50+ Unexpected wedding expenses that will shock you

I am at the age where all of my friends are getting married, and sometimes, our conversations lead to surprises at how quickly budgets can escalate and how many unexpected wedding expenses may shock you. I find that for the most part, my brilliant, type A friends can sometimes get overwhelmed with wedding planning. I am a Boston wedding photographer who has photographed several hundred Boston weddings; I’ve been privy to countless interesting conversations about wedding budgets. I talked with 100+ Boston couples and wanted to share a list of their unexpected wedding expenses in hopes that it will help shed some light on the surprises.
All pricing is based off of my couples that have been married in the Massachusetts area. I’ve listed ranges based on my findings, but obviously you can find cheaper in Chinatown alleyway establishments or spend your life savings splurging on branded luxuries.
Boston Mandarin Oriental wedding Nicole Chan Photography
Boston Mandarin Oriental wedding Nicole Chan Photography
Before the wedding
  • Emergency kit – Bobby pins, double sided tape, hair spray, lipstick, safety pins, mints, deodorant, combs, wet naps, makeup wipes, lint roller, baby powder, tissues, sewing kit, clear nail polish, bandaids, liquid bandaids, tampons, pads, stain remover, face blotting, Q-tips, TUMS, mouthwash, toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, eye drops, chapstick, cigar cutter, nail clippers, nail filer, small scissors, big scissors, bug repellant, heel stopper. All these little items can add up. My couples estimate spending between $40-80 for their emergency kit, and have said that it’s worth it (especially because you can just keep it at home afterwards)
  • Working out – Gym memberships ($20-$250/month), bridal bootcamps (classes from $15-40/each, or flat fees for 2-3 month courses) juicing cleanses (i.e. Whole Food’s Blueprint cleanse is 6 juices for $65 – per day), personal trainers ($50-100 per 1 hour private session). I work out with Alicia at Healthy Balance in Quincy and love the results and personalization.
  • Dance lessons – Private or group lessons, custom choreography, lessons for father/daughter or mother/son dances ($65 – $125 per lesson. I’ve heard that couples can expect to take 3-8 lessons)
  • Beauty treatments – Facials ($40-80), manicures ($30-60), massages ($60-150), eyebrow threading or waxing ($12-25)
  • Gifts and cards – For bridal party, family, and other important people
  • Welcome bags distribution fee – Some venues will charge a nominal fee to pass out your welcome bags to your guests ($2-4/bag)
  • Asking bridal party members to be in your bridal party – Cards, Custom cookies, bottle of champagne, framed photos, pretty cards, taking them out to a meal, etc.
  • Umbrellas and boots – Just in case if it rains… (We live in New England. We need to be prepared for snow in May and hailstones in August)
  • Engagement session – Sometimes, e-sessions are included in photography packages and sometimes, they are a la carte. Some photographers charge a flat fee ($600-1500) and others charge a session fee and then hold a premier or viewing+ordering session so that you can come into the studio and order prints. If you do opt for one, don’t forget about makeup, hair, outfits, accessories, location fees, props, etc.
  • Prenuptial agreement – This can be a difficult discussion and it generally is not a romantic one. Some lawyers bill a flat-fee price while others bill as a retainer and then an hourly fee of $175-$400. One of my good friends, Gabriel, owns Infinity Law group and his law practice is primarily focused on divorceestate planning, and prenuptial agreements.
  • Rehearsal dinner – $30-100/per person. Don’t forget their significant others!
Unexpected wedding expenses that may shock you
Services that I think are must-have’s (but some disagree… Some consider these vendors as “afterthoughts”)
  • Day of coordinators – I think this should be a permanent fixture on all wedding budgets. I can’t imagine running a stress-free wedding as a bride on my own.
  • Uplighting – for the reception room
  • Videography/Cinematography – Sometimes an afterthought, videography provides a different way to relive the day. Some couples cherish being able to listen to their vows and toasts as well as watch funny dance moves. Another shameless plug for our sister Boston videography company – Promessa Studios (I’ve known Karen since high school!)
Unexpected wedding expenses that may shock you
Unexpected wedding expenses – (hidden) line items under existing line items
  • Bridal accessories (Wedding dress) – Belt, veil, jewelry, heel stoppers (for grass), gel insoles, hair pieces, undergarments, Spanx, moleskin
  • Groom accessories (Suit/tux) – Tie clip, cufflinks, socks, wristwatch
  • Tailoring and alterations (Wedding dress or suit/tux) – This is specific for each situation, my brides have ranged from $200-$3000
  • Paper goods (Stationery) – Invitations, menus, save the dates, escort cards, programs, place cards, other signage (“reception this way. ceremony this way, etc.”), return address labels.
  • Calligraphy – Megan Chapin gives some insight on average costs: $4/envelope, $1/placecard. Don’t forget abou table numbers, chalkboard signage, menus, seating charts, etc!
  • Packaging and labels (Favors) – Customizing favors with custom stickers, labels, decor
  • Postage – Invitations (Depends on size and weight, but $0.42-3/invitation) and also the return postage
  • Makeup/Hair trials – Test out what you’ll look like on your big wedding day
  • Shipping – For anything you purchase, shipping will be tacked on!
  • Decor – In addition to flowers, anything from candles, vases, framed photos of family
  • Taxes – Applied on almost all items and services, this pesky 6.5% is payable to Uncle Sam (of Massachusetts)
  • Accommodation – We all know about the wedding night hotel, but where will you be sleeping the night BEFORE your wedding? ($free – $400)
  • Attire (Rehearsal dinner) – Dress, shoes, jewelry, accessories
Unexpected wedding expenses that may shock you
Getting ready/Pre-ceremony
  • Makeup
    • Eyelashes – Some makeup artists charge additional for this
    • Touchup kit – Purchasing the same lipstick color
    • Bridesmaids’ and mothers’ makeup in addition the bride
  • Pre-wedding attire
    • Monogrammed robes for bridesmaids
    • Special robe/outfit for bride
  • Wedding day meals – Breakfast and/or lunch for your family and bridal party during the getting ready process
Unexpected wedding expenses that may shock you
  • Marriage license ($50)
  • Location fees – i.e. Boston Common license ($150)
  • Officiant – Paying for a friend to be your officiant
Unexpected wedding expenses that may shock you
  • Transportation
    • for guests to/from ceremony, reception, hotel, etc.
    • limo/trolley for bridal party and parents
    • alcohol (beers or champagne) for the ride to the reception
  • Table numbers
  • Card box – So that your guests will know where to put their cards and gifts
  • Guest book
  • Cake
    • Cake cutting fees – Sometimes venues will charge this if you bring in a cake from an outside vendor. Some just charge it for the service of cutting it and plating it. ($1.50-$3 per slice)
    • Cake toppers
    • Cake knives and serving utensils ($40-80)
  • Corkage fee – Convenience charge ($1-2/guest)
  • Garbage removal fees, cleaning fees, and breakdown costs – Sometimes charged as a flat fee or as labor per hour
  • Unexpected guests – Sometimes random family members or +1s show up
  • Bathroom basket – Filled with emergency items like floss, combs, mints, hair spray, bandaids, etc.
  • Dance floor, and tent ceiling lighting (tent)
  • Upgraded stuff – chairs, place settings, linens, flatware
  • Reception dress – In addition to a wedding gown for the ceremony and formal parts of the wedding reception, some brides opt for another reception dress, whether it be a short dress for dancing, a more casual one without a long train, or one with a completely different look/feel/color.
  • After party – Will you be hitting a bar/lounge/club? Will you be going back to a hotel suite and ordering room service?
Unexpected wedding expenses that may shock you
  • Overtime – Some vendors operate in a set number of hours and extending time ($x00/hour depending on the vendor)
  • Gratuity – Not expected, but appreciated
  • Tipping for bartender – Sometimes included, sometimes not (I’ve had couples be surprised with an invoice of an additional 18-22% at the end of the night… in addition to what their guests have tipped)
  • Tipping for waitstaff – Sometimes included, sometimes not (18-22%)
  • Vendor meals – Yes, your vendors eat.
  • Non-approved professionals – Some venues will tack on a fee (15-30%) if couples do not use vendors from their preferred list
  • Travel fees – depending on where the wedding is located, you may incur travel costs
Unexpected wedding expenses that may shock you
Unexpected wedding expenses post-wedding 
  • Wedding day brunch
  • Wedding gown cleaning – $150-250
  • Wedding gown preservation – Some cleaners will include a pH-neutral box with acid free paper. Companies like David’s bridal also offer a preservation kit ($99)
  • Albums and wall art – Bring your photographs to life. Don’t let them sit sad and lonely on a harddrive or a the cloud.
  • Albums for your parents, grandparents, and godparents 
  • Thank you cards – $1-3/card
  • Advil – for the hangover
  • Wedding card box – To store and keep all of your boxes
If someone you know if getting married, be a nice friend. Forward this post of unexpected wedding expenses to them!
This list certainly is not a comprehensive list of all wedding costs, but I hope that it helps! Please feel free to e-mail me at nicole@Nicolechanphotography.com if you’d like to add something to my list. I, and many others, would greatly appreciate it!

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