Saturday, May 27, 2000

Fairy-tale wedding? Stick to budget for happy ending

Creativity, planning can save the day

By Amy Higgins
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It didn't take long after Amanda Orlando and David Flautt heard wedding bells that they knew they would have to pay for them. All $20,000 of them.

[photo] Doug Flautt and Amanda Orlando of Norwood.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        The Norwood couple spent a year saving, budgeting and planning for the financial challenge — still paying almost twice what they planned, but getting almost all of their dream wedding.

        “Weddings can be expensive. I don't think people realize how much,” said Cathy Medeiros, a special events coordinator and owner of Visual Effects in North Attleboro, R.I.

        As the spring wedding season kicks into high gear, prospective brides and grooms should be considering cost-effective ways of planning their special days — so it doesn't all end up on a credit card accruing as much as 20 percent annually.

        Ms. Medeiros said an average wedding can cost as much as $25,000. She warns couples to plan, set a budget, and above all, “be realistic — yes, Cinderella weddings can be great, but it adds up.”

        That's how Ms. Orlando, 31, and Mr. Flautt, 36, approached their Feb. 5 wedding. The now-newlyweds were engaged in April 1999 and quickly envisioned what would have made their fairy tale.

        “It was an issue because it was all of our money and no one else's,” Ms. Orlando said. “We first decided what kind of wedding we wanted and how we wanted to get it.”

        Beth Mushaben, a wedding consultant with Blue Ash's Party Planners, said she suggests that couples start with a wedding planning book. Those typically include checklists to help couples keep track of and be aware of easy forgotten expenses.

        “It gets expensive,” Ms. Mushaben said. “People have to stick to their budget — that's the hard part.”

        Mr. Flautt said his best advice is to pay off existing credit card debt and start a separate savings account just for wedding expenses. Even before he popped the question, he started paying down his $6,000 credit card bills and putting $300 a month away through direct deposit.

        “Get it into an account you don't have access to, and don't have a debit card on,” he said. “I started saving for a wedding before I even knew I was getting married.”

        Once they started making plans, Ms. Orlando and Mr. Flautt then priced most of the elements and figured what could stay in and what needed to be scaled down. They also decided who would pay for what, as their finances still were separate.

        Ms. Orlando said she paid for as much as she could up front. But the couple also called on friends and business contacts to provide less expensive services.

        “We thought we could do it in 10 (thousand dollars),” Ms. Orlando said. “Were we naive!”

        Working in radio, Ms. Orlando had friends who could provide music and singing for the service and reception. She also used contacts and friends to coordinate deals on the florist, cake and photography.

        Her final words to brides- and grooms-to-be: Communicate, and don't get angry.

        “Money is very easy to argue about,” Ms. Orlando said. “It did work out in the end for us, but it depends on what type of relationship you have.”

        His closing advice: Be prepared for surprises, especially cash tips and unexpected extras a reception hall or caterer might add. If you do it right and plan ahead, you can still have the wedding of your dreams.

        “A wedding is important and something that can't be repeated,” Mr. Flautt said. “There's only one opportunity to do it right.”

        The Providence Journal contributed to this report.


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