At bridal show, potential mates learn no matter who pays, weddings aren't cheap

dranii@newsobserver.comJuly 21, 2013 

— Shnita Adams showed up Sunday at Intimate Bridal Affair, which featured more than a dozen local businesses that offer wedding-related products and services, looking for some “affordable ideas.”

Adams, 34, of Raleigh, and her fiancée are paying for much of the wedding themselves – with an assist from her parents – and she’s promised herself they won’t go into debt in the process.

“I have student loans,” said Adams, who’s assistant director of a child care center. “That’s enough.”

The aim of Sunday’s event was to show brides how they can make their day extra special while giving the businesses the opportunity to present themselves as the ones best able to implement that special plan. Indeed, the event itself was held at the Wakefield Wine Cellar, which is available for small weddings, bridal showers and rehearsal dinners.

The event included four table-sized exhibits of theme weddings – from a “princess royalty” with plenty of bling to a “neon bright” wedding ruled by hues of hot pink and lemon yellow. The tableaus were completed by volunteer models dressed as a bride and groom whose attire matched the theme. Think rhinestone-studded dress and tiara for the princess version.

About 140 people signed up in advance for the free event; about 80 attended.

Many of the attendees talked about having a strict budget. The challenge they face is that there are so many elements that can go into a wedding – the venue, the food and beverages, the flowers, the photography, the cake, the invitations and many more. Moreover, the sky’s the limit on how elaborate each of them can be, so the cost can quickly add up.

Below is a sampling of the prices charged by some of the vendors at Sunday’s event:

•  Wedding cakes from Audra’s Cakes & Creations in Raleigh start at $300 for a small cake. Tiered cakes start at $425 and can exceed $1,000, “depending on what the couple wants,” said owner Audra George.

Among the treats she displayed Sunday was a two-tiered, four-layer cake in the popular ombre style – that is, the icing and decorations go from light at the top to dark at the bottom. This particular cake featured white flowers with peach centers at the top and a vivid orange at the base.

“People like the look of it,” George said. “Very modern.”

•  Makeup artist Kate Alexander, who’s also a hair stylist at The Geoffrey James Salon in Raleigh, will come to your (local) wedding venue and do the makeup for the bride and five others – six people is the minimum – for $415. She also recommends a “trial” makeup session with the bride before the wedding for $50.

“You don’t want them to be shocked on their wedding day,” Alexander said.

Alexander has made up more than 50 brides to date but not a single groom.

•  Still wedding photos from Silver Feather Studios of Burlington start at $2,000. Cinematography also starts at $2,000.

•  A limousine from Raleigh-based Blue Diamond Worldwide Transportation that seats eight to 10 people costs $432 for four hours. Additional hours cost $108.

“We say it seats eight adults comfortably,” said Linda Sellers of Blue Diamond. “It’s legal for 10 if you want to get to know each other really well.”

The wedding industry is not recession-proof.

Maureen Riley, a special events consultant with Party Reflections in Raleigh – which will rent you tables, chairs, linens, place settings, tents, etc. for your special day – is seeing wedding budgets rising along with the economy.

But during the recession, she noted, “A lot of brides were either downsizing or postponing entirely until they thought the economy was going to get better.”

Wedding planner Shanique Coleman of Shanique Coleman Weddings in Raleigh estimated that about 40 percent of the weddings she handles are funded totally by the happy couple. The remainder are either paid for solely by the parents – almost always the parents of the bride – or a combination of the parents and the couple.

Michelle Hemmer, 26, of Wilson, feels fortunate that her parents are willing to foot the bill for her upcoming wedding.

“It doesn’t happen these days,” said Hemmer, assistant director of financial aid at William Peace University, who attended Sunday’s event with two of her friends.

Hemmer said she and her parents haven’t discussed a wedding budget yet, but “we know it’s going to be expensive.”

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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