Summer is the time for barbeques and vacations. It is also a prime wedding season. And given that money is one of the top 5 things that couples fight about, this seems a fitting time to talk about financial advice for weddings.
If you google “money advice for wedding planning”, you will get almost 7 million results. Much of the advice consists of tips on cutting costs while still having a wedding of your dreams. That is not surprising: after all, an average wedding costs $26,720. However, those search results don’t give you the full story.
If I were to give wedding money advice, I would suggest that you follow three recommendations.
Make your wedding budget reasonable.
Many couples approach wedding planning with an attitude of “we are worth it”. Lavish receptions, destination weddings, designer dresses – all of it is beautiful and fun, to be sure. That is, until the bills roll in. I understand the desire to engineer a perfect day to remember but also encourage couples to create a wedding budget that makes sense for them. A wedding day is just the beginning of your married life together, and you want to build it on a foundation of long-term decisions.
Maintain (some) financial independence.
A marriage is a merger of your hearts, souls and bank accounts. Well, some bank accounts, anyway. I think that every married couple needs at least three bank accounts: hers, his and joint. The joint bank account should be used for the living expenses of the couple (rent or mortgage, utility bills and groceries), while the separate bank account should allow both Husband and Wife to manage their own money independently.
Have “The Money Talk”.
The question of managing family finances is a loaded one. Shared expenses are easy enough to figure out, but there are many situations that aren’t so clear-cut. Who pays for travel expenses to visit with the Wife’s family? What is the family policy on holiday gifts? What happens if Husband has been financially supporting a family member and plans to continue to do so after the wedding?
It is difficult to predict which money questions will come up in your case, so I recommend starting with the big picture. Lay the groundwork for having money conversations. How will your new family handle finances? Will you establish a monthly family budget meeting, or trust that one of you speaks up as needed? On that note, are you both equally comfortable raising a money question or request?
Money advice for weddings: plan to succeed.
It is also a good idea to talk about your personal money histories. Are you accustomed to having a budget, or do you prefer to keep it all in your head? Do you have credit card or other debt that both spouses need to know about? If you uncover that your financial history is complex (whether because of pre-existing debt or business ownership interests), I recommend that you work with a financial planner and/or an attorney. I have seen situations that call for special caution when setting up common finances (for example, old tax debt on one spouse’s history may mean that creating joint bank accounts is not the best idea). When in doubt, talk to a trusted professional. The consequences of these decisions truly can last a lifetime!
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