While a wedding is an opportunity to publicly affirm and celebrate a couple's commitment, it's also a time that tests the bride and groom's financial compatibility. If they're not careful, the newlyweds will find that the aisle leads them from the altar to a monetary morass that will be anything but a honeymoon.
In the months before the wedding, couples may keep their heads in the clouds as long as they keep their financial feet on the ground. The best way? By setting priorities and creating a wedding budget. First, they need to determine if they want a public event-with its costs-or a private affair that would drastically cut costs and possibly allow them to either avoid debt or make a down payment on a home.
Assuming they opt for the typical wedding ceremony with family and friends in the pews, the two should create a wedding budget and determine who will be financially responsible for which expenses. If parents are footing the bill, the prospective bride and groom should work with them to ensure that their money is not squandered.
Generally a wedding budget includes these costs: attire, rings, music (for the ceremony and the reception), flowers, food and cake, wedding and reception sites, officiant (such as a pastor or rabbi or judge), photography and video, invitations, marriage license, gifts for attendants, and possibly, a limousine or other transportation.
Once the wedding budget is set, the hard choices must follow. How many guests? How expensive a cake? How elegant an invitation? An afternoon brunch or a full-course dinner during the evening? One photographer or more? A limo or a friend's convertible? A wedding in June or in an "off-season" month like November or March? A wedding gown from the priciest shop in town or one from an outlet store or a mail order catalog or the Internet? Whatever the choices, the future bride and groom should probably pay any deposits with a credit card to ensure that they receive what they're paying for.
These are the kind of decisions that can make or break marital bonds. If bride and groom can reach agreement on these issues, perhaps through compromise, they will find that they have taken a step toward harmonious living. After all, marriage-as our article on joint credit explains - is a financial AND a romantic institution.