Many brides and grooms are caught by surprise when their carefully-planned wedding budget balloons unexpectedly. While you may be certain you budgeted enough for your wedding venue, think again.
Sometimes seemingly inexpensive wedding locations come with a whole set of hidden costs. Your best defense is knowing what to expect.
Champagne Corkings and Cake Cuttings
Even though you bought the cake or the champagne with your own money, you may not be ready to cross it off your budget list yet. Many venues and catering companies charge corking and cutting fees to serve outside beverages and food–that is, if they allow it at all!
Before buying cake or champagne, ask your existing wedding vendors whether they offer monetary incentives for keeping all of your purchases within the same company.
If you are allowed to bring cake from an outside vendor, the fees for presenting your dessert can range from a few cents per slice all the way up to a few dollars per slice. (In some extreme cases, it’s more than the cake itself!)
If that seems wildly unfair, however, just remember that you’re still using the venue’s materials, and the serving and cleaning staff still have to perform their jobs even though they made no money from the dessert itself.
In some situations, you can avoid paying a cutting fee by managing your own wedding cake from start to finish. However, keep in mind that professionals are able to slice and serve large, ornate wedding cakes to hundreds of guests very quickly and cleanly.
Unless you have a lot of experience, the DIY approach can get messy and result in long lines for your guests.
Obligatory Vendor Purchases
Once you have your venue and vendors picked out, your budget is done, right? Actually, it’s often much more complicated than that. Depending on the location you choose, your choice in vendors may be limited and your budget may not be as customizable as you once thought.
For example, many venues don’t allow outside vendors to come in if the venue itself already offers similar, in-house services. By having your wedding at a certain hotel, banquet hall, or club, you’re agreeing to use the venue’s own catering service, baker, audio-visual technicians, musicians, waitstaff, security, and cleaning staff.
Even if you didn’t plan to use those services in the first place, it’s easy to find yourself in the position of paying for more help than you need. To prevent these obligatory vendor purchases, ask as many questions as possible before signing the venue contract.
Venues often have strict regulations around decorations and candles for safety reasons, with the result being that you have to purchase their special “smokeless candles,” “nonstick decals” or other specialized items rather than your own, more affordable ones.
You may also be pressured into hiring the venue’s own cleaning staff if you want to see your cleaning deposit again. Ask whether security staff is mandatory; if so, how many guards are you obligated to hire for your number of guests? Some couples are stuck with purchasing mandatory insurance, too.
In situations like these, you are bound by the contract to spend a certain amount of money, so remain cautious and read all of the fine print carefully before budgeting for your venue.
Even if you use an all-inclusive package, such as hiring a hotel’s own catering and bakery services, there may still be additional costs. Ask ahead of time whether your package rate covers extras such as waiters to serve the food (or attendants to manage the buffet), and decorations on the “all-inclusive” wedding cake.
Some couples are astounded to find out that their fee only covered the cake itself–not the cake topper or even the icing flowers! If you want to add customizations such as an almond-flavored cake or vegetarian versions of the appetizers, ask whether you’ll need to pay an additional fee.
Look out for seemingly cheap venue rates. They may include “package deals” that obligate you to hire dozens of additional venue employees. You may also be pressured into renting chairs, tables, microphones and speakers, and other equipment from the venue–even if you’re renting the venue’s space for the night anyway.
Watch out for extra fee add-ons like “labor fees” for moving furniture between the ceremony and reception rooms, or for clearing a room between dinner and dancing.
The bottom line is: before you hire anyone or sign any contract, ask as many questions as you can. Don’t be scared of sounding stupid. Even obvious questions sometimes have surprising answers, and information is your best defense against shady, fine print clauses.
A smart customer goes in fully prepared.