To have and to hold and to pay: As Valentine's Day inspires more lovers to thoughts of marriage, the cost of a wedding keeps climbing

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THE PRICE of getting married has doubled in the last five years, according to Brides & Setting Up Home magazine, which should know about these things.

The going rate, if you plan to have a white church wedding with reception in a marquee for 150 people, could cost anything between pounds 8,000 and pounds 15,000.

One way to reduce costs, apart from marrying in a register office with two witnesses and no reception, is to use your friends and contacts as much as possible.

Lucy Clunie, an advertising executive for the estate agents Knight Frank & Rutley, married Peter Clunie in August 1992 in Tackley, Oxfordshire. Although Mrs Clunie does not know the exact amount they saved, she says: 'I was the last daughter of three to get married, and I know my father wanted to keep costs down as much as possible.

'We had 150 people to the wedding, and a reception and party afterwards in a marquee at my parents' home. We used the local village choir, which I don't think cost us anything, and a friend of mine from university, Joanna Hunt Davis, who has a beautiful alto voice, sang How Changed the Visit by Handel while we signed the register. She did that for free.

'We used the same marquee company as my sisters, so we got a discount for that. The caterer for my father's old college at Oxford did all the food, with her daughter helping and husband serving the drinks.

'I wore my mother's wedding dress, as had my two sisters. It was a beautiful Victorian dress in satin and lace, and a lady in the village altered it for me for a couple of pounds. I think it is in mothballs now for my sister's eldest daughter.'

Lucy made her going-away outfit - a strapless, short dress with a jacket which doubled as her party dress in the evening. The former head of public relations at her office made her hat, for which she provided the material. The cake was made locally, but Lucy and her mother decorated it.

The wife of their former gardener helped Lucy with the marquee flowers.

'I made my husband's and best-man's waistcoats, and Peter wore a hand-me-down morning coat. As for the honeymoon, the only thing we paid for was the petrol. We borrowed my mother's holiday cottage in Cornwall for a week.'

Jacqueline Llewelyn, the author of Debrett's Wedding Guide and editor of You and Your Wedding, will arrange anyone's wedding for them for a fee. 'It is the reception that costs the money. Stand-up food is always much cheaper, but if you are sitting, then a buffet can cost more than a set meal. And people always forget about the hire of cutlery and equipment, which can be double the catering costs,' she says.

'People's standards have risen so much in the last few years. I have done fabulous weddings for under pounds 5,000, and ones for several hundred thousands. It just depends on what they want.'

So much is involved in arranging a wedding, not least buying the rings (pounds 500), stationery and postage (pounds 200) and clothes. A wedding dress can cost anything from pounds 500 to pounds 2,000; hire of groom's outfit is around pounds 63; and bridesmaids' dresses cost another pounds 300.

And then there are all the other extras. Just paying for the publication of banns, marriage service and Certificate of Marriage comes to pounds 106. The organist in the church, choir, bell-ringers and administration add up to another pounds 200 or so. .

A marquee can cost anything from pounds 300 to pounds 3,000; the cake can be pounds 165; flowers could come to pounds 300. Photography - both pictures and video are now required by many couples - can ring up a total of pounds 400. Transport to and from the church could be another pounds 200.

One of the smallest expenditures for a wedding is the insurance. For only pounds 45, Cornhill Insurance, for example, will cover you for cancellation for reasons beyond your control (changing your mind is not valid), the retaking of photographs, damaged wedding attire and loss of or damage to wedding presents and rings. For an extra pounds 50 you can cover damage to a marquee.

(Photograph omitted)