From the moment your beau slips that dazzling ring on your finger, your brain goes into wedding-planning overdrive. But even the most detail-oriented, budget-conscious bride can be caught off guard by unanticipated expenses. Here's how to avoid them.
Venues & Contracts
- "If you want a wedding outdoors, for example, you'll need to obtain a number of pricey permits for your open-air event, and you'll have to make sure that everything from city regulations to fire regulations are strictly adhered to. You'll also have to rent tents in case of rain or inclement weather," says Dale Flam, an event planner with The Zanadu Group in Hollywood, Florida. Flam adds that every rental item placed in the tent is also your responsibility, including electricity generators, air conditioning or heating, the sound system and tableware.
- "When reviewing the contract, look out for the words 'additional costs may be incurred' and 'plus the cost of setup and delivery,'" says JoAnn Gregoli, the owner of Elegant Occasions event planning in New York City. Ask what these costs are-they can increase the price per person by 30 percent, depending on your state's sales tax. "Ask the vendor for the price per person, all inclusive, so that you know the fee for food and beverages, plus tax and service charges,"
- Certain venue prices depend heavily on what time of year and where in the country you decide to get married. "If a majority of weddings take place between May and December where you live, you could save money across the board by getting married in a quieter month," says Flam. "The same applies to the day of the week or the time of day you choose. Reception halls charge the highest fees for Saturday night weddings. You might want to consider a Sunday brunch or luncheon, or a Friday night celebration."
Décor & Flowers
- "Selecting out of season flowers (such as peonies in October) will increase the budget considerably, as the flowers will need to be imported," says Lisa Gorjestani, founder of Details Event Planning in Los Angeles. "Choosing flowers that are in season, abundant and have popular colors play a big role in minimizing cost." Gorjestani recommends hydrangeas for spring because they are large, luxurious and full-and they fill up space more easily and cheaply than, say, tulips. "If you want the feeling of lush, but your budget doesn't provide for it, choose one type of flower and use a mass quantity of it. This will create impact," says Gorjestani.
- Gorjestani suggests adding cost effective votives and candles to your centerpiece. However, most event spaces require fire permits and have restrictions on candles. She notes that a good florist will take care of the permit and the fee.
- You can create depth on the tables and conjure up a romantic mood - without digging too deeply into your pockets - by adding light-reflecting mirrors. "The one item that is often overlooked that I feel plays an absolute integral part is lighting. It is a key element in the overall look of your wedding," says Gorjestani
- When utilizing a catering company for an outdoor event, there are other costs than just food. "Generally, pricing without rentals and dinner wines and champagne runs about $225 to $275 per person for a high-end catering company," says Olivier Cheng, president of Olivier Cheng Catering and Events in New York City. "Rentals are billed separately and average another $75 to $125 per person."
- "I tell brides to go with the things that really matter. Nix the cocktail stations if you have to-no one will miss them if you have enough passed food," says Cheng
- Flam advises asking if the cocktail reception is included in the package price. You should also inquire if bartenders are included in the venue fee, says Gregoli, and what kind of expenses each bar option entails: "The biggest unexpected situation I have encountered is when a bride chooses to do a bar and pays per drink. If the crowd drinks heavily, the price can be more than double the per-head cost."
- Although many venues offer wedding packages that include the price of the cake, Flam warns that they tend to charge an extra cake-cutting fee if you bring in a cake from an outside bakery. When deciding whether or not to go with the in-house cake, ask exactly how much this fee will add to your bill.
- If you bring a cake in from an outside bakery, be aware that "the price is based on decoration," says Lauri Ditunno, owner of Cake Alchemy in New York City. "The more labor-intensive the design is, the higher the price." But you can make smart substitutions that will save you some green. For instance, sugarpaste flowers are more expensive than natural flowers because they are so handmade, so Ditunno suggests opting for the real thing.
- "There are slower seasons and slower days that will give the bride and groom more negotiating leverage," says Deanna Jones of the Deanna Jones Orchestra. "In general, Saturdays in the fall and spring are peak price. Summer is moderately busy, depending on the city and part of the country." Consider slower (and therefore less expensive) days like the Saturday of Memorial Day or Labor Day weekends, or by choosing an off-season month like January or March.
- Both bands and DJs usually bring their own audio equipment, but according to Jones, a venue could insist that your entertainment vendor use the in-house audio system instead, hiding another fee that could add up to $4,000 to your venue's asking price.
- "If you don't remember to tell your band that your reception takes place on the third floor, and there is no elevator, then you can understandably anticipate an extra fee," says Anne Roos, author of The Bride's Guide to Musicians. "If you're clear about these kinds of important details, then there won't be hidden costs."
- Because your DJ and/or band will be charging you by the hour, timing really is everything. Most entertainment packages include a half hour for arrival at the ceremony, a half hour for the ceremony itself and four hours for the reception. If you accidentally overstep those strict boundaries, the charges will begin to stack up. "Tell your DJ or musicians exactly how long you want them to perform," Jones advises. "They can only give you a firm quote if you give them your date, time, length of performance and location," says Roos. Always ask what your price quote includes (for example, the number of pieces, the number of hours, taxes and gratuities and so on), and make sure that overtime prices are listed on the contract.
More from Bridal Guide:
► 5 Wedding Cake Alternatives
► 75 Ways to Throw a Luxury Wedding on a Budget
► Browse Photos of Real Weddings
► 10 Ways to Be a Gracious Hostess
► 15 Wedding Details You Don't Need to Worry About
► Amazing Harry Potter Theme Weddings
Photo by Emily Anglr