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You'd like a big wedding but can't afford it? Don't give up the idea without considering these ways of economizing.

Time of day is crucial in the cost of the reception. Avoid times when guests will expect a full meal. Late afternoon is best. You need only serve snacks, perhaps little sandwiches and wine or champagne punch and the cake.

If possible, have the reception at home or, if it's too small, at the home of a friend or relative. In the summer have a garden wedding if the yard's a good size. Next most economical is a rented hall, without catering services. Tables, cloths, chairs, china, glasses, etc. may all be rented at modest cost or paper or plastic plates and cups may be used.

Do as much of the preparation as you can -- or ask talented friends and relatives -- and you'll really cut costs. This goes for everything from making the wedding cake to making centerpieces and arranging flowers. If you've a friend who's adept at making party sandwiches, ask her to make them for the reception -- as her wedding gift to you.

Music, too, can be arranged economically. Consider a group from a local high school, a small combo or a single instrumentalist playing a violin, accordion, piano or guitar. Of course, taped music is acceptable.

Engagement parties

Newly engaged? You may want to have an engagement party. This is given by the bride's parents or whomever announces the engagement, never by the parents of the bridegroom to be.

The party usually is a late afternoon or evening affair -- a cocktail party, dinner or open house. If the guest list must be limited, you'll want to give close relatives and older family friends priority. Gifts are usually not given for such parties, and should not be expected. But close friends feel compelled to take one.

If the party is given after the newspaper announcement has been made, no further announcement is necessary. But if there has been no public announcement, the bride's parents may make known the news as they receive guests by introducing them to their daughter's fiance. Or, the engaged couple may stand in an informal receiving line at a large party.

Traditionally, the father of the bride proposes a toast during the party. The future bridegroom then toasts the bride and her parents.

Who pays for what

June brides are already -- and wisely -- beginning to make plans for their weddings and included in the plans comes the usual confusion over who-pays-for-what.

In brief, the bride and/or her family pay for almost everything. However, the following is a detailed breakdown which should settle any questions that arise.

The bride's side pays for: Wedding invitations, reception cards, response cards, at-home cards (if any), wedding announcements, the bride's wedding dress, clothes and, traditionally, household linens. They also pay for the bridesmaids' bouquets and the bride's gifts to attendants.

If it's a double ring ceremony, the bride pays for the bridegroom's ring. Her family pays for photographs of the wedding party and the wedding, the floral decorations, music and fees for the use of the church or hall for the ceremony. They pay the complete cost of the wedding reception and/or breakfast.

The bridegroom pays for: Engagement and wedding rings for the bride, his wedding gift to the bride, the marriage license, the bride's bouquet, corsages for the two mothers, boutonnieres for himself and his attendants. He pays for his gifts to the best man and ushers, and if it's a formal wedding, for their ties and gloves.

He provides the clergyman's fee and the wedding trip. The bachelor dinner may be given by the bridegroom, the best man, the ushers collectively or not at all. The rehearsal dinner is often given by the bridegroom's parents, but they are not obligated to do so.

On the subject of liquor, we will repeat ourselves that the bride and/or her family pay for almost everything, which includes the beverages for the reception. There seems to be more confusion on this point then on any other in connection with wedding expenses.

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