There are two sides to the engagement coin: it’s a time full of love & joy, and it’s also a time full of stress and to-do lists. Not only are there literally hundreds of decisions to make, nearly all of them come with a cost. Some couples even opt to take out a personal loan to fund the wedding of their dreams.
Many of these costs are up-front and easy to plan for: gowns, suits, venue, etc. What I didn’t realize at the time and learned as I planned (adding to my stress and frustration), were that there are many hidden costs I wish I'd known about.
Here are 5 of the biggest hidden costs I learned during my engagement so they don’t take you by surprise, too.
I love my floor-length a-line strapless gown with all of its lace and beading on the bodice. It was beautiful and it made me feel beautiful. I did not feel beautiful when sitting in my car crying after my first alterations appointment when I found out that the tailoring would cost a whopping $640. I’m a rather short lady at 5’3”, so shortening that pretty lace bodice had to all be done by hand, each layer of tulle had be individually hemmed, and each point of the 9-point over-bustle had to be created by hand.
I didn’t get swindled – the price for each alteration was fairly standard. But before you say “yes” to your dress, consider bringing in photos of your maybe-dress to a couple of seamstresses to get a ballpark idea of what alterations might cost. Keep these things in mind as you’re browsing gowns and make sure there’s room in your dress budget. I cried in public so you won’t have to.
I completely forgot to add in the cost of postage when planning my save-the-dates and invitations. In fact, I didn’t include a stamp on my RSVP return envelopes at all (oops).
If you choose to go the typical save-the-date/invitation/RSVP card route, don’t forget to check the current price of postage and factor that in to this part of your budget, especially if your invitations are heavy, which will mean more postage.
If you want to really cut costs and save paper, consider using digital alternatives or doing your invites yourself.
On top of the cost you’d expect for vendors such as your photographer, DJ, and the venue itself is the cost of a tip for each of the employees who are working. The Knot has a handy cheat-sheet with a list of vendors and the typical tip to plan to include in your budget.
Going into my engagement I knew that brides and grooms give their bridal party members gifts, but I had no idea that it’s also customary to give gifts to your parents, out-of-town guests, and even your spouse! (I thought we had just bought each other rings and a vacation…)
These gifts are optional, but are seen as “traditional” and are often expected. Consider your family and guests’ style and expectations when deciding whether or not to skip these, and remember: it’s hard to go wrong with a highly personal but less costly gift.
As with any major event, something’s probably going to go wrong. You might spill something on your outfit, someone might be late or sick, or things could go missing altogether. Have a little set aside in your budget in case something needs to be fixed or replaced last minute, and designate someone the emergency runner in case something needs to be bought day-of ... like when my husband ran to the store to buy a guestbook less than an hour before our friend’s wedding.
Bonus: weather insurance
I know people say that it’s good luck to have rain on your wedding day, but it certainly didn’t feel like it when it happened on my big day. I learned a few months later that you actually can buy insurance against the weather during your wedding. A payout with the rain would have felt much luckier! If you’re planning a wedding in a month that can be pretty rainy, it might be worth checking out.
Weddings don’t have to be expensive, and regardless of what your wedding budget is, it’s important to know what costs you may face ahead of time. Some of these hidden costs are optional or can be avoided by alternative choices, but make sure to talk to your future spouse about what you can and can’t afford and which pieces of the celebration mean the most to both of you.
The key to any successful wedding and a stress-free day is proper planning and organization. Download our free wedding planner to help you prepare for your special day.
Monica Parks is the Marketing & Retail Branch Specialist for Hanscom Federal Credit Union. A millennial who just got her student loan debt under $50,000, she writes about what she knows.
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