How to Fix 5 Commonly Overlooked Wedding Expenses

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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!

    How I beat this cost: If you are a responsible credit user, I'd suggest opening up a credit card with big sign-on bonus points (my favorites are the Chase Hyatt, the American Express SPG, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred). Put your wedding expenses on those credit cards, and your wedding night will be paid for with points. We, however, got married in an area without many chain hotels. I've found that driving just an hour or two from the wedding venue can make a huge difference. A boutique hotel in the lovely town of Cambria cost us $150 a night, instead of the $300 a night for a comparable room in Santa Barbara.

  • postage stamps

    Credit Image: Sarah Parrott on Flickr

  • Postage: When I first put together my budget, this expense completely slipped my mind. A few readers helpfully reminded me that my invitations would not magically appear in guests' mailboxes. Postage does not seem like a big expense, but given everything that is mailed out in a wedding (save the dates, invitations, reply cards), it ended up higher than I had expected.

    How I beat this cost: I embraced technology by asking guests to RSVP on our wedding website. That way, there was no need for pre-stamped reply cards. The longer your guest list, the bigger the potential savings. Even with a small 40-person wedding, electronic RSVPs saved us $40-$50. Every little bit counts! If you prefer to do everything the more traditional way, save by choosing cards in standard sizes and weights, and forgo on the trend of using vintage stamps to address your envelopes. A set of vintages that make up 43 cents can cost more than $2.

What expenses did you overlook while you were planning your wedding?

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