Families splashing out average £729 to celebrate child's First Holy Communion
The cost of First Holy Communion has hit a seven-year high in Northern Ireland - with the average bill in 2019 soaring to £729.
That's a hike of £160 compared to 2018 and it shows just how much parents here are prepared to pay to get their child ready for the big day.
Ulster Bank's annual survey found that it's far from cheap when you add up the cost of the dresses, family outfits, parties, food and drink, make-up and visits to the hairdresser.
The Belfast Telegraph spoke to the mothers of two children who made their First Holy Communion earlier this year and we can reveal their combined spend for that one day was a staggering £1,630.
Demi Payne (26) spent an eye-watering £1,000 getting daughter Brooklyn ceremony-ready, while Yvonne Arnfield (31) revealed it cost £630 to kit out son Tyler Lee Mawhinney for the occasion.
Mrs Payne told of the pressure felt by many parents, saying "it felt like a competition".
She added: "At some of the after-parties, people even had hot tubs and obstacle courses!"
According to the statistics, just under 40% of the total amount spent by families went towards marking the occasion, with an average of £280 going on parties, celebrations and food and drink.
Children's outfits accounted for close to 30% of the total budget, while the rest was spent on clothes for family (£175), children's entertainment (£107) and hair and make-up (£44).
Unsurprisingly, it's more expensive - £155 more to be exact - for parents of daughters than those with sons, with the average spend on a girl's First Holy Communion coming to £807.
But, according to Ulster Bank, the pomp and ceremony of the boys' event will still set mums and dads back a whopping £652.
Parents can, however, take comfort from the fact that the value of gifts to their little loved ones from family and friends has also risen by £17 to £345 since last year - and it's now the second highest amount gifted since the survey began in 2012.
While spending for survey respondents was up overall on 2018 figures, costs for clothing other family members and the amount spent on grooming were both marginally lower than in previous years, down by 5% and 19% respectively. Most families financed their child's special day themselves (98%), with less than a fifth receiving support from friends or family.
Just 2% of families of surveyed claimed to have taken out a loan to meet the costs of celebrations.
Referring to the significant increase in the total costs associated with First Communion celebrations, Terry Robb, head of personal banking at Ulster Bank, urged families not to put themselves under financial strain or get carried away with their spending.
"We offer a range of services to help individuals and families stay in control of their spending," he said.
"Anyone can access a free financial health check which can help customers plan for bigger moments in life, such as a child's First Holy Communion, and ensure these celebrations don't add too much of a financial burden to families."
'I felt there was a lot of pressure on us'
Full-time mum Demi Payne (26), from Limavady, said she and boyfriend Christopher McIvor (28) spent "around £1,000" on their eight-year-old daughter Brooklyn's First Holy Communion.
The service took place in Christ The King Chapel on May 18 in the Co Londonderry town.
The couple have two other children - Freddy, who's three, and five-year-old Cayden.
Demi said: "I spent what I could afford to try and give Brooklyn the best possible day. To be honest, I felt like there was a lot of pressure on us. It felt like a competition. It was almost like getting ready for a mini wedding. At some of the after-parties, people even had hot tubs and obstacle courses!"
Demi said they spent £370 on Brooklyn's outfit, including the dress, shoes and bag, and a further £15 on her hair and £10 on having her nails done.
"I spent £50 on my own outfit and £16.99 on some new shoes but I tried to budget and I reused an old handbag and jewellery," she said.
"But I know mums who went to bridal shops and spent £500 on their dress alone, before going on to buy shoes etc."
Demi said she believes it's a lot of money for just one day.
"You're only going to do it once so that's why I think people just go really over the top," she continued.
"But, in my opinion, I don't really think it's worth it for an hour in a chapel."
'You can budget and still have a great day'
Limavady delicatessen worker Yvonne Arnfield (31) said she and barman husband Steven Tyler (31) spent "around £630" on getting their son Tyler (8) ready for communion.
The ceremony was held in Christ The King Chapel on May 18.
The couple attended the service with their now 13-week-old baby Lucas Tyler and brother Logan Arnfield (2).
Yvonne said: "I didn't feel any financial pressure because I had my family and friends to help out.
"I'm a new mum. We all know how expensive babies can be, so if I hadn't had their support it would've been a different story.
"Money was tight after the baby; I know it would've taken months to make sure everything was paid otherwise."
Yvonne said she spent £100 on herself and £80 on Tyler's suit and shoes.
"I spent £60 on my hair and make-up and £40 on my outfit," she added.
The family went for a meal in Limavady after the ceremony, which cost £360 for 16 adults, four kids and two babies.
Yvonne also hired a bouncy castle for the weekend, which cost £90.
"For one day I don't think it's too expensive," she said. "You can budget and still have a great day. I think allowing the children to wear their own clothes rather than, for example, a school uniform, makes them feel special."
INTERVIEWS BY CHELSIE KEALEY