As I introduce the topic of weddings and money let me point out three facts that will impact how I address this question:
- I am a man (see my about page). For some of you this means my vote should automatically be discounted.
- To make matters worse, I am a pragmatic man. To be a man is bad enough, but a cold, calculated man is even worse.
- I tend to agree with my dad who often says, “The wedding doesn’t matter. It’s the marriage that counts”.
How Much Should You Spend On A Wedding?
I think I’ve heard Dave Ramsey say that half your combined annual income is an appropriate amount to pay for a wedding. I think that might be too high for many couples. For Richer, Not Poorer – The Money Book for Couples says that the bridal industry is a $70 billion dollar a year industry with the average wedding costing $22,360. While it is impossible to quote an exact number the following guide ought to help you determine how much you should spend on a wedding. However, the average cost of a wedding has little impact on what you can afford for a wedding.
Photo by baliartphotography.com.
Paying For A Wedding Guidelines:
- The wedding costs should be proportional to your income. Obviously, the more you make the more you can afford to pay for a wedding.
The wedding should be funded with contributions and cash, not credit.
The financial burden of a wedding should not last more than 12 months.
Wedding spending should be done in light of pre-existing debt.
Wedding spending should be done with an awareness of family burden.
Just because mom and dad are willing to go into debt does not mean you need to proceed to have the wedding of the century. You will need to talk to parents about finances. Be conscientious of your parents’ limitations and don’t let them take on a lot of debt just so you can have the wedding of your dreams.
Wedding spending should be minimized according to budgetary restrictions.
It seems silly to mention this, but you can only spend what you can afford. You must reduce the cost based on your cash limitations. Make sure your finances are organized. Even though this is a wedding (yes, a once in a lifetime opportunity) “no” does still need to be part of your functional vocabulary. If you typically make bad money choices, unless you are careful you will make worse money choices when it comes to planning a wedding. Emotions can be very costly.
The wedding cost should be proportionate to family and cultural practices.
This is the hardest part of wedding planning. Those around you have expectations of what the wedding will be like. You do not want to come across as a cheap host (Jesus’ mother certainly didn’t want the wedding supplies to run out). You may need to extend yourself because of cultural expectations, just to break yourself for the expectations of others. Weddings are fundamentally about giving and exchanging – reciprocity. People expect you to treat them similar to the ways they treated their guests. You can go along with that game if you have the financial resources. If not, you might need to have a serious discussion with your family about your limitations.
The wedding cost should be affordable, not luxurious.
On the spectrum of cheap, affordable, and luxurious – aim at something affordable. It is counterintuitive to spend so much on a wedding that you unnecessarily burden a marriage.
Remember: An Expensive Wedding Can Cost Your Marriage
Here is how Larry Burkett describes the situation (In an interview recorded in Love for a Lifetime: Building a Marriage That Will Go the Distance (Dobson, James)):
While the wedding bells were still ringing in their ears, they were arranging loans for cars, refrigerators, and dishwashers they really couldn’t afford to own. … It didn’t take long before their monthly payments became too heavy again, only this time the outstanding debt was greater. This led to feelings of hopelessness and guilt which caused them to begin arguing and blaming each other for their troubles. When they were this far down the path, bankruptcy and divorce became their likely destination (pg. 68).
Unfortunately, being behind or upside-down in debt is normal. You should strive to be abnormal. When asked how often this situation occurs Burkett reported that 80% of couples who file for divorce list money issues as a contributing factor.
For those of you who are married, what guidelines did you use for determining how much you could afford to spend on a wedding? If you could go back, would you spend more or less on your wedding?