How Much Will Your Wedding REALLY Cost?

How much will your wedding REALLY cost? Can you have a wedding for $ 20,000? “TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS??” You say. Of course! I could do it for much less! If you really believe that, you haven’t planned and paid for a wedding in the last decade. Sure, if you have no dinner, don’t need to look into using the services of a Houston wedding rentals company, do not require professional music, flowers, decorations, don’t need to rent a venue or banquet hall, take your own pictures, wear an everyday dress, you could even do it for less. But at the end of the day, weddings can be quite pricey, depending on what the bride and groom want for their big day.


But if you want a formal wedding with professionals, $20,000 is a stretch. Above is a chart that is realistic in some areas, others not. The purpose of THIS post to steer you in the right direction, and put a little realism into the process. You have to go into the wedding planning process with realistic expectations.

The above chart gives you a starting point, but if you want to stay on a $20,000 budget, you have to move expenditures around a little in order to cover “costs you might not be prepared for” as outlined in the chart below.

The above chart doesn’t mention the most important fact…how many guests you will have. Let’s pick a random number of 125 guests. This budget would be a stretch, but it could be done.

I would make several recommendations to achieve your budgetary goals:

  1. Find a venue that doesn’t charge a fee, such as a park or a venue that doesn’t charge you a rental fee as long as you use their catering. They are out there. One just has to dig a little. That way, you can roll your venue fee over onto the catering bill, (you’ll need extra funds if you plan to serve alcohol).
  2. Desserts: the $600 amount would cover a lovely wedding cake, but no other options. At this point, you have to make a choice. Cake, or individual desserts. You can’t do both with a $600 budget. What about a “cutting cake” just for ceremonial purposes, and then other desserts for the guests? Look at the lovely cake below.


Mary P. Karnes photos

3) As a wedding coordinator, I wouldn’t skip on this budgeted amount. If you’re going to spend AT LEAST $20,000 on a wedding, do you really want to leave the organization to chance? The budgeted amount is a little low, but I’ll let it go. 🙂

4) I hate to say it, but the $2,000 budget for attire is too frugal. Hard to meet this budgeted amount with dress, shoes, veil, headpiece, undergarments, and groom’s attire. Use flowers as your centerpieces, (and use the $600.00 centerpiece allotment for your attire).

5) $2,000 each for music, flowers and photography is realistic, although you will have to watch your pennies when ordering. You can go online to find sheet music for your wedding on sites like

6) You don’t have to spend $600 on favors. Websites like have wedding favor options for much less. For one of my daughter’s weddings, we purchased $1.00 lottery scratch tickets, shinny new pennies and little bags that read, “For Richer or Poorer”. They were a hit. See the photo below. If you’d like other favor ideas, click on the following link to read a former post. Wedding Favor Ideas Roll at least $300 over to the “unplanned for costs” on the chart below. The ring and stationary budget is fair, as long as you DIY. Remember…you have to pay for postage as well.


Debbie Stuable photos

7) The Ceremony budgeted amount is probably for a church rental or officiant fees. It should be ample. If you chose to be married at your venue site, you would have funds left over; hopefully more funds to use for the chart below.

8) Both venues my daughters used for their receptions provided chairs and tables. All dinner rentals were included in the careering budget. I think this fee could be rolled over for the uncovered expenses…And if you want a limo…the $200 amount budgeted wouldn’t work.


So don’t get me started on the actual figure of all the “unplanned expenses” above. Hopefully you have saved funds from the favor, ceremony and rental charges. Good luck! You can do it!

37 Hidden Wedding Costs

I hope you enjoy this reprint written by Danielle Salazar from Kennedy Blue Special note to item #33 ! 🙂

Please check out my new website for my business venture “Mother of the Bride Wedding Planner” Just click on the link

37 Hidden Wedding Costs You Need to Budget For

Posted on October 10, 2015 by Danielle Salazar | 0 Comments

With everything that goes into planning your wedding, it’s easy to overlook some basic costs. Your hearts may already be set on the beautiful wedding dress or something like Northwood Rings, and I’m sure you’re quite aware to fees for your venue, food and drink, DJ or band, photographer, etc., but what about all of those little things you should financially plan for as well. To make sure that you perfectly prepare your wedding budget accordingly, here are 37 hidden wedding costs that you probably didn’t even think about!

37 Hidden Wedding Costs You Need to Budget For

Hidden Costs You NEED to Add to Your Wedding Budget

1. Bridal Party Proposals: It’s become way more than simply just asking your best friends and family to be a part of your big day. In fact, people are getting quite fancy with their groomsmen and bridesmaid proposals by buying gifts, putting together fun goody bags, and DIYing all sorts of fun crafts.

Advice: Keep it simple and DIY if that’s your forte! If you need some great ideas, head on over to our blog with 25 bridesmaid proposal ideas that are super fun!

2. Beauty Treatments: You most likely are planning to have your hair and makeup done for the big day, and I assume you’ve already worked that into your budget. However, don’t forget all of the other pre-wedding prep that you might have done such as teeth whitening, hair coloring, massages, extensions, etc. Also, you might need to have more than one hair and makeup trial so plan ahead for that!

Advice: Check sites such as Groupon for great deals on massages and salons. You’ll save a ton and have fun trying new places!

3. Bachelorette Party: It’s tradition for the maid-of-honor or group of bridesmaids to pitch in and pay the expenses of the bride, but if you’re going out of town, many brides will pay their own airfare. If you’re expecting a fun getaway, prepare to possibly pay that expense along with any fun travel outfits or luggage you may need to purchase. You might even go holiday for your party! A friend went to the best bars in Bratislava.

Advice: Stay close to home. While it’s always fun to travel, there are plenty of fun places to celebrating your bach that are within driving distance. Plus, more girls will be able to attend!

4. Pre-Wedding Attire: There are a lot of pre-wedding events that go one such as bridal showers, bachelorette parties, a reception dinner, and even possibly a groom’s dinner. If you’re like me, you’d probably by a new outfit for every one of those events, so plan that into your budget because 4+ outfits isn’t cheap!

Advice: Don’t be like me and wear outfits you already own! Otherwise, try a fun option like Rent the Runway, which has designer styles that you can wear for special events!

5. Alterations: When you’re picking out a bridal gown, it’s easy to forget about the alterations that are almost always required such as a hem, bustle, and sometimes even a seam adjustment. Expect to pay around $100-500 depending on what you need done. Oh, and don’t forget about steaming!

Advice: Shop around! There are definitely seamstresses that are significantly more affordable, but do just as great of work. As your friends/family who they might recommend.

6. Undergarments: You budget for your gown and bridal accessories, but did you plan for all those pesky undergarments that you’ll need to hold everything up, in, and all together!? Depending on the style of your dress and what you’ll need, those things can be spendy so just prepare yourself!

Advice: Buy your dress and have alterations done early so that you have enough time to shop around for good deals. Ideally, with the right alterations, you won’t need much more than a long-line bra or bra-cups!

7. Postage: Just think, there are usually multiple pieces of heavy card stock paper that you’re mailing so don’t expect one little stamp to do the trick. Postage can cost unto $2/invite depending on the weight. Also keep in mind that extra postage is always required for a square envelope, regardless of the weight.

Advice: Skip the fancy folded pocket envelopes and consider an online RSVP so you don’t have to include an RSVP card and pre-stamped envelope within your invitation suite.

Don't forget about postage for your save-the-dates, invites, RSVP's, and thank you's! | 37 Hidden Wedding Costs You Need to Budget ForCassie Rosch Photography

8. Overtime Costs: You book your vendors for a certain amount of time, so when you think about it, this totally makes sense! If events are running late or your reception goes later than planned, be expected to pay additional costs.

Advice: Get overtime costs in writing and factor in additional time when booking your vendors!

9. Clean-up Costs: If you’re paying a flat free to rent a venue space, expect to pay for clean-up costs such as garbage removal and post-reception cleaning. This usually will be charged by the hour so be sure to read your contract carefully, ask about potential fees, and know what to expect!

Advice: Grab a couple friends or aunts and uncles who are willing to help clean-up after the reception so the staff doesn’t have to do it and you can save some extra money.

10. Non-Approved Vendors: Now-a-days, tons of venues work with a “preferred vendors” list that offers an exclusive group of caterers, bakers, decor companies, and more. If you have your heart set on a venue that’s outside of this list, don’t be surprised if they expect you to pay 20% or more.

Advice: Stick to the list! Otherwise, if you have very specific vendors you’re hoping to work with, try to get a venue that allows you to bring in anyone that you’d like.

11. Cake Cutting & Corkage Fees: Plan to pay roughly about $2-5 per guest for cake cutting and up to $15 per bottle for corkage fees. I know it sounds spendy, but if you’re not using the venue’s caterers or bar service, they then become responsible for slicing, serving, and cleaning those dishes so it makes sense.

Advice: If the venue offers a catering and bar service, use it! Otherwise, opt for cupcakes over cake, so you don’t have to pay for a cutting fee!

12. Vendor Meals: Your photographer, videographers, coordinators, band, and DJ are pretty much spending their entire day with you. Please make sure that they get feed just like everyone else!

Advice: Many venues/caterers offer a cheaper option for vendor meals. Check your contract and make sure you know what they can expect to eat!

13. Lighting & Sound: Most DJ’s and bands should be well equipped, but if your venue space is larger than average, you may need extra speakers and extension cords. Also, if your venue is outdoors or in a location that isn’t prepped for a wedding, expect to purchase a sound system, lights, generators, extension cords, and the whole works.

Advice: Make sure your band/DJ are familiar with the layout of the venue and consider hiring from a larger company that are well equipped and won’t charge you for extra pieces.

14. Rentals & Upgrades: While many venues come with tables, chairs, linens, and place settings, don’t expect them to be anything too fancy! To get the look you really want, you may need to go through a rental company or expect to pay for some upgrades through the venue.

Advice: Try to find a venue that has the total look and feel that you want. You might be surprised that although their rental fee is way higher, the overall cost will be significantly cheaper considering it already comes with all the bells and whistles that you were hoping for.

15. Servers/Bartenders: While most venues offer a bar service or at least have a liquor license, that doens’t mean a bartender is automatically included. Same goes for serves.

Advice: Ask your venue about their serving policies and make sure that you’re completely aware as to whether finding servers/bartenders is going to be their job or yours.

Are servers and bartenders included in your contract? | 37 Hidden Costs You Need to Budget ForRay + Kelly Photography

16. Rental Transportation: You can’t stick 15 tables in the back of a van and 150 chairs most certainly won’t fit in a compact vehicle. Before renting any furniture, inquire about any transportation, shipping, or packaging fees as they usually aren’t included in the per-item costs.

Advice: Although the upfront cost might be more expensive, going with a larger rental company (who has their own trucks) could end up being significantly cheaper than having to pay all of the transportation fees.

17. Tasting Fees: It’s one of the best parts about wedding planning, but believe it or not, can add up in price! Many places charge unto $15 per extra person that is there with you, so be selective on who you bring.

Advice: Who needs to be there besides you and your spouse? No one. Keep it intimate and keep it cheap!

18. Coat Check: If you’re having a winter wedding, having a coat check is especially important. Well, believe it or not, many places will charge up to $300 just for a coat-hanging service! Make sure you read your contract carefully and ask questions ahead of time!

Advice: It’s absolutely not necessary unless all of your guests are bundled in their winter coats. But during spring or summer, heck no. Save the money.

19. Wedding Insurance: It’s not something that most people think about, but considering the thousands of dollars you’re spending, it’s definitely worth it!

Advice: Shop around and find a company that you find trust-worthy and reasonable. We personally recommend Northeast Insurance Advisors.

20. Transportation: How will get from the ceremony space to the reception? How will you get from the venue to the hotel? Calling and waiting for cabs could take a lot of time out of your day, so be prepared by renting a service ahead of time. If the venue is far from the hotel, it might also be great to offer a shuttle service for your guests!

Advice: Check with your hotel to see if they are willing/able to use their shuttle service for your big day. Otherwise, you could request an Uber to go back and forth between the destinations and just charge your card at the end of the night!

Don't forget transportation for you and your guests! | 37 Hidden Wedding Costs You Need to Add to Your BudgetBellagala Photography

21. Taxes & Gratuities: The amounts are going to vary by state, but as a good rule of thumb, tack on an extra 1/3 of your total costs for tips and taxes.

Advice: Don’t skimp on the tips. These people work hard to make sure your day is perfect, not to mention, they work a lot of night and weekends, so make their hard work worth it!

22. Marriage License: Depending on your state, this can range from $20-$40, but let’s be real — it’s pretty damn important.

Advice: Don’t skimp…unless you don’t want to be legally married.

23. Day-Of Stationary: Obviously you’ll need to pay for your save-the-dates and invites, but so many couples forget to include all of the day-of items such as programs, escort cards, table numbers, menus, and signs.

Advice: If you’re familiar with design, try making you own programs or menus and print them off on sites such as VistaPrint. They regularly have 30-40% off sales! As for escort cards, Pinterest is filled with great DIY options.

24. Shipping Costs: If you plan on ordering anything (your dress, decorations, linens, undergarments, etc.) be prepared to pay shipping fees. It might not be a significant amount, but the more you order, the more charges you’ll incur.

Advice: Find a website that offers multiple products try to order as much at one time as possible so that there will only be one shipping fee rather than multiple.

25. Out-of-Season Flowers: Don’t get your heart super set on any one type of flower unless you absolutely know they are in season. Peonies, for example, are super trendy, but if they’re not in season, they can be up to $20 a stem. I kid you not.

Advice: Opt for in-season alternatives. If you need some good examples, we have a list ofalternative flowers for the five trendiest wedding styles.

26. Bathrooms: Oh my, could you imagine planning an outdoor event and realizing that there are no bathrooms on site! If you’re going through a venue (a barn, ranch, vineyard, etc.) make sure to ask about porta potty availability. If it’s at a family members home, make sure to rent some!

Advice: If your guests list is over 100, rent at least 2. You can never be too safe when it comes to bathrooms!

27. A Backup Plan for Mother Nature: If you’re having an outdoor ceremony, it’s crucial that you plan for anything. If there’s any chance of rain that time of year, be prepared by ordering a tent. Other things you may want to consider are extra lights, (imagine if a string of bistro lights just decided to burn out!), flooring (in case it’s extra muddy, and umbrellas or ponchos!

Advice: Check the weather early and often. If there’s any rain in sight, buy a bulk set of ponchos or umbrellas for not only your bridal party, but for your guests to share as well.

28. Favors: This is totally optional, but are somewhat of a tradition. Favors usually run between $2-$5 per piece so depending on the number of guests, that could be a significant part of your budget!

Advice: If you’re doing something like a Photo Booth or candy bar, that’s a take-home favor in itself. If not, try an easy DIY or make a homemade treat for your guests to enjoy.

29. Unexpected Guests: Ugh, isn’t this just your worst nightmare? More than likely, your younger cousin Aaron is going to show up with his uninvited girlfriend, or those family-friends who RSVP’d “no” will surprisingly make an appearance. Make sure purchase a few extra plated dinners, just in case!

Advice: Talk with your venue/caterer about how many they recommend. Chances are, they’ve dealt with this a lot and have a good idea of what you should order.

30. Hotel Stays: It’s pretty common for the bride and her ‘maids to stay in a hotel room the night before the wedding. You also may want to get one for the night OF the wedding.

Advice: Check sites like Groupon, Living Social, Expedia, or Priceline for great hotel deals.

31. Wedding Party Presents: Most likely, you already factored in present for your bridal party, but don’t forget about your parents, flower girl, groomsmen, and ushers. Anyone who plays a significant role in your wedding deserves a special thank you. And your parents just deserve it because they birthed you.

Advice: Pinterest is full of great ideas for wedding party presents. Shop around or DIY something personal that you know they will love!

Presents for the wedding party and parents | 37 Hidden Wedding Costs You Need to Add to Your BudgetMaria Linz Photography

32. Welcome Bag Delivery: Yup, often times, there is a cost to have the front desk associate hand your guests a welcome bag or deliver it to their rooms. In fact, the fee can be up to $10/bag! Make sure to inquire about their hotel policies before being surprised with additional costs.

Advice: Hand out welcome bags the night of the reception dinner or if a friend or family member is staying in the same hotel, have guests stop by their room to pick up their goodies!

33. Day-Of Coordinator: You deserve to just enjoy your wedding day and not worry about taking vendor phone calls, setting up your reception hall, ensuring things are on time, etc. Hire a day-of coordinator to take off the stress and deal with it all themselves. That way you can relax and enjoy your day.

Advice: Have a type-A person in your family? Request that they be your go-to person for phone calls, questions, and keeping the itinerary on schedule. You’ll save tons.

34. Wedding Day Meals: Obviously I’m not talking about your cocktail hour or reception dinner, I’m talking about what you’re going to eat the 8-10 hours leading UP to the wedding. You and your ‘maids will be busy getting ready so making sure that there’s food to eat is super important for your health and sanity.

Advice: Designate a couple bridesmaids to be in charge of bringing food. Bagels and fruit are perfect for breakfast and sandwiches work well for lunch. If worst comes to worst, order room service.

35. Forgotten Items: It’s the last thing every bride or groom wants to worry about, but it’s SO important to plan for. Whether you get to the venue and realize you’ve forgotten your hosiery, the groom’s socks, or spaced on getting a ring bearer pillow, have some backup cash for your aunt Sally to make a quick run to the store, need-be,

Advice: Start packing at least a week in advance. It’s almost all stuff you can pack ahead, so find a list online and get yourself organized!

36. Post-Wedding Tasks: The wedding is over, but there are still fees to incur! Don’t forget that you’ll need to purchase thank you’s, MORE postage, and a gown preservation kit.

Advice: This goes against my wedding etiquette morals, but if you’re really strapped for cash, go with a site such as Postable, where you can send personalized invites through email.

37. Pre-Honeymoon Expenses: Besides the entire cost of the honeymoon itself (which hopefully you’ve budgeted for!), there are smaller fees that go into that as well. Passports, travel-guide, language classes, luggage, vacation clothes, and car rentals, are all things worth adding to your budget.

Advice: Start planning early. Summer clothes usually go on mega sale and clearance around fall so shop for your vacay then and for your luggage during the summer months when less trips are happening!