BOSTON By Andrea Shea (WBUR)
Saying “I do” can be an expensive proposition. Couples and their families often pour tens of thousands of dollars into extravagant “dream” weddings. But the fairytale is over for many brides who have to downsize their nuptials during this economic downturn. It’s an era of “recession weddings” and “budget brides.”
Brides on a budget lucked out last weekend. The Goodwill in Roxbury transformed into a big, fat wedding dress boutique after an anonymous retailer donated more than 1,000 new designer gowns. Evelyn Previl drove in from Brockton to check them out.
EVELYN PREVIL: The most expensive dress here is $250, which is cheap!
Cheap is a must for Previl, who’s always dreamed of a big, fancy wedding. But, with this recession, she worries about losing her job. So Previl’s budget is firm: $15,000. She’s slashing costs, starting with her guest list.
PREVIL: I think I would’ve invited a lot more people; I would’ve probably spent maybe $30,000 to $35,000, so it definitely has affected the wedding that I wanted.
ALAN FIELDS: What we’re seeing now is the end of the boom in expensive weddings and fancy nuptials.
Alan Fields is the author of the book, “Bargain Brides.” He says the current economic crisis is smashing a long-held myth that weddings are recession proof.
FIELDS: People still get married and they still have a wedding, but the problem is that couples are sharply cutting back from the reception and the catering and the food, photographers, video companies, DJs — and the merchants who cater to the wedding industry have had to adjust to a new reality.
At Cakes to Remember in Brookline, just staying open is the new bottom line. Proprietor Ellen Bartlett and her staff create one-of-a-kind cakes. 85 percent are for weddings.
ELLEN BARTLETT: We do something called a caramel tiramisu which is an expresso infused gold cake layered with caramel marscapone…
The average price is $6.50 a slice. The recession has driven Bartlett to offer some less-expensive, pre-designed cakes. And, for the first time in 20 years, she’s open to negotiating her prices.
BARTLETT: Because it is scary. We’re definitely in some ways expendable — there’s a lot of luxury associated with the hospitality, service industry — so there are a lot of people out of work right now.
At the Commandant’s House, an historic venue on Boston Harbor, future bride Katie Ahern anticipates her June wedding. She and her fiance started planning before the economy tanked, but they’re sticking with the agenda: 200 guests, a big tent — the works. Even so, Ahern says, the recession makes it bittersweet.
KATIE AHERN: It’s kind of unfortunate. Like I feel like in the back of my head — planning the wedding — it’s so happy and exciting, but at the same time you feel guilty.
Leana Gallagher is Ahern’s Wedding Planner. She also books events at the Commandant’s House. Gallagher says spending big money on the “big day” might seem extravagant to some people these days, but not to all.
LEANA GALLAGHER: I think people will always want to do that, and there will always be some dad that’s put away money for his daughter for the next 30 years and that’s really what he wants to do — and there will be a lot people who run away to Vegas.
Or head to City Hall.
That’s where 56-year-old Christine Abramoski decided to get married.
CHRISTINE ABRAMOSKI: You know, times are tough now, we’re watching our pennies and you know I just thought that $20,000 for a wedding is just a little bit much, and you know we wanted to keep it simple and small with just the immediate family.
BOSTON CITY CLERK ROSARIO SALERNO: “By the power vested in me as a justice of the peace of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but most especially by the power of your love, I acknowledge and pronounce you are husband and wife. You may kiss.
Abramoski and her husband Ted Smith were married by Boston City Clerk Rosaria Salerno.
SALERNO: Andrea I have married physicists, doctors, street cleaners, bus drivers — every walk of life.
Salerno has noticed a slight increase in weddings at City Hall, but she can’t say for sure why.
SALERNO: If the recession is doing this for us, I think it’s a marvelous thing. Because I think in so many ways in our society we’re over the top, that maybe this is giving us a chance to step back and say, ‘What is important?’ And in this instance, these two people are pledging their lives to one another — you don’t need a brass band to do that.
Or any band, for that matter. Couples are DJing their own weddings with their iPods. They’re making invitations and asking friends to shoot photos and video. Used wedding dresses and even used engagement rings can be found on Craigslist and another website called, “I Do, Now I Don’t.” Perhaps the now infamous Bridezilla is one her way to extinction, to be replaced by another creature: The DIY Bride.