Is Your Wedding Your Top Financial Goal?
Dear Readers: While there's a lot of talk about how millennials are creating their own wedding traditions -- from cotton candy bouquets to movie-themed ceremonies -- there's one thing that seems to be a constant: the high cost. According to The Knot 2018 Real Weddings Study, the national average for a wedding (without the honeymoon) is now $33,931. (That's more than double what it's estimated to have cost in 1990.) Granted, costs can vary dramatically across the country, and these numbers may be a bit skewed because of a small number of extraordinarily expensive weddings, but unless a couple chooses to elope -- and apparently, elopement ceremonies are on the rise -- somebody has to pick up today's very significant tab.
Traditionally, the bride's parents would foot most of the bill, but that tradition is also changing as couples wait longer to get married and take charge of the planning as well as the payment. So before a couple deals with the everyday financials of married life, they can be faced with the enormous financial challenge of covering the wedding itself.
Of course, as somewhat of a romantic myself, I understand completely the desire to make your wedding day a lovely, lasting memory. But I'm also a financial planner and can't help but look at the "what and why" of making this type of large investment. So bear with me as I bring up some practical issues to help you put your wedding plans in perspective.
A Question of Values
Before we get into the money aspect, I'd first suggest thinking about what's really important to you. There's often a lot of social pressure to have a certain type of wedding. From bachelor and bachelorette weekends to having a large wedding party and a lavish reception, there's a certain tendency for wedding one-upmanship. But it's your celebration, and it should reflect who you are. Even if you can afford the equivalent of a royal wedding, maybe that's not for you. Don't be coerced by social or even family expectations into an event that doesn't express your own values. There's no right way to get married, only your way. And that doesn't necessarily depend on your budget.
Goals, Goals and More Goals
To me, any financial decision should be based on your goals. Is that unromantic? Absolutely not! Goals are rooted in the dreams you have for your life together. So what do those look like? Do you want to buy a house? Travel? Start a family? Retire early? If you haven't started to save for any of your other goals, you'll want to look at how spending a large amount on your wedding will impact your ability to put money toward these other important desires.
Which takes you to the need to prioritize. If your wedding is No. 1 on your list, that's fine. But if, for instance, the down payment on a house is in a higher position, it could influence the wedding spending decisions you make. By prioritizing now, you may save yourself some regrets down the road.
And let me say a word about parents paying for the wedding. As tempting as it might be to dip into retirement funds to help out, don't do it. Your own retirement has to come first. And your kids will appreciate your independence later even more than your contribution now.
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