April 6, 2013

Gay or straight, marriage is budgetary challenge

Maine couples cut corners where they can to emphasize things that are important to them.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Andrew McLean and Kyle Bailey are busy planning their wedding, and like most couples who are doing the same, they are finding that money is dictating their preparations.

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Jill Mulkern and Nate Presby of Saco

Provided photo

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Kyle Bailey, left, and Andrew McLean have been planning their wedding since the passage of the same sex marriage law in November of last year. Photographed outside their Gorham home on Friday, March 29, 2013.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

McLean and Bailey, who live in Gorham, say they don't want to break the bank. They have set a budget of about $11,000.

"We don't want to put any (wedding expenses) on a credit card," McLean said. "We want a nice wedding, but we also want to be able to do other stuff, like travel."

They are watching their wedding costs at a time when spending for weddings is on the rise again.

After four years of declining spending, couples are starting to spend more to get married, according to a recent survey by the wedding website TheKnot.com.

The increase comes at an opportune time for Maine, where same-sex marriage became legal on Dec. 29. The survey showed same-sex couples tend to spend slightly more on their weddings than heterosexual couples.

According to the survey, the average wedding in 2012 cost $28,427, up from $27,021 the previous year, including engagement rings but not honeymoons. The amount varied considerably by location. For example, the cost of a wedding in Manhattan averaged $76,678; a wedding in Alaska cost $15,504.

Maine couples have been relatively frugal. The average wedding in the state costs about $10,000 less than the national average.

Jill Mulkern, 25, and her fiance, Nate Presby of Saco, say they have been budget-conscious in planning their wedding for May 2014. They have settled on a total budget of $7,000, with $4,000 of that to pay for the venue, including all the food and decorations.

"We could spend more, but we want to buy a house," Mulkern said. "We're still going to have a wedding we love. We'd rather spend less and not feel guilty about it."

Maine wedding planners and vendors who make their living helping plan others' special days say Maine couples aren't spending any more on their weddings than they have in recent years. The trend here is to spend money on specific things and cut back on the rest.

"The biggest change I've seen is the number of guests," said Katherine Jameson of Portland, who has been a wedding planner for the last 13 years. "It used to be 150 or 200 people invited. Now, it's much smaller. But people are spending more per guest."

Diane York, who has been a Portland-based wedding planner for 10 years, has noticed the shift as well.

"People are decreasing the number of guests and offering a nicer meal or more entertainment," she said. "It's no longer rubber chicken for 200 people that we used to have."

Even if couples are spending less, Maine's legalization of same-sex marriage means more weddings will almost surely be planned in the state.

GAY MARRIAGE DRAWS BUSINESS

This month in Portland, two wedding expos aimed at same-sex couples will put brides and grooms in the same room with florists, wedding cake bakers, jewelers, dress retailers and entertainers.

The first Maine Gay & Lesbian Wedding Expo will be held from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Italian Heritage Center.

Another expo, The Way Weddings Should Be: A Wedding Expo for All Couples, will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 14 at the Holiday Inn by the Bay.

Jill Barkley, who organized The Way Weddings Should Be, decided to start a wedding planning business in response to her own experience. She and her partner visited a vendor who was clearly uncomfortable with the idea of a same-sex wedding.

"That can be upsetting," Barkley said. "Couples have enough to worry about without having to deal with negative experiences."

(Continued on page 2)

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