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Brides-to-be explore their fantasies at North Country Bridal Expo

ALTONA - What little girl hasn't dreamt of her fairy tale wedding, her chance to be Cinderella for a day?

Today's brides may still want the fantasy, but they're more savvy, more informed and more budget-conscious. They may want the fantasy, but they want it on their own terms. At the North Country Bridal Expo 2008, held at the Rainbow Wedding and Banquet Hall Jan. 27, future brides had the opportunity to see all the North Country has to offer them. From chocolate fountains to coffee bars, to pamper parties to dragon-theme showers, vendors are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that each wedding is unique and memorable.

According to wedding planner and event organizer Sherry Crouse of A Reflection of You, the average North Country wedding now costs about $10,000, still well below the national average of $28,800. She recommended brides make a budget with which they feel comfortable.

"It doesn't have to be expensive to be elegant," she said. "Real expensive weddings don't have more fun! "

In her seven years as a wedding planner, she has seen a number of trends starting to catch on in the North Country. Amongst those, has seen more theme weddings. For one hockey fanatic, she recently created a hockey stick arch for the couple to walk through. Another trend is the honeymoon registry, particularly for established couples who may not need all the household items of a couple just starting out. Instead, guests can sponsor activities for the couple to enjoy on their honeymoon a horseback ride on the beach, a sunset picnic or a massage, for instance.

Crouse is also happy to see second marriages being celebrated. In the past, second weddings tended to be quiet affairs, but now many are enjoying the festivities typically reserved for first-time brides. One area where Crouse encourages brides not to skimp is their photographers.

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