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NEW YORK (
MainStreet) -- The engagement ring is on, the date's been set, the venue is selected and now you think you're ready to have a wedding. You're so not.
Just because a couple has decided to share one of the most important moments of their lives with a few dozen or hundred friends doesn't mean they've become professional event planners. In many cases, they're just fortunate to get through the whole experience with finances and sanity intact.
Do you really want an open bar at your wedding? The decision is among the minutiae that can cost brides and grooms a lot of money and much of their sanity.
Couples responding to
TheKnot.com(XOXO - Get Report) and WeddingChannel.com's
Real Wedding Survey last year spent an average of nearly $27,000 on their wedding ceremonies, receptions, engagement rings, attire and everything else surrounding the big day. Of those, 42% went over budget and 16% dodged that disappointment by not setting a budget at all.
"The biggest mistake that every couple makes when they first get engaged is making purchases without having a really solid budget," says Anja Winikka, site editor for TheKnot.com. "Then they're shocked to find out that they've spent all their money and don't have enough for half the things they need. You have to be open and honest about your budget at the beginning of the process."
The unfortunate reality of every wedding day is that problems and unpleasant surprises have a way of cropping up no matter how much you try to beat them back. Even brides who dodge the reality TV drama of shows such as TLC's
Say Yes To The Dress and pick out their gowns without grief can experience heart palpitations when they see the final price tag. Brides paid an average of $1,099 for their wedding gowns alone in 2010 -- the last year for which complete data were available -- but accessories for that dress tacked on another $254. Kim Forrest, editor of
WeddingWire, warns brides that dress alterations can drive the price up even further.
"Brides often focus on the amount their actual wedding gown costs, but they don't always factor in the alterations, which can tack on hundreds of dollars to a gown's final tab," she says. "Sometimes, if a bride purchases a relatively inexpensive gown at a sample sale, the cost of the alterations can come close to or exceed the price of the dress."