The dreaded “B” word.  Budget… Not surprisingly, talks over the wedding budget can be one of the most stressful aspects of planning a wedding for most couples.  How much is too much to spend on the dress?  the venue?  the flowers?  photographer?  food?  Sometimes it may seem as if the expenses are never ending!  Thankfully you and your sweetie prevail!  Come to a compromise, think you have all the expeses accounted for with your fiance and decide “We will only spend X on the venue/flowers/photographer/food/etc!”  You’re feeling great.  Then… BAM!  Those pesky little unexpected expenses pop up outta nowhere and there goes your perfect little budget plan… (insert sad background music here)
Not to worry  No one is perfect and unless you are the engaged daughter of Bill Gates and don’t have a budget; no budget is perfect either!  Here are our top 10 Secret Budget Busters that every bride should look out for:

1.  LABOR:
It’s sooo easy to hear a price “It’s only $15 per light”.  Then… BAM!  You get your bill and what you thought was only $15 per light turns out to average $50 per light because of all the labor involved with setting up the equipment.  Don’t let this happen to you!  When getting the initial quote, don’t forget to ask about labor costs!  The vendor should be able to give you a rough estimate on how much labor is going to cost.  This way, when you get the final bill you won’t have to pick your fiance up off the floor from shock.   

One of the most exciting parts of planning a wedding for most brides is when you finally get to say “YES” to the dress!!  You fork over your hard earned cash, wait for what seems like an eternity, and then finally the day comes when your dress has arrived.  Then… BAM!  Your dream dress doesn’t fit perfectly and alterations are going to be $300++… When shopping around make sure to ask what the average cost could be for different alterations!  Maybe your dress just needs the hem taken up – typically that is a lot less than taking in the bust of a dress. 

Your invitations say sooooo much about your wedding day to your guests.  In fact, they are their first glimpse into what you have been planning for months.  Your invitations set the stage, so they need to be perfect!  Then…BAM!  You find out that your gorgeous pocketfold is just heavy enough that you have to get a $.62 stamp.  So now your postage cost just increased by $.17 – multiply that by 150 and now you’re spending an extra $25.50 that you weren’t expecting.  May not seem like a lot, but ever heard the phrase “dealth by a thousand cuts”?

It’s such a nice gesture to give your out of town guests a ‘Welcome Bag’.  Fill them with your favorite snacks, candies, water bottles, map of the area, weekend itinerary, etc… Your guests will feel extra special when they see the time and effort you and your sweetie went into making them.  But who will give them to your guests?  Certainly the hotel front desk…right?  Not necessarily!  This is something you have to ask when blocking your rooms.  Some hotels pass out welcome bags free of charge; others charge a per bag fee (anywhere from $2-$8 per bag!!).  That can add up quickly!  So make sure to ask first!

Most of the time you will pay for your open bar with your catering fee.  However, that doesn’t always mean a bartender (or the bar itself) is included. Bartenders can run an additional $50 – $250 per hour.  Make sure you ask for the total price, including any bar setup and/or bartender fees. 

Some times reception sites offer you the choice of getting the cake through them OR going with an outside cake vendor. Unfortunately choosing an outside cake vendor can often mean being charged a ‘cake cutting fee’. This means your venue will charge you for having their staff cut your cake. Traditionally this is a per slice charge. Cake cutting fees can range from $1.50 to $3 per slice! So a $1.50 cake cutting fee for 150 guests means an additional $225! When checking out different venues, include cake cutting fees on your “Must Ask” list of questions. That way there are no surprises later on.

Unfortunately there’s no getting around all the taxes you’ll end up paying… It seems like just about everything has a tax attached to it. Then there are service charges. Most venues charge anywhere from 18% to 28% service charges (keep in mind, these service charges are NOT gratuities!). So image taking your $7,000 food & beverage minimum and tacking on an additional $1,900 for fees. That will bust a budget real quick! When deciding on where to have your reception, make sure you ask about these fees and calculate them into your estimated total. That way, there will be less “sticker shock” when the final bill arrives.

To tip or not to tip?  I get this question, by far the most from my brides.  And, of course, it’s the most tricky question.  For the most part, tipping is optional and not expected.  However, it depends on the vendor.  First, double check your contracts to make sure it’s not already included.  Next, if you loved your vendors and loved the level of service you received from them, I would say go ahead and tip ’em.  Keep in mind a “tip” doesn’t have to equal cash!  A yummy bouquet from Edible Arrangements is a wonderful “Thank You” gift!  Or a small flower arragnement would put a smile on any vendor’s face.  Feel free to be creative!

Most private facilities (think country club’s and some hotels) will charge you a room rental fee.  This is simply a fee for using their space/ballroom.  Sometimes the fee comes with other amenities (delivering gift bags/complementary night stay at the hotel); somestimes it doesn’t.  Also, if you don’t hit their food & beverage requirements, the venue can also reserve the right to charge you a room rental fee.  Fees can range from $750 – $2,000.  Make sure to ask about a room rental fee when checking out different venues!     
  10.  BAND vs. DJ:
  Typically, the fee for a band will include paying for the musicians and a minimal amount of equipment. If your reception is outdoors OR in an extra-large space, you could need to rent a generator, additional sound equipment and even an extra sound engineer to make sure everything sounds great.  This can certainly add up fast!  Also make sure the band’s agreement clearly spells out any special requests or requirements they may have (i.e. # of breaks, meals, drinks, changing room, etc…).  You don’t want to find out last minute that your band requires 10 vegan-friendly meals.  Typically, DJ’s are a lot less maintenance, very rarely are there any hidden fees and DJ’s can work in a wide variety of venues and spaces.  If you’re looking for a “one-stop-shop” option – go with a DJ.  However, some people love live music.  If that’s you, then just make sure to ask a lot of detailed questions and hear the band play live before signing on the dotted line.  You’ll be happy you did. 
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