Do You Build These Hidden Costs Into Your Clients’ Wedding Budgets?

As an event planner, the relationships you form with your clients are based on their trust in your expertise, an understanding of their vision, and of course your ability to help them budget as efficiently as possible.

Event planners are trusted to provide their clients with the best possible vendors while remaining within the limits of the event’s budget. The creation of the budget is done early in the event planning process and allows the client to see a breakdown of all the expenses associated with the event.

Here’s the tricky part—all events have hidden costs! Tipping, dress alterations, last minute items, and even party favors are not expenses your client wants to be surprised by. It’s up to the event planner to connect clients with trusted vendors, as well as to encourage clients to ask specific, cost-related questions of vendors as early as possible. We’ve created the list below of 5 hidden costs to build into your client’s event budget to minimize stress and last-minute anxiety.


As an event planner, you are the go-to for clients’ questions. This is especially true for weddings, since most of your clients will be first-time brides and grooms! One major aspect of all events is tipping. A general rule of thumb is that if you’re working with someone who’s an employee, it is customary to tip. These are hidden costs that must be built into a client’s event budget.

Catering waiter

Here’s a tipping guide recap from our post on vendor etiquette:

  • Hair stylist/makeup artist: Expected—just like at a salon. Tip 15-25% of total bill.
  • Delivery and setup staff: Expected. Tip $5-15 per person.
  • Wedding officiant: A donation to the church, synagogue, or other institution of a religious officiant is expected. Donate $100-200 to their institution.
  • Musicians/DJ: Optional. Tip $15-25 per musician or $30-150 for a DJ.
  • Catering: Expected. Tip 15-20% of total bill divided between chefs and servers.
  • Photographer/videographer: Only expected if they don’t own the studio. Tip $50-200 for lead photographers and $50-75 for secondary shooters.
  • Florist: Optional. Tip 10-15% of total bill.
  • Transportation: Expected. Tip 15-20% of total bill.

Letting clients know about these costs while the budget is being prepared will allow them to understand just how much tipping will factor into the final price. Encourage clients to ask vendors to provide an all-inclusive price (with tax and tip included) in contracts, which will minimize stress and clear up any cost-related ambiguity as the client plans their event.

Dress Alterations

If a bride is extremely lucky, alterations to her wedding dress will not be necessary. In most cases, however, wedding dresses will need some tailoring in order to fit perfectly on the big day.

Most wedding dresses need alterations before they're ready to wear

Wedding dress alteration costs are often hidden because most stores don’t include alterations in the price of the dress. Alterations are both time-consuming and costly (they range from $50-$600 depending on which part of the dress needs to be altered), so it’s important that the client knows to ask what the store charges for alterations before they purchase their gown.

Being clear on what is included in a vendor’s price is very important, even beyond alterations. Make sure your clients ask before they book!

Last-Minute Items

Clients plan large events for months at a time, and as a result their focus tends to be on larger, more prominent details such as venues and logistics. That means they can end up overlooking small, but still very important, items. For example:

  • Wedding day meals: Brides and grooms will be getting ready with their respective bridesmaids and groomsmen, and meals (beyond the reception) will need to be factored in. Pre-ordering breakfast or lunch is a way to stay organized on a very chaotic day!
  • Accessories: Small accessories such as bowties, pantyhose and shoes can slip the mind of even the most organized bride and groom, so budgeting and planning for these items ahead of time is key.
  • Emergencies: Even the best-planned events can have a few bumps. Work with your client to ensure there are backup plans in place in case of rain, complications with items such as flowers or food, or even any sudden illnesses.

Don't forget to budget for the bow tie!

At the event budgeting stage, the event planner must think all the way ahead to the day of the event and plan for every possible situation. Adding these costs into the existing budget is incredibly helpful for the client. It not only shows them all the expenses—it can also serve as a helpful checklist of what they need to remember!

Unexpected Guests

In a perfect world, all the guests who received an invitation to the event would send their RSVP before the deadline. However, some guests will inevitably forget to confirm their attendance and simply show up on the day. Other, already-confirmed guests may show up with an unexpected date. As pleasantly surprised as the client may be, unplanned attendances can also be stressful.

Build an extra few dinner plates into the budget for your client—this way, when a guest turns up without notice, that pleasant surprise can outweigh the sense of frazzled stress!


Wedding favors are a lovely way for guests to take a small piece of the wedding day home with them. Although they may seem small, favors add up quickly—each favor ranges from $3-$8 minimum, and if a wedding has 100 guests or more, favors become a serious expense.

Wedding favors seem small, but the price adds up fast

When you’re working with your client to build the budget, discuss ways to potentially cut the costs. Here are a few to consider:

  • DIY favors (think handmade items like baked cookies, or bottled olive oil with tags attached)
  • One favor per couple instead of one per guest
  • Slices of your wedding cake in personalized boxes

Since summer’s on the horizon, help your clients get creative with some favors designed just for the heat!

Do you have clients looking to scale back their wedding and cut out some of those hidden costs? Consider offering elopement planning services!

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