Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Ritzy Wedding or the CourtHouse?

At the San Marcos, SD County Clerk's Office
A wedding day does not a marriage make.  In some cases, a wedding day may be the start of the divorce. The days before your wedding day are a true test for couples.  Dating before the engagement proposal was fun. Each of you was finding the other to be a suitable mate for life.  Whether you decided to live together or not prior to getting married, you were relieved to know that this other person you fell in love with also wanted to spend the rest of their life with you.
Most couples do not see the days after the excitement of the engagement proposal wears off as a trial of sorts.  But it is!  You see, “money,” is one of the top reasons why people get divorced.  With the average cost of a wedding being over $26K, it's no wonder that almost half of all marriages end in divorce. Planning the big day exposes your partner’s financial literacy and money habits more than any other dating ritual.  The financial decisions that have to be made for something as big as a wedding day to come together are like no other time in a marriage.  Not even when a baby is on the way will you have to work together as hard as when you’re in the midst of wedding day detail.  It’s a good time to call it all off if you discover you are not as compatible as you thought you were.  Why spend the money, right?
We are living in hard times.  It may be a time to consider giving your marriage a fighting chance by not starting it with one arm tied behind your back.  You can certainly create a wedding budget, and try to stick to it.  But this is still an expensive strategy.  Instead, I’m asking you to consider doing your wedding day like many money conscious couples already do, keeping it low-key and very simple.
I’ve been married twice.  The cost of my first marriage was over $18K back in 2002.  My ex-wife and I paid at least $11K of it.  The rest came from our parents, and what is often the case in Latino families, from padrinos (friends of the family who chip in, paying exclusively for items such as the invitations, the cake, the favors, etc.).  The wedding day included the church ceremony and the reception.  Not to mention, a whole bunch of stress.

At the time we were renting a 3 bedroom-2 bath home in Santa Clara, CA, working as high school teachers.  Home ownership was something we both wanted very much.  The honeymoon in Costa Rica didn’t help us reach our goal any sooner.  Don’t take me wrong, we enjoyed our week-long stay in Guanacaste.  If only we’d spent less on the wedding, however, there would’ve been more we could afford to do on our honeymoon.   
Marriage number two in 2010 was for me the more memorable of the two.  Jessica, my wife, and I didn’t spend months arguing with each other about who would take care of what, and how much to spend, and who to "hit-up" for money.  It was such a breath of fresh air for the both of us, not stressing about making sure our guests would have a great time, or worrying about everything being right.  Even with a wedding planner, which by the way I had for my first marriage, you still tend to worry.

Early going, Jessica and I agreed that our wedding day would really be about us, and no one else.  We hated the idea of having to rely on others for anything, including money.  Let me give you a play-by-play of how we planned our wedding day with ease, and for less than $1,300.
At the Leo Carrillo Ranch Park in Carlsbad

$89.  This was the cost of the marriage license.  In our wedding attire, we drove to the county clerk’s office accompanied only by two of Jessica’s sisters, her bridesmaids.  Sisters Joie and Brandy didn't have to spend money on a bridesmaid dress.  They wore nice dresses they already owned.
Time spent planning this part of the wedding: Maybe an hour of online reading, entering our information on the application, and reserving the appointment at the courthouse.
Jessica’s wedding dress from David’s Bridal, $450.  Shoes: About $100.  I accompanied her to David’s Bridal.  Her female friends, sisters, mother, had nothing to do with the selection.  It was her choice entirely with me liking anything she came out of the dressing room with.
I rented a nice suit and shoes, $150.
Jessica’s bouquet: $80.  Jessica chose the colors and flower types. My boutonnière was $20.

At the King's Fish House in Carlsbad, not bad, huh?
Free.  Teri of Teri Joy Photography is a friend, and at the time was just starting her photography business and needed portfolio samples. She even did our engagement pictures for free!  You probably have a family member or friend who does photography as a hobby and may be thinking of starting a freelance business.  Ask them to be your photographer for your wedding day.  They may decide to do this in lieu of getting you a wedding gift.  Pay them for their work by buying the digital photo file for $100, if you feel guilty.
Teri was with us while we got ready at home.  She drove to the county clerk’s office and took pictures of us while there.  We met her at Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park in Carlsbad, CA and had our wedding picture shoot there.  There were no entry fees.  We did not have to make any reservations to use the park.  Finally, Teri met us at the venue for the third and last segment of our wedding day, the Reception.
$0.  We reserved the outside seating area (total capacity of 40 guests) at King’s Fish House in Carlsbad.  They asked us to create a menu of 5 entrees.  This was easy enough.  Tip: Include a veggie dish, a beef dish, a chicken dish, and a fish dish.  Add some pasta.  Boom! Done.  If people didn’t like our menu, we didn’t care!  They could go to the bar, order what they really wanted, and bring it back to their seat outside.  Our wedding day was on a Friday and this made restricting the guest list that much easier.  Family and closest friends in attendance only.
The music consisted of whatever the King’s Fish House was playing on their intercom.  Maybe there was none.  I can’t recall.  People sat wherever they wanted.  Jessica and I did not waste time with seating arrangements.  
Dancing?  Nope.  It was a Friday night.  If people wanted to dance, they could go to the club on their own after dinner.
Cost of Food:
Wedding cake, $300.  Small with two layers.  There were less than 35 people there and our cake easily gave them all a desert option.  If they wanted more…they could order it from the King’s Fish House!  We had cake left over in the end as it turned out.
Entrees, $0!  This is how we got away for not paying for any of our guest’s dinners.  We told them that a wedding gift was optional.  We communicated with them all via email (no invitations) and social media and told them ahead of time that all we cared about was that they took care of their own food bill.  We didn’t waste time going to stores, scanning a hundred items we’d ultimately not end-up using because we weren’t in need of them to begin with. Seriously, how many expensive glass items from Crate and Barrel does a couple really need? You can get cheap wine glasses from the Dollar Store these days.
Champagne and plastic cups, $65.  A few bottles of Korbel from Bevmo!  We had several left over.
After the reception, some of our closest friends and family accompanied Jessica and I to our house for more fun.  We listened to music, talked, and laughed until everyone not staying at our place left for the night.
The Best Part  
The best part of not spending a crippling amount of money on our wedding day was being able to easily cover our honeymoon without credit cards or financial assistance from loved ones.  We flew to Belize for a weeklong all-inclusive stay at The Lodge at Chaa Creek, an eco-resort in the Cayo District.  This area is where many Americans go to retire.  The experience was incredible!
Final Thoughts
A marriage proposal is a big, big, deal, duh!  If you go the traditional route, study your partner and take note of your own behavior.  If you see that the two of you fight about every last thing during the wedding plans, including money, you may want to delay getting married.  If you find that everything is golden with your partner, then at minimum create a budget, and stick to it!  Don’t let Uncle Jose single-handedly destroy the bar tap.  You will need to make some difficult decisions as a couple.  Or…
Do what Jessica and I did.  Design the wedding day your way.  Save money by handling the event with some creativity.   Make the honeymoon that much more relaxing, not worrying about the debt you will come home to if you used credit to fund your trip.
A wedding day does not a marriage make.  Just ask your grandma and grandpa.  I bet their standards and opinions of wedding days are a lot different than yours.

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