Weddings

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Hidden expenses that can sink your wedding budget

In the days of yore, the responsibility of paying for a wedding fell to the bride's parents. But that tradition has largely fallen by the wayside in recent years, when more and more couples have used their own savings to finance their weddings. Few couples enter the process of planning their weddings unaware of just how expensive weddings can get, but costs can easily begin to escalate if couples are not careful.

Couples know that certain wedding expenses, such as the cost of booking a reception hall, will eat up a large portion of their budgets. But there are some hidden expenses that couples must build into their budgets to avoid finding themselves in debt as they walk down the aisle as husband and wife.

• Taxes: Sales tax might not seem so significant when you're buying everyday items, but the taxes add up quickly when paying for a wedding. Depending on where you live, state and local sales tax can exceed 9 percent in the United States, and some Canadians pay as much as 15 percent in combined sales taxes depending on where they live. Before signing contracts with any vendors, couples should get the price including sales tax written into their contracts, as failing to do so may result in a several thousand dollar surprise when the time to pay up arrives.

• Gratuities: Gratuities are another potentially hefty expense that often takes engaged couples by surprise as they start to plan their weddings. Some reception halls build gratuities for staff into their estimates, and these tips for the staff can be as high as 25 percent at some venues. But even if gratuities for reception hall staff are already accounted for, don't forget to include tips for additional vendors the day of the wedding. Couples may be expected to tip the florist, photographer, band or deejay and even the reception hall maitre d' if his or her gratuity is not included in the aforementioned staff tip. Brides-to-be typically tip their hairstylist and makeup artist on the day of the wedding as well.

• Postage: Couples who plan to invite guests via email or online invitations can skirt the cost of postage. But many couples still prefer traditional paper invitations, which include return envelopes that tradition suggests should also be stamped. Save-the-date cards have grown in popularity as well, and these cards must also be stamped and mailed. Depending on the size of your guest list, postage can cost several hundred dollars before you mail your last invitation. And don't forget to save some money for postage to mail thank-you cards once the big day has come and gone.

• Overtime: Overtime fees for reception hall staff and additional outside vendors are typically written into contracts, but few couples imagine needing more than the predetermined allotment of time noted in their contracts. But it's better to be safe than sorry, as unanticipated events such as a misplaced wedding license or heavy traffic on the way to the venue can force the party to start late and thus extend past its deadline. Set aside some money for overtime so you don't find yourselves scrounging for dollars or charging the extra few hundred dollars on your credit cards.

Weddings are expensive, and even more so when hidden fees start to make their presence felt. Couples who build such fees into their budgets will find it easier to avoid breaking the bank than those who don't.