“I cannot wait to be broke after a few short years of marriage.” –No one ever
A Prelude to Your Wedding Day…
Let’s play a brief game of pretend, shall we? I want you to pretend that you have just inherited $25,000 that you can invest any way you like. For the sake of this exercise, you cannot use the money to pay off any debts or to put a down payment on a house. (Hey, it’s my game and I’m making the rules.)
So, you have your 25k, and you go down the street to the local financial team to tell them about your new found wealth. You ask them, “Do you have any good ideas?”
After filling out some information forms and taking a few risk assessment tests, they come back to you and say, “Ok. We have found something for you. It has a tremendous upside, but I must warn you that it does involve some risk.”
“How much risk?” you ask.
“Well, let’s just say that there is a 41% chance that you could lose every dime.”
Now, be honest with me here—how many of you are done with that conversation? Most people would mentally check out and not even wish to hear about any potential upside. I mean, who wants to risk taking their sweet $25,000 dollar windfall and putting into a financial vehicle that could erase every cent?
Guess what? Millions of American families do it every single day.
Let’s re-frame the story a little, shall we?
According to the website www.divorcerate.org, approximately 41% of first marriages end in divorce. In addition, the website www.theknot.com recently posted a survey that indicates the average cost of a wedding these days is around $25,000.
So, consider this: The average cost of a wedding in runs about 25k, and a solid 41% of first marriages end up in divorce. Now, I already know what you are thinking because I’m not just a keen observer of human behavior when it comes to money—I have jedi-like mind-reading skills. You are thinking, “Yeah, well, that won’t/can’t/will never happen to me.”
And I sincerely hope it doesn’t. However, I have the luxury of looking at weddings through a financial lens, as well as a realistic one. The truth is, I love weddings. I think they are amazing. I enjoy the energy, the positive atmosphere, the food, the dancing–you name it…did I say that I loved the food?
On the other hand, I think people have gone flat out crazy when it comes to putting a wedding together! I cannot get over how expensive some of the “must-haves” are for weddings. Now, I do realize that each couple has their own list of requirements, and since I don’t want to instigate debates about wedding essentials, I’ll simply make an observation or two.
First, getting married in our country has spawned an entire industry of professionals. If there is anything to be gleaned from this post, it’s this–there is truly a wedding industry alive and well in our society. While I am in full support of the entrepreneurial spirit, I also have to wonder if our desire for excess hasn’t created an ever-evolving financial abyss for young couples. We have DJs, photographers, caterers, etc. that largely exist solely on the revenues from their wedding business. The cost of some of these services (*cough wedding photographers *cough) will take your breath away…. No wonder the need for a wedding planner is becoming essential—planning a wedding is like trying to organize a small corporation.
Second, as if you didn’t know, planning a wedding is stressful. Watching bank accounts deplete themselves is stressful. Naturally, these two events happening simultaneously is almost guaranteed to create heartburn. My advice is to create a sensible wedding budget*, and stick to it. Some things may be out of your price range, and that’s ok. It doesn’t matter what your friend’s cousin did at their wedding or what you saw on television last week. It’s ok to be tasteful AND frugal.
*An important first step in the planning of your wedding is for you and your soon-to-be spouse to sit down together, without distraction (that includes parents and/or in-laws) and have an open and honest conversation about what each of you want from your wedding day. Then you must be open and honest about what you can afford. I would encourage you both to be as transparent as possible during this process. Most of our culture leans towards making the wedding day all about the bride, but if you both have to pay the bills, then you both need to get a vote. This should be your decision that you make as a couple–it’s the one of the first major decisions you’ll make in your lifetime together. For future husbands, remember this is a day your wife has likely been dreaming about since she was very little. Be patient and compassionate. For future wives, remember this is a day your husband has most likely NOT been dreaming about since he was little, but I promise you that he does care! He cares about you and making you happy….he just may not be into all of the events, showers, galas, fittings, and showcases that seem to come with getting married. Don’t take it personal–we’re just guys.
Next, consider the opportunity costs of money spent for your wedding. This is something that gets lost on so many young couples and their families. What if, instead of spending so much money for one day, you actually used it for an initial down payment on a house or you paid off some debts? For the majority of families in our country, the mortgage payment is the largest bill of the month. And it comes every single month…as in, the bank doesn’t forget to bill you. So, why not look at making that bill a little more affordable?
In summary, I am not suggesting how you should or should not spend money for your wedding. I’m only suggesting that wedding days are just that–one day. I have seen so many young couples (or their parents) spend an absurd amount of money for this one event, only to be left paying the debts/bills for several years after it’s over. On a personal note, my wife and I decided that the best thing for us—instead of coordinating two families across different states—was to go get married in Jamaica. It was amazing. Looking back, we both had a wonderful experience, and our day was just that—ours. We didn’t have to deal with crazy stress or insane bills. We simply got to enjoy our wedding day (and yes, we did hire a professional photographer). Once we returned, we had a nice gathering for all of our friends and family that weren’t able to be with us for the actual wedding.
What I have found to be the most interesting about our experience is that I have met so many couples that, after hearing our story, tell us that they wish they had done the same thing. They realized that in the end, all they wanted was to be married to each other.
Key Takeaways for You:
- Your wedding is a one time event (we hope)…are you ready to break the bank for one day of your life? Or, would you rather start your marriage on firm financial ground?
- Planning a wedding is going to be stressful. This is also the first of many major financial decisions you’ll be making as a team. It’s important that you (the soon-to-be husband and wife) sit down and be honest about your expectations, concerns, and your thoughts a on budget.
- When you have your budget—stick to it.
- In the end, if the marriage is what’s most important, your wedding day will take care of itself. Don’t let the influence of the outside world be the determining factors for you.