You may think you've thought of everything, but if you aren't a wedding planner you may not know about these sneaky costs. Here, the team at Alison Events rounds up a list fees and budget line items that hotels, venues, and vendors aren't always so up-front about from the get-go. Add these fees and charges to your wedding budget from day one, so you avoid any expensive surprises.

Service Fees and Taxes

Most caterers, hotels, and some venues charge a service fee on the event total. The amount is typically billed prior to the state tax being charged and is based on the total amount due for the event. As this is a service fee, and not a gratuity (which some clients think it is) it is taxed in most states. Make sure to ask your caterer and or venue/hotel how much their service fee is and what it is applied to on the bill before signing a contract so you can accurately factor this into your wedding budget.

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It is important that when a vendor does go above and beyond, that their hard work and dedication to the project is acknowledged. A nice hand-written thank-you note and a crisp $100 bill for each of the florists that worked on your wedding is a very kind and generous gesture. Make sure to keep in mind about how much you may want to tip at the beginning of the planning process, so you can plan on it leading up to the wedding.

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Thank-You Notes

We always suggest clients purchase thank-you notes from the same company that made their invitations. By doing this it lumps them into one line item with the paper materials. Taking this step also guarantees consistency throughout the whole invitation suite. Also, it's a nice final touch for both the clients wedding guests and the vendors to get a custom note from the bride and the groom a few weeks after the wedding.

Get Thank-You Note Tips

Missing Rentals and Damaged Linen Fees

It doesn't happen often, but when it does it can be very expensive when a rental item or linen goes missing. Linens can also be damaged by candle wax or from wine spilling. Missing items can cost you a lot of additional money that you hadn't necessarily planned on spending, so try to leave a bit of a buffer in the budget to cover this, just in case a rental item does get damaged or a linen is nowhere to be found at the end of your event.


Hotel Room

Don't forget to include the hotel suite for the bride and groom for the night of the wedding and the day before, if need be. If you require a room for the groom to get ready in, factor that in as well! Additionally, don't forget to leave room in the budget for room service, snacks, or lunch for while you prep for the wedding, and tips for the hotel staff.


If you plan on giving gifts to your betrothed, or any members of the wedding party, make sure to budget this in the beginning. It is especially important if you have a large wedding party. We normally suggest keeping gifts simple but personal and thoughtful. Gifting something the receiver can use throughout the wedding weekend and long after is always a nice touch.

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Overtime Labor Charges

Often the minimum charges for your caterer, photographer, bartenders, and hotel staff will be included in the main invoice. If your wedding runs late or the reception is extended, you may be charged additional labor charges for overtime worked by the vendors staff. These charges are often more expensive than the originally billed amount, as they are overtime hours. Keep this in mind before extending your reception.

Vendor Etiquette Q&As

Delivery Fees and "Long Carries"

Some vendors who haven't worked with a particular venue prior to an event may request to post-bill the client for delivery, so the actual delivery fee will not be reflected in the original invoice. A good way to avoid this is to require all your vendors to a site visit prior to the wedding-day load-in, so they can give you a real price on delivery. A "long carry" is when a client is billed by a production or rental company for their employees to carry equipment really far or upstairs, as opposed to being able to roll it with a dolly or drive it in a truck closer and then unload the item. This also can apply to having to hand carry rental items or tenting up stairs, instead of using an elevator. This fee typically applies when venues require it, or at hotels that do not have back-of-house elevators. I've seen long carry fees for as much as $500 per flight of stairs, so make sure to ask about this in advance!


Corkage Fees

If you decide to provide wine or alcohol for your wedding reception, and your selected venue or caterer charges a corkage fee, make sure you work this into the budget. Corkage fees range from $15 to $55 per bottle-and this can really add up if you have a large guest list.

Save Money on Alcohol

Storage Fees

If you want to send boxes of décor, paper materials, or alcohol to your venue prior to the wedding date, they may bill you for the storage of the boxed items. This is to insure the items are safe, cared for, and delivered to the correct part of the venue on the actual wedding day.


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