Wedding Hacks – 5 Hidden Costs to Watch

By March 23, 2019 No Comments

The search for venues almost seems endless, and you want to make sure you choose the best fit for you! However, there is so much going into this decision, you’re more than likely focusing on macro decisions, rather than the micro details. And, as the saying goes, “Keep an eye on the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.” We’ve seen it time and time again in this industry, where the final invoice didn’t come close to the initial proposal, so, here are our hacks to avoiding those little extras that soon add up!

5. Hosted Bars

It is traditional to have a hosted bar at weddings. Guests may be adding a dose of liquid courage to their dance moves, or perhaps they’ve left their kids at home and are ready to party on your special day! However popular, hosted bars are quick way to rack up a large bill.

If you are offering liquor, make sure that you know what price point is made available at your bar. Typically for a wedding, a top shelf shot is $12. If your six bridesmaids head up to the bar for shots, three seconds later, $72 has been consumed. And you’ll have that bar open all night!

Solution: Stick with beer and wine packages and perhaps just one specialty cocktail. We often hear sounds of relief when we tell brides that we do not serve hard liquor at Kennolyn… the cost is not their only concern with a full bar! Of course, you want your guests to enjoy themselves, but few people want out to remember their wedding reception as a riotous party!

Kennolyn’s wedding package ensures you know exact pricing when it comes to your bar. We charge per person and not per drink! If you have 100 guests drinking like they’re 300, we still charge you the same amount. If you’d like a specialty cocktail named for how you met, or an inside joke, these are also priced per person. This way you get the best of both worlds!

4. Non-Alcoholic Drinks

It is becoming more popular these days for people to choose an alcohol-free lifestyle, or some wedding guests may just wish to ‘pace themselves’ for a long day of celebrating, and it is also very important on hot sunny days to offer a wide range of soft drinks for hydration! But, it’s not just alcohol that can rack up your bar bill.

Sodas and juices are heavy on the sugar and relatively expensive at $3-5 each, but if this is all that is on offer, your guests could consume these in large quantities. For a more health-conscious option, and one that will keep costs down, opt for fruit infused sparkling water or homemade lemonade instead. Maybe even try your hand at making your own Sun Tea?

As a nation of coffee drinkers, you can be sure that many of your guests will enjoy a late afternoon or after-dinner caffeine jolt to give them a second wind! But, if you have a daily coffee shop habit, you’ll be all too aware that these drinks are not cheap.

The average retail cost for 1.5 gallons of coffee is $90. So, if you offer regular coffee, decaf, and hot water for tea, you’ve added $270 just for starters! After dessert, you may be looking at up to $500 in coffee station charges alone.

Solution: Have plenty of choices for non-alcoholic beverages and offer them in bulk containers rather than pre-packaged behind the bar. There are really pretty infused water dispensers widely available, and you can get creative with fresh, seasonal herbs and edible flowers to decorate. Inquire as to whether your venue will charge one flat per person rate for tea, coffee, and non-alcoholic drinks, and steer away from per drink pricing.

3. Hidden Menu Charges 

Meal package prices may appear to be low at first glance, but it is not uncommon for there to be additional hidden fees. We know that couples are most interested in food quality, and a well-rounded delicious menu; and there is often a lot of information to plow through when you are comparing venues. Be clear on what you are getting for your money, and really investigate packages that give the impression of a great deal. Carving stations are a classic potential money-pit; $50 for filet mignon?! What a bargain! The $200 per hour carving fee? Not so much.

Solution: Sometimes found under the guise of “upgrades”, or “specialty fees”, catering is a confusing area that could cost more than you budgeted for. Questions for your potential venue should quickly uncover whether the reception dinner is a set price per person; would this change for family style serving, or buffet? Do plated meals cost more? Additionally, are linens, tables, chairs, set up, etc included? Is there a gratuity or service fee added to your final invoice, or is this clearly itemised on your proposal?

Photographer: Viet Li

2. Set Up

Depending on your wedding venue, you will have varying degrees of choice and flexibility over how the space is set up. Whether you are doing it all yourself, have a wedding planner and set-up team, or are working with your venue’s staff to create your dream, it is important to have a firm plan before the big day. If you are booking a commercial venue, know what your options are ahead of time; hopefully you will have a detail meeting to fully plan room set-up and available equipment.

Rental and set-up fees are more culprits when it comes to wedding day surprises. Moving chairs to a beach location? There may be a fee associated with this, as well as other things which may seem like basic service to you.

Solution: Don’t be afraid to ask! We often have couples with long check-lists and they regularly apologize for the endless questions, but I say, ask away! Expect full-disclosure from your venue, most event sales staff are in the business because they want to help people. If your venue can not provide a service or equipment you would like, ask them for a referral for someone who can, and be sure to have quotes in writing.

1. Decorations

If you’re anything like us, you love the outdoors and want to bring the magical elements of nature into you event. Your decor budget includes all those extras you fell in love with on Etsy and Pinterest; seating arrangements, photo displays, signage, guestbook, and even a Polaroid station!

But, by far your biggest decor expense will be flowers, flowers, and more flowers. We’ve seen invoices of $15,000 just for floral arrangements for the ceremony!


What can you do yourself? Many of our couples have family or friends who organize decor. We are so fortunate to live in an area that has a lot of flower farms, so wholesale stems are easy to find. Or, perhaps you grow your own or forage for greenery? If you are using a professional florist, don’t be afraid to ask about their service on your big day; are they booked for other weddings that same day, so is it just drop and go? We love Liz Chamberlin at The Flower Garden for her affordable, and yet, above and beyond full-service.

Alternatively, find yourself a place that has already beautiful aesthetics and landscapes so you don’t need to spend extra money on decor that can’t be kept. Fountains, blooming foliage, beautiful architecture, million dollar views, and majestic redwoods are all breathtaking backdrops that give you permission to go minimal with your decor.

If you think Kennolyn might be right for your wedding, or if you’d like to just explore the possibility, give one of our Events staff a call. Together, we can imagine a wedding that truly mirrors your present and future life together.

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