Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series
Marriage experts suggest if engaged couples focused more on their long-term marriage needs than on the short-term wedding plans, they might improve their marriage odds. And while a formal wedding celebration can be a great beginning for a marriage, going too far might cause a disastrous start.
“A wedding should not favor the festivities as much as it should honor a couple’s love and respect for one another and their mutual commitment,” says Dr. Gilda Carle, love and relationship expert and author of 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity.
Carle recently used the wedding of Reese Witherspoon as a positive example and trend. Witherspoon and husband Jim Toth recently wed in an intimate ceremony on her ranch with 100 friends and family members. This event was contrasted with the $1 million wedding of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston—we all know how that turned out.
For real people with real budgets, the issue is about more than extravagance. An expensive wedding generally involves acquiring debt or using money that could be better used to help the couple begin marriage with more financial stability. It also involves stress, with the complicated planning of a large event. It takes the focus from the relationship quality and moves it to fulfilling a long to-do list.
Speaking of financial stability, engaged couples need to have complete openness about their debts, expenses and lines of credit before they wed. This article called Don’t Let Money Matters Wreck Your Marriage offers some useful advice along those lines. It even suggests reviewing one another’s credit reports together. Money is often a primary cause of divorce, and not sharing your financial life can be a sign of mistrust. That’s true whether you’re engaged or have been married many decades.
Let’s talk about wedding costs. A beautiful wedding can be planned for much less, but the average American couple spends more than $24,000 on their wedding, with the majority spending between $18,000 and $30,000. This doesn’t include the cost of the rings or the honeymoon. The average engagement ring in 2010 cost $5,392, according to survey results by TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com. This Forbes article about the cost of honeymoons says the average one-week honeymoon cost around $3,400 last year, but that this year travel costs will be much higher. So, including the ring and honeymoon costs, the average wedding cost climbs to $32,792. I don’t know too many young engaged couples with that kind of money in their pockets. Some parents are willing to chip in, and the couple begins the stressful dance of pleasing their parents with their nuptial plans.
With these rough estimates in mind, it becomes clear why so many couples wait and wait to get married until they feel they can afford the wedding of their dreams. Unfortunately for many lower income families, that time never comes. Often, a family comes along first, then the costs of childrearing become the priority, and wedding and marriage become a distant dream.
Couples who do find a way to fork over the money for a big wedding find themselves within a few months complaining about the cost of gas and not being able to afford a lawn care service. They’ll be wanting to make a down-payment on a home, or looking to purchase a new car. They’ll be wondering how they let thirty grand slip through their fingers on one event.
I’m all for wedding celebrations and enjoyed my own immensely, but the marriage really is the key. Whether you plan an intimate church celebration, to elope and marry on the beach, to walk into the courthouse in your blue jeans, to or plan an elegant bash for hundreds of your closest friends, please spend more time and energy preparing to be married than to get married.
Decide how much of your money you would like the wedding industry to have, and what kind of event would truly make you and your fiancé happy and prepared to start your lives together.
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