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Unexpected Wedding Costs

Modern wedding bouquet, perfume bottle, and gift box on white bed.

When you budget for a wedding, you likely think of saving for the venue, catering, flowers, attire, and entertainment. But what about other unexpected wedding costs?

According to The Knot Real Weddings Study, the average cost of a wedding nationwide was $28,000 in 2021. With inflation adjustments, that price will continue to rise in the coming years. Where in the wedding world does all that money go?

Here is the average wedding cost breakdown from The Knot:

Wedding budget breakdown graphic from The Knot
Source: 2021 Real Weddings Study from The Knot

 

As you can see, the majority of the wedding budget goes toward the venue (30%), catering (23%), and band (13%), with wedding rings, photography, alcohol, and flowers all tied for fourth place (7%).

There are a lot of unexpected wedding costs that don’t make it onto the average wedding planning budget spreadsheets. What are these costs, and how much should you budget for them?

Read on to find out the top 10 unexpected wedding costs.

 

Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties

While traditionally, the bridesmaids and groomsmen help foot the bill of the bachelor and bachelorette parties, a more extravagant party may require some contribution on the bride or groom’s part.

If you’re pushing for an overnight trip or a weekend getaway (What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?) then paying for your own plane ticket and chipping in for the hotel may be a big relief to your groomsmen or bridal party.

The cost of a bachelorette or bachelor party can vary wildly depending on the location, activities, and number of days. A 2021 study by The Knot found that “one in two females said they were willing to spend $1,000 or more on an upcoming [bachelor/bachelorette] event, while 54% of males said the same thing.”

If you’re looking to save money on a bachelor or bachelorette party, consider staying closer to home and shortening the number of days set aside for the event.

If you’re thinking about planning a bachelor or bachelorette party in St. Augustine, check out this blog.

 

A group of young women celebrating during a bachelorette party in St. Augustine
Bachelorette Party in St. Augustine on the Old Town Cycle Cruise

 

Marriage License

You can’t get married without a marriage license! Depending on where you live and the methods you use to obtain it, a marriage license will run you between $20-$100. You’ll also need to budget for the copy of your license, as it’s usually not included in the fee.

 

Gratuities

It is customary to tip some of your wedding vendors. From the musicians and florists to your wedding planner and stylists, so many people work hard to make sure you have an amazing celebration! The tip amount varies by vendor, however the average is about 20%.

Some vendors may have information readily available about suggested gratuities. If you’re unsure, just ask!

Nice gifts for some vendors (like your wedding planner) are a good idea too. Providing wedding photos from your professional photographer so your vendors can use them for their portfolios is always appreciated!

 

Postage

This cost is often overlooked. Who thinks of postage? However, it’s very important to factor postage into your budget. Here’s a breakdown. Stamps cost $.63 right now. If you’re inviting 150 people, that’s $94.50 in stamps. It’s customary to include the RSVP envelope pre-stamped* for their convenience, and that’s another $94.50.

*Cost-saving tip: You can save on postage by opting for an electronic RSVP!

Factor in save-the-date cards, thank you cards for your bridal shower, and thank you cards for the wedding, and you’re spending a few hundred dollars just on stamps. It really adds up when you think about it!

 

Victoria and Jorge’s wedding invitation suite with coordinating postage.
Victoria and Jorge’s wedding invitation suite with coordinating postage. Photo: Mechi Ausina Photography

 

Random Guests

Ok, maybe not random, but unexpected guests are a thing. Inevitably that cousin who RSVP’d “no” turns up, or Mary Sue comes with a plus one when she only RSVP’d for herself.

Fortunately, most venues and other vendors have a contingency plan for accommodating unexpected guests–to a point. Unfortunately, this will increase your final bill.

 

Gifts For The Wedding Party, Important Family, and Your Future Spouse

If you’ve ever been in a wedding, you probably know that it’s customary to give gifts to the bridal party and important family members. What you may not know is how expensive these gifts can be.

Monogrammed gifts, jewelry, and other trinkets are traditional gifts, but if you’ve got several wedding party members, or a large family, and give a few gifts each, you’ll be spending around $75-$150 per person. If you have the general average of 6 bridesmaids and 6 groomsmen, that’s between $900-$1,800 on the wedding party. If you have two parents each, that’s another $300-$600. You may end up spending over $2,000 on these gifts alone!

It’s also become customary for the couple getting married to exchange gifts the night before the wedding or on the morning of. Again, these gifts can range in type and value, but common gifts include jewelry, watches, cufflinks, photo albums, and other customized or personally meaningful items.

 

Alexandra and Andrue exchanged meaningful gifts before their wedding at the Lightner Museum.
Alexandra and Andrue exchanged meaningful gifts before their wedding at the Lightner Museum. Photo: Stephanie W Photography

 

Wedding Favors

Wedding favors aren’t a requirement on your wedding day, but many couples choose to offer a special treat or keepsake for guests. According to The Knot, the price of wedding favors averages between $1-$3 per guest, but can be higher or lower.

Check out this blog from our sister property, The Treasury on the Plaza, with 27 Unique Wedding Favors for Your St. Augustine Nuptials.

 

Clothes For Other Wedding-Related Events

When it comes to wedding attire, you’re not just buying a wedding dress and renting a tux for the big day. Most brides want to look stunning for all of their wedding-related events, so it’s time to factor in bachelorette party outfits, a rehearsal dinner look, a bridal shower dress, the morning of the wedding, and post-wedding brunch attire to your budget.

It’s become trendy for brides (and grooms!) to do an outfit change during the wedding itself. Bridal jumpsuits, sparkly dresses, and colorful dress changes are popping up at wedding receptions or wedding after parties. These fashion statements range widely in price, but some may be similar in price to a wedding gown!

Add the groom-to-be for all of his pre-wedding events, and you’ve got some hefty price tags on your hands for several new outfits.

 

Décor, Rentals, and Signage

There’s often a lot more to your wedding decorations than just flowers. A lot of couples add additional rental furniture, ceremony backdrops, candles, votives, and other décor that help set the mood and personalize their wedding.

Don’t forget about signage and other print materials! You’ll often need a seating chart, table numbers, menus, ceremony programs, and more.

 

Alterations

Rarely does a wedding dress or suit fit perfectly. After all, our bodies are all unique!

Brides need to factor in the cost of alterations in their dress budget because, depending on their needs, alterations can run between $150 to $600.

We know you may be thinking, ‘if it kind-of fits, I’ll just wear it,’ but the last thing you want on your big day is your straps falling during photos or your bra peeking over the top of your neckline.

While some grooms may rent their attire, others may want a bespoke suit or tuxedo. The more customized, the higher the cost will be. Alterations for a ready-to-wear suit typically aren’t as expensive as a bridal gown, but you still need to budget a few extra bucks to make sure you look sharp.

 

Rebecca’s gorgeous gown fit like a glove on her wedding day at the Lightner Museum.
Rebecca’s gorgeous gown fit like a glove on her wedding day at the Lightner Museum. Photo: Hey Tay Photography

 

Additional Time

Do you want additional time at your venue on the big day to get wedding-ready? You may want to pay for additional time in your private suites.

Sometimes you have so much fun at the wedding reception that you don’t want the party to end! If you want additional time on the dance floor, there may be additional costs to continue the party.

Check your wedding venue and vendor contracts for details and costs related to adding additional time on your wedding day.

 

Transportation

Another unexpected wedding cost we see fairly often is transportation. Is your wedding ceremony in a different location from your wedding reception? How will you get from one destination to another? Will you offer transportation to your guests to help them get to one or more of your wedding venues?

Have you thought about doing a cool wedding getaway at the end of your wedding reception? Many couples choose to leave in a cool vintage car, horse-drawn carriage, or other statement-making vehicle. Don’t forget to account for these costs in your wedding budget!

 

How to Control Those Unexpected Wedding Costs

Weddings are a time of excitement and celebration, but they do come with unexpected costs from time to time.

While it may be impossible to completely avoid extra costs, the best thing you can do is make yourself as aware of all costs as early in the planning process as possible, so you can budget accordingly. When speaking to vendors, ask them what is included in their initial pricing estimates, and what isn’t. Most vendor contracts lay out additional fees, and when they may come into play. Make sure to read everything carefully!

One of the ways to avoid unexpected costs is to find a venue with all-inclusive or semi-inclusive packages. At the Lightner Museum, we have an inclusive Intimate Wedding Package that includes all of your venue amenities, catering, bar, day-of wedding coordination, wedding cake, decor, DJ, and more. While there may still be additional wedding costs, this package gives you a clearer idea of the majority of your larger wedding costs up front!

If you’re interested in learning more about the Lightner Museum, we have a convenient virtual tour that you can walk through from the comfort of your home. Our team would also be thrilled to chat with you about your wedding and answer any questions, or schedule an in-person tour.

Click here to Contact Us, or give us a call at (904) 217-0077.

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  • *Please note: The Treasury Venue Collection does not handle elopements or photography permits in the Lightner Museum courtyard.
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