Weddings are going to cost you — and the question of how much isn’t just cash? Here, a round-up of columnist Carolyn Hax’s advice on sticking to a budget, who should pay and how to keep dollars from getting between you and family.
Carolyn Hax: When weddings and money mean trouble
My girlfriend and I just got engaged and now it’s time to start the wedding planning. What would you say is customary and appropriate as far as paying the bill these days? Should it be split evenly? Divided proportionally by guests? Is the bride’s family still expected to foot the majority of the bill? Thanks!
Thank you so much for asking, because it gives me a chance to say: Pleeeease start your planning with the goal of paying for the whole thing yourselves. Not with credit cards, either, but with your savings. If you have no savings, then read that as a message to start managing your money like the grown-ups you are.
If you have only enough savings to pay for a small wedding, then read that as a message to live the life you can afford, and have a small wedding.
If you have enough savings to stage a Wedzilla for the ages, then use that as a discussion starter about treating the things you need as the base line for your decisions, and not whatever shiny things you can have.
And if your families respond to your minimalist wedding plans with offers to help with the costs, treat that extra money as a frill. Think in terms of fashion, or home decorating: Pick what reflects who you are, and refuse the rest. Besides, any gift comes with strings; even if your families don’t use money as a means of hijacking your plans, taking something from them now that you don’t need may keep you from getting something later that you do need.
If all this sounds anti-fun, then consider asking around -- include your fiancee, and see how people feel now about their weddings large and small. Ask people in happy marriages, strained ones, even veterans of failed ones. If you find you identify with certain people more than others, you’ll see preferences start to take shape.
My fiance and I are eating crow in a major way. My parents were paying for most of our spring wedding, but we were butting heads over certain things, such as their insistence that we invite a number of irrelevant family members and acquaintances of theirs instead of our own third-tier friends. We had a falling-out last month that ended with me saying we would plan and pay for the wedding ourselves.
They backed off. Well, as it turns out we cannot swing it ourselves. Not even close. Fiance is neutral but I’m torturing myself trying to decide whether to grovel for help and accept the strings that come along with it.
Please please please please PLEEEEEEASE greet this challenge by having the wedding you can afford, and not one frill or bubble more. It can be intimate and beautiful and a love letter from each of you to the other, which is what a wedding ought to be anyway, at least at its heart. SO much cooler than groveling. Even though I’m groveling to you. But that’s different.