Here comes the ... bill!
Nuptial sticker shock is a sobering fact for brides and grooms as wedding bells produce ever-larger wedding bills.
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She emphasizes that the ceremony, the most important part of the event, is probably the least expensive.Skip to next paragraph
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Overextended newlyweds usually come to see Ms. Williams and other credit counselors between eight and 12 months after the wedding. "It's the first time they've come face to face with how much they owe and what the interest rate is," she says. The number of couples seeking counseling for wedding-related debt doubled between 2002 and 2003, according to Wicoff.
From Williams's perspective, situations like these are "very preventable" when couples are realistic and engage in good planning and budgeting.
Many couples do take on debt responsibly. When Brian Kolonick and Mandy Hausler exchange vows before 250 friends and relatives on June 23, they will foot nearly three-quarters of the bill themselves.
"I have just taken a very large credit advance to pay for it," says Mr. Kolonick, who works for a nonprofit group in Englewood, Colo. "We are about to enter a world of debt." He expects it will take a year or two to pay off everything.
"It's definitely worth it," Kolonick adds, noting that he did considerable research and cost analysis. "Mandy had a perception of how she wanted the wedding, and I did, too. I don't feel any costs are too extravagant, or not worth it, or silly." They are saving 50 percent on the reception by holding it on Friday rather than Saturday.
When Laura Ward of Atlanta walked down the aisle the first time 10 years ago, the couple went "a little bit" into debt. "It was very hard to pay off, because money is such a sore spot for people who are married."
When she remarried last December, she vowed not to incur any debts. "We spent about $15,000 with 65 guests, and I don't regret a thing," she says. "We paid off everything as we went." By contrast, her sister and brother-in-law took out a second mortgage to finance their dream wedding at the Four Seasons on Maui.
To save money, Mrs. Ward did not hire a videographer. "How many times am I going to pop a tape in?" she says, adding, "You have to try not to buy into all the hype about what's important, and decide for yourself what's important and what you're going to remember. If you've allotted X amount, stay within it. If you can't afford it, don't do it."
Cara Halstead Cea of Pleasantville, N.Y., describes the year leading up to her wedding last October and the few months after it as "excruciatingly tight financially." She is still disputing more than $700 in extra charges from the photographer that weren't in the contract.
For Della Rocca, paying off the bills has been difficult, primarily because "you know you're not paying off a car, or a house, or something tangible."
Even so, she says, "It was worth it, and we had a wonderful time." But she adds, "Would I do it differently? I would." Her scaled-down version would be an intimate dinner at a nice restaurant for 45 of the couple's closest family and friends, with a pianist or violinist, flowers, a wedding dress, and photographer. She wouldn't spend more than $250 on a dress, and would do her own hair and makeup. "I would spend the same on the photographer, which was hefty, because pictures will be how you remember your event," she says.
McCoy, who emphasizes that she loves weddings, says, "If you have $10 million and want to throw a $100,000 wedding, fantastic. What I am totally against are weddings where people can't afford to pay, when the money could be spent on [other] great things to get them started."
"We have to get back to basics," she adds. "We have to put our families ahead of our wants, and make weddings what they used to be."