Although wedding budgets vary, dream ceremonies still possible

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    Driving back from dinner at a quaint Italian restaurant, alumna Katelyn Thompson and her then-boyfriend Sam decided to stop on campus just to look around Robert Carr Chapel.

    The two had been together for almost seven years, so the subject of marriage had come up, but Thompson was not expecting a proposal for many more months. Much to her surprise as she sauntered up the chapel steps, pretending to walk down the aisle, Sam got down on one knee and asked her to be his wife.

    After the euphoria of the proposal wore off, Thompson, like other TCU brides and brides-to-be, realized that planning a wedding meant setting a budget, doing the research to compare prices and determining payment plans.

    From the dress, flowers and decorations to the venue, entertainment and photography, wedding costs can add up. The average total spent on a wedding in Fort Worth based on a guest list total of 135 to 149 people is $20,000-$33,000, according to costofwedding.com.

    “Budgeting is very essential because [spending] can get out of control really fast,” Thompson said.

    Thompson, who got married in January, said she did not regret spending the money, but now looking back she could see how the little details added up. In the beginning, her parents set her budget, but the final cost of the wedding went over that initial amount, she said.

    Graduate student Summer Priest only got engaged in December, and has just started to plan her wedding. Although she has not made a decision on the total amount she would spend, she has begun to research prices for the things she hopes to include in her wedding.

    She said she expected $3 to $6 per slice of cake, photography packages ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 and $1,500 to $4,500 to rent out a chapel for the ceremony.

    Alumna Jamie Klump, who like Priest is still in the beginning stages of planning, said she would aim to keep her wedding budget about $15,000. Her goal was to keep her wedding dress under $1,000 and the ceremony and reception venue rental at $5,000.

    Priest said she found some suggestions on reducing costs in her research. These included ordering the save the dates and wedding invitations at the same time so she would not have to pay for shipping costs twice or by having beverage options of beer and wine rather than a full open bar.

    She said wedding websites such as theknot.com offered these tips and other tools like a wedding checklist and budget calculator that would help determine costs.

    Klump said prior to making big purchasing decisions, she would sit down and plan a budget on paper with her parents.

    Brittney Luby, chapel and events coordinator at Robert Carr Chapel, said when planning a budget, a couple must first decide what items are the most important to them and then decide what things are negotiable.

    Thompson considered her venue one of the most important things in her planning. Getting married at Robert Carr Chapel seemed to fit since she and her husband spent much of their time together at TCU.

    Luby said 60 percent of weddings held at the chapel each year were either TCU students or alumni, and two-thirds of those had graduated within the last five years. Current TCU students, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees receive a $200 to $300 discount depending on what time of day the ceremony was, she said.

    After budgets were set and shopping around for prices was finished, one question remains — who will pay? In most cases, as is tradition, the bride’s parents handle the financial obligations of the wedding, and the groom’s parents cover the rehearsal dinner and, in some cases, the honeymoon.

    For Klump, her parents have given her a sum of money to spend on the wedding and the honeymoon.

    Priest’s family will help her out as well instead of getting the couple a wedding gift, but she said she and her fiancé also had placed money they had saved separately into an account.

    Thompson’s parents handled the financial obligation of the wedding. She said they separated the payments of higher-priced purchases, such as the church rental and flowers, but two-thirds of her budget was still spent within a month before the wedding.

    For students paying for their wedding themselves, Shannon Schultz, owner and primary planner at Shannon Schultz Events, suggested they consult a wedding planner to help them plan a budget. This would help the bride and groom understand what they could expect for the money.

    “A lot of people don’t know what things cost, and a lot of people think they are going to get more than what they paid for,” she said.

    By having a budget conversation with a wedding planner, she said, students could walk into a florist with an idea of the amount they could spend and what they could get for that amount. This would help the florist know the price range and not frustrate or disappoint students by showing them items that did not fit within that amount.

    In the end, Thompson said she believed no matter the budget — if it was $20,000 or $100,000 — a couple could still have a beautiful wedding and the guests would not notice a difference in the amount of money spent.