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Keep weddings on budget for a smart financial start

By Bonnie Coblentz
MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE – While every bride wants a special wedding, having an event that breaks the bank is the wrong way to start married life.

According to http://www.costofwedding.com, the average cost of a wedding in Mississippi is under $24,000. In Washington County, weddings costs range from $16,724 to $27,874; in Madison County, couples typically spend between $19,367 and $32,279; and in Jackson County, that cost is between $17,025 and $28,675.

But financial specialists with the Mississippi State University Extension Service said weddings do not have to be expensive to be meaningful.

Susan Cosgrove, an Extension family resource management area agent in Newton County, said taking on debt for a wedding ceremony is a bad idea.

“If you’re going to go into debt for something, make sure you’re paying for something that you still have,” Cosgrove said. “The ceremony will be over quickly, the cake will be eaten, and the flowers wilted.”

Bobbie Shaffett, Extension family resource management specialist, said an affordable wedding is best.

“It is wise to start a marriage with good decision making and live within your budget,” Shaffett said. “This can be the basis for the rest of your marriage.”

Wedding decisions should be made with that long-term outlook.

“If you make what you want more important than what you can afford, that tends to carry over to all the decisions that couple makes,” Shaffett said.

Start by deciding how much can be spent on a wedding, and work within that figure. Identify the most expensive items in a wedding, and then decide how to handle each of them. Big-ticket items in the budget include location, food, flowers and dresses.

“You may need to prioritize and decide which of these items are most important,” Shaffett said. “Fit them in the budget first, finding ways to reduce their costs when possible, and then you will know how much money you have left to spend on other, less important things associated with the wedding.”

Teresa Lyle, an Extension family resource management area working in Leake County, said elegant weddings are possible without spending a lot of money.

“Keep them simple and be creative without spending a lot of money,” Lyle said.

Scaling back the guest list is an easy way to cut costs because less food is required at the reception afterwards. Very light snacks may be sufficient for an afternoon reception, while weddings held near meals require a significantly larger budget for food.

When a wedding is planned long in advance, some items can be bought in advance, spreading out the cost.

Experts agreed that the details and trappings of a wedding are not nearly as important as the commitment being made in marriage.

“When you look at the wedding with a long-range perspective, you realize the ring, the flowers or the dress are really inconsequential,” Shaffett said. “It’s the commitment that counts.”

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Released: January 17, 2013
Contact: Dr. Bobbie Shaffett, (662) 325-3080