The Patriot News
Engaged Couples Vow to Stick To Their Wedding Budgets

Sunday, February 14, 2010

by M. Diane McCormick

Reprinted with the kind permission of The Patriot News

It's all the rage in today's nuptials, and Kevin Craver and Kristalee Hofsass are among the trendsetters. In these tough economic times, couples are setting wedding budgets -- and actually sticking with them.

Craver, 43, of Lower Paxton Twp., and Hofsass, 32, of Derry Twp., expect to host up to 120 guests for their May wedding at the Hershey Free Church.

"We have a budget, and that's normal for us," Hofsass said while exploring vendors at the Holiday Inn Harrisburg/Hershey 2010 bridal show. "Did I want a big, stretch, excursion 14-passenger limo? Yes, but that's not reasonable for us."

Nationally, wedding spending fell 7 percent from 2008 to 2009, and the average wedding cost dropped from $21,814 to $19,581, according to The Wedding Report.

But money can't buy you love. And local couples looking ahead this Valentine's Day to spring and summer weddings are taking the new frugality in stride.

"It really does have to do with couples saying, 'This is our limit, and we're going to have to get creative with it,'" said Anja Winikka, the editor of the Web site The Knot.

Tiffany Tinsman, 42, of Wormleysburg, is marrying Stephen Marrazzo, 44, of West Hanover Twp., in the Capitol Rotunda in July. The ornate space -- free for the ceremony -- requires little decoration, and a professional musician friend will play the violin, Tinsman said. Guests will leave the Capitol to a dove release, and they'll walk to the FireHouse Restaurant for hors d'oeuvres and sushi.

Still, any hopes of falling well under the $10,000 limit have faded away, Tinsman said.

"You think, it's the Capitol; you don't have to pay to rent it. You don't have to pay to rent the FireHouse," she said. "Then you start adding the doves and the sushi and the dress and the photographer and the vacation, and people say you're going to spend more than $5,000."

More brides are entering the Garden Path, a Lower Paxton Twp. florist, with budgets in mind, said consultant and designer Lisa Evanoff.

"The girls are taking their time to price-shop," Evanoff said. "If you have a budget, by all means, you can still make it beautiful and stay within your budget."

Reputable vendors "will respect the bride's and groom's budgetary needs," said Susan H. Moran, a wedding designer for V&M Wedding Concepts in Camp Hill.

In the recession, couples are "prioritizing more in order to be able to accommodate their vision," Moran said. Creative options include hors d'oeuvres, dishes made from family recipes, or signature drinks with less alcohol.

"You can have an elegant, lovely presentation, but you can avoid the filet mignon and lobster tail in lieu of something trendier and more cleverly presented and prepared, so you have the impact without the impact on your wallet," she said.

Even the bridal gown is usually on a $500 to $900 budget, said Teresa Smart, the owner of Tara's Bridal in Camp Hill.

"Almost every girl that comes in here is on a budget," Smart said. "Most are looking for something a little simpler and looking for a good value on a beautiful dress."

Videographer Wayne Deswert of Deswert Productions in Jonestown created a one-camera, $325 package about a year ago as an option for couples who couldn't afford his $650 offering, which was then his least expensive.

"I'm sure I lost a lot of clients that didn't call because they saw my packages and figured they couldn't afford them," he said.

Some professional videographers and photographers are competing with friends and relatives who are asked to do the job, but brides rarely like the outcome, Deswert said -- "the shaky handi-cam held with one arm at the ceremony and the groom not lighted."

Nicola McLaughlin, 31, of Penbrook, is also marrying in the Rotunda. The setting was the big draw, but the free price didn't hurt.

She's calling on friends and family for help. An early afternoon reception for the June wedding will limit food costs, and McLaughlin and her fiance, William Overton, 32, of Penbrook, have been debating a liquor strategy.

"We might have an open bar for a certain amount of time, or maybe limiting it to beer and wine," she said. "To avoid the big liquor bill would definitely help our costs." Wedding receptions at the Hilton Harrisburg "have been traditionally planned and typically priced," said general manager Joe Massaro. Couples plan their receptions "knowing this is a once-in-a-lifetime day and still wanting to have the wedding they've always dreamed of."

The recession could be creating a trend toward more personalized weddings, Moran said.

"This is an exciting time to get married because it brings the focus back to what you're supposed to be doing, anyway," she said. "You're pledging to spend the rest of your life with your best friend."