Budgeting for your wedding day can be a tough challenge! Of course, we are all familiar with the big ticket items that need to be accounted for – venue, catering, dress – but what other smaller costs may seem a little hidden? Even small things tend to add up when planning a rockin’ party for 100+ of your closest friends and family members. Of course your wonderful DC area wedding vendors will help you keep your money in check, but don’t let yourself get blindsided by the following wedding expenses that you may not immediately consider!


Rebekah J. Murray Photography via Elegant Waterfront Wedding Ceremony in St. Michael’s

Alterations – As a bridal gown stylist in a past life, I know all too well that brides often forget to factor in alteration fees when they are budgeting for their wedding dress! Although you are measured for your gown in store, often these dresses come in stock sizes and then need to be altered up or down. A completely custom gown fit to your exact measurements is not typically done in a traditional bridal salon – this service must be done by a dress maker or seamstress. If you choose to buy “the one” in a traditional salon, you will need alterations to make it fit like a glove! Trust me, there is nothing worse than an ill-fitting bridal gown so this is a necessary cost to build into your budget. Bridal gown alterations can typically range from $100 to $500+ in the DC area, depending on what you want done.

DON’T FORGET: You might need your dress steamed, day of, so build that into your getting ready plans! Bridesmaids and mothers are great assets for this small task.

Accessories/Undergarments – Another aspect of the bridal gown that brides often forget to budget for is undergarments and accessories. Your wedding dress usually won’t be shaped just like your every day clothes so you might need specific undies for the big day! If your dress is backless, you might want to consider a low line bra or a stick on bra do you don’t see anything peeking out! Opting for a strapless get up? You will definitely need a strapless bra! Try to consider these when deciding on the silhouettes you want to try on; if you can, bring these to your appointment so you get the full effect before you fall in love with a gown. Alongside undergarments can be accessories as they also enhance your overall look! Veils, jewelry, belts/sashes, shoes, bags, and special day-of perfume can get pricey, so these need to be factors in your bridal budget! If you want to purchase pieces to be your own, don’t forget to factor them in when picking your dress.

PRO TIP: Wearing an heirloom veil or jewelry from a family member can cut the cost of these and can also serve as your something borrowed!


 Gabe Aceves via Rustic & Relaxed Charlottesville Ceremony

Postage/Shipping – Not only do you have to consider all of the postage it will take to send out the vast numbers of invitations and save the date cards to all of your fabulous guests, but you also have to think about the heft of your invite suite and all of the return postage for RSVP cards. We could not be more excited about the fun and elaborate ways that couples are sending out their invitations, but if you choose a heavy boxed suite, an interactive puzzle invite, or any other unique wedding invitation/save the date alternative, keep in mind that your postage price is sure to go up! Some different shapes even cost more than a standard letter size and if your weight is more than 1oz you will definitely be paying extra.

DON’T FORGET: You will need postage for those thank you cards as well, after all is said and done, and the fancy postage stamps sure do look pretty, but can really increase costs, too.

Marriage License – Planning a big beautiful party for your closest friends and family doesn’t necessarily make your marriage legal; you’re going to need a license for that, and they aren’t free! The pricing for a marriage license varies from state to state and could take a couple of days, so try not to procrastinate on this important to-do. In a lot of states, you may also have to pay to receive a copy after it has been filed. See below for the marriage license pricing for your DC area wedding and keep in mind there may be a processing fee on top of the below.


  • Marriage License Application Fee: $35.00
  • Marriage License: $10.00
  • Copy of Marriage License Post Filing: $10.00


  • Marriage License: $30.00
  • Copy of Marriage License Post Filing: $2.50


  • Marriage License: $55.00
  • Copy of Marriage License: $5.50 + $2.00 Mailing Fee


Lisa Boggs Photography

Wedding Insurance – Wedding insurance is something you can choose to protect the significant investment that you are making in your big day. We know you don’t want to think about it, but we see unexpected and even disastrous things happen throughout this process all the time. There could be a sudden vendor cancellation or no show, a damaged wedding gown or tux, a smashed cake, and so much more, not to mention that unpredictable DC area weather! We have seen a fair few weddings rescheduled because of the various snowmageddons that we have experienced. Insurance can help cover the costs that you will incur when you reschedule. Please note, wedding insurance does not cover cold feet or a change of heart.

Videography – All couples remember to budget for a photographer to capture their big day, but sometimes a videographer can be an afterthought; they definitely should not be! Here at UWL, we LOVE wedding day videos. Not only are they amazing to look back on years after the big day, but day-of everything goes by so quickly that is great to have a video to see all of the fun and details you might have missed right away! Our favorite DC area videographer Bowen Films does an amazing time capturing the magic if your big day!

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Ashley Michelle Photography via Whimsical Nautical Waterside Wedding

Day of Paper – You won’t want to blow all of your wedding paper goods money on just amazing invitations and save the dates because there are so many more paper products that your guests will see on your wedding day as well. Menus, escort cards, place settings, programs, and wedding day signs will cost money as well and will add to the design and aesthetic of your big day.

PRO TIP: Instead of individual ceremony programs or menus, you can have these items scripted on a mirror, chalkboard, or other wedding day signage by a calligrapher. If you don’t want to pay for a professional calligrapher, you can take a class or watch videos on how to DIY this!

Favors – We have to say, if your favor isn’t going to be consumable it might be a money pit. Even DIY-ing your favors can cost a lot of money and time – and how much is your time worth? From our experience, many favors that aren’t consumed are forgotten or left behind. Not only are you then losing money on these, but you are also stuck with hundreds of votive candles, mason jars, etc. Maybe opt for a candy bar where your guests can pick and choose from some of your favorite treats from Couture Cakes by Sabrina or have late night savory snacks as your “favors” instead.


Taylor and Ben Photography via Classic Jewish Hotel Monaco Wedding

Cake Cutting and Corkage – If your food comes from the venue or you choose a preferred caterer of of their list, you may be able to avoid this additional cost, but often, if you bring in your own wine and cake, there may be a small fee for cake cutting and corkage. Be sure to check with your venue on their policies for each of these before the big day!

Tips – We know this is something you might not think of since you are spending tons of money for each specific service done on the big day and before, but this is something that is so important. We have some really amazing DC area wedding vendors that work so hard to make your wedding process smooth and seamless so it’s great to reward them for their hard work. We suggest you build in budget to give a little something to all of your main vendors. Anyone who touches a guest in any way (vendors, servers, bartenders, etc.) or makes you look your best (hair and makeup artists) should be considered when tipping.


Eli Turner Studios via Ethereal Washington DC Wedding at the St. Regis

Vendor Meals – In the same vein as tips, your wedding planner, photographer, videographer, etc. will be spending 8+ hours working nonstop on the actual wedding day to provide you with a stress free wedding day; it’s a great idea to fuel their work with food while you and your guests sit down to your meals. This tends to be the best down time in which they won’t be putting out any fires so it’s great to offer them food at this time. Sometimes your caterer will charge less for these meals so make sure to include them.

Overtime Costs – Most of your vendor packages will have a set amount of time listed. For example, a photographer may have an unlimited day-of package, but they also might have an 8 hour limit. You can work around this limit by having them come later in your getting ready process to document only the important items, like getting on your dress, or you can have them leave early after a few good dance floor shots if you don’t plan on doing an elaborate sendoff that you need photographed. If you just can’t give up time on either end of your wedding day, you can ask about overtime costs for all of your vendors. Maybe sure you check your contract though; you might not need this at all!

DON’T FORGET: Let all of your vendors know what time they MUST leave the venue post breakdown because you could incur an overtime fee at the venue if it takes too long for your guests and vendor crews to pack up and leave.

For more planning information, check out our wedding tips & advice section and for specific budgeting tricks, we have got tons of info and advice from local wedding pros regarding your overall wedding budget!

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