Planning your wedding is not only one of the most exciting journeys of your life, it’s also one of the most expensive. With so much to think about, it’s easy to overlook many of little expenses which make up your wedding budget, which can cause you to overspend significantly. Here are 30 unexpected wedding costs you may forget to budget for:
Unexpected Pre-Wedding Budget Costs
Engagement Party Costs
Many couples wish to celebrate their exciting news by hosting an engagement party. A great way to introduce each side’s friends and families to each other, your engagement party can be as simple or extravagant as you like, and you may find that it makes planning your wedding easier too, as it’s basically a practice run.
However, like a wedding, you may be catering to a large number of people, as well as hiring and possibly decorating a venue – and the costs quickly add up. As well as being a practice run for wedding planning, an engagement party is also good practice run for wedding budgeting.
To save money on your engagement party, you might consider something casual at home (a potluck or barbecue if you’re offering dinner), or a simple celebratory drink at your favourite restaurant. You may wish to start the bar tab or offer a drink on arrival, as well as some canapes, but you’re not obliged to offer full catering to your guests which is often the most expensive cost. If you do wish to offer full catering, an engagement party brunch will also help save on costs.
See How to Plan an Engagement Party.
Proposing to Your Bridal Party in a Special Way
Once you have chosen your wedding party, you may wish to do something cute or quirky to ‘Propose’ to your bridesmaids and groomsmen.
Asking your wedding party with a creative gift is becoming very fashionable (or should we say #instagrammable) with personalised cookies, a personalised robe for the Big Day, or even an entire box of bridesmaids gifts, but all of these costs add up, especially if you have a large bridal party.
If you’re trying to keep to a tight wedding budget, the most thoughtful thing you can do is write a handwritten note telling your friend why you can’t wait to have them stand by your side on the Big Day. You can spend a few dollars on a “Be My Bridesmaid” card if you wish, but the most important thing is that the note is from the heart.
Your Bachelorette Party
Like many things wedding related, the once-humble hens-party send offs are often becoming a Vegas extravaganza. Perhaps fuelled by films like The Hangover and Bridesmaids, our pre-wedding events are getting more and more expensive. Though the bridesmaids might offer to pay for yours, you may wish to offer to contribute, especially if you’re going somewhere overnight.
Wedding Stationery and other Paper Goods
So you know you’re going to be sending wedding invitations, but have you thought about what kind of stationery, signage and other paper-goods you might want on the Big Day itself? Programs, menus, social media signage, a welcome sign, etc. Depending on how extravagant you’re feeling (acrylic and neon signs are gaining popularity), these can set you back a few hundred dollars more than you may be budgeting for.
If you want to send something simple, you can save 10% on these save-the-dates with code ‘MEG‘ and get each for just 90 cents.
Cost of Postage and Shipping
If your friends and family live all over the world – and even if they’re pretty local – the cost of shipping your invitation to them (and a save the date if you’re doing both). When designing your invitations, keep in mind that the thickness will significantly add to your postage costs, and may mean you have to pay for the invitation to go as an international parcel rather than a letter. The same goes for the specific shape of your invitation, while a long and narrow invitation may suit your theme best, it will also change the cost of postage.
Don’t forget to budget for sending your thank you cards post-wedding too.
Getting Ready for the Big Day
Bridal Beauty Treatments
It goes without saying that you want to have perfect skin (and hair, and nails) for your wedding day, but have you included the cost of these bridal beauty treatments in your wedding budget?
As well as setting aside money for the hair and make-up artist for you and your bridal party, you may be thinking about having regular facials and adhering to a skincare regime, as well as booking in for a mani-pedi in the lead up to the wedding. My advice – treat yourself, but make sure you make room in the budget for it too.
Wedding Gown Alterations
Unless you’re extremely lucky, your wedding gown is going to require some alterations, whether that means hemming the gown, taking it in (or letting it out), or structural changes (like adding straps). Even if you’re ordering your dress made-from-scratch, you may find that it only covers a certain number of adjustments before you have to pay. As many brides embark on health and fitness regimes in the lead up to the wedding – or do the opposite and order their wedding dress in a smaller size – it’s common to need some adjustment. The same goes for the bridesmaids’ dresses, so I suggest adding a 10% buffer to your wedding and bridesmaids gown quotes.
Undergarments and Accessories
While we’re on the subject of bridal attire and accessories, don’t forget your veil, wedding shoes and possibly even your lingerie can set you back a few hundred if you want to spend that much. You may not have given much thought to whether you’d like a garter, but that too can cost from $50-200 on average.
If you’ve envisaged your bridesmaids having a final pampering and sleep-over the night before, don’t forget the cost of accommodation. You’ll probably need to pay for most of the second day, unless you’re going to be ready to check out by 11am, so you may wish to book the same room for your wedding night – but ask for a maid’s service once you’ve left for your wedding.
Wedding Day Breakfast
Whether you’re staying at home, or at a hotel, there’ll be a few extra mouths to feed – your bridesmaids will likely be with you from the crack of dawn getting their hair and make-up done. You may wish to have a grazing platter to share with the photographers too – and don’t forget champagne!
Wedding Morning Attire
If you gifted your bridesmaids a robe as part of their “Will you be my Bridesmaid” gift then this is taken care of (though you still may wish to order one for yourself). If not, have a think about what you’d like all of the girls to be wearing on the wedding morning, and make sure to budget for it.
Transportation For Guests
Depending on the type of wedding venue you choose, or whether you have an all-in-one venue for both ceremony and reception, you may wish to assist your guests with transport. Many wedding venues do not have parking availability for 100+ guests, and you may also be conscious of your guests drinking and driving. If you aren’t paying for transport, you may still wish to organise for taxis to arrive at the end of the evening.
Be sure to follow up with every single one of your invited guests, as there’s always one who doesn’t think the RSVPs apply to them. Unfortunately, there’s also a chance that a guest will bring a plus one that wasn’t invited, so you may wish to organise 1-2 extra meals on the off-chance this happens.
Though certainly not necessary, if you wish to organise wedding favours for your guests to take home with them, they can cost upward of a couple of dollars each. The nicest favour we ever got was a hand-written note, and it’s probably the only one we actually kept. If you don’t feel comfortable writing a note to each person but want to cut costs: opt for one favour for each couple/family rather than per person, make DIY favours if you’re feeling crafty, or skip them altogether — most guests won’t notice if you don’t have them.
Day-Of Coordinator/Wedding Planner
Even brides who have planned the entire day themselves often change their mind last-minute and want to book a day-of wedding planner. This can cost around $1-2,000 in New Zealand, and may be worthwhile to give you peace of mind, if there’s no one else to help you on the day. Because we had a fairly small wedding of 75, and we were all close friends, I asked our MC and the bridesmaids to ‘run the show’ which they did very well, so this isn’t a necessity, but just something to keep in mind.
Of course, lots of brides will use a wedding planner book right from the beginning, which will cost a lot more but it’s part of the planner’s job to budget for everything.
Depending on your arrangements with your wedding vendors, you may be expected to feed some of them. Your photographer and/or videographer will be with you the longest, so ensure to budget for their meals and confirm which of your vendors will expect the same. Include these vendors in your final guest count with the caterer.
While we’re on final guest count – don’t forget to include the guests of honour (yourselves!) when you’re finalising your numbers. It’s easy to overlook the two most important people, or even your entire bridal party, when you’re counting the numbers.
Your vendor contracts will also determine how long you’ve paid each of your vendors for. Your photographers’ ‘All-Day’ package may actually only be until 9pm, so if you wish for them to stay later, this is likely to be an additional fee. Same goes for the band – if you had planned on only having the band for 4 hours but you ask them to stay later, this will be at your cost. Ensure you understand your vendor contracts and all overtime fees prior to extending your vendors’ services. I recommend going through the wedding planning pack when you book each of your vendors so that you get the best understanding of what each contract entails.
When you visit your wedding venue, keep in mind that whatever you don’t see but envision for your wedding will be at an extra hireage cost. Most venues require a bit of extra lighting, a sound-system or microphone for speeches, and though you’ve probably budgeted for wedding flowers, you may wish to decorate the tables or reception room with fairy lights, candles in hurricane vases, lanterns, etc – all of which will incur an extra hireage cost.
Even if the venue looks perfect to you, I would suggest budgeting for a little extra décor – you may find yourself getting inspired over the next few months of wedding planning.
Similarly, if the weather turns bad and you have to resort to your back-up plan, will you have all the hireage, décor and lighting that requires. For instance, if your plan is to have the reception on the lawn, but your wet-weather plan requires moving into the venue’s hall or barn, will you be happy with the look of the space or should you organise for some décor to fill it?
If your wedding is in a marquee and the weather is poor in the days prior, you may also need to hire a floor or turf for it too.
The easiest and most-expensive way to add unexpected costs to your wedding budget is to forget to organise something and have to do so at the last minute. Keep track of all your costs with the little white book wedding planner to avoid unpleasant surprises right at the sharp end.
The list just keeps going (sorry) – wedding planning doesn’t exactly finish on the day of the wedding. Not only do you have thank you cards to write and send, you may wish to send gifts to your bridal party or your parents (especially if they contributed to the cost of your wedding), and there’s a few other loose-ends to wrap up which can add unexpected costs.
Dry-cleaning and preserving your wedding dress
When you’ve spent a fortune on it, you don’t want to let it disintegrate due to to a wet hem, or let a small mark turn into a forever-stain. Dry-cleaning your dress, and/or having it preserved can be more expensive then you imagine – a few hundred dollars even, so add it to your wedding budget in advance.
Thank you cards may already be organised with your stationery designer, but you may wish to print off a beautiful wedding photo to accompany it. I’ve found the absolute best quality prints are from NZ printing company Happy Moose (you can use the code ‘MEG’ to save 10%), and they also offer thank you cards pre-made for $1 each.
We also spent a small-fortune (or so it felt at the time) having a photo book printed. Though it was time-consuming and cost a few hundred dollars, I know that if I didn’t do it immediately, I never would.
Last-minute unexpected costs
If there’s one thing a stressed-out bride or groom doesn’t need in the last days or weeks before their wedding, it’s the unexpected. The sooner and better you budget now, the less likely you are to have unexpected costs at the last minute. Double-check your vendor agreements, talk through your plan with your fiancé and a friend, and keep checking in with your budget along the way.
If you get organised early, you’ll actually be able to enjoy the wedding countdown without worrying about money – and all the unexpected costs you can get on top of with plenty of time mean more honeymoon spending!