How to Fix 5 Commonly Overlooked Wedding Expenses

BlogHer Original Post

My fiance and I had an eight-year courtship before he proposed, so you can imagine my happiness when he finally got down on bended knee. In addition to the excitement of planning a life with the man I love, however, is the excitement that I suspect every engaged personal finance blogger feels: the number-intensive and post-inspiring realities of creating a wedding budget!

I tried to craft a reasonable budget -- I trimmed the guest list, found public venues, and planned a daytime, restaurant reception. In short, I was ready to pat myself on the back for planning a fiscally prudent affair. As my wedding crept closer and closer to its summer date, however, I realized that I had several holes in my budget. Here are the five wedding expenses that I had overlooked, and how I beat those costs.

5 Commonly Overlooked Wedding Expenses

  • Officiant: In order to get married, you need someone to marry you. In fact, my former boss (who was blessed with a deep baritone) once told me that he had considered going into the officiant business. After I got engaged and started researching, I realized he would have made a killing! An officiant in Los Angeles costs $300-plus for a 30-minute ceremony and one get-to-know-the-couple session beforehand. Some officiants charge upwards of $500 or $600.

    How I beat the cost: If you are active in an religious organization, the priest or rabbi may marry you for free or in exchange for a small donation. Or, ask a friend or a relative to officiate. Not only will they add a personal touch to the ceremony, they will also add some dollars back into your wedding budget. The Universal Life Church offers free online ordination for would-be-officiants. A family friend performed our ceremony for free. Although I plan to give him $250 as a thank-you gift, that's still cheaper than what hiring an officiant would have cost.

  • Wedding gown alterations: Wedding gowns not only cost more than normal dresses, but wedding alterations also cost more than ordinary tailoring. When I went to David's Bridal, I was measured so that the store could order the correct size. Like most brides, though, I still needed alterations: shortening the gown, adding a bustle, and removing the boning. I wouldn't go so far to say there is a conspiracy between bridal stores and alteration shops. (Or is there?)

    How I beat the cost: Bridal store alterations cost a premium. So I looked for an independent tailor who does good work but wouldn't charge me $200 to take off two inches of tulle. Thanks to a recommendation from another personal finance blogger, I found a tailor, nestled deep in the heart of Little Saigon. It cost me $350 in alterations, but that's less than going to a big chain store.

  • Transportation: I admit I had thought about stepping into a silver Bug with my veil billowing behind me. Couples can rent a limousine or a classic car to transport them from the ceremony site to the hotel. But just a glance at the prices pulled me back into reality: A one-day rental of a classic car can range from $300 to over $500, in addition to gratuity for the driver.

    How I beat the cost: We drove our own car! My husband washed his Honda coupe, pulled down the moon roof, and drove us off into the sunset (having a daytime wedding means that we really CAN drive off into the sunset).

  • Wedding night hotel: The wedding day isn't the only time expenses can shoot through the roof. When I was searching for a suitable hotel to celebrate the start of our marriage, I realized that my budget of $200 per night would get us a motel or a poorly rated hotel in Santa Barbara's tourist high season. Oops!

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