October 03, 2007

Report: Typical Wedding Results in Over-Time Loss of $1m

AS A FAN of small weddings, I must admit I am sympathetic to a recent argument which writer Jeffrey Strain put forward, in which he asserted the typical wedding -- which now reportedly costs some $35,000 -- not only ends up putting a strain on couples' finances, but also represents a potential long-term forbearance of at least $1 million. Mr Strain notes that three-quarters of all couples either don't set a wedding budget or fail to stick to the plan they had originally set out.

This, I am sure, is not welcome news to the romantics among us, who like to believe that love conquers all and is the most powerful force in the universe. While I myself do have a romantic streak -- it now resides, supressed, in the deeper recesses of my cold heart -- I also know that love is not the most powerful force in the universe. Oh, no. The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest. And Einstein said that, not me, so clearly this sentiment is correct and true.

That said, I must say I know few couples -- actually, no couples -- who have actually had a truly ostentatious wedding. In fact, all my married friends have had relatively simple weddings, with relatively small to medium-sized guest lists, perfectly acceptable but not over-the-top banquets and receptions afterwards, and clever money-saving ideas folded into the mix. For instance, one couple I know had their post-wedding reception at the home of the bride's mother; another couple had a pleasant lunch reception following the grand affair; and a third arranged cut-price hotel rooms for their guests. As amazing as it might seem, all these weddings worked out perfectly and the marriages have been strong as granite. So the idea a couple must spend oodles of money to have a great wedding seems a bit much to this observer.

Of course, as a man, I realize my opinions count for little in this arena. After all, weddings are not about men, whose idea of a good wedding typically involves plenty of liquor, a love-den for the honeymoon night and a ceremony that does not conflict with major sporting events. This helps explain why if one picks up a magazine or book devoted to weddings, one will be hard-pressed to find any pictoral evidence that a groom is even necessary for a good wedding. This also helps explain why men, no matter how modern and beta-male they may be, will find themselves pushed to the limits of their sanity and well-being should they "help out" with the wedding plans. These things, in an ideal world, would be left to the bride, the bride's family, and the bride's female friends, for whom weddings are of the utmost importance.

That said, I do think it important for a man and woman to be cognizant of the financial implications of their wedding. For instance, a man should -- wait for it -- save for the engagement ring, allowing him to ask for his lady's hand without putting himself in hock for the next several years. A man should also make a point of saving for other wedding-related expenses, like a honeymoon. Starting and regularly funding a separate account for these expenses, I think, could prove to be a real life-saver down the line. Even if the contributions started out small, it would grow over time, and if the man found he didn't get married, he could then invest the money for his retirement. Or, he could blow it all on several truly amazing descents into debauchery of classical proportions; either way, it's a win-win.

Things are a bit murkier for women, I suppose, and I realize much depends on whether a bride's family can cover most or all of the expense of a wedding. Of course, even if the family's resources are limited, I don't see why that should take away from the ceremony itself. There's nothing wrong with a simple ceremony. Conversely, a lavish ceremony is great for a day but can clearly have deleterious effects down the line -- I recall one couple whose lavish wedding was profiled on television a while back, but despite spending an alarming amount of money, they had nothing left over for a honeymoon! Truly this was an unfortunate circumstance, and one which even the most devoted wedding planner would have to admit would not be a desirable thing.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at October 3, 2007 11:37 PM | TrackBack
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