21 Jan

Wedding Budget: Taxes, Service Charge and Other Forgotten Expenses

A wedding is a series of well-orchestrated moving parts facilitated by a team of professionals whose purpose is to help you stay organized on your special day so you can focus on the most important part: getting married. In 2013 the average cost of a wedding in 2013 was $29,858 according to theknot.com. This rose to $31,213 in 2014. In 2015, that average cost has bloomed to just over $32,000 (honeymoon not included!). So, how does one take the time to plan and budget accordingly in an industry with rising costs? By budgeting smarter.

The unanticipated costs of a wedding can add 30 percent or more to a couple’s budget. No matter how well-intentioned or prepared you are, there is likely some expense that hasn’t been accounted for. After all, nearly half of any wedding budget will go towards the reception alone. Overspending is very easy! It is important to remain realistic when budgeting for any event and to do a little math to keep that outlook and stay close in line with your budget. For example, the catering costs are calculated on a per-person basis. The couple that has a $10,000 budget and wants to invite 250 guests should know that $40 per guest won’t go very far. Tax and service charge will consume about 30-35% of the food and beverage budget, however that tax and service charge are often completely ignored when budgets are created. Here is a look at the many obvious and hidden fees that are often forgotten.


This may be the easiest fee to forget, even though it is attached to every product or service you can purchase. Sales tax adds up. It’s as much as real cost as the actual item you are buying, however this expense is a necessary evil that needs consideration when shopping around for vendors and wedding items.


Service Charges

One of the important aspects to understand with service charges is that service charges are NOT the same thing as a gratuity. Many times service charges are assess as the cost of executing the event. Ultimately, it is up to a business to dictate what their service charge is inclusive of. For example, a caterer may charge you for labor by assessing a service charge of 24% to cover the cost of labor and other aspects of event execution, proportionate to the overall cost of the event. Again, this fee (service charge) is not distributed to employees as a tip. Gratuities are ultimately at your discretion, which could double the cost you need for your service.


Odd or Hidden Fees in Contracts (and sometimes simply hidden!)

There are some businesses that have hidden fees in their contract which, at first glance, may not be noticed when trying to factor in the cost of a particular service to your overall event budget. Keep in mind, many venues may offer event packages and be more inclusive, yet they may not cover the full cost of your event. Have you considered the cost to cut your cake into your reception costs? Most likely not. However, if the typical cake cutting fee per person is about $1.50 per slice, for an average sized wedding of 150 guests, this can add about $225 BEFORE service charge to your catering costs. Why towards catering costs and not towards the budget for the cake? Cake cutting is a service performed by your catering company’s service staff to plate and serve cake to your guests. When completing your initial budget, the cost of a service, such as cake cutting, needs to be applied to whoever is performing the service.



Tipping any of your vendors or staff is not mandatory, but is a nice gesture. People to consider tipping include hair stylist, makeup artist, photographer, DJ or band, and your limo driver. Instead of being the person that is going to wait and see how much money is leftover in your budget to see how much you can tip and then selectively decide, be sure that you include an amount when you create your budget to start with.


Tent Costs

The tent is one of the more misunderstood items in terms of event budget. It’s often thought that you can save more by holding a tented event at home instead of paying for venue costs. However, if a tent event is to be done well it can be costly. To turn a tent into an event venue there are necessary elements that need to be considered such as the rental of flooring, tent lighting, power generators, heating or fans, sidewalls and entrances, and restroom facilities (in addition to needing tables, chairs, china, glass and silver!) Yes, that says restrooms.



Whether you print your invitations on your own or use a stationer, ultimately those invitations need to be sent to your guests. When selecting invitations, keep in mind that oversized, awkwardly shaped and bulky invitations will most often cost as much as $3 to send. With every invitation there are costs associated with printing and assembling those invitations before they are sent and postage tends to be swept under the rug as the most often forgotten expense.


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