Here comes the bride, and her wallet
Weddings are getting smaller, but per person costs are going up

When Bianca Duceppe and Tommy Perrotta got engaged last Summer they made an important decision. They decided to put their own needs first and scheduled the ceremony and reception at an inn in Carling Lake, a small town about 45 minutes outside of Montreal.

"It's a bit of a drive, and people who want to drink will have to spend the night at the hotel. But we like nature, and the place is located near a lake and forest," Perrotta said. "So we'll have a wedding in which can have fun and participate."

A wedding in which the bride and groom can have fun and participate, might seem obvious, yet public displays of devotion have traditionally been as much about family, friends and guests as they have about the star couple.

But that's changing. In recent years couples have been putting themselves at the center of the wedding process. According to one industry professional, much of this has to do with money.

Weddings can cost a fortune, ranging from $6,000 to $60,000 for a typical 100-person event, and couples are footing a bigger part of the bill themselves. And those who control the purse strings, control the decision making process.

"In the old days couples would plan weddings with parents from both sides of the family," said Stephen Sartori, publisher of the Let's Get Married guide and organizer of a wedding salon of the same name. "But today, people are getting married later in life, and paying more of the costs themselves. So naturally they want a greater voice."

Perrotta who is 41, and Duceppe who is 32, are typical exemplars of the modern approach to weddings. Both are well established in their careers, (Perrotta is a banking loans officer and Duceppe is an educational-publishing executive), are mature financially, and are paying a good chunk of the wedding costs out of their own pockets.

Like many Quebecers, their preferences are toward a smaller more luxurious ceremony. This will include extras such as open bar, a quality setting and professional entertainment that will boost the per person costs. The couple will invite between 70 and 80 people, and expenses will likely run up to $25,000.

There were 24,000 weddings conducted in Quebec during 1999, compared to 153,000 in Canada as a whole. Quebecers tend to marry less than Canadians comprising only 15.7 per cent of the nation's total, while its population is closer to 24 per cent.

But according to Sartori, the province's immigrant population continues to make it bearable for wedding industry businesses. "Both francophones and anglophones are getting married less," Sartiori said. "But immigrants value the tradition more, and their ceremonies are larger."

Sartori has two pieces of advice for couples who a planning a wedding: start early and compile a budget.

"You should begin preparing your wedding at least eight months and preferably a year in advance," Sartori said. "This gives you the time to shop at leisure, and to negotiate the best prices with your suppliers."

Let's get Married Guide set includes checklists of things to remember, an agenda, and a model budget form so that nothing is left out. The two-volume guide -- which is launched at the January Let's Get Married show, -- is given free to brides, and can also be bought for $4.00 on newsstands later that month.

According to Sartori, one of the biggest changes in weddings in recent years is toward "entertainer DJs," - popular in the U.S., and increasingly in Canada too -- who come with several assistants, and specialize in crowd motivation techniques.

Sheldon Kagan, who books music for close to 600 wedding a year, and runs a wedding show of his own called Le Salon de la Mariée said that small ethnic oriented shows tailored toward the Jewish, Greek and other communities are also very popular.

For those who want to save, money, Kagan counsels hiring musicians from the McGill Conservatory of Music. These can be had relatively cheaply, but Kagan advises auditioning the band first, and making sure that the musicians who audition are the same ones who will show up at the ceremony.

Kagan also recommends setting a spending target, and then choosing the most important items based on what you can afford. "It's a lot better do without one or two things, than it is to try and get all the extras, but to sacrifice on quality."

According to Kagan, many weddings are set up and announced over the Christmas holidays, a time when good feelings tend to prevail, and friends and family are conveniently assembled in one place, making big announcement easy to make.

The Lets Get Married exhibition will be held on January 4th and 5th at Place Bonaventure. For information check out their Web-site at The Salon de la Mariée will be held on January 11th and 12th at the Palais des Congrès. For information check out


Sidebar: Estimated price range for a 100 person wedding according to Stephen Sartori

o Dress: $500 for a wedding dress rental to $3,000 for a top of the line gown.
o Caterer/ hall/ alcohol: These typically come as a package and are billed on a person basis. $3,000 to $16,000
o Music: $600 for a solo disk jockey to $5,000 for a multi-piece versatile band.
o Cake: $150 to $800
o Ring: $1,000 to $5,000
o Photography: $600 to $4,000
o Flowers and decorations: $200 to $2,000
o Invitations $200 to $1,000
o Videos (optional) can run to $3,000
o Limousines (optional) can run to $2,000
o Honeymoon from $600 for a weekend up North to $10,000 for two weeks at a world class resort.
In all: $6,850 to $51,800


Photo caption: Bianca Duceppe, shown here looking at wedding dresses, is typical of many Quebecers who are getting married older and taking a greater voice in their wedding decisions.



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