Unexpected Wedding Costs to Look Out For

During the wedding planning process, there can be lots of hidden extras that might make you go over budget. So, it’s important to know early on which unexpected wedding costs to look out for. A lot of couples overspend with easy-to-miss essentials and although these can be small details, they quickly add up! In fact, you might not even think about them until your special day. From dress alterations and cake tastings to vendor transport and overtime… there are lots of basic costs that you can forget about. We’re here to help make sure that you know about all these factors in advance and stay as close to your budget as possible!

Be financially savvy and don’t get caught off guard by any unexpected wedding costs. Keep reading our guide to be prepared for any surprises!

Before the wedding day

Beauty Treatments and Trials

Every bride wants to look and feel beautiful on their special day! So it’s likely that you’ll want to have some beauty treatments during the lead up to your wedding. You’ll also need to have one or two wedding hair and make up trials to make sure that everything is perfect. It can help to test a few looks to make sure that your vision aligns with the professionals. But this can be costly, on average a stylist will charge 100 dollars. Our tip is to plan these trials on important days such as an engagement party, couple photoshoots, a bridal shower or a bachelorette party to make the most of the cost. You’ll also need to consider your bridesmaids if you want them to have a specific look. For instance, you might also want to treat them to a facial or a spa day, to make sure they feel their best too!


Most brides will have their wedding dresses altered to fit perfectly. For example, taking it in, letting it out, hemming the gown or adding details such as straps. Sometimes you might be charged a flat fee, but salons also have the option to charge per alteration. For example, altering a hem can be around 80-100 dollars. Depending on the style of the dress, and the material, or if you’re reworking a dress it can be up to 500 dollars. Don’t forget steaming too! To save money ask the salon about alteration fees before buying your dress, so you know what to expect. If you buy a high street dress, a second-hand dress or an off-the-rail dress then you’ll have to organize alterations separately.

Marriage License

A marriage license is quite a small fee, it can be as little as 35 dollars. But this cost is one that you can’t avoid, and every little bit adds up! It can cost more in different locations. Also, if you’re having a destination wedding leave time to purchase your license. This might also mean that you need to stay in a hotel for an extra night or two.

Tax and gratuities

Vendors will usually add mandatory service charges, sales taxes and gratuity. For example, you’ll probably have to pay these extras for food and drink, which could add up to 40% on top of your bill. Although this isn’t necessarily unexpected, sometimes couples don’t realize how much it can be or that it’s not always mentioned in the initial quote. So make sure that you read the fine print of any contracts and ask about anything beforehand. You might also want to include tips into your budget, for example for bartenders and valets. Bear in mind that they’ve worked hard to make sure that your day is perfect, so it’s important to show your appreciation.


Avoid getting caught off guard and add insurance to your budget. It always helps to be prepared for the worst! Although no one wants to think about anything negative that could happen on their special day, you’ll be thankful for having reduced any risks. Depending on the coverage you choose, you can be protected from weather, injury, property damage, stolen items and any other unforeseen circumstances. Most importantly, you’ll be protected from losing the money you’ve invested into the wedding. The most common types of insurance are liability insurance and cancellation coverage. These are usually an average of 200 dollars.

wedding ceremony
Photography: Katie Grant Photo | Planning: CCL Weddings | Florals: Honeycomb Affair | Venue: Villa Cetinale


Postage is a wedding cost that can be easily missed! You’ll probably have quite a few save the dates, invitations and thank you notes to send. If you have friends and family that live further away, it’ll cost more. Also, don’t forget that you’ll need to include stamps inside your invitations for guests to send their RSVPs. Depending on the size of your wedding, this sneaky cost can add up!

Non-Approved Vendors

Here’s an unexpected wedding cost you might not know about! Some venues actually have a list of preferred vendors. These might be vendors that they have special contracts with, for example, caterers and florists. If you don’t stick to their list it could add up to 20% to your final bill. Ask about this before signing a contract, and try to stick to approved vendors as much as you can.

Back Up Plan

To avoid unexpected wedding costs, it helps to have a plan B. If you’ve hired a wedding planner, they can help you minimize how much this will be. For example, you’ll definitely need to think about back up plans if you’re having an outdoor wedding. Although sunny skies are the ultimate dream scenario, sometimes mother nature can be unpredictable. So it’s best to have a plan B and even plan C in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. You’ll not only reduce extra expenses but also extra stress.

Rental Transport

If you haven’t selected an all-inclusive venue, then you’ll need to hire someone to transport all of your extra rentals. This includes chairs, tables, dishes, and silverware. It’s best to talk to your venue to see what’s included and if they can recommend any solutions. If you do hire a rental company, then surprisingly transport isn’t always included in the first quote. So be careful to read the contract carefully, or ask about shipping and packaging fees if you’re not sure. To reduce the overall cost, it might be worth choosing a rental company with a higher fee for items, that includes transport. Or select a more expensive venue with its own items that suit your style.

Decor Extras

It’s easy to forget about small decoration elements. For example, personalizing gifts, adding labels, mini jars for DIY gifts, and calligraphy pens for handwritten notes. Table decoration, such as candles and linen, can also add costs to your final budget. Also, you might have other elements around your venue such as guest books and disposable cameras. Don’t forget about shipping costs if you buy these extras online too. It’s best to overestimate decoration extras so that you’re not surprised!

outdoor wedding
Photography: Paula O’Hara

Vendor Trials

You’ll have lots of different vendors that will offer you free trials before you contract their services. But if you ask for repeats or changes, this could incur a fee. Ask about any additional charges beforehand. Sometimes it can take a few tries if you’re not completely happy, but think about which ones you truly need. We recommend being very specific when you describe what you want and what you expect, so there’s less of a risk of having to repeat anything. Sometimes there will be vendors that charge even for first trials or tastings, so make sure that you’ve researched vendors well to limit these too.

Set Up

To make sure that your dream ceremony and venue come to life, you’ll need someone to set everything up. From flowers, cakes and place settings to lights and sound equipment. So watch out for set-up fees! Ask about this before signing with vendors to avoid any nasty surprises. If your vendors or venue don’t provide this service, there are companies that specialize in this, at a cost of course. You might decide to set up yourself, but do leave time and ask friends and family for help as it can be quite a long task!

Emergency Fund

Expect the unexpected by having some financial flexibility with an emergency fund. A lot of couples set aside some money in case of anything going wrong. It doesn’t replace your insurance, but it helps if you have charges such as overtime, travel or any unforeseen extras. Also, with so much going on, it’s easy to forget some items. So you might have to run out to buy some last-minute things.

Bridal Party Gifts

It’s becoming more and more popular for brides to ‘pop the question’ to their bridesmaids. You might want to think of a cute and creative way to ask your friends and family to be with you during your wedding journey and stand next to you on your special day. Some brides even take them out for lunch or dinner, to make it an extra special event. These smaller costs add up! So if it’s something you choose to do, consider fun ways that aren’t beyond your budget.

bridal party
Photography: Cinzia Bruschini

During the wedding day

Gifts for Loved Ones

You’ll probably add gifts for your bridal party to your wedding budget, but don’t forget about gifts for your loved ones. There will be some guests including close relatives that aren’t in your bridal party. But they might have still been helpful during the lead up to your wedding. So remember to thank them for their attention and support. It doesn’t have to be too expensive, but plan this in advance to avoid any last-minute costs.


This is another unexpected wedding cost that’s easy to forget. Some brides even forget to eat themselves! You’ll need to consider the vendors that are around during the reception. For example, your band, DJ, photographer, videographer, coordinator. This could add up to around 20 dollars per person. Also, your bridesmaids will be with you all day so think about them too! Our tip is to have some platters prepared in advance, with sandwiches, crudites, fruit, and sweet treats that your bridal party and vendors can pick at during the day.

Sound and Lighting

Sound and lighting are important costs to consider, but you might not realize what details go into this. Talk to your DJ or wedding band in advance to confirm what equipment they’ll be providing. Don’t forget about microphones and speakers for the ceremony and reception toasts. If you’re having an outdoor wedding you’ll need an especially good sound system. You don’t want your guests missing out on any heartfelt speeches! You’ll also be surprised by how much it costs to add lights, in some cases up to 1,000 dollars. But don’t worry, there are ways to cut costs. For example, bistro lights, lanterns and fairy lights are great for adding to a romantic and intimate vibe without going over your budget. Make sure to discuss sound and lighting with your venue, just in case they have any requirements.

Corkage and Cake Cutting

This is one that surprises a lot of brides. Did you know that you could be charged for cake cutting and corkage? Although you might bring in a cake from a separate vendor, your venue or catering service might charge you for serving it to your guests. This could be 2 to 5 dollars per guest, which might not sound like a lot, but it depends on how big your wedding will be. Similarly, bartenders aren’t too keen on letting drinks go to waste. So for every bottle they open, they might charge you anything from 1.50 to 15 dollars. Ask about these costs before going to individual vendors.

Guest Transport

Although it’s not a must, couples can choose to set aside some of their budget for guest transport. Guests will usually arrange their own travel to the wedding location, but you might need to provide transport for going from one venue to another. Consider renting out a shuttle service for your guests to use. This is very useful if most guests are staying in the same hotel too. You’ll also be faced with unexpected taxi fares if guests have driven to the venue, but end up drinking too much. In this case, it’s courteous for the happy couple to make sure that their guests get home safe.

unexpected wedding costs
Photography: Ein Photography

Favors and Welcome Bags

Wedding favors don’t come as a surprise but be wary of how much the final cost might be. Local or handmade items will be more pricey. So make sure to think carefully about what you want to include. Don’t feel bad if it doesn’t fit into your budget. After all, you’re providing an unforgettable celebration for them all to enjoy! It’s also a lovely token of appreciation to have welcome bags for out-of-town guests or for destination weddings. These might include handwritten notes, water, fresh fruit, a schedule of events, and a city map. But these small gifts can add up if you have a large number of guests. Also, your hotel might charge for placing them in rooms.

Extra Guests

It’s not uncommon for guests that you weren’t expecting to show up. A guest that said they couldn’t go, might change their mind last minute. Although, it might be inconsiderate of them, it helps to anticipate this and plan ahead. Prepare extra food, drinks, place settings and chairs, to avoid any awkward rejections at the door!

Vendor Expenses

There will be certain vendor expenses that you’ll be responsible for. One of these is needing early access to your venue, this will cost you. Venues will add a charge as it might prevent them from hosting another event, and they’ll have to make sure that staff are available. Another is electricity. Depending on the amount of power you’ll be needing during your wedding, you could be charged extra. In some cases, you’ll also have to pay for travel to your venue. For example, this is common for out-of-town photographers and videographers. So try to source local suppliers to cut these costs.


You’ll love to see your guests having fun, and dancing the night away. But, while your guests are enjoying the wedding, there will be staff working. Usually, you’ll arrange set times with your vendors, but if you go over, you probably won’t want to cut the party short. Although this means that your event staff will also have to stay for longer, so you’ll have to pay for this. They will usually be charged by hour, so prepare for extra costs to rise quickly as each hour passes. This doesn’t just apply to your vendors as might also have to think about other types of services such as childcare and security.

Photography: Carolina Serafini | Design & Planning:  Varese Wedding | Florals: Fior Di Fragola 

After the Wedding Day and Extras

Clean Up and Tear Down

A lot of couples focus so much on planning the wedding day, and the lead up to the wedding that they forget what happens afterwards. A full-service venue won’t usually charge you for cleaning up. But if you’ve just rented the space, then you’ll have to pay for a clean up crew and rubbish removal or even ask friends and family to pitch in! Read your contract carefully to be sure of what’s included.

Extra Wedding Clothes

Make sure to think about outfits for any events before the wedding, such as the bridal shower, bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner or post-wedding brunch. Don’t forget about undergarments and accessories that you’ll need before the wedding and after the wedding. For example, jewelry, veil, and shoes. These extras could be around 200 to 400 dollars. All of these outfits and accessories will be part of your wedding budget. So consider working with clothing you already have or buying versatile options, so that you don’t overspend.

Hotel Stay

You might want to stay in a hotel the night before your wedding with your bridesmaids. Although this isn’t unexpected, pay attention to check out and check in hours, to make sure that you have time to get ready on the day of your wedding. It’s best to ask for two nights so that there’s no rush, you can leave your things and you even have time for a pampering session with your bridesmaids. You also have to factor in any trips you’ll have to make to your vendor or venue. It’s also very common for couples to stay in a hotel the night of their wedding. So think about breakfast the next morning, any mini bar items or travel back home.

Thank You Notes

Your budget for certain items will have to extend past your wedding day, and this also includes thank you notes. It’s a common tradition for couples to send out notes to all of their guests. The small gesture goes a long way. But this does result in added costs. Make sure that you prepare these ahead of time. It could be cheaper to include them as part of a stationery suite with your save the dates and invitations. You might try to cut costs by trying out a DIY project. But even DIY won’t be completely free!

unexpected wedding costs
Photography: Nataly J

Now that you know which unexpected wedding costs to consider, you’ll have a better idea of how to Create Your Wedding Budget. Check out WedBoard for more useful tips about the wedding planning process, including How to Plan a Wedding in 6 Months, The Biggest Wedding Planning Mistakes to Avoid and How Much a Destination Wedding in Italy Costs.

Featured image: Giacomo Terracciano 

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