The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

October 13, 2012

Tying a knot around wedding expenses

Occasion doesn't need to break the bank

By Terry Hannum
The Daily Star

---- — Getting married is a legal, usually spiritual and oftentimes religious commitment between two people, but the ceremony and celebration has changed to accommodate a mobile population, the ever-growing social acceptance of diverse unions, economic challenges and a motivation to take new and creative approaches to traditional ways of doing things, making the business of marriage boom.

The time before marriage has changed in the past 50 or more years when the engagement may have lasted years as money was saved, dowriess accumulated, the ceremony plans put into place and furnishings for the future home gathered. Engagements in the last few decades are typically set one year ahead of the marriage date or conversely can last for decades.

Civil wedding ceremonies in New York state can be free except for the $40 license fee. The legal part of getting married can be done by a mayor, or village, town or county justice usually requiring only an appointment. Those who officiate during a wedding ceremony can charge or request a donation of about $25 and often more. From this basic starting point the list of details can become endless and having a plan is the single biggest time, money and sanity saver.

There is a variety of wedding cost websites to visit but for local couples. an interesting place to begin is The statistical site is designated according to zipcode/county and tracks the spending patterns of couples planning their wedding. For example, the average cost of getting married in Otsego County and in Delaware County are about equal. Once you access this or similar sites, you become aware of the amazing differences between low cost, average and expensive wedding venues. These differences in total expenses can be based on many, many factors and are simply a guide to understand the costs of getting married beyond the $40 wedding license.

Newlywed Corrine Tompkins offered the following account: “I spent about $11,000 on my wedding, but felt that there were places where I could have spent less. I think that the best thing to do is to establish a budget.”

This budget helps to fill in details of the plan that is the starting point of wedding preparation. Tompkins explained that once you have figured out what you have to spend, prioritize the plan list according to the number of people being invited and what parts can be done on your own to cut costs. Tompkins saved decorations for last on her wedding budget, correctly figuring that if there was no money to spare, the view itself would be plenty though she was able to spend on decorations.

Tompkins and her husband, Dustin, were married in June on a private mountaintop outside of Walton where a 360-degree view created an unforgettable setting. Beautiful outdoor settings can be tremendous money-savers but weather is the great unknown regardless of the season, and they realized that tents were a must. Their reception was held at a local restaurant that worked with them to accommodate the number of guests planned and amount of food needed.

“My biggest piece of advice would be to only invite the people you really want there,” Tompkins said, “It’s nice to have everyone but it’s much more expensive. The fewer people you invite, the more you save on almost all of your expenses.” 

The Tompkinses have a very large circle of family and friends, many of whom live locally. so the task of invitations was a difficult part of their planning. Just the invitations, thank you’s and postage will be $300 or more without considering place cards, menus and programs.

The cost of renting a reception location in this region will cost about $2,500, the very basic catering prices for 130 guests will begin at $4,000 with an additional $2,000 more at least for bar service. 

“Catering cost me around $2,500 and we planned this with the idea that we did not want to run out of food. What Dustin and I did not plan for was the number of people who let us know they were going to attend but did not,” 

Tompkins brought up a part of wedding planning that doesn’t occur to invitees who may not consider the time and money spent on making a wedding special. Unlike a casual graduation party or open house, failing to show up after making a reservation is not polite and can cost up to $200 per person.

The wedding cake is usually separate from the catering bill and the wedding expense planner for Delaware and Otsego county estimates that a wedding cake to serve about 130 people will be around $400. 

“Exquisite cakes which are four or more tiers are beautiful but they are really expensive,” Tompkins said. :I thought best way to save on a cake was to go with a sheet cake. If you do want something a little nicer, get a two or three tier cake and supplement the rest with the sheet cake and it will save you hundreds.”

Hair and make-up are a part of weddings that sometimes can be forgotten when budgeting. Friendship with someone who is willing and skilled can help to save money, as Tompkins reported, “I had a family friend do my hair and the wedding parties for $30 a piece rather than the $50 or more that most salons charge. I also had a friend who did my nails beautifully and didn’t charge me a thing.” 

That was a big savings as the wedding cost estimator sets a figure of more than $150 per person as the lowest starting costs for these services.

Keep an open mind with possibilities of asking skilled friends for a wedding gift of services such as hair, nails or help with decorations. The only area this is not recommended is when it comes to meal caterers and photographers, because they are working hard during the event so a friend in these positions would not be able to be a part of the celebration. Professional wedding photographers are not friends wielding expensive cameras, they are experienced and creative experts. In this region the estimated fee for a photographer starts at around $1,300 and can vary greatly depending on what work you want them to do. Plan on spending around $250 for reprint and enlargement photos.

It is best call to get pricing and reserve tents, chairs and tables as close to the same time as location reservations are made. Some rental businesses offer package deals if you rent all of the needed items from them. Do comparison shopping and after making a decision, make a deposit and triple check the dates needed on your contract receipt. According to a low average on the wedding cost website for Otsego or Delaware county for rental items, $1,500 is a beginning point for spending.

Music is an important part of weddings and receptions. The Tompkinses made their own music choices on CDs and had a disc jockey on hand. This area has plenty of talented musicians and entertaining DJ’s with pricing that varies widely. Have a strong idea of music preferences, book early and set aside anywhere from $500 to $5,000 depending on what your choice and budget can handle.

When planning wedding decorations on a tight budget. Tompkins explained. “The cheaper the better. You want to make sure that you try to order everything you will need from one website or store at a certain time, that way you don’t pay multiple shipping charges. Balloons and streamers are really cheap and go a long way in spicing up your special day! Add a little confetti to each table and you’re set.”

Gifts for the wedding party and parents of the bride and groom, along with wedding guest favors do not have to be expensive. Tokens of friendship, appreciation and love are a great way to end this special day with a thank you to all who took part in making it memorable. Consider setting aside around $500 for this and more for tipping officials, caterers, transport drivers, entertainment and photographer.

Excluding the engagement ring, wedding bands, gown, rehersal/rehersal dinner and honeymoon, the cost of a typical wedding in Otsego or Delaware county can range from $15,000 to $25,000. Tompkins saved a great deal of money with careful planning, lots of do-it-yourself effort and plenty of friends and family that were willing to help out. Overall, remember what the day is about, know that every little thing will not go as planned and celebrate the beginning your life together as a wedded couple.