By Andrew Housser

June is still the most popular month to say “I do,” but the fall months are growing in popularity. Brides and grooms love to tie the knot on unforgettable dates, such as this year’s upcoming 11/12/13. Many couples plan to walk down the aisle that day, even though it falls on a Tuesday. Besides being memorable, having a wedding on a weekday is also a smart money-saving move. Because caterers and reception venues are often not as busy, it is less expensive to book during the week. Still, weddings are notoriously pricey. And no matter how carefully you plan, unexpected, unbudgeted expenses always seem to pop up.

Whether you’re caught up in the 11/12/13 wedding date excitement, or planning for a ceremony later on, you can say “I do” without going into extra debt by being prepared for these last-minute monetary surprises.

1. Gratuities. It is customary to tip those who provide services, such as the wedding official, band, limo driver, bartender and hair stylist. Gratuities range from 15 to 20 percent of the total cost of the service. Some service providers, like caterers, may include tips with their price quotes, so check contracts carefully. You do not need to tip owners, such as a photographer who owns his studio or the stylist who owns a hair salon. If you are marrying in your house of worship, it is customary to give the wedding official a donation. This typically ranges from $100 to $500. For nondenominational officiant, tips typically range from $50 to $100. Put someone in charge now — a father, a good friend, a sibling — who can hand out these tips on the day of the wedding.

2. Beauty buys. Being beautiful on the big day comes at a price. Brides can expect to pay significantly for the perfect hairstyle, makeup, spray tan, pedicure, manicure and more. On average, brides spend close to $200 on hair and makeup alone. Remember, you also will need to tip providers of these services.

3. Tokens of thanks. Brides and grooms usually give the bridesmaids and groomsmen who are standing up for them a token of appreciation. Keep in mind two factors when deciding what to give: your budget and theirs. What costs have they incurred to be a member of the bridal party? You do not need to match what they spent. However, the gift should be significant enough to convey how much you appreciate the time and effort they have taken to make your day special. Jewelry, monogrammed gifts and keepsake mementos, such as framed picture collages, are all good ideas.

4. Bride and groom gifts. It is a longstanding tradition for the bride and groom to exchange gifts the night before the wedding. These presents should symbolize love and commitment. Jewelry is often a favorite — a pearl necklace for her, an engraved watch for him. But as the saying goes, traditions are meant to be broken. If you are footing the bill for your wedding, you and your betrothed may agree ahead of time to forego this tradition and consider the wedding to be your gift to each other.

5. Extra fees. Florists, caterers and bakeries often tack on delivery fees of up to $100. And do not forget the impact of sales tax. These extras should have been addressed when you made the decision to book with the vendor. Check your contract for any mention of additional fees and to ensure taxes are included. Some reception sites charge a fee for cutting and serving the cake. If you do not have a contract, call the vendor to determine the policy and get this information in writing. Even if fees are listed in the contract, you can still try to negotiate with the vendor for a reduction or waiver, especially if this was not discussed in your earlier conversations. Ask about overtime fees, too. You may be having such a good time at your reception that you want the DJ, band or photographer to stay later than the agreed-upon timeframe. Find out now exactly how much that will set you back so you do not get caught up in the party moment and make a decision that will cost you later.

The average cost of a wedding ceremony is close to $27,000 today, not including the honeymoon. Of course, many brides and grooms get married for much less. But no matter your budget, as long as you are aware of last-minute wedding expenses, they should not trip up your walk down the aisle.


Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.