“Plan a wedding,” they said. “It will be fun,” they said. Like many others, I do not have a single clue what I am doing when it comes to wedding planning. I’ve relied heavily on friends who know the ins and outs, and what I thought would be the most enjoyable part of the process has turned out to be the least. I’m talking venue hunting.
Seeing venues is fun, so I don’t mean to hint otherwise. The problems lie less in what you see, and more in what you don’t. While the limit does not exist for questions you should be asking when touring venues, here are some must-ask queries with answers that may surprise you.
1. Do You Have A Designated Ceremony Area?
If you plan on hosting your ceremony at a different location than your reception, you can skip this question. If you plan on hosting onsite, do a little digging about the venue offerings for a ceremony. For starters, can they host the ceremony? If they can, is there a designated area for the ceremony? I recently toured a venue, and when asking if I could host a ceremony on site the host replied “yes”. I asked to see the ceremonial site and they then pointed to a small patch of makeshift grass between two parking lots. While it took physical restraint to not gasp and/or laugh, it was seriously eye-opening that even the most beautiful venues aren’t always what they seem. The other kicker is the ceremonial fee, which is a self-explanatory fee for hosting your ceremony on site. According to WeddingWire, the average cost in the US is $600, but for big cities like NY and LA, expect something closer to $2,000.
2. Do You Have A Bridal And Groom Suite On Site?
I’ll be the first to say the bride is the *most* important on the wedding day (bridezilla in the making here), but I want my groom to be treated like a king as well. I was shocked to see how many venues only had one wedding suite, which meant only one of us could get ready on site. My fiancé is irrationally laid-back and would get ready in the parking lot if he had to, but not all couples are comfortable with a single-suite venue. While it may seem minor right now, it’s important to think about what getting ready offsite day-of means for the person who chooses to do so (renting a hotel suite, renting a large car or limo for wedding party, etc.).
3. Can I Bring A Hair And Makeup Team To The Bridal Suite?
THIS is a question I can’t believe I had to ask at venues. To me, a bridal suite was an obvious getting ready location for myself and my bridesmaids. However, I quickly learned this is not always the case. Some venues do NOT allow you to physically get ready in the suite. They must arrive with hair and makeup done, with no outside vendors allowed in to help prepare the wedding party. Personally, I am really looking forward to getting ready with my bridesmaids all together in the bridal suite, and then waltzing out the door and into the ceremony, so this was an important ask in my book.
4. What Are The Different Rates?
I semi knew this was a “thing” going into venue touring, but I was honestly shook at how drastic the price differences were between “on” and “off-peak” months, Friday/Saturday/Sunday, and time of day. Most venues break down their pricing first by month, with May, June, August, September, and October being the most popular (and therefore, the most expensive) months. From there, choosing your day of the week also dictates the price, with Saturday being the most expensive. AND FROM THERE, the time of day further influences the pricing. A daylight wedding (typically 12pm to 5pm) is often discounted, whereas an evening wedding tends to be more expensive (typically 6 or 7pm to 12 or 1am). So, be warned that Saturday night wedding at sunset in summer WILL impact your budget more than you want it to (I’m talking double the price of a Sunday daytime wedding in April).
5. Where Do The Extra Fees Go?
Venues with in-house catering will charge a per plate fee which covers the guests’ attendance and dinner/open bar. Venues who allow you to bring outside vendors will often charge a flat venue rate. But one thing common across the board is the added 20-25% “service charge”. What is this, you may ask? No, it’s not to compensate the waitstaff, the bartenders, or the cleanup crew. It actually typically goes towards any collateral damage (broken plates, carpet stains, etc.), and the rest goes into the owners’ pockets. If, on a venue tour, you ask what the fee goes to and you hear “it goes back into venue upkeep”, be aware of what this *really* means. It may bother you, or you may be fine with it. If you ask about the service fee going toward service and you’re told that the waitstaff makes “regular minimum wage” instead of “servers minimum wage”, just note that you will be tipping another 20% on top of your 20% service fee and 8.875% tax fee (and a potential cleaning fee). Just to put this in perspective, if your wedding is $50,000, with the fees, cleaning, and gratuity, you’ll actually be spending about $75,000. I know, I was just as shocked as you are rn!!
6. Do You Require Chair Rentals?
Add this to the list of questions I didn’t know I had to ask. For reasons unknown, I assumed with a wedding venue came chairs and tables and normal seating arrangements. For many venues (especially those with in-house catering) this is true, but not for all. Some venues require chair rentals for the space, and this is what I call annoying. Add it to the category of “fees I never thought I’d have to pay.”
7. Do You Require Preferred Vendor Use?
If you have specific vendors in mind ahead of time, this question is an important one for you. Most, if not all, venues have a list of preferred vendors—vendors they work with often, trust to work in their space, and recommend to their clients. Choosing these vendors often come with perks such as no plate fee for the vendors working the wedding, no insurance cost, and the obvious (and best) perk, discounts. That being said, some venues require you choose a vendor from their lists (this is especially true for flowers and DJs) and is something to confirm before falling in love with a venue or outside vendor.
8. How Many Hours Are Included In Rental Space?
This question is semi self-explanatory, but an important ask. How many hours are “included” is a polite way of asking can I come in early? Can I stay late? Will there be more fees for those extended hours outside of my actual party? How long is my actual party? Get those answers and avoid those fees!
9. Is Parking Available And Included?
Oh hey there, another fee. Parking on premises isn’t always included, but when it is, you can guarantee it comes with a fee. There are often different “levels” to this parking fee. Typically, couples can choose to play a lot flat fee which allows their guests to park for free, but park themselves. There’s also the option to have the guests pay for parking, which feels really reasonable to some and really jarring to others. But, if you’re feeling fancy, there’s also the option to have a valet service for all guests driving in, and this is where it gets pricy. Worth it? Only you reading this can be the judge of that.
10. Do You Offer A Planner?
While some people choose to go the route of planning their own wedding in full (me), others (people smarter than me) go the route of hiring a planner. Planners have pros and cons—pros being the fact that they know what they are doing, cons being that they often work with specific vendors and venues and may be biased with their recommendations. But, the most ideal situation (in my eyes) is finding a venue you love that assigns you a planner to help handle the rest of the arrangements. This person works specifically for your venue, so they know every single issue you may run into, and therefore are perhaps the most powerful point of contact throughout the entire process. It’s good to know if your venue offers a person to help, how far out they begin helping you, and if they are included in your package.
While there are an infinite amount of obvious questions to be asked, these are the questions you don’t want to forget about. Happy planning!
Hello, class. Let’s conduct an experiment, shall we? By a show of hands, how many of you analyze your statements before paying your bills every month? Hmm… that’s funny. I don’t see any hands? It could be because I’m not actually looking at any of you right now, but if my unofficial calculations are correct, approximately 0.01% of humans break down their charges to see WTF they’re paying every month before they actually shell out their hard-earned cash. And companies have been taking advantage of this fact by ripping off their loyal customers for years and literal billions of dollars as they blissfully go about their lives with their auto-pay turned on and their bank accounts robbed. Well, not any longer if we can help it! Neatly organized by the type of bill, here are some of the dumbest hidden monthly bill fees that would REALLY piss you off if you knew about them… which you’re about to. You’re welcome.
1. High Area Utility Usage And Delivery Fees
Did you know that if you live in a busy area, you’ll probably get a higher utility bill for OTHER people’s usage? Yup! Ken Pedotto, CEO of solar energy information and resources company Solar Simplified, says that we’re charged for things on our utility bills that are out of our control all the time, like “congestion caused by high usage in your area, administrative costs, new asset construction, etc.” Awesome. Some gas companies will even charge delivery fees on top of our regular usage rates. “The fact that they’re passing this cost of doing business onto the consumer in such a direct way is nuts. Just bake it into the cost and we’d feel a lot better,” says Kevin Panitch, founder of personal finance website Just Start Investing.
But according to Pedotto, there’s an even worse hidden fee associated with using less sustainable energy sources. “In 2005, the U.S. Congress found that the effects of burning fossil fuels cost the United States over $120 billion. This ‘environmental cost’ is the most hidden fee of all—it isn’t even considered when calculating energy bills.” Deep AF, Pedotto. That was way deeper than I wanted to go here, TBH, but I guess the truth hurts. Good thing millennials are too broke to afford homes anyway!
2. Landlords Overcharging For Their Own Profit
Wait, you’re rich enough to afford your own place? Congrats! As a successful adult, do you check what your monthly rent covers? Because Stacy Caprio of coupons and freebies site Deals Scoop warns that apartment complexes charge a set fee for “utilities” without truly breaking down the costs. “My apartment’s monthly plan is $85 a month for cable and internet, and they use Xfinity that charges a minimum of $29.99 a month for cable and internet packages… with no package that sits at $85 a month. I don’t even use cable, only internet, so I’m being charged way more than I should be in this instance.” SMH.
3. Renting An Internet Router Or Cable Modem
When you realize your Wifi was turned off and you've been using data all day pic.twitter.com/He0aYHmFo8
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) September 12, 2018
According to Teel Lidow, attorney and CEO of consumer advocacy company Radvocate, many internet service providers require you to rent their routers but don’t disclose that rental fee in their base rate. Jonathan, founder of finance site Centsibly Frugal, notes that some of these fees include HD technology fees, broadcast TV fees, regional sports fee, universal connectivity charge fee… basically nickel-and-diming us to death. “A cable/internet package of $80/month looks great until you realize that it actually costs over $100 when you add all of the mandatory fees.”
Certain cable companies are NOTORIOUS for hiding fees. Helen Back, editor-in-chief of the cord cutting site Kill The Cable Bill, says that the price quoted when you sign up is almost never what you end up paying. “In fact, we put out a report last year showing that Comcast is pulling in as much as $2.64 billion a year charging customers for local channels they can get for free with an antenna.” OVER TWO BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR? Comcast, I don’t like to name names, but you definitely deserve to be put on blast. How can we fight this conspiracy? R.J. Weiss, Certified Financial Planner and founder of the personal finance site The Ways to Wealth, suggests buying your own modem for around $60 to skip extra rental charges every month.
4. Literally Using Your Cell Phone
I know I personally contact Verizon every other month to refund me for making up imaginary data overage charges, but that’s not what this is about. We’re getting charged more for just connecting to the damn phone network. Isn’t that, like, the whole point of the phone bill??? “In addition to paying for the data for the phone(s) on your plan, you are required to pay an additional $20 per month per device just to be connected to the network. On top of that, there’s an additional $3.56 on my monthly bill for “Surcharges,” but no explanation on what these charges are actually for,” adds Jonathan of Centsibly Frugal. THIEVERY.
Then there are people like Ashley Patrick, founder of Budgets Made Easy and The Money Mindset Podcast, who get overcharged for years without even realizing it. “I was being billed for service and 911 fees for three different counties and two states for over 10 years.” Her phone company only credited her back a year and a half once she discovered it. Whhhhaaaattt even goes on?
5. Bank Maintenance Charges
At this point my retirement plan is just banking on the fact that climate change will kill us all by 2030
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) February 15, 2019
Shannon McLay, founder and CEO of “personal finance trainer” company The Financial Gym, always sees maintenance fees on her client’s bank statements. “I’ve seen countless clients forget they have to maintain a minimum amount in their accounts to avoid a monthly fee up to $12. In the case of a checking account, this can be avoided by having your paycheck set to direct deposit.” Who knows this firsthand better than my MOM??? Lori Mandriota, the vice president and CFO of tree care company Platinum Industrial Equipment, signed up for a business account at a popular bank (*cough* Chase) but was never informed there would be a monthly fee of any kind. “Just recently we looked at our account online, and they’ve been removing $30 a month to ‘maintain’ our account. Hundreds of dollars later, we fought and finally got those charges removed.” Great job, ma! Good thing I didn’t learn my finance management skills from you.
6. Going To The Gym
It’s almost time for that “new year, new me” vibe! Let’s all sign up for the gym to get fit… and while we’re at it, let’s get charged some BS fees. “One thing people don’t realize is that on top of the monthly pricing, some gyms charge application fees, activation fees, and for those who sign up for the year-long plan but quit after five months? Cancellation fees,” says McLay. Cool. As if getting off our couch isn’t hard enough, this is our bonus punishment for trying to get fit.
7. Getting Print Bills Instead Of Electronic
And for the Ice Age dwellers who prefer paper statements instead of electronic ones, there are printing fees. “Since companies prefer you to have online billing, they’ve started introducing fees if they need to mail you a paper bill. Depending on the company, this bill can be substantial,” says Logan Allec, a CPA and owner of personal finance blog Money Done Right. To avoid this environmentally smart, yet still dumb hidden fee, he recommends making sure all of your bills are paperless. Save the environment AND your wallet? No-brainer.
8. Insurance “Agency” Fees
Me next month when the insurance company tosses me off my parents plan #26 pic.twitter.com/ch3BtVhcCH
— ⚖oddy (@IGotRedHair) November 8, 2019
WTF is an agency fee, you ask? Great f*cking question. “This is a fee that an agency charges on top of the commission that they’re already paid to service an account,” says Elena Thormahlen-Conforti, Vice President of Meridian Insurance Services. She claims these fees usually hide in the original proposal and don’t even show up as an additional line on invoices. “I deal with people who think they have a great rate elsewhere who don’t realize the true cost of their insurance. It’s infuriating, and frankly, a bit slimy.” Super slimy! Thanks for keeping us safe while you kill our wallets, insurance companies.
Moral of the story? CHECK YOUR DAMN BILLS AND MAKE SURE YOU’RE NOT GETTING OVERCHARGED FOR STUPID SH*T EVERY MONTH. You deserve to keep the hard-earned cash you worked for. Don’t give it away to the corporations. Take the power (and money) back into your own hands. Me for President 2020!
Images: Artem Beliaikin / Pexels; GIPHY (5), Twitter @betchesluvthis @IGotRedHair