The 5 WORST Hidden Costs Of Weddings

A caterer recently acknowledged to me that many wedding vendors are banking not only on the fact that most engaged couples have never planned a wedding before, but also that they will likely never plan one again. In other words, brides and grooms are easy to take advantage of because they don't know the market; they expect to shell out loads of cash, and unlike the person who is overcharged for, say, a washing machine, they will probably never even realize they were taken for a ride.
She then proceeded to hand me a $35,000 proposal to cater my own relatively small Brooklyn wedding.
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I didn't hire her. But her point stuck with me during every subsequent vendor meeting I had. Was I being taken advantage of? The truth is that even if you're not, there are still plenty of unforeseen costs involved with getting married. And because you may not have much firsthand experience in this arena, it can be tough to get a real sense of what you should expect to spend. Ahead, we've identified five of the most annoying hidden costs of planning a wedding. Even if you can't avoid them, at least you can budget more effectively, and steer clear of a few surprises along the way.
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The sticker price on the average wedding dress is high to begin with. For most of us, it is perhaps the single most expensive clothing item we ever have or ever will purchase. But if you think that price, whatever it may be, reflects the total amount you'll be spending — think again. You could pay lots more in alterations, even if you're not making any major changes to the original design (like removing or adding straps).

Your bridal specialist will likely remind you that anything you don't like about a given dress can easily be changed. They'll also suggest trying on accessories, like an embellished belt or a veil, during your appointment to help you get a sense of what the whole ensemble would look like. But what they won't mention is how much those tweaks or add-ons cost. Several hundred here, several more there — just remember, it all adds up faster than you might think.
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Apparently it's not enough that you're spending $150 a plate ($200? $250? More?), nor that you've dropped thousands to secure a location for your reception. If you look closely at the line items in your contracts, you may be surprised to find a mysterious "administrative fee" of anywhere from 5 to 20% of the total bill from your caterer or venue — which are also the two biggest wedding expenditures. Make sure to read the fine print, and ask about any fees (and what they cover) before you sign on any dotted lines.
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This one's a real doozy. Some caterers will charge what's known as a cake-cutting fee if you bring in a cake from another vendor to be served at your wedding. That means you are probably paying an exorbitant fee for the cake itself (which can cost as much as $2,000), and then as much as $7 per slice (!) on top of that just to have your caterer cut and serve the dessert at your reception. This is total and utter lunacy, and perhaps the most egregious example of how couples get nickel and dimed by vendors during the wedding-planning process.

Your best bet is to either go with the dessert option already included with your catering package, or to negotiate with your caterer before signing if you feel strongly about bringing in an outside cake. (Better yet, hire a caterer who doesn't charge a cake-cutting fee to begin with.)
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Have you ever thought about how many glasses get used at a wedding? The average wedding requires a five-to-one glass-to-guest ratio — at a minimum — from the Champagne toasts to the table settings to the glassware behind the bar.

Depending on the type of venue you choose for your big day, you're likely to have at least some equipment- and furniture-rental costs. That could include tables and chairs, linens, flatware, kitchen prep tools, serving platters, or all of the above. These expenses add up quickly, and it can be hard to understand exactly what the breakdown is. If you're renting these items through your venue or caterer rather than directly through the rental company, the prices may be inflated, and you should ask for a detailed breakdown of these costs.
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I'd like to think of myself as a very generous tipper. I used to bartend, and I know how much service-industry workers rely on tips. But when you're spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding, the idea of shelling out 15 or 20% tips for vendors (who are already being generously compensated) is a little difficult to stomach. There's also tax to consider. Between the two, you could wind up spending another 25% on top of the baseline cost of your big day — and that's a fairly conservative estimate. (Just to give you a hard number for reference, if you're spending $30,000 on your wedding, you'll need to add an additional $6,000 in taxes and tips.)

Be sure to anticipate taxes and do your research on who (and how much) to tip. That way, you'll avoid any uncomfortable situations on the big day.
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