03/15/09 — Brides still finding ways to celebrate despite economy

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Brides still finding ways to celebrate despite economy

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on March 15, 2009 2:00 AM

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Ronneshia Reid, right, receives a skin-care treatment from Arbonne International consultant Tracey Ivey during the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's Bridal Expo 2009 on Saturday at the Goldsboro Community Multiplex.

Ronnesha Reid is not hiring a coordinator for her wedding. Instead she's leaning on her family to help decorate the church, make wedding favors and prepare food for the reception.

For her and other brides-to-be, the wedding bells are ringing a little quieter this year as the sluggish economy has forced them to trim their wedding expenses.

And many of them were at Saturday's Bridal Expo at the Goldsboro Community Multiplex in Goldsboro looking for inexpensive ideas for their big days.

Ms. Reid had already found a "spectacular" gown at an inexpensive price by going to a sale.

"I was looking for something elegant, but not over-the-top too expensive," she said.

It won't be quite the wedding she's dreamed of since she was a little girl -- "I used to dream about how it would be," she said -- but as an adult, reality set in and the working bride-to-be realized it would have to change.

And she's not the only bride trying to have a dream wedding on a tight budget.

"I had not even thought about getting a wedding coordinator to begin with because that cuts the budget," said 24-year-old Ashley Perry.

"I have lots of friends and family who are willing to prepare the meal for the reception and do wedding favors," she said. "I've done that for my friends; now they can do it for me."

But having never been involved in the planning process before, Ms. Perry said she was at the bridal expo looking for ideas, as well as a wedding gown without an outrageous price tag.

She said she even bought the "Wedding Planning for Dummies" book for suggestions on how to have a great wedding on a budget.

That's exactly what Ryals Resources is trying to do.

The one-stop wedding shopping group meets with the couple and then goes out and finds vendors and contractors, said Viola Ryals Figueroa.

"We do it all," she said. "And in this economy, you need to have the best deal to have the nicest wedding you can. We do all the legwork and find the best deals. Whether it's a wedding for two or 202, we work within a realistic budget."

Ms. Figueroa said she's had brides come in who want this and that for their wedding, but just can't afford a lot. She shows them where they can cut costs, like going with carnations instead of tulips for flowers and having a buffet instead of a sit-down dinner.

"We find tricks of the trade to reduce expenses," said Ms. Figueroa. "They can have a spectacular wedding on a budget."

Ms. Figueroa said she's also seeing a lot of brides who are doing at-home weddings to save money, as well as opting to honeymoon at places like Charleston, S.C., instead of going all the way to spots like Jamaica.

To save money on her wedding, Emily Hinson did her own invitations.

"I spent $18 for 100 invitations compared to $1.25 apiece by doing them myself," she said.

And other than her bridal bouquet, the 23-year-old won't be having any other flowers. She instead opted for the more inexpensive greenery so she can save some of her own green.

After all, she said, while losing her job last month put a damper on her wedding plans, she's still working to find ways make her special day spectacular.

Kathryn Westfall, 21, also is determined to have a beautiful wedding on a budget. She has asked her friends to help with some of the tasks, like baking her wedding cake.

"I'll find other ways to economize, I will," she said.

And, she added, she's doing it without straying too far from the wedding she has dreamed about since she was a little girl.

"When I got engaged, I pretty much knew what I wanted. It's changing a little bit, but for the most part, it's my original ideas."

Dana Sutherland, owner of the Bridal Gallery, understands what brides are going through in these tough times.

"Price is definitely an issue," she said. "So we are keeping our prices as low as possible."

She's also offering a lot of deals, such as giving out $50-off coupons at the bridal expo, and giving brides and bridesmaids 15 percent off their shoes and dresses when the bride buys her gown off the rack at the shop, as well as packages for grooms and his attendants.

"You can definitely look gorgeous and still have a good price," said Ms. Sutherland.

One way Ram Rent All is helping couples keep their wedding costs down is by renting a DJ in a box.

"Anybody can create their own play list and play it all the way through the whole night," said Matthew Foss. "There are pre-loaded intros for the bride and groom, songs and other sound effects."

Foss said it's very user-friendly and price competitive. He said the average DJ charges about $150 an hour. You can rent the DJ in a box for $300 for an entire weekend.

It comes with 10,000 songs including modern country, classic rock, wedding fun songs, big band and swing and shag -- anything you can think of.

When it comes to pictures of the big event, Brown's Photography will work with the couple. Willis Brown, owner, said once he finds out what kind of wedding the couple is having, then he can recommend certain package deals.

"We structure specials around what the bride wants," he said.

Although he's not seen a decrease in business, he is having a lot of people calling to ask about prices and specials.

Ms. Figueroa summed it up best when she said, "It's great to have that caviar dream, but right now all of us are working with a sardine budget."