At last, you and your beloved have decided to spend the rest of your lives together. The date is set and you already have a beautiful vision of how you want your big day to go down. Alas, who is going to pay for all the extravagance that you have dreamed about ever since you saw pictures of Ellen and Portia’s vegan wedding? Before you say “I do”, you and your beloved should agree to say “I don’t”, as in “I don’t want us to begin our lives together in debt”.
I find it extremely troublesome when otherwise intelligent, level-minded people take all of their energy and focus more on their wedding day than on the countless days that will follow, the “happily ever after days.” Of course you want your special day to be memorable, to be a celebration of your love, I get that, but for gosh sakes, please consider the unnecessary stressor that inevitably results from spending more than you can afford.
Years ago I read Scott Peck’s book in which he describes marriage as a base camp, not a mountain. Hopefully, tying the knot will not be your single most important claim to fame. Chances are you may one day want a fantastic family or a fabulous career, maybe even both. Try to remember this when you are deciding whether or not it’s worth spending hundreds, or even thousands, on trivialities that no one(no one who really cares about you) will ever even notice. A wonderful vegetarian friend of mine spent $3,000 on her dress. Knowing I wouldn’t approve she didn’t even want to tell me when I asked about the expense. If only she had asked herself the question my dad always encouraged us to ask ourselves before making a large purchase. It didn’t matter if it were $10 of babysitting money or $100 of cashiering; he would encourage us to figure out how long it would take us to earn the amount of money we were getting ready to spend. “How long does it take you to earn $3,000?” On a $50,000 salary, netting $3,200/month, you would have to work for almost four weeks for a dress that you’ll never wear again. Please! Had you stuck that $3,000 in the market and averaged a 10% return instead, in 10 years you would have almost $8,000 (yes, the market’s been lousy lately, but you see where I am going with this).
Some of my favorite weddings were also the lowest budget. Maybe the couples were enjoying the day more because they didn’t have as much money riding on that one day. Maybe the types of people that spend less have less to prove (hmmm…now that’s a study waiting to happen!) Or maybe someone else was paying and they didn’t care anyhow. I’ve gone to two weddings this year and both were quite lovely. One took place in the largest house in all of OBX; beautiful, on the ocean, and just all in all lovely. This couple spent their own hard-earned money to pay for this home so that all their friends and families could spend time together relaxing and getting to know each other. They didn’t take my advice and ask for folks to pay for themselves in lieu of gifts; no, these wonderful people asked that gifts be directed to the Make a Wish foundation (yes, I am blessed to be surrounded with such giving friends!) Another wedding, the second for each, took place in a local park this summer. Low-key, beautiful, and absolutely exquisite in its simplicity (even better, the secular ceremony took place in all of 15 minutes!)
You already know couples fight over money. You saw Big stand Carrie up at the altar when things had gotten out of control even when money was not an object. Don’t let little things ruin what should be a very happy time for you and your mate. I am reminded of my parents crashing a private wedding in Hawaii. The way they tell the story, they came across a lone couple saying their vows on a secluded beach with no one present but the minister. Thinking no one else could afford to attend the poor couple’s wedding they proceeded to clap when the vows were over so that the newly hitched couple didn’t feel alone! My parents didn’t realize that these folks had most likely intentionally decided to opt out of the pomp and circumstance of a big wedding for a more intimate celebration. Point being, your ceremony should really be about the two of you, not your family, not your friends. What does spending tons of money prove to the world, that you really do love each other? If you are footing the bill for your own wedding, remember that entering into a union with debt most likely hinders rather than helps strengthen the bond.
Have you heard the saying, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel?” The best weddings are usually the ones where the guests are having as much fun as the couple. Show the world that consummate love is not only possible, but something for which we should all strive, “for richer or poorer.” One of my favorite memories at a coworker’s wedding was the bride’s exclamation to her husband while reading her vows. I don’t remember her dress, the flowers, the bridesmaids, etc., but I’ll never forget her tears of joy when she almost shouted to her husband that together she wanted to “grow old, have babies, travel the world, and take a spaceship to the moon!” I believe she was being facetious here, but her sentiment, her overwhelming sense of excitement was expressed in such a way that no one in the room doubted that this wasn’t the real thing. I wish that for every couple. That, in my humble opinion, is what makes your special day memorable.
Brenda is an investment advisory representative of First Affirmative Financial Network, LLC, a nationwide network of investment professionals specializing in sustainable and responsible investing. She is an active member of the Financial Planning Association and a Certified Financial Planner™ since 2007. Brenda is the treasurer for both William and Mary’s Richmond Chapter of the Alumni as well as for her homeowner’s association. A coordinator for the annual Richmond Vegetarian Festival since 2003 and an active member of the Vegetarian Society of Richmond for over a decade, she thrives on meeting and educating people on the virtues of living a healthy, cruelty-free lifestyle.
Brenda can be contacted through her website at www.brendaveggie.com.