7 Wedding Expenses You Won't Believe Are That Expensive

Plus, explanations from industry experts on why they cost what they do

Updated 12/27/18

Guess what? Weddings are expensive. We'd be willing to bet some precious money that you already knew that, but what you might not know is why you're being charged what feels like an incomprehensible amount of moolah for certain things. To help us understand, we called three wedding industry experts and asked them two things: (1) Which wedding expenses consistently flabbergast your clients by how much they cost? and (2) Why is that number what it is?

We hope the next time you go to swipe your credit card or write a check for something so costly it made you lower your thrift-store sunglasses, you'll remember their responses below and feel a little bit better about it.

Custom Invitations

We get wanting to announce your impending nuptials with all the due pomp and circumstance, but the thicker the card stock, the thinner your wallet. Handmade elements or special details such as quality paper, letterpressing, calligraphy, gold foil, or heavy customization can be pricey, warns Jesse Tombs of Alison Events in Sausalito, California. "But, save the dates and invitations are the first impressions your guests have in regard to your wedding," he says. "Investing in a beautiful stationery suite is a way to tie your design elements into a pretty bow—and get guests super excited for what's in store."

Fantastic Florals

Nothing makes for an Instagrammable moment like “gobs of flowers,” says Alicia Fritz of A Day in May Events in Traverse City, Michigan. But you’re paying for more than petals. “Florists make it look easy, but perfectly ‘haphazard’ blooms don’t happen by accident.”

Rentals. and Labor Costs

The budget-busting devil is in the details. “Linens, dishes, and decor add up quickly,” says Emily Campbell, founder of Bella Design & Planning in Breckenridge, Colorado. “As do servers, delivery, setup, and cleanup—especially if your venue is remote.” Plus, consider the cost of schlepping labor versus skilled labor, points out Fritz. "There's a difference between someone delivering items and someone running electrical or wiring or programming—someone putting something down versus someone styling something," she says. "There are certain things you cannot DIY. You need the expert."

Good. Lighting

Think of it as the real-life version of Snapchat’s pretty filter. “There’s no point in creating a beautiful reception if no one can see it,” says Tombs. Splurge on soft, natural light that is neither blinding nor shadowy.

The Cake

It's just flour, sugar, and butter, right? Not exactly. Campbell says that high-quality bakers justify charging anywhere from $12 to $20 per slice because they're sourcing better ingredients—think organic and local—and creating an edible masterpiece. "Sure, you can get tasty cake from the grocery store, but have you read that ingredient list or tried to stack them?" she says. "And consider how much time goes into handmade sugar flowers. In addition to the actual cake part, the per-slice price covers artistic and structural elements that require skill to keep your cake gorgeous until you're ready to serve it."

A Grand Band

Your wedding entertainers do more than play music; they create the overall vibe for your reception. "Bands are audible art, right?" says Fritz. Many are certainly priced like fine art pieces, commanding up to $70,000 for an event. It seems outrageous, but when you factor in travel, rehearsal, the transporting of instruments, food, accommodations if applicable, sound equipment, lighting, and money lost on other potential gigs while on the road for a large ensemble, it adds up. To make sure a band is worth that investment, Tombs suggests seeing them perform at another venue or showcase prior to booking. "Make sure you guys have a connection," he says, "and that they love the music you love."

Your Wedding Planner

If you opt for a full-service planner, you'll easily pay in the thousands. But to recover from your sticker shock, Campbell suggests thinking about the number of hours a first-rate planner will give you over the course of a year—including the 16 on your wedding day. "It's usually 200 plus hours," she says. "So when you're looking at quotes from planners, divide that fee by 200 to get a sense of their hourly rate." Not to mention, you're paying to benefit from their experience, industry knowledge, and vendor relationships as well. "Remember too that the rate is also covering their staffing," says Campbell, "and you'll be pleasantly surprised at what a bargain a planner is."

An abridged version of this story originally appeared in the February/March 2019 issue of Brides, on stands starting December 18.

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