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Wedding Budget | The truth about hidden costs - they are not hidden, they are unknown.

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

The truth about hidden costs is that they are not hidden. They are unknown hence often overlooked when it comes to budgeting. As a result, they come as a surprise and make couples spend (much) more than they expected.

Old type machine with paper half way stating ´contract´

While the term "hidden" implies secrecy, these expenses are not intentionally hidden; rather, they are unknown to many couples during the initial stages of wedding planning, which makes it impossible to anticipate them.

Although wedding planning isn´t rocket science, it entails so much more than ´just throwing a big party´. As a couple you will have to face the fact that planning a wedding is almost like ´doing bussiness´. You will rent a venue and you will hire a team of vendors, for which you have to deal with contracts, general conditions and regulations. While in the wedding business those hidden costs are regarded as common costs, they are unknown to you. But not for any longer....

In this article, we'll explore what are often regarded ´hidden costs´. We will also explain the reason behind these costs and provide valuable insights to help you budget more effectively for your big day. Once you know what you can expect, it will be easier to avoid overspending and to stay true to your budget.

Hidden Costs specified per vendor

Venue Fees and Extras:

When selecting a wedding venue, couples often focus on the base rental fee without considering additional costs that may arise. Many venues have separate fees for essential elements like catering, staffing, and cleaning fee for instance. Be sure to inquire about all associated costs to avoid budgetary surprises later.

For destination weddings, couples often search for a venue with accommodation included. Bear in mind that a full buy-out (occupation of all rooms) doesn´t necessarily mean that you can freely use all venue spaces on the wedding day and pre/post wedding days. A separate fee is often charged (either per guest, per hour or per day), on top of the buy-out rate - also for pre- or post events.

Another common ´hidden cost´ is Plan B. Not all venues have decent indoor spaces with enough capacity for your ceremony, cocktail, dinner and party. It is tempting to think that you don´t need a plan B, but besides rainfall high temperatures may also require a proper plan B solution in place. As wedding planners we always (always!) prepare a plan B.

Catering & Staff:

Service charges are often overlooked when budgeting for catering services. Some catering companies include service charges, while others don't. These costs usually depend on the guest number. The more guests, the more staff is required.

Alterations and Miscellaneous Attire Costs:

Brides and grooms budget for wedding attire but may forget about alterations, accessories, and undergarments. These seemingly small expenses can add up quickly. Be realistic about the total cost of your attire, including any necessary alterations and additional accessories.

The advantage of shopping your wedding attire in Portugal is that you don´t have to worry about how to get it seamlessly transported. The disadvantage is that you may have to include an extra amount in your budget for another travel for extra trial and fitting sessions. Often couples combine these trials together with the tasting and hair & makeup trials.

Unexpected Decor and Rental Costs:

Venues come in all kind of shapes and sizes, and so do the amenities that each venue offers.

For destination weddings couples often chose a charming ´quinta´ (rural properties or historical manors) that is primarily functioning as a B&B or boutique hotel. Some of them are not fully equiped for weddings & events, meaning that you may have to rent tables, chairs, parasols and perhaps even bar units separately.

Some venues do have this furniture available, but don´t allow outdoor use. Also in that case you have to factor in these additional costs.

Sound & Lighting

If you are planning an outdoor affair, you may need (extra) light, which easily adds anoter

€ 1000,- to your budget, especially when the venue doesn´t allow hanging lights so you will need to rent an entire structure.

Another overlooked cost are the noise permits. Although this is often included in the venue fee, they may charge this separetely.

➡️ Ultimately, the first to be contracted vendor is the wedding venue, that will highly impact the cost structure of your wedding budget. We advise you to make sure you have a good understanding of the venue conditions first before booking. At first glance the venue may be affordable, but can become (too) expensive if you have to contract almost everything separately.

After you book the venue, first have another look at your budget and the allocation of funds. You may need to make adjustments, based on what kind of services are extra required as the venue doesn´t provide these services. Foregoing this step, will undoubtly lead to overspending and exceeding your wedding budget.

Bride and groom intimately embracing each other while enjoying the view to the Douro vineyards

Photocredits: Instante Photography

General hidden costs

Hours of service

All vendors (venue included) mention the hours of service that are included in their proposal. In Portugal it is quite common to consider averagely 10-12 hours of service as full-wedding day coverage, but we always advise you to check this before signing the contract.

If you require more hours of service or if you decide to extend the party until sunrise (which is also very common in Portugal ;) you will have to factor in these extra hours of service for all the vendors involved.


All vendors who will be present on your wedding day, will require a (simple) staffmeal. In some cases two meals are requested (lunch and dinner), especially when they will start the assembly in the morning and will stay on site until after the dinner.

For vendors who are only present on your wedding day for a few hours (e.g. hairstylist, makeup artist, florist) you don´t need to provide a meal.

Caterers usually can cater for staffmeals, charging averagely 40-50% of the menu price per person for staffmeals.

➡️ Make sure you check with each vendor how many staff members are involved in their service. A DJ usually comes with a technician and even a light technician, a photographer may bring an assistant, don´t forget about the band and also wedding planners usually come with a team.

Travel fees & costs of accommodation

Travel fees are usually applied for travels out of a 30 kilometer radius of where the vendor is based. For longer travels (> 100 kilometer), a vendor may require accommodation for one or two nights (depending the type of service being contracted).

In Portugal most vendors are based near the cities (Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, Aveiro, Faro), wheareas many beautiful venues are located in the more remote areas (e.g. Douro region, Alentejo, Alenquer). Unless you contract local vendors, you will have to factor in travel fees and - very often - costs of accommodation too.

The Importance of a Buffer

By now you know that quite some common costs will need to be factored in. As a budget conscious couple you want to be mindful about how you spend your money - even if it is for something so important as your wedding day. You also want to avoid that you end up spending way more than you had planned.

Now that the hidden costs are no longer ´hidden´ or unknown to you, the next question is how you can factor in these costs - especially in the very early stage of the wedding planning.

➡️ To start with, we advise to include an amount of € 2000,- as a buffer. This may seem a lot of money - which we don´t deny - but if you will end up chosing a venue that doesn´t come with a lot of equipment, you will need this buffer.

As soon as you have booked your venue, you can review this amount and adjust it if needed. If the venue of your choice provides at least tables, chairs, outdoor lighting, parasols, perhaps some lounge furniture for the cocktail area and a befittable plan B, you can reduce the buffer to € 500,- to cover the staffmeals and extra hours.

For the travel expenses and costs of accommodation, we highly recommend to consider this included in the buget you have assigned to the particular vendor. Meaning, don´t shop for the exact amount that you have allocated to a certain vendor. For instance, you have a budget of € 1.750, for a photographer. If you start looking into packages of this exact amount, the travel fees and costs of accommodation will be added, making you going over budget if you don´t compensate this difference with other services.


Understanding what kind of costs are involved in the organisation of your wedding is the first step towards effective and healthy budgeting. By carefully researching and planning for potential expenses in advance, you can navigate your wedding preparations with greater financial confidence.

Remember, transparency and communication with vendors are key to ensuring a smooth wedding planning experience. To get a better idea of the costs of a Destination Wedding in Portugal, make sure you download the Free Budget Simulation with a breakdown of the wedding expenses of an ´average´ wedding budget below.

Happy planning!



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