In Your Corner: Weddings cost more with HST

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It was bound to happen. After six years in a committed relationship, we’ve decided to tie the knot. Marriage is a fine institution, and my fiancé and I are pretty excited about it.

In this day and age, weddings can be whatever you want. Eloping Star Trek-style in Vegas, a Caribbean getaway, small backyard gathering, traditional church vows — whatever suits the couple, it can be done. My fiancé and I chose a Kootenay park wedding. It definitely suits us.

For the feast, we wanted everything to be locally grown and/or produced. And if it wasn’t within 100 miles, then from British Columbia. Eating locally isn’t difficult, but it does require a certain level of commitment to make it happen — an ideal concept for a wedding feast. Luckily, we live in the Kootenays, with an incredible agricultural variety in the Creston Valley and throughout the region.

Since the food system isn’t built to promote local food, we’ve shifted our thinking and sometimes our points of purchase. Buying directly from farmers is quite empowering for a consumer. Additionally, our fantastic caterer will tell you that working with them to come up with delectable creations is loads of fun. To be sure, going local requires a bit of work, but it is worth it! When food has fewer Air Miles points, it tastes better and is more nutritious.

Although local food travels less, therefore using less fuel, it doesn’t cost less. In fact, going local can cost more. Add that to any wedding budget and couples can be tempted to abandon local food.

I’ll admit, we grappled with this. Weddings are costly as it is. And since we’re getting married before the HST referendum ballots are counted, we’re adding another seven per cent to some of the largest wedding budget items, namely food and catering. This isn’t just a few pennies extra, but hundreds of dollars, if not thousands when all the bills are paid.

When I speak with other young couples putting together their wedding plans, they ask me about my local wedding feast. Everyone loves the idea, but they are hesitant about the extra cost. Add the HST to that, and they often find themselves unable to make it happen. It’s a frustrating scenario. Here we have people eager to support local farmers as they get hitched, but that seven per cent extra the HST adds to weddings is just enough to keep them from doing it.

Without a doubt, if we have less disposable income in our pockets, our choices become more limited, and it often means we can’t afford to support activities that may cost more but also have greater benefit to our communities — like buying local. No amount of paperwork efficiency or corporate tax credits will make up for the long-term loss of customers, as has been proven in other jurisdictions with growing wealth gaps (like B.C.) and a tax like the HST.

As you can tell, the HST has put a damper on our wedding. Not only are we paying more so the big corporations can pay less, but we have to take out a loan to afford it. That means interest on top of a tax, paid directly to the banks. It is frustrating.

On a positive note, I am getting married and that is very exciting!

Michelle Mungall is the MLA for the Nelson-Creston provincial riding.