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Wedding Bells, Bills & Awkward Questions...

EVERY YEAR, ABOUT 160,000 CANADIAN COUPLES exchange “I dos” in front of family and friends. During the months leading up to the big day, many nearly-weds have their first experience managing a big budget. After all, according to a recent national survey, the average wedding in Canada costs more than $30,000.

That cost may be borne by the couple, by their families or by some combination — but any way you slice the cake, it’s a major expense. Depending on the number of guests, the location and a myriad of decisions made along the way, a wedding can cost more than a car or even the down payment on a home. And, as with any major investment, it’s important to make sure the expenditure doesn’t have a negative impact on your future financial security.


1. Borrow where you can. Ask around for jewellery, accessories and even venues if you know someone with a pretty backyard or farm.

2. Rent where you can’t borrow. If you don’t particularly want to own (and store) a wedding dress forever, consider renting; accessories and tuxes can be rented too.

3. Look for the deals. Take time to comparison shop, check out sample dress sales and identify experienced but still up-and-coming vendors that are eager to compete for your business.

4. Delegate to willing hands. Talented family and friends may be able to provide services as their gift, making bridesmaids’ dresses, baking the wedding cake, arranging flowers, or serving as photographers, musicians and DJs.

5. “Register” for your honeymoon — but be aware that not all guests want to be part of a group gift.

Start with a realistic budget The wedding industry is at least a $4 billion business in Canada, and about one in four Canadian couples put between $30,000 and $75,000 into tying the knot. The fact that 75 per cent of surveyed brides acknowledge they are likely to spend more than they expected to on their wedding underscores the importance of starting out with sound numbers.

However, many couples have no idea how much the various elements of a wedding typically cost. Initial budgets are often plucked from the sky, says a wedding and event planner based in Toronto. “If a couple’s budget is low based on the type of wedding they want, then often we need to have a very serious talk on what to do — either raise the budget or scale back the wedding.”

The key is to prioritize — You can’t have everything when you are working within a budget, so sit down together and discuss what your top priorities are for the wedding. If family are involved, ask them what’s important. Allocate a realistic amount of money to those areas first and, from there, determine how much you have left to spend on the additional wants and luxuries.

Clarify who’s paying — and how

Anxiety over the budget is the number-one stressor when planning a wedding. That’s why it’s important to know who is contributing what, and to set some ground rules from the beginning.

Whoever is financially contributing to the wedding gets a say, so there has to be a very clear discussion at the same time that the gift is received to say, ‘Okay, well, thank you — what is important to you?’ And maybe decide at the very beginning who gets a say in what … Don’t accept the gift if you can’t live with the strings.”

If you’re contributing to a wedding budget, whether your own or a family member’s, plan where the contribution will come from. Will you take money from a savings account or cash out investments? Borrow from a credit line or put major items on a credit card? Consider how quickly you can recoup withdrawals from long-term savings or repay any wedding debt.

If you’re expecting a return on your wedding investment thanks to lavish cash gifts, be cautious. Some guests will give more; some less. It’s best not to rely on a windfall that may not materialize.