How to budget for your dream wedding

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WASHINGTON - Somewhere along the line weddings became very expensive celebrations.

Some people have long dreamt about the exotic weddings they want or else they feel pressured to go this route by friends and family.

But such plans ring up a huge tab that might need some reconsideration.

Although the U.S. Catholic bishops have not spoken directly about wedding spending, their website asks couples to think twice about the bottom line in this celebration.

Although costs vary by region, the average modern wedding costs between $20,000 and $25,000.

Hold on a minute, the bishops' website essentially says, asking couples in the section "Budgeting for Your Wedding" to consider what they want their wedding to say about them and their values.

The article asks some pointed questions such as:

- Are you willing to go into debt, or put family members in debt, because of this wedding?

- Are you willing to focus time and energy on the details of a lavish wedding? Will this reduce the attention you can pay to preparing for the marriage itself?

- Do you feel comfortable with the amount you plan to spend? Have you considered this in relation to the needs of people in your community?

The online article suggests that, as with many things, moderation is key. "If you have a feeling that wedding expenses are getting out of hand, they probably are."

The site suggests that couples ask for donations to a local food bank or food pantry or that the couple make a donation from their wedding gifts to the parish's social outreach committee.

It also urges couples to seek practical ways to trim costs on the wedding ceremony and reception.

Advice on trimming wedding budgets is as plentiful as the styles of flower arrangements couples can choose from for their big day. Bridal magazines and blogs are full of do-it-yourself wedding ideas and how to get married on a budget.

Some couples are going green by using second-hand wedding dresses or reception decorations. Others are assembling their own wedding invitations, making their own centerpieces and flower arrangements.

The Knot, a website with wedding ideas and resources for engaged couples, says its top piece of advice in trimming wedding costs is to cut the guest list which would reduce catering costs and save on invitations and the number of centerpieces.

It also advised having the wedding during an off-peak season - usually December to April - and not marrying on the most expensive slot of the week, Saturday night.

The site also notes that there are plenty of ways to cut costs on reception food and drink. It urges couples to skip the main course and just supply appetizers and drinks or offer beer, wine and a signature cocktail instead of a full bar. It also suggested ordering a small one- or two-tiered cake for show that could be supplemented with a larger sheet cake for guests to eat.

As for printing costs, the site suggests ordering single-page invitations and e-mailing "save the date" notices.

These budget trims do not need to take anything away from the special day itself.

As the bishops' site adds: "The Catholic Church understands a couple's desire for an appropriate celebration of their marriage with family and friends. In the Catholic Church, marriage is a sacrament. All sacraments are to be celebrated because they are encounters with Jesus Christ. A wedding celebrates Christ's gift of marital love to this particular man and woman. It is a time for rejoicing."

In other words: just rejoice within your means.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015