The secret costs of weddings: Watch out for these hidden premiums

The secret costs of weddings

Is that the sound of wedding bells ringing…or cash registers cha-chinging?

Your wedding will be one of the most meaningful days of your life, and it will likely be one of the most expensive.

In 2019, the average ceremony and reception comes with a price tag of nearly $30,000, according to WeddingWire’s annual Newlywed Report—which also notes that the average couple underestimates their total wedding day costs by 45%.

Would you buy a car or enroll in a college that was going to cost 45% more than you budgeted? Probably not. But in the heightened emotional state of wedding planning, you may find yourself with financial amnesia, at least until the honeymoon’s over (or you see your credit card statement). Whether you set out with a wedding budget of $5k or $50k, there are bound to be expenses that sneak up on you. Here are some of hidden costs to look out for—and some areas where you can save.

pre-marriage counseling secret costs weddings

Nearly half of first-time couples opt for pre-marriage counseling before getting hitched.


The lead-up

  • The average cost of wedding invitations is $550, but don’t forget postage, especially if you have heavy or oversized invitations, which can cost up to $2 an envelope.
  • A wedding website is practically mandatory. The basic ones are free, but couples coveting a custom domain will pay anything from $10/month to $35/month.
  • If you’re not under contract with a venue yet, don’t expect your food tasting to be a free lunch. Consider budgeting at least $25 per person attending, and call ahead to find out the policy.
  • You may have found the perfect wedding dress, but don’t forget alterations: $75 to $300. Suiting up? Everything from taking in a jacket ($40) to adjusting the shoulders ($35) to replacing buttons ($.50 each) can add to the bill.

videographer secret costs weddings

Want to capture every moment of the day? You may need a videographer, which can up the cost of documentation.


The big day

  • Having a weather-dependent wedding? Get ready to become an amateur meteorologist—and prepare for some hidden costs.
    • Getting married in the off-peak season might seem like a way to save money, but in areas with increased potential for inclement weather, you could end up with a financial headache if a hurricane trumps your big day.
    • Whether you’re barefoot in the sand or flower-crowned in the woods, saying I Do in the great outdoors could require an emergency tent rental if it rains: $2,200 to $7,500.
    • You may even want to buy yourself peace of mind with wedding insurance: $155 to $550. Your homeowners insurance or your wedding vendors may already include this, so check. There’s no insurance for the biggest risk of all: cold feet.
  • Bringing in a cake from your favorite bakery? Your venue may charge a cake cutting fee for not sticking to their dessert offerings. Say, $1.50 per person.
  • Premium liquor can be triple the cost of going casual with beer and wine—$3,970 vs. $1,325. Don’t forget to consider that in your wedding budget.
  • If your wedding runs late, you could run into time-and-a-half overtime costs from your photographer or DJ—at an average of $250/hour.
  • Is your reception spot a ways from the hotels your tipsy guests need to get back to? Better provide transportation: $1,050.
  • Make sure to look at your contract and confirm whether your payment to the venue includes a gratuity for servers and kitchen staff. If not, don’t be surprised when your credit card receipt includes an area to add a tip. Just like at a restaurant, 15% to 20% is the decent thing to do. Tipping vendors like photographers and DJs is optional.
  • At the average wedding, the lucky couple will spend $230 per guest in attendance. Maybe you’ve been told you’ll recoup that in gifts, but wedding presents have an average value of $160. That 30% loss may not be something you expect when you’re cutting the big checks to your wedding vendors. But, hey, not everything in life is about return on investment!

queer couple secret costs weddings

Secret cost of being an LGBTQ couple: Queer couples are more likely to cover the full cost of their own wedding than couples overall.



  • Getting married in your big-city hometown: The average wedding cost is $50k in NYC, $40k in SF…and $22k in Cleveland.
  • Standing by the bride or groom’s side? You pay a premium, too. The average cost of being in a bridal party (including presents, clothes, travel, events) is $728. Even just being a guest at a close friend or family member’s wedding costs $628 on average.
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