Why Your Wedding Budget Isn’t As Big As You Think

Can wedding debt be beaten? How do you become the couple that avoids it? Simple: Put the most forgotten fees at the top of your list. 

1. Alterations: You could have guessed that, right? Nothing sends a bride’s gown budget into a tailspin like alterations. You’ve no doubt fantasized about the moment you say “Yes” to your dress. What you couldn’t imagine was your gown fitting is most areas and not so much in others. So be prepared when looking at your gown and budget to shop smart. Consider not only the gown and accessories, but the possibility for alterations as well. 

2. Taxes: They’re a way of life and they add up fast. Almost every purchase you make for your big day will include tax. When budgeting the bottom line, make sure you look at your itemized budget not as the number you can max out, but the number you can afford WITH tax. You’ll make wiser decisions when you consider the big picture. 

3. Postage: This is another area that resides on the backburner in the minds of most engaged couples. You know it’s there, but then you find yourself swept away in the glitz, glamour, and design details. It’s easy to splurge on heavier paper, colored/lined envelopes, inks/fonts and/or calligraphy when you haven’t considered postage. And we’re not just talking invitations here. You must also remember your save-the-dates, RSVP return envelopes, and thank you cards. 

Stamps are 49 cents for an average first-class single piece letter. Specialty shapes and sizes, boxed invites, heavier papers and envelopes will mean additional postage. Plan for the basic stamp price to give you a general idea of what you might spend, subtract that number from your overall stationery budget and THAT final number is the estimated dollar amount you have to spend for your stationery needs. Once you have an invitation or sample, take it to the Post Office to be weighed for an accurate postage amount. 

4. Gratuity & Service Fees: Generally gratuity is an optional reward for a job well done. This is not the case when it comes to your wedding – especially catering. Think about your basic restaurant dining experience where a table of six or more with one check is subject to 18% gratuity. Now think of your wedding as a party of six or more. Eighteen percent of your total food and beverage can be a pretty hefty surprise for couples. A service fee is a monetary charge added to offset additional costs of a service rendered. This fee pays for those who prep, serve, and clean up your reception. All the dishes, pans, cutlery, linen, and stands had to come from somewhere. And the gas it takes to get to your event and back again … well, you get the idea. Before you go into total heart failure, keep in mind that it is not uncommon to see a fee trifecta added to your food and beverage estimate: service fee, gratuity, and taxes. 

5. Miscellaneous Items: Rarely the source of stress at the start of the planning process – but by the week of your wedding, you’ll wonder where you went wrong. Miscellaneous items are all the extras you’ll need at the last minute; ribbon for favors and bouquets, table numbers, an extra linen or two, a basket/vase for card gifts, a stand for this, a picture frame for that, a few more programs, one more boutonniere (because you forgot your officiant), etcetera, etcetera. The best way to prepare for the miscellaneous mystery is to set aside a minimum of 10% of your total budget (perhaps 5% more if you are a diy-er). Should you not need it, you’ll be the elite couple that beat their wedding budget by ten percent!. 

Michelle Whyte is the owner of Ambiance Special Events and offers expertise in coordination, consulting and design for your wedding day. To learn more about her services, visit www.experienceambiance.com.

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