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Spending on Holy Communion drops to £499 in Northern Ireland

By Rachel Martin

Published 20/06/2016

The average spend on a daughter was £535 this year (picture posed)
The average spend on a daughter was £535 this year (picture posed)
SDLP MLA Nicola Mallon

Parents in Northern Ireland are spending an eye-watering £499 on their child's First Holy Communion, according to new figures.

And while some think the big spend on their child's rite of passage is worth every penny, others have expressed concerns that it's gone too far.

An Ulster Bank survey also found that children received £302 in gifts this year, up from £283 in 2015 - an increase of almost 7%.

And it seems that girls come out on top when it comes to parents' generosity. Parents admitted to spending almost £80 more on girls compared to boys on their First Communion.

The average spend on a daughter was £535 this year.

When it came to spending the money gifted to them, children favoured buying toys over clothes, sports gear and tablets.

However, the bank says that 85% parents plan to save at least some of the money.

Of those who said they planned to save the money, 84% said that they already opened an account for their child, and the remaining 16% said that they are planning to open one.

Parents' spending on the big day was found on average to be down slightly on 2015, at £499 this year, compared to £502 last year.

This year's biggest expenditure was on celebrations, with the party, food and drink costing £209 on average.

Outfits cost £153, with an average £52 extra spent on make-up, fake tan and hair styling.

Businesswoman Julie-Ann Derby, who runs local children's clothing chain Funky Kids, has recently branched into selling First Communion wear.

She said the range had taken off - there were 10 different styles of dresses last year and 35 this year.

Ms Derby said communion dresses start at £140 - but can top £320 depending on the style of dress, shoes and accessories chosen.

"I haven't noticed people spending less. Here they will go all out, with big family barbecues, parties and some will even hire out bouncy castles," she said.

"I do think it's a lot of money but it's what they want and you can't stop them. It's very important for a lot of the girls to have their own dress."

SDLP MLA and former Mayor of Belfast Nichola Mallon, who had her First Holy Communion in 1989, said that the occasion should be about more than just a pretty dress.

She said: "My aunt Evelyn made my dress. It was made of satin and lace and although things were much plainer back then it was very special to me. I was also given a cross and a chain - the chain is broken but I still have the cross.

"I remember being really excited about it and excited to see everyone all dressed up. We went out for a meal afterwards and my family came back to the house.

"I felt very special because we have a very special dress on but we were taught that the most important part of the day was that it was a sacrament.

"Yes, we were girls wearing beautiful dresses and that was lovely, but the dress wasn't the most important part."

Boxing hero Paddy Barnes said he felt people were spending far too much.

"Mine was years and years ago, we went out for dinner with my family and I got a nice suit but I felt really out of place," he said.

"I was too young to be in a suit. I was in trackies all the time so I felt stupid to be in a suit.

"They should be wearing school uniform at that age - it costs people a lot of money for one day and so many people just go over the top."

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