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Avoid financial spats during wedding season

Weddings are a joyous occasion, but they can also be a pricey affair for everyone involved. With many different events that can cost attendees hundreds of dollars, money matters can cause rifts between friends and family.

"Finances in general can be the root cause of a lot of trouble. It's very important for families to recognize this and to do everything in their power to make sure that it doesn't happen," says Jay Remer, an etiquette consultant and writer of "The Etiquette Guy," a newspaper column in the "Telegraph-Journal."

"The only way that can be accomplished is by sitting down and discussing it openly and honestly."

The future husband or wife
Weddings can be a huge financial burden with the average expected cost at $22,429, excluding the honeymoon, according to a recent survey by "Weddingbells" magazine.

Traditionally the family of the bride paid for the wedding, while the family of the groom paid for the rehearsal dinner. Since the couple wasn't covering the expenses, the parents decided the details. But that has changed in the last few decades.

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Today, the financial burden for the wedding usually falls onto the couple since they're getting married later in life when they're more financially stable, says Remer. They also make the wedding decisions.

If the parents offer to pay, he suggests couples discuss whether there are any conditions attached with the money.

"A clear budget needs to be established," says Remer. "Without a budget you cannot proceed."

Pat White, the executive director of Credit Counselling Canada, reminds couples that they should be realistic and prioritize their expenses.

"There's lots of ways to save," she says. "If there is a priority item that's more expensive then get that, but consider alternative options for things that are a lower priority," she says.

Couples should avoid going into debt to cover wedding expenses, White adds, but they should think outside of the box when planning.

This can mean:

  • Exchange services: Think about what skills you have and see if they can help you cut expenses at your wedding, suggests White.
  • Avoid prime time: Fifty-one per cent of weddings occur between July and September in Canada, according to the "Weddingbells" survey. Couples can save money by choosing a venue that doesn't have any costs, such as a cabin in the woods, suggests Remer.
  • Consider DIY options: Fifty-four per cent of brides plan to do DIY invitations and décor, according to the "Weddingbells" survey.

Bridal party
It's a great honour for any woman to be named a bridesmaid, but before you accept the role you need to assess whether you can afford it.

The average cost of being a bridesmaid is $1,695, which includes the cost of the dress, accessories, travel expenses, wedding gifts and more, according to a recent survey by "WeddingChannel.com". 

Typically bridesmaids pay for their wedding attire and any parties thrown for the bride-to-be. Sometimes the bride will offer to pay for hair and makeup. If the bride has any unusual outfit requests, they should offer to cover the cost, says Remer.

Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz, who write the "Money Manners" column syndicated by King Features, which appears in the "Toronto Star," agree that if the bridesmaid knows there might be some financial issues, she should address this with the bride.

"Have a heart-to-heart with the bride about how much things are likely to cost," says Schwarz. "Then, if being part of the party sounds too pricey for your pocketbook, tell her right away." 

It's dropping out of a bridal party that can be painful, adds Fleming.

Bridesmaids shouldn't skimp out on their friend's wedding, but one way to save money is splitting the cost of a pricier gift with members of the bridal party, says White.

Wedding guests
They don't help with the planning, but their attendance is important.

Guests are responsible for the cost of the wedding gift, their outfit and sometimes the price of their drinks if there's a cash bar. The cost of the wedding will vary depending on your connection to the couple. If you're a close family member, you may need to purchase gifts for the engagement party, wedding shower and wedding, but if you're a work associate you'll likely spend less.

If the couple chooses to have a destination wedding, guests should ask how much the wedding is expected to cost before accepting the invitation. If they're unable to attend, guests should politely reject the invitation and send a wedding gift, says Remer.

Common sense and practicality should be your guiding principles in tackling any financial issue that pops up, he adds.

"This is a milestone for the lives of this young couple. It's their wishes that should be first and foremost in the minds of everybody involved."

Josephine Lim is a writer and editor in Toronto.

 
-- Posted: July 13, 2012
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