The wedding industry has done a wonderful job of manipulating couples into believing that their wedding day is the one day of their lives when no expense should be spared. Buying into this can mean the difference between having a healthy nest egg or beginning married life in debt and with money issues hounding you from Day 1.
Unfortunately, many couples choose the latter:
75% of people getting married either never set up a wedding budget or don't stick to the plan they develop.
There is debate on how much money trouble contributes to divorce, but financial issues do have an effect on married life. If you are beginning your marriage in debt rather than with a solid foundation for your retirement account, these financial issues are bound to be amplified.
A Creighton University Center for Marriage and Family
study found that money is one of the main obstacles preventing newly married couples from being satisfied. The biggest concerns causing the dissatisfaction included debt brought into the marriage and the couples' financial situation.
On average, a U.S. couple spends $28,800 for its wedding, according to a new
Web site set up by
The Wedding Report
, which provides statistics and market research for the wedding industry. You can see the average cost of a wedding in your specific city by typing in your zip code. In some large cities, such as San Francisco, the average wedding costs $50,000 or more.
To make matters even worse, these averages do not include the cost for the honeymoon, the engagement ring, a bridal consultant or a wedding planner. Add $5,000 for an
average honeymoon and $3,500 for an
average engagement ring and you are up to $37,300 from the U.S. average -- and you're still not counting a bridal consultant or wedding planner.
The bad news doesn't stop there. The huge cost of a wedding often means that the couple borrows money to pay for the affair, meaning the true cost balloons with interest payments. Wedding loans often come with double-digit interest rates and can mean that a newly married couple is still paying for its wedding years after the event.
The Gift That Keeps Giving
Instead of spending that money on a wedding, what if you instead invested the money? If you placed $35,000 into a Roth IRA, assuming you got married at age 25 and the money earns 9% annually, you would end up with over $1.26 million in your retirement account at age 65.
Here's a question that all people who are going to get married should ask: Would you prefer having an average wedding and beginning your married life in debt, or eloping and having a $1 million retirement fund? While a fairy-tale wedding may last a day, the arguments about the finances will likely last for years.
For most, it isn't an either-or choice. Eloping is not an option for many couples, but you can decide how much you ultimately spend on your wedding day. To make sure that you don't get caught up in the wedding industry hype and spend more than you should, here are some basic steps you should take to ensure you aren't still paying for your wedding on your fifth anniversary:
Talk about it
: You should not lose track of the fact that your wedding will likely be one of the top purchases you'll have in your lifetime as a married couple. The easiest way to contain wedding expenses is to make sure that you both agree on what the wedding should be like and how much it should cost. If you can't come to an agreement on this important financial issue, it should be a red flag that money issues are going to be a major stumbling block in the years to come. By being honest with each other and compromising so that you are both happy, you can establish a foundation to work through financial issues in the future.
Don't get tunnel vision
: The trap that many couples fall into is that they focus exclusively on the big day. When you're zeroed-in on a single event, costs can quickly rise in an attempt to make everything perfect. What you need to keep in mind are the dreams and plans you have together after the wedding. When you bring these goals -- and their associated costs -- into the equation, it is much easier to skip something on your wedding day.
Stick to a budget
: The wedding industry will do everything in its power to separate you from your money on your wedding day. It'll argue that you should spare no expense, because a wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event for which only the best will do. Don't buy it. Make a budget -- preferably one that leaves you with no debt -- and stick with it. Your life together entails a lot more than a single day of celebration, so you should not ruin your finances for years.
: The ability to compromise is one that you will need countless times as a married couple. Your wedding day is a perfect place to begin practicing this art. Realize that the compromises you make are meant not to deprive you of something you want on your wedding day but rather to free up that money for things you want to do together in future years.
It's important to remember that your wedding day is the celebration of the beginning of your life together, shared with friends and family. It's not about the amount you paid for all the decorations, entertainment and food. Your wedding is the first large financial decision that you will make together, and how you handle the financial side will go a long way to determining your financial situation in your first years of married life.
Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs SavingAdvice.com.