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Balancing the wedding budget with etiquette Add to ...

When Laura Helm gets married this fall, she plans to do it all for under $5,000.

The 45-year-old Oshawa bride is tying the knot in front of 65 people on a Friday that falls on Remembrance Day, which made the venue and caterer cheaper. The guest list is mostly family, and single people were not asked to bring a date.

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“We want to get married. We just don’t want to spend a fortune doing it,” says Ms. Helm, especially since it is the second marriage for each of them.

To cover their alcohol costs, they will have a “toonie bar” – where guests pay $2 for their drinks while the couple pays for the rest.

Lisa Hanslip of the Wedding Planner Inc. in Calgary says that while she encourages couples to have a budget, adhering to proper wedding etiquette is equally important.

For instance, keeping the guest list down by inviting people without kids or dates is completely acceptable, but she discourages couples from having a cash bar.

Ms. Hanslip offers these financial tips for people planning or attending a wedding this summer:

Gift: Cash or flatware? While it is acceptable for guests to give money as a wedding present, it is definitely not all right for the bride and groom to ask for it. For instance, mentioning in the invitation where you are registered or that you are interested in getting cash is considered gauche. It’s the job of the bridal party and close family to disseminate information about gift-registries, etc., but only if the guests ask. Ultimately, guests are free to buy whatever gift they want.

How much should you spend? This depends on two things: how well you know the couple and your financial circumstances. While it also depends on what part of the country you’re in, $50 to $150 per guest is a good range. If a couple registers, they should have items at many price points – no one wants to spend $200 on one silver teaspoon.

Can you ask the parents to kick in? It’s definitely acceptable to ask parents for money to help with the wedding. Remember: If you’re going to ask for a monetary contribution, be prepared to receive their input.

Can I do a wedding brunch? You can sometimes get a more affordable venue by opting for a non-Saturday wedding. A Sunday brunch can be lovely – and save you a fortune on alcohol.

Is it all right to have a cash bar? If you can’t afford to feed and serve drinks to all of your guests, you are inviting too many people. If you absolutely must have a cash bar, opt for a toonie bar after dinner so your guests will still feel like guests and can opt to leave after dinner before they’ll need to fish out their wallets.

Can we invite singles without a date? If you are having a small or medium-sized wedding, it is absolutely fine to invite singles without a date. In fact, trimming your guest list is the best way to keep your budget in check. Kids are not invited, unless they’re specifically mentioned on the invitation. As a guest, you should respect the couple’s wishes for an elegant soiree sans children and get a babysitter.

Are gifts for guests necessary? A small take-home gift from the bride and groom is increasingly the norm, but it certainly isn’t a requirement. The cutesy little favours are almost always a waste of money – less than half usually even leave the reception site, and most end up in the trash the next day. Some couples are now replacing the favour with a charitable donation.

Do bridesmaids’ dresses have to match? If your bridesmaids are paying for their dresses, you must keep their financial circumstances in mind. Consider deciding on a colour and length and then letting them choose their own dresses – they are less likely to resent paying for them, and they are more likely to wear the dresses again. Agreeing to be part of a wedding party can be a huge financial burden. The cost of a stagette, a shower gift, a wedding gift and the wedding-day outfit can quickly add up.

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