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Wedding Costs: Real or Rip-off?

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Illustration by Edwin Fotheringham/BRIDES

Hidden costs can throw even the most organized bride for a loop. BRIDES magazine details what charges are legitimate and which you should question.

DRESS ALTERATIONS
Are they included in the gown's price?
What's real: They're usually an additional charge determined at the first fitting, when the seamstress sees exactly what work needs to be done. To avoid a big shock, ask for an alterations estimate in writing at the time of the purchase. A major change, like remaking a dress should you lose 30 pounds, will cost you big bucks.
What's a rip-off: Being charged per fitting rather than for the actual work, or paying fees that are based on the price of the gown.

FLORAL-TRANSPORT FEE
Should moving the ceremony flowers to the reception site cost extra?
What's real: That depends. If there's a considerable amount of time involved, some florists will charge a fee. A crew has to stay at the first location, clean up after the ceremony, travel to the second site, and reinstall the flowers. If the arrangements are elaborate, this can take hours.
What's a rip-off: If a florist wants to charge you for moving a couple of simple baskets from one site to the next, ask a guest with a minivan to do the transporting instead.

PARKING SURCHARGE
You've rented the hall—should you pay for parking, too?
What's real: Generally, sites that own their parking lots free and clear don't charge for self-parking. Valet parking, however, will cost you extra, unless it's included in the catering package. If a venue doesn't have its own on-site parking, it may have an arrangement with a nearby garage where you and your guests will receive a discounted rate.
What's a rip-off: Being charged for self-parking if your reception facility owns its own lot. Honk if that makes you mad—then look into other sites.

CORKAGE AND CAKE-CUTTING FEES
Should a caterer charge you for serving wine or wedding cake that you provide?
What's real: In some states, caterers are required by law to have additional insurance for serving alcohol; a corkage fee (usually about $3 per guest) helps offset the expense. A cake-cutting fee (typically $1 to $2 per person) is pretty standard when your caterer can provide a cake but you choose to purchase your frosted tiers elsewhere.
What's a rip-off: Paying a steep corkage fee ($15 per bottle in some venues!). Don't be afraid to question such charges and to try to negotiate.

—Hillary Quinn, BRIDES magazine

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