Thursday, April 03, 2008

Your Big Fat Foolish Wedding

A column I occasionally read in the Washington Post is Michelle Singletary's "The Color Of Money." The Color of Money is a personal finance advice column and like many financial advisers in the public eye she gives pretty hard hitting advice about taking care of your obligations before your desires.

Last month she had a column entitled Your Big Fat Foolish Wedding. The basic gist of the article is "don't go into debt for a party" and if that means cutting your giant guest list or going for the CostCo cake then so be it.

Since Michelle is pretty hardhitting she gave a checklist of things you need to have before you can really justify spending a lot of money on a wedding. She says if you can't check each of these boxes then you need to rethink your reception/honeymoon plans . Here it is below....how many of these boxes can you check?

1) You have three to six months of living expenses saved up

2) You have a life-happens fund. This fund is used for everyday expenses, such as car repairs.

3) You both are saving for retirement.

4) Neither of you has credit card or student loan debt.

5) If you have children, there are college funds for each in place.

To be perfectly honest I can't check all those boxes. Both Fiance and I still have student loans and while we do have rainy day funds I'm not sure it adds up to six months worth.
That being said...even though my wedding is in the so-called "average" price range of a D.C. wedding I'm happy we aren't going into debt to have it even though we are paying for it ourselves.

I think the comments on her article are also pretty interesting. The only thing I dislike about some of the comments, though, is the implication that the cost of a wedding has anything to do with how long a marriage lasts.

People love to say "oh I went to this lavish wedding and now they are divorced" or "we had our wedding on a farm and I picked my own bouquet from a field of wild flowers and we've been married 35 yrs." The reality is that lavish doesn't mean you aren't made for each other and modest doesn't mean you're destined to be together forever. And vice versa.

So can you check all those boxes? Does that change your thoughts on how much you are spending for your reception?


Blogger Andrea said...

What a great article! Mr. Bowie and I definitely can't check the majority of those boxes but we're well on our way and we started on the path long before we were engaged and planning the wedding. As for our wedding, I think we came in with our actual budget in the 10-15K range. Certainly we didn't have a wedding that was fit to be printed in the top 10 best weddings in The Knot magazine that was super lush and posh but, honestly, it was really a day that ended up being very personal to us. Money is what you make of it. People very easily get caught up in the whole idea of the "wedding machine" and it does not have to be that way! And I agree with you that the actual monetary value of a wedding does NOT have to equate to the potential success and longevity of a marriage. That's just unfair.

Thursday, April 03, 2008 6:12:00 PM  
Blogger X said...

I totally agree. We can't check all of those boxes either, but we're also not going into debt for our mid-range wedding nor are we dipping into our savings. We simply adjusted our budget to fit our finances and what we could save and bring together to pay for it.

All I have to say is that the day I birth a daughter, not only will she have a college fund, she'll have a "wedding jar" because by the time it's time for her wedding the average cost will have skyrocketed and we'll have to pay triple what we payed for our own!

Thursday, April 03, 2008 6:19:00 PM  
Blogger E @ Oh! Apostrophe said...

If I waited to get married until my student loans were paid off I'd be 40.

Thursday, April 03, 2008 9:32:00 PM  
Blogger EthidiumBromide said...

I think that a lot of those are only practical if you're getting married later in life. My fiance and I are fairly young -- 24 and 25 -- and we're still students. We both went to GW undergrad (read: he has lots of loans) and now we're both at Georgetown -- he'll be graduating with a medical degree next month (read: another $200K in loans) and I'm working towards my Ph.D. (read: no debt but barely making a liveable income). We're putting all of our savings towards our wedding, but I don't see a problem with it. We are not going into debt, and yes this depletes the "emergency" fund and we don't have retirement savings yet (obviously, as we're both students), BUT considering the amount of education we each have, we know we will do very well for ourselves in the future. I think that there is a big difference between someone in a low paying job with minimal room for improvement and someone who is currently $230K in debt but will be making $300K per year after residency.
I also view a wedding as a "once-in-a-lifetime" event. Yes, there are divorces, but I'm certainly not going into this wedding expecting one. We don't drive fancy cars (in fact, I don't even own one), we don't splurge on material goods, so what is wrong with us spending everything on the wedding? Plenty of my own friends think it's absurd to spend so much on our wedding/honeymoon (we're taking a lavish honeymoon, because we'll be living apart for 2-3 years after the wedding), but they have gigantic car leases on their luxury cars and credit card debt for their big screen TV and new couch. Isn't that a bit like the pot calling the kettle black?

Thursday, April 03, 2008 10:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can check all of them off except for students loans, and I'm keeping my wedding budget (including reception/dinner) within $5,000. But her article makes me still feel guilty, for spending "so much" instead of putting it to the debt. Sigh.

Friday, April 04, 2008 8:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm all about not going into debt for your wedding and although we can't check off all of those boxes, my FH and I both work for ourselves and therefore it's easy for us to pick up the pace for a while to earn extra money for the wedding. It's really all about priorities. If your wedding is a big priority right now, then so be it. It is a once-in-a-lifetime thing (hopefully) so why not do it up? Not that it should be at the expense of the rest of your life but there are ways to make it work.

Sunday, April 06, 2008 1:13:00 PM  

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