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2:42 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Wedding day disasters: What to watch out for

With a wedding easily costing upwards of $30,000, every couple wants their wedding day to be perfect, and to avoid a ballroom brawl between the father of the bride's new girlfriend and the groom's parents. Today, the norm is not a Ward and June Cleaver wedding.

What can go wrong?

Here is an example: the financially well-off father of the bride slips $2,000 into his inside coat pocket, and plans to pay out tips with that money at the close of the evening. He leaves the coat on his chair and discovers the money is missing when the festivities end. Later, the wedding video reveals that the father of the groom stole the money.

"There's no etiquette chapter on that one," remarked Hazel Bowman, owner of Celebrations by Bowman and publisher of PrescottWeddings.com.

However, brides-to-be typically tackle five key stress-makers and mistakes when planning their wedding.

- "Number 5," began Bowman. "Thinking you're going to lose a dress size or two to fit into that 'perfect' dress. The bride-to-be will be attending calorie-laden parties and showers. She should be enjoying herself. Get a dress that fits. You can always take it in if you do lose a dress size."

- Number 4 on the list is about setting a budget first and then determining the number of guests. "Never do it in this order," Bowman stressed. "If you have to get married in the ballroom of the Hassyampa Inn and have prime rib for dinner and shrimp cocktail appetizer, your budget may only allow 50 people."

The reception cost is typically 50 percent of the budget. "If you can stick to immediately family, that's one thing, but when you get into the extended family, siblings, step-children and Uncle Harry, it becomes more problematic," she added.

It is perfectly appropriate to have just cake and punch at a wedding reception. "We're the ones who decide to keep up with the Jones', but there are lots of options with budgets outside of catering," Bowman said. "Get sandwiches at the local deli."

- Mistake number 3 is to not lock in prices as soon as you can. "Lock in quotes," she stressed. "I don't know anything that has gone down in price. A big problem is getting a quote that is exclusive of gratuity and tax. For example, if the hotel dinner is $20 a plate and you have 100 people, that is $2,000. When you add on tax, gratuity, and tax on the gratuity, it adds about $560 to that original $2,000. Get an inclusive quote, otherwise you will experience sticker shock."

- Mistake number 2 is thinking that you can say or do whatever you want, because you are the bride and it is your day. "After a wedding, we have what we call a marriage," Bowman emphasized. "All those people you may have insulted and have hurt feelings - well, you're going to be bumping into them on holidays and get-togethers."

Bowman has noticed that most of the tension is between mothers and daughters. "I have to explain etiquette, but we do run into emotional and financial blackmail," she said. "I've heard, 'I will not be at your wedding,' or 'I will not pay unless you do it the way I'm telling you' and many times the bride ends up saying, 'We will pay for it ourselves.' I think the bride should be able to have her preferences and show her personality."

- The biggest mistake of all is not immediately writing and mailing thank you notes for the engagement, shower and wedding gifts, in addition to thanking the hostess(es). "It is critical to understand that people still expect a hand-written thank you note," Bowman said. "It creates hard feelings if you don't, and it is rude. And you don't have up to a year to send it out - it should be no later than three weeks. 'Please' and 'thank you' will serve you well, especially at your wedding."