The best wedding fits the family budget

Tailor your wedding budget to ensure your family and friends can actually afford to be there

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CALGARY, AB Jul 20, 2015/ Troy Media/ – Celebrations – birthdays, marriages, christenings, graduations – used to bring families together. These days, they are just as likely to cause discord and financial stress. Weddings, in particular, have become pricey affairs with price tags that make us shudder.

Guests dread the costs of attending them. Best friends beg off the chance to support the bride and groom because they can’t afford designer bridesmaid dresses, travel to foreign resorts, or expensive gifts. Astonishingly, some couples put off their vows for years because they want a ‘fairy tale wedding’ they can’t afford.

In 2014, Wedding Bells, a Canadian bridal magazine, surveyed 1,095 engaged female readers about their wedding plans. According to the survey, brides who married in 2014 reported spending an average of $31,000 on their big day. The average cost of their engagement ring was $4,000. The wedding dress averaged $1,700. Add in the cost of limousines, catering, photographer or videographer, tuxedos, a wedding planner, DJ or live band, wedding programs, centre pieces, invitation, and you’re wedding could take longer to save for than the down payment for your house.

Somewhere along the way, we lost the plot.

Not so long ago, most Canadian weddings were community events, with neighbours and family, scrubbed and dressed in their Sunday best, gathering at the local house of worship to witness the vows. After the wedding the guests sat down to a homemade meal in the church basement or community hall. Nobody begged off attending or celebrating because they couldn’t afford a new outfit or the costs of a plane ticket to a foreign resort.

If you live in a large city, the next wedding reception you attend is more likely to be a catered affair at an exclusive resort than a church basement or a community hall. And chances are, close family and friends struggling to get by won’t be anywhere in sight.

Weddings are milestones meant to be shared with family and people we care about. Tailoring your wedding budget to ensure that your family and friends can afford to be there is not only gracious but will make paying those wedding bills less stressful.

If you really want to cut costs, skip the fittings at the Bridal shop. The bride and her attendants will be beautiful even if they don’t pay several hundred dollars for their dresses. For example, few guests will care if the bride dresses in a white lace maxi-dress she purchased off the rack at the mall. Bridesmaids can be just as pretty in a Sundress or Christmas Party dress purchased for less than $100. They will look especially stunning in figure flattering sleeveless shifts dressed up with jewellery and glitzy pumps. After the wedding, they’ll pair these versatile shifts a blazer wear or sweater for work.

Make sure people can afford to celebrate with you. Don’t let wedding costs keep the people who love you at home alone while you dine on smoked salmon and caviar. Ensure that all your guests know that you would rather have them celebrate with you without bringing a gift than get an expensive parcel along with their ‘will not attend’ note.

If you are set on a destination beach wedding at a Mexican resort, make the ceremony a small private affair. Then have an informal reception everyone can afford to attend when you get home. If you really want to cut costs, skip the dance and the open bar. Have a sandwich luncheon, potluck picnic, or family barbecue instead.

Our grandparents loved celebrations! They also knew that the best weddings fit the family budget. Maybe it’s time we learned that, too.

Jane Harris-Zsovan offers her readers practical money advice for the real world. Jane is the author of Eugenics and the Firewall: Why Alberta’s UFA/Social Credit Legacy Matters to 21st Century Canadians.

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