11 ways to cut your Communion spend
It's easy to get carried away making sure everyone looks their best and throwing a huge party for friends and family. But don't break the bank, says Aideen Sheehan
More than 50,000 children will march up the aisle this May to make their First Holy Communion.
It's one of the most cherished childhood rites of passage but it's also one that has become increasingly elaborate and can be a huge cost burden on parents.
Families spent an average of €764 each on First Communions last year, according to Ulster Bank's annual survey.
It found that spending on the child's outfit came in at €171 on average, while outfits for other family members came in at €196. Parents of girls also typically spent €46 on hair and makeup for them.
For the party including all food and drink, the average spending was €334, while for children's entertainment the typical price tag was €123.
But though these amounts were the average reported, many parents managed to give their child a very special day without breaking the bank by keeping it simple.
Laura Haugh of parenting site Mummypages.ie said Communion was a very special time for families and they got a huge numbers of questions from mothers about preparing for their child's big days, ranging from where to buy an affordable child's dress or suit to advice on the best lunch, party or activity ideas.
"However, at this time we like to remind our mums that while it can be very easy to get carried away, a good idea is to set a budget and stick to it. Remember, this is just one day in a long list of special days to be celebrated in your child's life," she said.
We looked at how to make the day special without breaking the bank.
1. Communion dresses
Communion dresses don't have to cost the earth. Dunnes Stores has a range of gorgeous Paul Costelloe gowns starting from €55 with veils from €16 and gloves and other accessories from €10.
TK Maxx meanwhile has Communion dresses starting from €19.99, Debenhams has RJR John Rocha Communion dresses from €85.50 while for boys it has John Rocha jackets for €57.50 and trousers from €28.80, and if you keep an eye on their website they frequently offer discounts on these. Aldi will not be stocking Communion dresses this year.
2. Communion outfits
Communion outfits are usually worn just once so it makes perfect sense to accept one from a friend or relative, or buy one online from websites such as Ebay or donedeal.ie. The same applies to girls' shoes which are usually worn just once, while for boys go for a style they'll wear again rather than anything too formal.
3. Charity shops
Charity shops are a great source of occasion wear and many children get an extra kick out of knowing they're supporting impoverished families at home or abroad with their purchase.
Barnardos is selling new Communion dresses at its stores which range in price from €30-€80. Oxfam said it has sold quite a number of dresses this year, and has a limited supply of dresses remaining at its George's St Store in Dublin City Centre so it may be worth ringing to check before you go there. Some of its stock is second-hand but in perfect condition priced from €15 while it also has new dresses for €25. The shop also has some Communion shoes on sale with new pairs priced between €5 to €9.
4. Tiaras and veils?
Instead of buying tiaras and veils which will never be worn again from a specialist shop, see if you've anything left over from your own wedding that could be used or borrow from someone else. High street shops like Claire's Accessories or Penneys often have pretty hair ornaments that will do the trick.
5. The question on make-up
Eight-year-old girls look much nicer without makeup and you don't want skin or eye irritations on the day, so don't bother with false tan, eyelashes or professional makeup. Overly fancy upstyles are also not necessary, as you can style hair nicely at home, especially with the help of a bit of practice following YouTube videos. Or rope in a cousin or neighbour to help out - teenage girls are often great at styling and for the Communion girl just being made a fuss of is enough of a thrill.
Self Cater It's cheaper than a hotel or restaurant and the kids will probably have more fun than being couped up at a table for hours.
A couple of easy dishes like lasagna or chicken curry that you can prepare the day before and heat up, with plenty of garlic bread always hit the spot. Or just go with sandwiches and cake. If you're intimidated by serving up everything yourself, shop around for a good deal from a catering company, many of which will accept staged payments so you can spread the expense.
7. Any offers of help
Accept offers of help from guests to take the pressure off yourself and don't be afraid to ask if you find it stressful to manage all the catering as everyone pitching in leads to a less-formal atmosphere. Borrow chairs or garden furniture from neighbours - most are delighted to help.
Don't splurge on drink It's a kid's daytime party and at least half the adults will be driving while all most others will want is a glass of wine with their food. Some guests will bring a bottle as a gift anyway so don't feel you have to stock up with large quantities of pricey drink you'll be left with - many parents report overspending on wine and beer before finding guests are more interested in drinking mineral water or coffee.
It's a good idea to agree a class policy with other parents of not giving money to each others' kids - families have enough expenses already and most will be relieved to have a sensible common approach. If you do feel you want to give something to special friends then €5 is plenty.
10. Day Out
Day out Instead of a party some families plan a special outing instead which kids love particularly if they get to choose the destination themselves. The zoo is a popular choice as are Fota Wildlife Park, Tayto Park or Airfield Farm. Some venues offer discount rates online or you could search deals websites for special offers or use Tesco vouchers to cut the cost.
Don't even consider hiring a special car to transport your little one to and from the church. It's a complete waste of money for a child. Give your own one a clean instead, making sure to vacuum the seats to avoid any stains getting on the communion child's outfit.