selling. Plus, while stocking your own bar may seem cost-effective, chances are good that you’ll need to hire at least one bartender. Once you factor in potential corkage fees on top of that, any savings you would have enjoyed by not hiring an alcohol vendor might swirl right down the drain.

Average Extra Cost: $10-$12 per bottle

Hair and Makeup trials

If you’re getting your hair and makeup done, you’ll want to try it out at least once. This is where you find out if that smokey eye or classic chignon is really the look you want. Many beauty professionals charge a separate fee for trials. This makes up for their time and their products. Be sure to use your trials to your advantage. Ask a lot of questions, test a few different looks, and make the most of your money.

Average Extra Cost: $75

Food Tastings

You want the best food at your wedding, well, you’ll have to try it out first. It’s not uncommon for catering companies to charge for initial food tastings. This can add up if you’re between a few caterers. That said, many caterers will credit the tasting back to your final bill if you end up picking them, so you’ll recoup at least some of the expenses. If your venue handles the food, there’s a good chance it’s already baked into your final per plate estimate. So, be sure to read your contract and final bill carefully.

Average Extra Cost: $50-$150

Wedding Gown Appointments

Less common at larger department stores or chains, smaller boutique bridal stores and high-end designers will charge brides simply to make appointments at their shops to try on dresses. In fact, it’s a growing trend, according to bridal experts. So we recommend putting a lot of thought into your bridal style before you start making appointments. Don’t go in blind. Research dress styles and wedding looks. Get acquainted with designers and the types of dresses they offer. Then you can make appointments at a smaller selection of shops and minimize those extra fees.

Average Extra Cost: $50-$100

Welcome Bag Delivery

Welcome bags have become a common addition at weddings as a way of greeting guests and thanking them for attending. Wedding welcome bags are usually filled with snacks, water, relevant info about the area, a favor relevant to the couple, and more. You can make these as elaborate or bare-bones as you want. You can also forego them completely!

The secret fee comes to handing these bags out. Typically, guests receive the bags at check-in. Some hotels and resorts charge a fee to deliver or hand out the bags. If you’re keeping to a strict budget, ask if you can deliver them individually yourself. Some hotels are also willing to hand them out at check-in for free–you just have to ask.

Average Extra Cost: $1-$5 per bag

There’s no doubt–wedding planning can be expensive. Don’t let the sticker shock scare you. Setting a budget early on and sticking to it will empower you and your partner to make the right choices for your big day. Plus, being aware of the costs up front will help you determine your priorities.