While it may not seem that there would be hidden costs still waiting to drag a happy couple into debt - there are. The average wedding now costs over $26,800, according to TheWeddingReport.com, and aside from the usual costs of the dress, the shoes, the flowers, the venue and the rings, there are a myriad of costs and fees that, if unaccounted for, could quickly put the couple-to-be into a deficit. In this article we'll take you through some hidden costs of a typical wedding; being aware of them will help you to budget properly for what should be one of the happiest (and care-free) days of your life.

What to Do Before the Big Day
When a bride and groom say "I do", they probably don't want to be thinking of how the next few hours will cost them more financially than they spent just getting to the church with attendants in tow. But in reality, unless they've planned ahead this is exactly when the giant costs, hidden and otherwise, step into the equation.

Get the Marriage License
Before the vows can take place, the bride- and groom-to-be need to have a marriage license. This means that the couple will have to plan ahead and budget in the costs associated with this act as well. This involves showing up together during business hours at a registration office and providing the necessary fees and documents to obtain a license. Most couples tend to leave this to the last minute because they either forget about it or they incorrectly believe that they must provide a blood test and are wary of doing so. These days, all it will take is a few hours of time and around $75 of the couple's hard-earned money. (For more information on marriage license laws in your state, see About Inc.'s Marriage License Laws.)

Unfortunately, depending on where the couple lives, there could also be additional fees or taxes and service charges that can cost anywhere from $5 to as much as $75. In addition to paying extra fees and surcharges, the couple may need to take time off from work to go to the registrar's office - so they need to add in the hidden expense of a few lost hours of work.

Research the time needed to get your license, the waiting period (if you receive the application by mail) and the validity date (some licenses expire in 90 days if they haven't been signed and submitted) when you're in the budgeting phase, and avoid having to scramble to pay closer to the big day. Call ahead or check the registrar's website to see what is required and avoid the extra fees for documents forgotten or deadlines missed. (To learn more about budgeting and saving, see The Beauty Of Budgeting and The Fundamentals Of A Successful Savings Program.)

Insure the Big Day, Honeymoon and Home
The cost of insuring your wedding is optional, but a small fee before the wedding can save you a large charge later. If you and your spouse-to-be have taken the time off of work to grab your license, you may as well stop in at the insurer's office and look at a few more hidden costs that actually could save money in the long run.

Wedding days are insurable. Sound ridiculous? Well, think of how much time and effort (not to mention money) is spent making a chosen venue look amazing. Now think of how much money and effort it will take to find and decorate a new venue in case of fire or flood. According to Wedsafe.com, if the wedding was insured for as little as $295, the couple could've saved a lot of tears and would've been covered for the total cost of the $26,000 wedding. For only $405 the wedding could cover be covered for up to $50,000.

Secondly, is the honeymoon insured? Delayed flights, lost luggage or a case of Montezuma's Revenge could end up causing newlyweds to miss out on their perfectly planned vacation and create unseen and unwanted costs. According to the Travel Insurance Centre a trip worth $5,000 can be covered for medical and travel expenses for as little as $144. No one wants to worry about lost luggage when he or she just got to an island paradise with a new spouse, so the couple may as well pack that insurance along with the sun lotion. (To read more about travel and finances, see Travel Tips For Keeping You And Your Money Safe and Cruise Ships: Reining In Vacation Spending.)

Finally, the couple should look to add increased coverage to its home/renters' insurance to account for the value of those expensive and sentimental gifts they received before they headed off to Paradise. The average homeowner in the U.S. paid approximately $677 for home insurance in 2005 according to the Insurance Information Institute, but considering how much the couple has invested into its home and how many gifts it received, this cost seems minuscule. For renters, the price will be smaller still. Having this insurance can help you rest easy in your paradise hammock, even if your home encounters all types of attacks by man and nature. (To read more on insurance, see Understand Your Insurance Contract and Fifteen Insurance Policies You Don't Need.)



Count the Costs of Taxes, Tips and Time
Taxes and Tips
Once the celebration are over and you and your spouse open up your new mailbox to see the invoice from the revelry of your reception, you'll need to be relaxed - almost every quote for a reception will increase by at least 25% from when the deposit is first made. Why? Many quotes do not take into account the tax and tip on the food and drinks, how much alcohol the guests will consume or how long the event will take.

And if a couple has any friends who like to have a good time, the alcohol bill (and the tax and tip on it) will skyrocket from the conservative estimate previously given. According to a wedding budget planner on WeddingBells.com, it is estimated that every guest will drink a minimum of one beverage every hour, and it averages the alcohol bill for a guest list of 125 people will be $1,250 (for four hours). Now add applicable taxes and, say, 15% tip and the cost is over $1,600 for alcohol alone. This, of course, will increase as the quality and level of alcohol consumed goes up.

For a cheaper alternative, a couple can choose to have a friend man the bar and provide their own beverages. The couple now shoulders the bill for their friend's time, the alcohol, the corkage fee (the charge per person for bringing in the couple's own alcohol, depending on the site) and the chance that if they choose a bartender who likes to flirt , they may be paying for a lot of free drinks.

If the couple is planning a cash bar, or planning on subsidizing the cost of its guests' drinks, the couple will need to budget in the hidden cost of paying for a ticket seller and/or the cost of the tickets (price depends on the venue). So, a cheaper alternative to a full-service bar still has hidden costs.

Finally, make sure that you add the cost of tax and/or tip to the quoted price of your dinner, limousine service, hair and makeup stylists, DJ and any other purchased service to avoid a shocking invoice in the mail.



Discover the Cost of Time
Many newlyweds we be startled to see yet another added cost at the bottom of their long wedding bill - the cost of running over their time limit. Most sites will provide a certain amount of time for each event (because the venue pays its employees by the hour and may have other bookings to consider), and, if you go over that allotted time you may be subject to large penalties. These fees can be avoided by planning ahead and talking with family, friends, photographers and caterers to help get speeches and other presentations done quickly - this can save hundreds of dollars in overtime fees.

The same goes for a limousine or car rental service - even going over the allotted time by 15 minutes can cost as much as $150! That fee can add up quickly if the time it takes to do your formals at a dream location and get back to the reception site during rush-hour traffic wasn't accounted for properly in the first place.

Avoid What Seem like Unavoidable Costs
To avoid having to calculate the costs of tax, tips and time, ask service providers to give an all-inclusive price with tax and tip included in the contract. The price may be a little higher, but if the wedding or reception does run over the time allotted or amount of alcohol consumed grows, you will be saved from financial ruin by your contract.

The bottom line is that weddings cost a lot of money, but couples can offset the stress that comes with all those bills by thoroughly researching all costs involved, cutting costs where they can and insuring that they plan and budget properly in the first place. So, bride- and groom-to-be, set yourself on the road to happy nuptials with a financially sound beginning to your life together by uncovering and cutting hidden fees before they start.


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