Budgeting for your big day is one of the least romantic aspects of wedding planning (that is, until you get to the seating chart), and it can also be one of the most stressful. Weddings are not only a significant expense — the average wedding in 2012 was nearly $28,500, according a survey by The Knot — but they are also tricky to budget for, considering nearly a third of all couples spend more than they planned. Stay on track by doing some serious upfront accounting, including these five often-overlooked — but important! — items.


You know that 12-piece band you just hired? Well, not only do you need to pay for them to play amazing music, you also have to pay for them to eat — along with the rest of the vendors who will be present at your reception. That can include the photographer, videographer, any assistants they bring, and even your wedding planner (check their contracts to find out). While they typically won’t be dining on the filet mignon with the rest of your guests, they will need some sort of meal to keep them going throughout the evening. Be sure to ask your caterer what they prepare and charge for vendor meals, and then multiply that by vendors present at the reception.


Tax and gratuity are a huge expense that most couples don’t consider up front. Unless you are getting married in one of the five states with no sales tax (Alaska, Montana, New Hampshire, Delaware, or Oregon), many of your vendors will need to charge you tax on the services they provide. Comb every contract to see if the price quote includes tax; if it doesn’t, find out your state’s rate — it can be as high as 7.5 percent, if you live in California — and do the math. While you are at it, factor in the gratuity if they haven’t for you (check out the Wedding Tip Guide), which can range anywhere from 10 to 20 percent, depending on the vendor. You’ll also want to plan on having some extra cash on hand on the wedding day to dish out to those people who go above and beyond.


Even if you are not having a destination wedding, you are most likely planning on providing a hotel room block near the reception site for your guests for the night of the wedding. But most brides and grooms don’t anticipate these blocks adding any cost to their overall budget. When booking a block at a hotel, be sure to ask about any attrition penalties — that is, if you block off 20 rooms and your guests only book 10, you could be responsible for paying for the remaining 10, depending on the hotel’s policy. Since this could potentially add hundreds (or even thousands) to your bottom line, it is best to plan for the worst-case scenario ahead of time.


You will certainly receive plenty of gifts as bride and groom, but what you probably haven’t thought of is how many gifts you’ll be doling out around the big day. Welcome bags for your guests, thank you gifts for your parents and wedding party, and a present for you soon-to-be spouse can — and will — add up quickly. Make a list of who you’ll be buying for early on, and set a budget for what you are willing to spend to avoid a last-minute cash crunch.


Don’t forget about the government when ironing out your wedding financials: You may need to earmark a part of your budget for the post office and local or national parks departments. The size and weight of your save-the-dates and invitations will determine if your postage will exceed the standard 49 cents, plus don’t forget to account for response envelopes. And if you are planning on having your ceremony or taking pictures in any sort of park or landmark area, be sure to check to see if it requires a permit. These can run up to several hundred dollars: Hosting your ceremony at Brooklyn Bridge Park, for instance, will set you back $425, and Gantry Plaza in Queens costs up to $1,600, according to the Wall Street Journal. If you are dead-set on a particular location, check out the permit situation and factor in its associated costs.

These five items are easy to miss when you’re making your wedding budget, especially behind big-ticket items like the caterer, photographer and band. But factoring them in early will help save you a major financial headache down the line and let you focus on what’s important — marrying your perfect match.

A Guide to Wedding Tipping

Which vendors you should tip―along with how, how much, and whenBy Candice Gianetti

Tips are never obligatory―they are supposed to be expressions of appreciation for especially good service. That said, unless the service was terrible, would you walk away from a restaurant table without leaving one? The same applies to weddings: It is customary to show your gratitude by tipping many of the people involved in making yours a success. Here are a few guidelines to help you navigate.

Check Your Contracts

“Many gratuities are built into the price quotes for major items like catering―typically 15 to 20 percent―or smaller things like limos,” says Alan Fields, co-author of Bridal Bargains . Read carefully to avoid unnecessarily double-tipping. “If the gratuity is not included in the contract, you might consider adding it in the contract so you don’t have to deal with it on the day,” suggests Anna Post, author of Do I Have to Wear White? Emily Post Answers America’s Top Wedding Questions.

Don’t Tip the Owners

If your photographer owns the studio, there’s no need to tip him. The same goes for bands not booked through an agency and the beauty-shop owner who does your hair.

Reward Extraordinary Efforts

Beyond the customary tips, when someone goes out of his way for you―the baker makes those last-minute tiny changes you requested for the cake; the deejay digs up that old Caruso recording that will make your Nana misty-eyed―consider thanking them with a gift certificate (“Not more than $50 or $100,” suggests Fields), a bottle of wine, or another tangible token. If you've sat with your wedding planner hour after hour and she’s knocked herself out to pull it all off flawlessly, you might want to add a personal thank-you note and small gift to her customary tip. If you've used her more sparingly, a nice personal gift alone should suffice.

Check Ceremony Policies

Ask if your congregation has donation guidelines. Typically, if you’re marrying in a house of worship, expect to make a donation of anywhere from $100 to $500 (or more), depending on how active a member you are (the more active, the more you should probably give). You can give this money to the officiant. For a non-denominational officiant, whom you are already paying a fee, tip between $50 and $100. However, court clerks are prohibited from accepting tips. For either, a little gift, like home-baked cookies, or a thank-you card will be appreciated