So, you’ve raised your kids, paid for their braces, their piano and ballet lessons, their baseball camps and hockey equipment, and (hopefully) four years of college. They’ve even moved out of your house and have jobs of their own. Now you’re home free, and ready to redecorate your house, buy a new car, start traveling, and do all the things you’ve put off for so many years.
But don’t get too excited. One of your kids just got engaged! Or maybe you thought the love birds would elope or scale down their wedding plans during COVID, but it was not to be. You knew this day was coming and that you would be sharing some of the financial responsibility. But how much will you contribute and how will this impact your financial plan? Weddings are expensive! According to Brides.com, the average cost of a wedding in 2018 was over $44,000! 1. Weddings are also a huge wildcard because there are so many variables that make planning for the expense of a wedding quite difficult. And while costs for weddings decreased over the past year, costs are expected to rise this year with pent up demand and wedding businesses getting up and running again.
Here are some tips that will hopefully reduce some of the financial stress:
- Once you have kids, set them and (yourself) up for future success. Talk to your kids at an early age about money, and encourage financial independence. What they learn in their formative years will help them when planning and saving for a wedding (and when making other big financial decisions, like buying a car or their first home).
- Plan, set expectations, and communicate. Not everyone looks at paying for a wedding the same way. Maybe you believe your kid is now an adult, so they should pay for their own wedding. Maybe you have the financial means to pay for your kid’s entire wedding and would like to do that. Most likely, if you’re like me, you are somewhere in between. You’d like to pay for some of their wedding but can’t afford to foot the whole bill without seriously impacting your other financial goals (your own retirement, for instance). Talk to your kids about the role you’d like to play for their wedding and set the proper expectations.
- Start saving. If helping to pay for your child’s wedding is one of your financial goals, start putting money aside to do so (even if your child is not in a serious relationship). If, and when, the time comes for a wedding, you’ll have a head start.
- Have your child pay for a portion of their wedding, no matter how small. They need to have some skin in the game. If the bride wants to hire a hair and make-up stylist for all her bridesmaids, make her pay for that. If they want Dom Perignon instead of Prosecco, make them pay the difference in cost. Encourage your child to start their wedding budget talks prior to getting engaged. This can reduce the number of disagreements later (there will be plenty) if they are on the same page about the size, type, and overall budget of the wedding prior to starting the planning.
- Set a budget. How is the young couple doing financially? Maybe your kid hit it big at this year’s most successful startup and has the means to pay for the wedding themselves. If so, you can stop reading. If not, what can they contribute? Confirm if both sides of the family will be contributing to the wedding expenses and how much from each side. The tradition of the bride’s parents footing the entire bill is over. When possible, paying for the wedding should be a team effort with both sets of parents and the kids pitching in (see bullet above).Once you know how much everyone can contribute, encourage the couple to put together a budget. A budget can help keep wedding spending on track, but it needs to be realistic and workable. Most couples underbudget for their wedding. Getting the budget right begins with a discussion about what kind of wedding your kid and their partner wants. Do they envision an elegant soiree in a ballroom, something casual in a family member’s backyard (please!), or a destination wedding?Once they have a vision for the wedding, they need to make a rough guest list, because the number of guests will be the biggest driver of the budget. Decrease the number of guests if need be. Encourage your child to limit their guest list to only the people they care about. This will not only save money, but they will end up spending their special day with people they truly want to. Also, remind them not to get sucked into peer pressure. Weddings have gotten insane the past decade as everyone tries to outdo each other, with social media playing a huge factor in trying to keep up.
- Lastly, try not to stress (too much). Weddings and wedding planning should be fun. If something really bothers you, talk about it.
While getting married is a momentous occasion and you want the big day to be perfect, it is the actual marriage that will last, not the wedding day. Keeping that in perspective will help get you (and your kids) through the planning process. Try and enjoy the ride. It goes by quickly!