Anyone who has planned or will plan a wedding can empathize with the horror of seeing expenses creep over their budget. The Knot revealed that the average 2013 wedding cost $29,858 -- and that's not including honeymoon expenses. In my hometown, Los Angeles, the average cost to host a wedding is $38,735 -- and that only makes it the 11th most expensive place in the U.S. to get married, according to the survey.
My wedding isn't until November 2015, but my fiance and I mapped out a 27-month engagement that would give us time save money for the event. Like any newly engaged couple, we asked ourselves how much we were willing to spend on our big day, but we knew that our large Filipino families would expect us to extend invitations to distant relatives and friends with six degrees of separation from us. My mom's contribution to the list of guests we needed to invite, for example, included one of her high school friends, that friend's entire family and her friend's daughter's long-term boyfriend.
Some friends recommended that we dodge a traditional wedding by eloping on the cheap. This would save us from spending the equivalent of a home down payment on a single night, but we knew the importance of tempering family cultural expectations with our modest budget.
At this point, we've locked in the venue and most of our primary vendors. But along the way, I've encountered more than a few surprises and budget-busters.
9 Wedding Expenses that Caught Me by Surprise
9 Hidden Wedding Expenses that Caught Me by Surprise
Even the act of inviting friends and family to join your bridal party has become its own event. I turned to Pinterest (bad idea) to find unique ways to do this, and I found a DIY project to pop the question. The project, which involved me purchasing packaging supplies, chocolates and other goods, was a hit, but it cost about $100 to put together -- money I hadn't factored into my wedding budget.
When it comes to food, I'm a simple girl -- in fact, I would have been content with having a food truck parked in our venue's parking lot serving cheeseburgers and french fries. Unfortunately, the venue (which we allotted a generous percentage of our budget toward) required that we select a caterer from its very limited "preferred vendor" list or spend a $1,200 surcharge to have a different caterer on site.
When I was a college student, I worked at a special event facility that hosted meetings, conferences and weddings. Its rental rates included the bare necessities, like tables and chairs. So I expected these basics to be part of the package when reserving an event space, and was surprised to find that not all venues work that way. Our reception space doesn't provide seating, and quotes from rental vendors are a minimum of $7 a chair, which added about $1,000 to my wedding expenses.
Food eats up a considerable fraction of the average wedding budget, but even the costs of vetting prospective caterers can add up if couples want to try out a few options. When I began my research, I expected those food tastings to be complimentary; after all, these companies are trying to secure your business, and their services are far from cheap. But I quickly found that tastings can be quite costly. Some vendors charged $25 or more per person. For couples who are interested in trying several caterers, those expenses add up.
Couples whose ceremonies or receptions are held in more secluded locations may find that such venues sometimes require valet parking. Depending on the number of staff hired, the location, the expected number of guests and how many hours services are booked, valet parking may run as much as $3,000. My venue doesn't provide free parking, so my fiancé and I have decided to have guests use the self-parking structure next door.
A few months ago, I realized that I'd planned out what we'd feed our guests, but I failed to account for meals for our vendors on the day of the event. With two videographers, two photographers, an all-day floral designer, my wedding planner and her assistant, and the DJ and his two assistants, that's 10 vendors who will need meals to keep energized throughout my event. While my caterer offers vendor meal options at reduced prices, those meals still total about $180 in previously unexpected costs.
The bakery for our wedding cake is subcontracted through our catering company. Our catering contract said that the package was all-inclusive: wait staff, linens, silverware, soft beverages and the cake. But when I read "all-inclusive," I took that to mean that delivery of the cake was included. Upon placing the order with the bakery, however, I found that it expected to have me pick up the cake from its store or pay a $50 delivery charge to deliver it to the venue about 15 miles away.
In addition to the base charges for the venue and vendor contracts, other fees may be tacked on. For instance, if an outdoor reception is going into the late hours of the night and the city imposes time limitations for amplified sound, an extra charge for extended sound permits may be needed. Additionally, weddings of more than 150 guests may require couples to purchase on-site event security.
Miscellaneous wedding decorations for the ceremony and reception can help pull a theme together. But even DIY projects can run up the bill, especially for couples who are looking for Pinterest-worthy personal touches.
Caitlin Barber, who got married in 2012, had her share of budgeting nightmares when it came to wedding accent pieces. "I know that I ended up spending way more on all of the little crafty last-minute decorations than I planned," the Los Angeles resident said. "Toward the end, I definitely got caught up in wanting to make the wedding decor look unique and went to Michaels more than I should have, easily spending double or more of my initial $200 budget."