before ever after

Wedding Budget 101: What Is a Service Charge? Why Does it Exist?

posted on January 30, 2024

Navigating wedding finances is no small task. Besides expected expenses like food, beverage, entertainment, photography, selecting a venue is the first — and arguably one of the most important — decisions you will make. Opting for an all-inclusive venue like Walters Wedding Estates can prove to be especially significant, offering packages that save you time and money with one comprehensive contract.

Beyond these investments, you may find additional smaller fees embedded in the overall cost of your wedding. One such fee is the service charge. Often surprising soon-to-weds, service fees can be elusive in nature. But what exactly do they cover? Here, Walters Wedding Specialists shed light on the specifics of the service charge and explain why you should anticipate seeing it on your contract with all venues and vendors.

Wedding party cheer on the newly weds on Hidden Pines, Lake Houston’s outdoor cocktail patio.

First Things First: What Is a Service Fee?

Although adding a service charge is an industry standard, many couples aren’t clear on what it is, why it’s implemented, or who the payment actually goes to. To clear up any confusion, here’s what the term really means: a service charge is a fee that covers the venue’s upkeep and maintenance, catering and bar labor, and any administrative work that needs to be done for your big day. “Along with the maintenance and upkeep of the venue and property, your service charge will also cover cleaning before and after your event, as well as all the day-to-day services involved throughout your planning process,” Walters Wedding Specialists say.

Where You Will See This Charge

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding service charges – and sometimes even a lack of transparency. However, if you’re planning your nuptials at any Walters Wedding Estates, you’ll find clear and upfront expectations about service charges. “While some venues include the service charge in the cost of their services or rental, we choose to itemize those costs so you can see exactly where your money is being used,” Walters Wedding Specialists say.

Blush colored champagne cocktails line the bar at Hidden Pines, Lake Houston.

What’s The Service Charge Percentage?

Now that you know what it is and what it covers, let’s move on to the important question: How much should you expect to pay? Service charges vary venue to venue and vendor to vendor; depending on the business, you can expect to pay between 19 to 25 percent. If you’re planning your big day with Walters Wedding Estates, your contract will include a 21 percent service charge.

Service Charge vs. Gratuity

Many couples assume that the service charge includes a built-in tip for waitstaff, caterers, and anyone lending a hand on your wedding day. The truth is, a service charge does not include gratuity. Whether you want to give extra love to those who go above and beyond to make your big day the best it can be is entirely up to you. “While the service charge is not considered a tip and there is not an expectation of gratuity, any gratuity is always appreciated by our event staff and vendors,” Walters Wedding Specialists say.

Other Hidden Wedding Costs To Know

From delivery costs to cake-cutting fees, there are so many other sneaky fees that might send you – and your wedding budget – into a tailspin. Being prepared for them is key to staying on track, financially speaking. If you want to know every little number that goes into your total spend, the best thing to do is ask. (Or read our blog post about 10 wedding fees that might surprise you.) “As you consider venue options and vendor service, ask about any additional or hidden fees that you should consider,” Walters Wedding Specialists say. “We choose to itemize them for you, upfront, so you know exactly what you’re paying for and where those funds are going.”

Bride and groom enjoy celebratory sparkler exit at Hidden Pines, Lake Houston.

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