Today, we’re spotlighting the things (17 categories!) that you don’t often see as wedding budget line-items from the classic “budget guide” sources, though they’re expenses many couples have. This the third part of our wedding budget series – if you’ve missed the first two, we’d encourage you to first read our posts on setting your overall budget and establishing spending priorities.
Someone reading traditional wedding budget advice (e.g. the lists we’ve compiled here) might reasonably think, “okay, venue, photographer, flowers, dress, invitations, music, and we’re done” – but this is a dicey strategy if you don’t want to agonize over your wedding finances later in the planning process.
We want you to do two things with this list: plan for them when you’re dividing up your budget, and be fastidious about including everything in your spreadsheet of expenses – even the little things that are easy to write off.
When S and I started planning our wedding, I kept records of every wedding-related expense we had. Compared to the standard wedding budget guides, I took a fairly liberal approach to what was wedding-related spending: For me, it was anything we wouldn’t otherwise have purchased, were it not for the wedding. This meant, of course, that our overall numbers would look quite a bit higher than they might with a more conservative definition of “wedding expenses,” but my thinking was this: We knew how much money we wanted to spend on our wedding, and this money had to come from somewhere, so I wanted to keep track of it.
There’s no reason not to keep a record of all of these expenses as you go along, no matter how small. If you later decide that you want a more conservative list of expenses, simply skip over these rows in your spreadsheet – but we think you’ll be glad to have the most accurate numbers readily available.
Honeymoons are one of the spendier items couples will encounter while wedding planning, but they’re nowhere to be found on the three budget breakdowns we feature here, from Brides, The Knot, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Honeymoons, by definition, fall under the “would you spend money on this if you weren’t planning your wedding?” include-in-budget rule.
If you’re planning to go on a honeymoon – particularly if you’re doing so shortly after your wedding – you’ll probably need to start spending money in the six or so months before your wedding. This is exactly when the bulk of your wedding spending will likely be due, with deposits and final payments to venues and vendors often falling in this window. Some honeymoon expenses, like meals and excursions, are things you’ll pay on your honeymoon, but airfare certainly isn’t, and hotels are likely to require at least a deposit at time of booking (if you’re getting a discounted rate, you may need to fully pay in advance).
Part of setting your wedding priorities is thinking about the biggest-ticket expenses, like honeymoons – you might decide to cut back elsewhere to spend an extra week in your dream destination, or to stay at a pricier hotel, or what have you. Thinking about how much the trip you want will cost you means you’ll know if, for example, you’ll need to push the honeymoon further out after the wedding to give you time to set aside the money.
Wedding rings are an item I debated including on my own budget, despite the answer to “would I buy this if I weren’t getting married?” being no, obviously. My hesitation came from the whole “but we’ll have these our entire lives! It’s not like our wedding cake will last forever” line of thinking, but I do think they’re an important budget item. Like honeymoons, you’re probably going to purchase your rings in the months leading up to your wedding, so it’s better to account for them at the start than to be surprised by the additional expense just before the wedding.
Wedding planning materials
Treating yourself to a subscription to Martha Stewart Weddings, grabbing the newest issue of Philadelphia Weddings at the store… it all adds up (you might also be surprised at the cover prices of some wedding magazines, if you haven’t started looking!)
The same idea applies to wedding books – $15 here and $30 there may seem like nothing if you’re writing big checks to your venue, but they should be factored in. Other planning expenses you might incur: paper planners, wedding binders / notepads, and tickets to wedding fairs / expos. Even if you don’t think you’re likely to spend much in this category, we’d suggest adding a small amount to your budget – if you don’t spend it, you can reallocate later, but better to have it than need to borrow from another category later.
There are a number of companies who’ll host your wedding website if you’d prefer something with more features than your standard site from The Knot, or similar – S and I used and liked AppyCouple – but these can run $30-50+. You might decide, as some couples do, to get your own domain and/or build a WordPress or Squarespace wedding website, which could run you about the same (or more, if you wanted an expensive domain or premium theme).
It’s not only the base price for your photographer (or videographer, if you decide to hire one) to keep in mind – does your package include extras that you might want, such as albums or prints, digital files, or engagement photos? If you want your photographer to stay longer than the package allows, you’re looking at paying for overtime, too. You may want to hire a second shooter (if your wedding is large enough, your photographer may require that you do so). Even if you’re not paying for these extras up front, they might be things you’d like to add later, so build in the room in your budget to do so.
“Paper” is usually shorthand for “invitations and things,” but should also include place cards, escort cards, menus, and programs, if you plan to have any of these things.
Think beyond just invitations and reply cards – do you want to include any extras, like reception cards, direction cards, song request cards, or maps? Are you sending save-the-dates? You’ll want to add in enough thank you cards to account for not only wedding gifts, but anything you receive at engagement parties or showers, plus cards to send to your vendors.
Although many companies offer couples a complementary set of samples, you might have to pay for the ones you like best (or pay extra to get a letterpress / foil-pressed sample). These definitely start to add up, and shipping could be an extra $5-10 every time you find another you like (ordering a big set all at once is the way to go).
Stamps are a necessity, and so often overlooked. Wedding invitations aren’t cheap to mail, even fairly standard ones in terms of weight and shape. As S and I learned the hard way, make them even a hair too thick and the post office will insist that they’re “packages.” You’ll need stamps for invitations, plus thank yous, save-the-dates, and any other party invitations you send out. If you’re inviting guests who live overseas, factor in a bit extra for international postage costs.
Pre- and post-wedding events
When you sit down with your fiancé (and, possibly, one or both of your families) to talk about your wedding budget – we go through what to do here! – you could establish who’s going to pay for the assorted “extra” events, if you’d like to have them. These could include engagement parties, bridal showers, a rehearsal dinner, welcome events, and farewell events.
While a party thrown in your honor isn’t traditionally your financial responsibility (e.g. engagement parties and showers), you shouldn’t assume that family members are planning to pay for these. If they’re something you want to have, it’s far better to be clear about this at the start. You don’t want to end up in a situation where, for example, one set of parents has generously contributed as much as they can afford to finance your wedding day, and then is confronted with the expectation of hosting and paying for another pricey event.
If applicable, also think about bachelor & bachelorette parties (and be sure to have a conversation with your bridal party about expectations and finances).
If you’ve ever seen “Say Yes to the Dress,” you know that alterations can significantly increase the price of a gown. If you expect you’ll need a non-standard size – remember all of the WNBA players on SYTTD who needed extra length added to their dresses? – you should keep this in mind when setting your budget. It’s hard to know if or how you’d want to tweak your dress (e.g. changing out the zipper, adding sleeves) until you’ve found it, but to the extent that you can pad this line item, it could be in your interest.
Alterations aren’t just for gowns – be sure to account for suits / tuxes if you’re purchasing those, as well.
Outfits for wedding events
If you’re planning to buy (or rent) special attire for any pre-wedding event – engagement parties, showers, the rehearsal dinner, bachelor / bachelorette parties – that should be factored into your budget, as well. Think about the entire look (shoes, bags, jewelry, etc.), not just the clothes.
Hair and makeup are standard items on wedding budgets, but don’t overlook other services you might want to have. Are you planning on getting a manicure or pedicure, having any spa services (facials, waxing, etc.), or maybe doing a couple’s massage before the wedding? What about beauty services before the pre-wedding events? Don’t forget to factor in tips!
Things that’ll be on display
Wedding budget guides usually include “decor,” but decor goes well beyond flowers and candles. What else might you want to have on display, either at the ceremony, during cocktail hour, or at the reception? (see also the paper section above, where we mention place cards, escort cards, menus, and programs).
Some common items include toasting flutes, guestbooks (don’t forget archival pens!), a card box, signs (including frames and/or easels, if your venue doesn’t provide these), and photos (e.g. engagement photos on display, family wedding photos). If you’d like to add any personalized items, like napkins with your wedding date printed on them, don’t skip this category!
We’re not suggesting you use a mileage tracker to figure out how much you’ve spent going to venue tours and vendor visits – though you certainly could, no judgment! – but if any of these trips are more than just across town, you might want to keep track. Easier-to-track travel expenses during the planning process are things like train tickets, Uber rides, and parking fees.
Are you staying in a hotel the night of your wedding? What about the night before? Even if your venue is close to home, you might want to book a room somewhere for the added convenience (wouldn’t it be nice not to have to worry about traffic the morning of your wedding?) Maybe you’re planning your wedding, as S and I did, from across the country – we took several wedding-specific flights back to Philadelphia during the planning process, plus our flights for the wedding itself, and spent four nights at our hotel (two before the wedding and one after). With taxes, you could easily be looking at several hundred, possibly into the thousands, of travel-related dollars above and beyond your budget, if you overlook these items.
Tips & thank yous
You should absolutely send thank you cards to your vendors, which may require purchasing extras when you order the thank yous for your guests, or buying a separate set. If you’re giving tips that aren’t included in the contract price, budget for these ahead of time, and find out how many assistants will be involved on the day to account for their tips, as well. While you’ll see “gifts” on traditional budget lists, don’t just think about things you’d buy for your bridal party, family, or fiancé as a thank you when you allocate this part of your budget.
Trials & tastings
Bakeries, caterers, and venues may charge you to sample the food, even after you’ve signed a contract. Hair stylists and makeup artists often charge for trial runs, so don’t forget to account for these expenses (even if they’re included in your day-of price, don’t forget to log the tips you leave.)
If you’re planning to DIY any aspect of your decor – invitations, flowers, etc. – you’ll likely want to do a few trial runs. The costs of these trial materials should be factored into your budget, too.
Wedding planners / coordinators
A good wedding planner is an amazing ally to have on your wedding day, and should absolutely be budgeted for if you and your fiancé decide to hire one. The cost varies dramatically depending on the services you want, from day-of coordination (which is always more like month-of), to a completely done-for-you experience. Your planner may charge a flat rate or a percentage of your overall budget – coming up with, say, 10% of your wedding budget when you didn’t plan to spend the extra is avoidable, if you account for this expense in advance.
Anything you’d like to upgrade
Alternatively, think of this as the “I know the package comes with water, but I want champagne” category. Don’t just look at the base prices for your potential vendors when you work on your budget – do you see anything you’re likely to want to upgrade? If your venue only has basic white linens, linen rentals might be a must-do for you. Maybe you have your heart set on different flatware, or on having chargers, or whatever it is – these are items that, yes, you get in the price you’re paying, but the upgrades will start to add up.
We’re not trying for anything like an exhaustive list, but here are a handful of other upgradeable items that might resonate with you: traditional vs. airbrush makeup, in- vs. out-of-season flowers, a complicated cake design, well vs. call drinks, additional entrée choices.
Wedding insurance & contingencies
Wedding insurance is a must-have, in our opinion – we tell you everything you need to know about it in this post – and should be included in your budget (don’t forget that it’s fairly inexpensive!)
Two of the traditional budget breakdowns we featured here do include a “just in case” line, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t include it. Please don’t treat your contingency budget the way people do on Property Brothers: that is, think you can just blow the entire contingency on a fancy extra you forgot to say you wanted, and then have Jonathan explain why that’s a bad idea. This is truly for unexpected expenses, like guests who didn’t RSVP but showed up on the day.
Whew! That’s quite a list, but smart planning will save you a ton of stress later on, we promise!
Did you skip anything that you later wished you had included in your wedding budget? Let us know what happened in the comments below!