No matter how hard couples try, going over your wedding budget (even just a little bit) is an all-too-common occurrence. But how is it that the final number is more than you want to spend when you've paid such close attention to the bottom line? It turns out, the culprit might be hidden in plain sight, as an expense you think you just can't live without (or one you forgot about until the last minute). Thankfully, wedding planners have seen it all, so we turned to the experts to help you keep an eye on those hidden costs.
Watch the guest list. It seems like an easy answer, but the more guests you have, the more money you'll spend. "I always tell my clients to really narrow it down to the A-List and never invite more than 25 people over the desired guest count," says Brooke Keegan, owner and lead planner and designer of Brooke Keegan Special Events. "Especially if you're getting married in a desirable location, people will clear their schedules and make a trip out of it!"
Don't forget about lighting! "Lighting may not be the most expensive service, but it's so often an afterthought instead of an initial budget item," explains Roey Mizrahi, owner of Roey Mizrahi Events. "Lighting has a big impact on the environment and atmosphere you're trying to create, so while you might fall in love with a venue's arched ceilings or the amazing centerpieces your florist will create, it's all only as good as what your guests can actually see."
Think about how people will get around. Whether it's a vintage car for two or a party bus for your 30-person wedding party, transportation costs can add up quickly. "If you don't think about how you and your VIPs will get to the ceremony and reception, you could find yourselves with an extra grand on the bottom line," says Mizrahi.
Be selective about favors. "My rule is that if it isn't interactive or edible, guests will leave it behind," says Keegan. "Monogrammed candles are cute, but no one is displaying your monogram in their home." Adds Mizrahi, "I like to have the favors pull double duty as escort cards. It eliminates the doubled materials of buying both labels and cards." By having a calligrapher create the escort cards, you'll end up with a consistent, elegant product — and if you're using the same calligrapher for things like envelopes and signage, you might be able to negotiate a better price.
Ask for cost estimates up front. If things like rentals aren't included in your venue fees, you'll need to tackle the extra task of furnishing the space and, while it's incredibly helpful to have your caterer or planner help organize the specifics, you don't want to be surprised by the cost of 150 chairs, napkins, sets of flatware, and glasses (plus those amazing vintage couches that would be perfect next to the dance floor!). "Be sure to ask about the approximate cost of the proposal, and be prepared to make changes to what you've selected, since what you've envisioned could bump the cost from $3,000 to $6,000. Not something you want to be surprised by as your wedding date approaches!" says Mizrahi. "Misinformation is the biggest reason couples over-spend, whether it's following online spending guides too closely or assuming their friend's experience will be the same as theirs. I genuinely believe the only way to get an accurate depiction of what your wedding will cost is to get estimates directly from the vendors themselves."
Remember a rain plan. No one wants to admit that it might rain on their wedding day, but unexpected weather can happen — and could blow your budget when it does. "It's vital to have a contingency plan," says Allison Jackson of Pineapple Productions. "For a summer wedding, this might mean setting aside funds for last-minute AC systems, or you might need to reserve additional tenting and side walls in case of rain." And rain can turn a beautiful grassy lawn into a field of mud, so something like flooring or carpeting might become a must-have just a few days beforehand. "Make sure you understand the costs associated with bad weather, and account for them on the front end," says Jackson.
Are you ready for incidentals? Whether it's day-of paper products like menus and ceremony programs, welcome bags for out of town guests, signage for the bar, or bathroom amenities, these seemingly small costs can add up quickly. Be sure to mentally walk through the entire guest experience and think about anything you might need to buy, order, or account for — then add it to the budget!