On the final Friday of June, Kelly Collins will marry Paul Hilcoff at the Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, Mass. After the ceremony in an orchard, the 60 guests will retire to the vineyard’s restaurant, where they’ll have a full sit-down meal complemented by wine and beer made on-site. All this will cost $4,500, or $1,500 less than it would on a Saturday. Rather than a wedding gown, Collins will wear a $200 ivory bridesmaid dress. She has ordered wholesale flowers online for $300 to make her centerpieces and, for favors, apple-scented candles from a teachers’ catalog at $1.50 each. The couple made their own invitations with $75 worth of materials. “We thought about what was most important,” says Collins. “What wasn’t, we did for cheaper — or we didn’t do it.” The final bill: $9,000.
As economic indicators go, the cost of nuptials isn’t a bad one to check — particularly in our party-obsessed culture — because it shows what people are willing to spend on nonessentials. According to the Wedding Report, a research firm that compiles stats on the wedding industry, the average cost of an American wedding rose to $28,732 in 2007, as the festivities have grown increasingly elaborate and personalized. But for the first time in almost a decade, that number is forecast to drop slightly this year, to $28,704. Nearly half of caterers and event planners surveyed by the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) in March said they were seeing declines in wedding spending in response to the economic slowdown; 12% even reported wedding cancellations because of financial concerns.
Because planning for many of this year’s weddings started long before gas and milk hit $4 a gallon, some couples have had to scale back. “Every dollar counts,” says Tammy Li, whose parents are helping fund her Aug. 30 wedding at the Madison Hotel in Morristown, N.J., as they struggle to sell their house. Li and fiancé Bernie Tang are tamping down costs simply by being flexible with the time. “I had really wanted a night wedding,” says Li, but it was hard to argue with the $15,000 savings they’ll get by holding it on Saturday afternoon. Moving the date can help too. Danny Craig and Heather Pfisterer say holding their wedding on a Sunday rather than a Saturday got them a 33% discount at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, Calif., on the minimum amount they were required to spend on food and drinks. More than half of caterers and wedding planners in the NACE survey said they’ve seen an uptick in the number of Friday and Sunday marriages.
Expect creative menus and bar options at coming weddings as more couples aim to shave their bill; after all, food and drinks usually account for the biggest chunk of costs. More than 6 in 10 wedding professionals say their clients are buying less expensive meals than in the past. “As silly as it sounds, go with the chicken,” says Daniel Briones, NACE president and director of catering at the Four Seasons Philadelphia. Shelley Harrington, who married Scott Barber on May 10 in Rochester, Mich., opted for chicken with Boursin cheese in a phyllo-dough wrapping plus a fish option. Both cost about $20 a plate; steak would have been $40. Few venues let couples stock their own bar, but limiting the open bar is a fine option for capping the caterer’s markup on the booze. Annemarie Conte and Andy Kielich will serve beer and wine and maybe two types of liquor at their September wedding in Dingmans Ferry, Pa. “We can’t cater to every whim,” says Conte, “which was hard for me because you never want to feel inhospitable.” Briones suggests nixing the bubbly: “Not everyone likes champagne. And [at toast time] most people are already going to have a drink in front of them anyway.”
That is, the people who manage to secure an invite in the first place. Lorna Engler, who happens to be sewing her daughter Lara’s wedding gown as well as six bridesmaid dresses, says they’ve been, ahem, discerning with the guest list for the October bash. “Do you really need to invite that person you haven’t spoken to for three years?” she says. Some couples are also trimming the numbers in their wedding parties — Collins will have just one attendant — to escape the hidden costs of presents for bridesmaids and groomsmen.
The new urge to save green coincides with a fervor among couples to go green. Conte’s engagement ring is a family heirloom — free of both cost and conflict. Conte and Kielich’s caterer is a local farmer, so all the meat and seasonal produce will come straight from the source, without a middleman fee. They’re decorating with trees rented from a nursery and wildflowers in lieu of cut blooms. Conte got her dress via eBay for $250, saving $750 off the original price. She did lots of research and was selective about each vendor they hired: “I don’t want to work with people who will rip me off because I say the word wedding.” That’s a lovely vow in any economic climate.
準新娘 Kelly Collins 趕在六月最後一個星期五要嫁給真命天子 Paul Hilcoff，他們所謂的世紀婚禮會在美國麻省的一個酒莊中舉辦，牧師證婚部分是在果樹中搭起聖壇，感覺就像在伊甸園，儀式完成之後，賓客回到酒莊的餐廳享受美食，酒品由該酒莊供應，因為選在星期五舉辦而非週六，所以費用只要 4,500 美元，比週末硬是少掉 1,500 美元。
在新娘禮服方面，與其選擇帶有頭紗的正式禮服，Kelly Collins 最後只穿了類似伴娘禮服的禮服出場，同樣是象徵純潔的白色，簡單大方而且只要 200 美元；新娘捧花與蘋果香味的主題蠟燭，都是郵購而來，捧花只要 300 美元、蠟燭每個 1.5 美元；喜帖，總共 75 美元，自己動手製作；結算下來，整個婚禮費用只要 9,000 美元。Kelly Collins 表示，她們盡可能的節省或是自己動手作，如果無法 DIY，那就省略吧！
據產業調查公司 Wedding Report 的數據，2007 年的婚禮花費平均值為 28,732 美元，他們預計 2008 的平均值會降到 28,704 美元。顯見該產業也是美國經濟率的受害者之一。
情到濃時、互定終身、來到神的面前、許下一世的誓證，說起來簡單，但整個流程卻可以拖上一整年來規畫。對 Tammy Li 來說，經濟環境的轉變再真實不過，從結婚念頭一起到 8 月 30 日的婚禮當天，汽油與牛奶都雙雙上漲，再豪華的婚禮也只能縮水。
由於美元走貶所致，夢幻婚禮也只能屈服，婚禮地址不變，仍舊是五星級的酒店，但是酒席時間必須提早，從星期六晚餐改為下午茶，因為這樣的挪動，可以省下令人無法忽視的 1.5 萬美元。
另一對新婚夫妻 Danny Craig 與 Heather Pfisterer 表示，改時間真的是省錢的方式之一，她們把婚宴從熱門的週六移到週日就省了 33% 的支出。NACE 也表示，婚禮時間走向彈性是明顯的趨勢 ，在週五與週日舉辦婚禮的新人越來越多 。
隨著準新人愛節省的情勢持續發燒，餐飲提供者也擴大菜單的選項。約有六成的婚禮規畫師表示，以往的好酒美食已經不適用，便宜又大眾化的餐飲才是王道。NACE 的董事長 Daniel Briones 表示，在過去，婚宴餐點的主菜至少要有牛排才表示有誠意，可是現在把主菜降級到雞排、魚排的也大有人在。
此外，婚禮拼酒的情景也不只是存在於台灣，美國人也愛乾杯，這時候要是可以要求場地的酒吧實施「限制供應」的措施，那又可以省上一筆。將在九月結婚的 Annemarie Conte 和 Andy Kielich 就只打算提供兩種酒品。
若還是不夠節省，那就把婚紗與伴娘服的製作交給媽媽吧！Lorna Engler 就正在為將於十月出閣的女兒與六位伴娘的禮服趕工中，要是令慈手藝不這麼精巧，不如就縮減伴娘的規模吧！這樣又可以省好幾張嘴吃飯的費用。
最後，除了縮衣節食辦婚禮，準新人也有越來越「環保」的傾向。Annemarie Conte 和 Andy Kielich 的婚戒是傳家之寶，有著世代祖先的祝福，卻不會推高市場貴金屬價格；餐飲供應由當地農場來執行，食材既新鮮又健康；婚紗則是在 eBay 購得，雖然才 250 美元，但意義無價。
當所有人都想問有必要這麼省的時候，Annemarie Conte 認為，她不想因為一場婚禮而被剝了一層皮，對她而言，「婚禮」兩個字，應該是能適應任何經濟環境的甜蜜誓言，而非負債。（電子時報 甯怡萱／綜合外電）