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A parents guide to wedding costs

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Wedding expenses to manage

When wedding bells ring for the kids, parents are usually torn about how much they should chip in to make their child’s day perfect and financially smooth.

Some folks save for years to afford a big $20,000 blow out, while others set a clear limit. Some don’t plan to contribute at all, while others argue the tradition that the bride’s parents ought to pay.

If you do decide to help, the good news is that wedding costs are the final frontier of parenthood. And nowadays, the ancient “dowry” concept is out and anything goes in this economy.

Here’s a guide to sweetening the wedding costs pot:

Cut the pie early

It’s becoming an effective trend for the bride and groom to fund half of their expenses and have their parents each pay a quarter share. This can be quite pricey, considering $36,200 is the current average Aussie couples are spending on their dream wedding; a 6.5 per cent rise compared to 2010/11 IBISWorld reported.

Thankfully, there are numerous ways to split a wedding budget and each family should do what’s financially sound for them, regardless if they’re the bride or groom’s parents. The rule is to know what’s expected of you from day one so you don’t end up with a nasty post-wedding bill.

Ask your child what their wedding budget is; they may suggest you contribute a specific dollar amount or fund an individual expense, such as the bride’s attire, catering, photography or the honeymoon.

Either way, it’s wise not to feel obliged, stretch yourself thin and commit to something that will put you in financial risk. This means taking out a loan, dipping into your savings, retirement account or home equity, or incurring credit card debt just to finance your child’s wedding.

Instead, save a small amount regularly so you have access to funds in advance. A high interest online account can help make these savings grow faster. Avoid debt by paying bills as you go before wedding chimes start. Try to pay a 50 per cent deposit on the cake and the invoice remainder closer to the wedding date.

Help out creatively

Joining the wedding planner board and suggesting cost effective options can be a real help. You can even call upon your network of resources to make up for lacking in the finance department.

Ask for discounts and use your contacts to find the best deals in town. Surely, your “amazing” photographer friend can do a fabulous job for a cheaper than industry rate. You may find that you can almost get the wedding cake for free if your child’s Godparent or aunt is a pastry chef and willing to bake the cake pro-bono – you just pay for the ingredients.

More cost effective solutions

Can’t afford a full bar? A soft bar is a savvy way to remedy a wedding budget that’s spiralling out of control without committing a faux par. Soft bars provide beer, house wine and soft drinks, while foregoing premium alcohol.

Paying for an afternoon reception between lunch and dinnertime can also be more economical, as is suggesting an outdoor ceremony. Whatever financial help you can provide will surely be appreciated but it certainly helps to be savvy with your decisions.