The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland says the primary
focus of First Holy Communion is a child receiving the
body of Christ for the first time. It's a ritual that represents
an important milestone in the spiritual life of that child.
But hang on. What about the dress, the bouncy castle, the fairy
cakes and the money many children collect? Not to mention a bit of a knees-up for the adults?
The truth is that these days Communion is really a mix of both. And sometimes (not to everyone's liking) the emphasis is on the party element rather than the sacred. So much so, that last October, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, launched new Dublin Archdiocese policy guidelines on the sacrament, stressing that parishes should work to ensure that First Communion doesn't involve extravagant expense.
It's the expense of the day that worries many families. No one wants to deprive their son or daughter of a celebration, especially when everyone else is dressed up to the nines and partying. But it can be a problem especially when money is tight.
So the question is, can you organize a communion and party on a budget? As well as the tips below, do check out our Communion Day calculator
Last year, the Ulster Bank and EBS estimated parents spent between ¤500 and ¤744 on their child's First Holy Communion. That was down from ¤1,000 in the Ireland's boom years, but it's still a huge amount. That's an average of ¤179 for the child's outfit and accessories; ¤176 on clothing for the rest of the family and ¤303 for food and drink. Let's face it: few have that much spare cash to spend on a one-day event. So either way, you can definitely do better with a well planned budget.
Step 1: How much can I afford to spend?
Before you start imagining dresses or castles, find out how much you as a family can afford. You'll know this by consulting your household budget (you do have one, right?). You'll see how much money comes into the house every week or month and how much goes out, whether that's on groceries, utilities or social costs.
Some of what is left over can potentially go towards your child's First Holy Communion Day. But don't be pressurised by others expectations or neighbours 'putting on the Ritz'. More and more parents are making a realistic Communion Day plan in these recessionary times. You'll be amazed how the notion of affordability versus extravagance catches on.
Step 2: How much do I want to spend?
The next step is to find out how much you'll need to spend on your little ones' big day. Our handy Communion Calculator will help. Detail all the expenses from the dress to veil, rosette to bow tie. And if you plan crisps and sandwiches, buns and a karaoke machine, include them too. Chances are you'll end up gasping at the total. That's okay, there's no need to panic. The nature of any budget is that it requires constant revision, and that leads us to step 3.
Step 3: Revise your budget.
It may be that what you can afford to spend and what you've calculated the costs to be don't match up. This is when you have to get tough. Pare back the Communion spend to the really important elements. Keep doing that until the money you have and the amount you want to spend are equal. Children and other family members only expect what they are led to expect. Being in good company is the best part of any day.
Some schools band together to throw a joint 'after-Communion' party with all families paying the same, reasonable fee towards the cost. Sharing or swapping Communion outfits with other school classes, friends, neighbours and family members (they've often only been worn only once after all) can also mean savings.
Hopefully now you'll have some money to put towards your Communion budget and you'll want to make that stretch as far as it can. You deserve to get the best offers out there, and this is about embracing savvy consumer shopping by keeping your eyes and ears open and by being creative.
The most important thing about your child's Communion Day is the love of friends and family, and that doesn't cost a thing...