For those of us who have been planning weddings for years, these blunders may seem obvious.  But unfortunately, for many brides and grooms planning their wedding without hiring a full planner, they are all too common.

1. Over-Guaranteeing the Guest Count – if you’re expecting 200 guests, don’t guarantee 200 guests.  Guarantee the lowest possible amount that will still give you a price you can afford based on your expected guest count.  Don’t end up paying for people who aren’t there.

2.  Fine Print – READ IT!  If you don’t understand something, ask!  If your vendor makes you feel uncomfortable about asking a question or dismisses your concerns, find another vendor.

3.  Rentals – if you’re using a venue where things need to be brought in, inquire about when things can be delivered and picked up.  Late night pick ups incur additional fees.  And every flight of stairs costs more, so ask about load in access too.

4.  Elevator Fees – many loft buildings have additional charges for weekend elevator access.  Don’t forget to factor in the costs for your freight elevators, which will be needed before, after, and sometimes during your guests arrival and departure.

5.  Photography and Videography – if you want “getting ready” shots without losing time of the end of your party (where the really fun photos happen), opt for the 10 hour package.  8 hours is just not enough.  Second shooters are always a great investment, especially if your guest count is above 150.

6. Ceremony – take the time to chart out who is sitting in the front row.  Use reserved cards with names on seats to assure everyone sits where you want them.  Don’t forget to include readers, significant others and caretakers.  Make your ushers aware of those guests who have reserved seating, and make your guests aware of their reserved status.

7.  Vendor meals – you should not only feed your vendors, but they should be fed before your guests so that they are back in action before your guests finish their main course.  Talk to your caterer during the negotiating process and insist on this issue.  A well fed band is a happy band.  Feeding your lighting and sound guys will ensure they don’t disappear for dinner off site.

8.  Staff – make sure you have enough!  Coat check is the first impression your guests have.  How many coat check attendants will be working as guests enter and leave?  Make sure they’re ready for your early bird guests who can arrive up to 30 minutes before your invite time.  How many bartenders are planned at each bar?  How many bars?  How many waiters will be passing hors d’oeuvres?  How many waiters for each table? (we ask for one and a half per table)  If you need to “flip” a room from ceremony to reception, make sure you have enough staff to facilitate the change while still serving your guests during cocktail hour.  Ask your florist to stick around to help with any floral mishaps during the flip, and to help light candles once the tables are in place.

9. Hair and Make up – For each person, be sure to allocate 45 minutes for hair.  Same goes for make up.  Ask your hair and make up person how much time they need for the bride. If you’re having more than 6 people for hair and make up, consider hiring more stylists.  Otherwise, you and your bridesmaids will be waking up at 6 am to get ready.  Also, remember to order lunch for everyone including your stylist, planners, photo and video team ahead of time and pre-schedule the delivery.

10.  Tax, Gratuities and Service Charge – Don’t forget the tax!  Uncle Sam wants his piece of your wedding, and it will add up to thousands of dollars, so budget accordingly.  Service Charges can range from 15% to 24%.  It is not a gratuity if it is taxable.  Usually, this charge covers the workers comp insurance for your staff, or other back of house expenses.  Gratuities are never expected but always appreciated. Pre-game cash in individual envelopes for each vendor, and have some extra cash on hand for anyone who goes above and beyond the call of duty.

11. Communication – more than any other blunder, this is the most costly – and not just in terms of money.  Communication with your fiance, your parents, your bridal party and your vendors is key to a successful wedding day.  Make sure everyone knows where they’re going and when. This is especially important when it comes to religious ceremonies.  We’ve seen the most laid back of parents explode at the thought of their child involved in a ceremony that is a “surprise”.  By communicating in advance, you can set the right expectations and avoid any emotional roller coasters on your wedding day.

You can also turn your vendors into advocates. If you’re worried about someone drinking too much before their speech, share your concern with them and your caterer or planner before your big day. Schedule their speech earlier in the night. It may not stop them from getting drunk, but then again, it just might.  And your caterer can always “soft pour” for that guest if you clue them into the potential problem.

Good luck and good planning!!

Avoid these Costly Wedding Planning Mistakes