Dear Wayne and Wanda,
Last month I proposed to my girlfriend and she said yes. We are planning to get married next summer.
From the get-go, we agreed we would have a simple, laid-back ceremony. But it’s like that went out the window the second she started planning. We had talked about a super modest budget — we don’t have any savings, and our parents aren’t really in a position to help. But at last tally, under what she’s planning, the expenses are up past $15,000 and counting. She has like 300 people on our guest list. She hasn’t even bought a dress yet or even started planning a honeymoon.
I love her and I really do want to marry her but I’m starting to panic. Will she always be so reckless with money? I suggested she scale back and she got really upset and said we only get married once and she wants it to be special and I should too. She said $15K isn’t even close to what the “average” American spends. But I can’t win here. For example, she wants to do a fancy plated dinner reception; when I suggested a potluck, she started crying. Ugh. What can I do here?
Compromise. And remain the voice of reason.
Weddings make people crazy. So first, to address your fear about whether this is triggering a lifetime to come of your fiancée making crazy financial decisions — no, it isn’t. She’s just an ambitious bride with big dreams and probably a secret Pinterest board packed with perfect, polished (expensive) ideas to make her wedding one for the ages.
Cut her some slack but don’t back down entirely. There’s a fine line between simple and boring, as well as a balance between special and extravagant. Somewhere between these opposing forces, you will find the right venue, menu, and décor to ensure your big day checks all the boxes, makes happy memories, and leaves your lady feeling supremely satisfied.
Don’t be afraid to insert yourself into the planning. Too many grooms assume the woman wants and deserves to make all the decisions and the guy’s job is to just show up and say yes. Not true! This is your day too, and you may have some pretty great ideas that could help make your special occasion even more special, without putting you guys in debt for the next 20 years. Good luck.
Well, at least you aren’t panicking about spending the rest of your life with this woman, so that’s a good sign. As far as the planning and purchasing for your wedding to this woman, well, a "super modest budget" suddenly skyrocketing to $15,000 and beyond is cause for freaking out.
What happened to the budget conversation? You clearly didn’t land on a number, which is why the price tag changes daily and keeps getting bigger and bigger. It isn’t too late to set a budget, even a ballpark budget with a little wiggle room, that can be your spending touchstone moving forward.
A budget doesn’t mean you’re going cheap. You two can still get some big-ticket items, but that means there will be some discount rack shopping to balance it out. Want to splurge on drinks and food? Great, then we have to go with paper napkins and plates and plastic forks and knives. Going big on the dress? Make sure it’s a long one to cover up those old flip-flops.
OK, maybe that’s extreme. But now that you’re well into planning mode, you have a sense of what most of this stuff is going to cost. With that clarity, go out for a cheap meal and work together to create and agree on a budget, then buy and build your beautiful wedding around it. It’s a great opportunity for you both to show some flexibility and lots of teamwork.