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Sherri Richards, Published June 09 2012

SPECIAL WEDDING EDITION: Planner says local wedding budgets on the rise

FARGO – Since Alicia Weigel started her wedding planning business, she’s been writing larger and larger customer invoices.

Maybe it’s a change in her clientele. Maybe it’s due to an upswing in the economy.

Regardless, Weigel, owner of Bliss Events and Weddings, says people here are spending more to say “I do.”

On average, weddings in Fargo-Moorhead cost between $20,000 and $30,000, says Weigel, who will assist with 64 nuptials this year.

This mirrors the 2011 national average of $25,631 in total wedding expenses, according to The Wedding Report, Inc., a research company that tracks and forecasts wedding trends.

“When I got married (in 2005), you didn’t spend so much on your wedding,” Weigel says.

Now TV programs like TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” and “My Fair Wedding” with David Tutera show elaborate wedding options, and Weigel says local brides are willing to spend more.

Weigel has one wedding this year – an outdoor affair for 350 people – that will likely tip the $100,000 mark.

While people may think having an outdoor wedding is a less expensive route, it typically ends up costing 30 percent to 50 percent more, Weigel says.

About one-fourth of any wedding budget usually goes toward food and the venue, with a typical cost of $4,000 to $5,000, Weigel says. Photography ($1,200 to $2,400, or up to $5,000), flowers ($1,200 and up) and DJ (at least $1,000) are other major expenses, she says, as well as Weigel’s planning and decorating services, which range from $3,000 to $5,000.

To save money, she’s seen brides turn to do-it-yourself projects. “Pinterest is a wealth of information as far as how to make something really cool for really reasonable,” she says about the website.

One trend Weigel has seen is using vintage pieces for decoration.

“Those brides are junking, they’re thrifting, they’re garage-saleing, they’re borrowing from friends,” Weigel says. One bride decorated her reception tables with milk glass, borrowed silverware and aged books.

Weigel stresses brides and grooms need to have a general number in mind before they start booking locations or services.

“Don’t overspend on the very first thing you book and feel like you scrimped by on other things that were important to you,” she says. “Be honest enough with yourself to admit there is a cap.”

Marybeth Vigeland, a financial counselor with The Village Family Service Center in Grand Forks, N.D., says wedding planning sets a standard for how the couple will handle finances in the future.

“I think the biggest mistake is people don’t look at the budget,” Vigeland says. “It’s really stepping back and looking at who’s paying for what and how much is there?”

The old rules of who pays for what no longer hold true, Vigeland says. The Wedding Report found in its surveys that more than 80 percent of couples contribute to the costs of their nuptials. In half of the weddings, parents contributed funds, as well as other relatives in nearly 15 percent of the weddings.

Couples must prioritize their expenses, and think about how important each element will be after the fact, Vigeland says. She cites a survey of Visa Inc. cardholders, which found 87 percent of those who got married in the last 10 years felt they overspent on their wedding or honeymoon.

“It’s just being caught up, emotional spending,” Vigeland says. “It is one day. And if it’s going to affect the next five, 10 years of paying it off, it doesn’t make sense.

“It should be an important day and a meaningful day. Spending more doesn’t make it more meaningful,” she says.