Friday 21 October 2016

No need to break the bank for your child's Communion

Siobhan O'Neill White

Published 07/04/2016 | 02:30

Some First Communions have evolved into lavish affairs Stock photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto
Some First Communions have evolved into lavish affairs Stock photo: Getty Images / iStockphoto

Communions used to be a simple affair. Back in the 1980s, when I made mine, I got a simple white dress, rosary beads and a prayer book, and my classmates and I were most excited to see what Communion really tasted like.

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Despite the new purity of our souls and the piety of the occasion, let's just say we were bitterly disappointed with the taste - the universal verdict was that it was far too much like cardboard.

After the Mass, parents clambered to get a photo with the bishop, then we went for dinner in our local restaurant, visited a few relatives and were home by teatime.

Fast forward to today and Communions have become big business.

Bouncy castles, photographers, expensive dresses, chocolate fountains and lavish parties are making Communions a very costly event for families, with the average spend coming in at almost €800.

Some parents feel under pressure to put on a big spread and find themselves taking out 'Communion loans' (Yes, they're real!).

But if you cannot afford to borrow for the day, or like us, simply don't want to put yourself into debt for the occasion, there are ways to cut down the cost while still making it a great day.

Dressing the child is a big part of the day. There is a plethora of choices for girls' dresses with prices varying from €15 in charity shops, €25-30 in TK Maxx and Aldi, €55-150 in Dunnes Stores, right up to €1,000 in boutiques.

I have spoken with mums who put themselves into debt spending hundreds on dresses for their daughters and I'm not sure the children really cared about the cost. Our daughter April, is making her Communion this year and we got her dress, gloves, tiara, veil, tights and bag for €140 in Alexanders Bridal communion sale. Her rosary beads, cardigan and umbrella have been passed down from her big sister. She did not care about the prices, she is happy and we're not broke so it's win-win.

Boys wearing smart casual can get dressed from head to toe for around €30-40 in Penneys. If you do want a suit for your son, shop around. They can cost from €100-€1,100.

Some mums feel pressure to buy expensive outfits or even hire dresses for themselves but it's easy to can pick up a dress or outfit for under €60. The Ilac Shopping Centre, in Dublin, is very good for bargains and I got my own outfit for €100 in Rouge Boutique, Laurence Shopping Centre, Drogheda.

After the service, most families go to the school for tea and coffee and the children can play with their friends for a while.

Then families either go out to dinner or back to their house for a party. If having people to the house, getting help with the food is a great idea. You can ask grandparents or godparents to buy a cake for the day to take that cost off you. And again, no need to spend a fortune on a cake. Local bakeries and delis are great.

Instead of bouncy castles, other options like the vintage ice cream bike from allow children to have fun making their own ice creams. Another idea is dry clay modelling parties from The clay is dry, so does not transfer colour onto clothes, so Communion outfits stay clean!

It's difficult to know how much to put in cards for the Communion child so it's good to have a conversation with family and friends about this. There was a time when people were putting €50 in cards for friends' children. This puts pressure on parents to reciprocate the same amount and creates a lot of expense for people attending Communions. We agreed with our close friends not to put over €20 in Communion/Confirmation cards.

And thankfully, our school has a policy of no cards to be exchanged between class-mates. If your school does not have this policy yet, you can suggest it. It makes the day a little easier for parents.

On the day, you do not have to wear fake tan or false nails. My daughter and I will get our hair done, though. At €14 for a blowdry with Curley Cuts (who come to your house!), that's a small spend we can definitely allow for.

Looking back at photos from my own Communion, I wish my mother had gotten her and my hair done. That's one spend I think most women should splurge on!

Irish Independent

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