WEDDINGS

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Spending $5,000 to $8,000 for a wedding is not uncommon, and costs can easily escalate into the $10,000 range or more, but for many that kind of money is simply a fantasy. And those who have been married before may not want such an extravaganza the second time around - although Laura M. Baddish, public relations director of Bridal Expos, a national traveling bridal show, says that ``the high spending on weddings nowadays can be attributed to the two-career couple marrying for the second time. Many times they have the money but not the time to spend, and don't get the best value for their money.'' If you're planning a wedding, you needn't feel forced by outside pressure to make it an expensive event. On the other hand, cutting bridal costs doesn't mean the result will be an inferior occasion. In fact, doing things yourself can make the event more warm and personal. Depending on your time and inclination, try to make what you can, or hire an artistic friend. It will certainly cost you less, and mean more.

Here are some ideas, gleaned from interviews with both newlyweds and people in the bridal industry, that may help ease the financial burden of your wedding:

Dress. Bridal gowns this year can cost anywhere from $300 to $8,000. Even if you're all thumbs with a sewing machine, it may be worth your while to have a dressmaker or talented friend/relative sew your dress from one of the numerous bridal patterns. The newest pattern this year: a gown modeled after Sarah Ferguson's royal attire.

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``We're finding that nearly 40 percent of all brides sew or dressmake their gowns,'' says Leona Rocha, bridal consultant for Vogue/Butterick patterns. A recent cost comparison by the company showed that a gown that would cost $1,000 in a bridal shop could be sewn for approximately $350.

To get maximum value from wedding gear, choose items that can be used again: shoes that can later be dyed; street-length bridesmaids' dresses that can be worn for something else; and, if you really want to get use out of it, a wedding suit or dress that may be worn in some other elegant context.

Headgear can be another hidden expense. Silk flowers and pearly sprays artfully attached to a hat, crown, or headband with netting can save you a great deal of money, and will look as beautiful as any store-bought piece. All the necessary materials can be purchased at hobby stores and/or fabric shops.

Food. Since the lion's share of a wedding's expense is the reception, you may want to consider a few options in terms of food. If you have a large guest list, a midday reception will carry a smaller price tag, since dinner is the most expensive meal. Many people have also opted for an expanded hors d'oeuvres or light snack buffet, rather than a sit-down dinner. That way they can invite the same number of people, says Ms. Baddish.

Another alternative is to schedule your wedding date in an off-season. ``June and September are the most common months for weddings, with August and October following in popularity,'' according to Baddish.

``Most caterers and rental halls will tell you about their discounts in the slow months - usually January, February, and the first week of March,'' she explains, ``and many couples are choosing to get married on a week night, rather than the busy weekend.''

Those people who are making a second trip to the altar are usually well equipped in the household necessities department, and often forgo wedding gifts. In lieu of presents, they could ask that each person bring their own culinary specialty to the reception as a gift (planned in advance, of course, to create a workable menu). Guests may try to outdo themselves with special creations.

If you are having your reception at someone's home or at an outdoor area and have no obligations to use hotel/rental hall employees, you might want to hire high school students (friends of sisters and brothers) to help set up, clean up, and serve.

Music. Hiring a band is not only costly, but also time consuming. [See related article above.] Many times people will settle for second best in music because their top choice is financially out of reach. One alternative is to tape your own choice of music to be played at the reception. Not only would you be able to have your favorite songs played, in their original form, but you can also control variety (perhaps one ``mellow'' instrumental tape to be played during the meal and non-dancing times, and another with a variety of dancing tunes to fit your guests' tastes) and you can turn it off when desired, or even replay a special number.

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