The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Wedding costs rising

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(Special) - With a current estimated value of more than $5 billion a year, weddings are a big - and costly --business in Canada.

According to Wedding Bells Magazine's 2013 trends survey there were more than 165,000 weddings in Canada last year, with the average cost of tying the knot and going on a honeymoon coming in at $32,358, five per cent more than in 2012.

Traditional weddings are still the most popular. However, less formal ones are gaining in popularity. Soon-to-wed couples are employing a number of strategies to save money, including having a smaller wedding, making their own decorations, centrepieces or invitations, getting a friend to act as the disc jockey or photographer, holding the wedding on a less popular day, and having a destination wedding.

In 2012, for example, only 25 per cent of Canadians who recently married undertook a do-it-yourself project like making their own centrepieces, reception d�cor or guest favours. Last year this doubled to more than half and 12 per cent of brides plan to have a destination wedding.

No matter how you slice it, weddings are a big expense -- one that many people aren't saving enough for and can't really afford.

A recent BMO InvestorLine study has found that almost 40 per cent of people who envision getting married at some point in their lives do not believe they will be able to afford their ideal wedding.

Canadians plan to spend an average of $15,000 on their weddings and invite an average of 100 guests. Many do not believe they will be afford their ideal wedding. Those planning on getting married who are between 18 and 44 plan to spend the most, an average of $18,150 while those 65 or older plan to spend the least at $4,901.

What's interesting is how Canadians plan to pay for their weddings.

Sixty per cent plan to cover the costs by drawing on investments or other savings that either they or their partner have. They also plan to rely on the bride and groom's parents, credits cards and/or lines of credit and contributions from friends through gifts or donations at bachelor parties or stag or doe events.

The study also found that only 28 per cent of Canadians who plan on getting married are setting aside a portion of their investments specifically for their future wedding and more than half admit they could be doing a better job managing their investments to be more financially prepared for their big day.

Canadians plan to spend an average of $5,272 on their honeymoons. Hawaii is the number one preferred location by 24 per cent of the people polled, followed by the Caribbean, Europe, Australia and New Zealand and Canada.

"With two airline tickets from Toronto to Honolulu costing around $3,850 and a seven-night stay in a five-star hotel running as high as $4,500, it's more important than ever that couples factor in the full range of wedding costs to ensure they can afford their dream wedding and honeymoon as well," says Julie Barker-Merz, CEO of BMO InvestorLine. "Have a plan and monitor your investments regularly - this will help keep financial stress to a minimum as the big day approaches."

Understanding your investment goals, time horizon and risk tolerance are crucial to maximizing your returns and helping you meet your wedding goals. Effectively using a Tax Free Savings Account is a great way to save money for a key life event such as a wedding because your investment can be withdrawn at any time completely without tax and then reinvested later, Barker-Merz suggests.

"Your wedding is a key life event that can be a significant event, not only for the couple but potentially for parents and other family members as well," Barker-Merz says. "Regardless of who's covering the costs of your big day it's critical to get the most of your savings by investing early and wisely. It's also important to have open and transparent conversations with soon-to-be spouse and other loved ones regarding how the wedding will be financed. This will help avoid any confusion or misunderstandings on who's responsible for what."

Talbot Boggs is a Toronto-based business communications professional who has worked with national news organizations, magazines and corporations in the finance, retail, manufacturing and other industrial sectors.

Copyright 2014 Talbot Boggs

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