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How to Financially Plan for a Wedding?

You spoke, we listened.  On a recent Instagram story, we asked our audience what topics they would like us to cover.  The number one topic that came up was how to financially prepare for your big day.  I’m so glad this is top of mind for our audience.  A wedding these days has a price tag north of $33,000*, and if you’re not vigilant on your cash flow, your expenses can quickly get out of hand.  But, there’s more to being financially attune than just creating a budget.  What about the discussions the two of you should be having prior to getting married?  How about deciding whether or not a prenup is suitable?  Keep reading to find out more!

QUESTIONS TO ASK EACH OTHER

Nothing says, ‘We’re Engaged!’ like a post with 258 likes and 34 comments.  After the announcements settle down, it’s up to the two of you to prioritize how this whole shindig (not just the wedding, but literally the rest of your life) plays out.  Below are questions the two of you should ask and answer before walking down the aisle:

TECHNICAL QUESTIONS

  1. How much money do we each make per month?
  2. How much money do we each save per month?
  3. How much money do we each spend per month?
  4. How should we make a budget together?
  5. How should we combine our income and spending?
  6. What debt do we each have?
  7. What is our plan to repay debt?

BEHAVIORAL QUESTIONS

  1. What was money like for each of us growing up?
  2. How has our previous experiences with money shaped the habits we have today?
  3. What do you fear when it comes to money?
  4. What makes you excited when it comes to money?
  5. What values do you want to portray with your money?
  6. How do you feel about debt?
  7. What expectations do we each have for one another regarding money?

This is just a start.   You’ll notice the conversation can go in many directions from here.  And know that just like anything else, these types of conversations are a skill set developed over time.  It’s O.K. to feel tense, awkward, sad, mad, and all the things when you first start opening up.  It only gets easier, trust me.

WEDDING BUDGET

Don’t let the wedding create the budget.  You two are perfectly capable spending time creating the wedding of your dreams with the resources available to you.  This is really the first ‘test’ of your upcoming marriage.  How the two of you conquer this step can really pave the way for future events.  I spoke with my sister, Molly Fuchsel, a wedding planner in Fargo, ND, about how she addresses this topic with her clients.  Molly explained, “the wedding budget is the first thing we discuss.  We really can’t move forward without knowing what we have to work with.”  So let’s start the basics:

HOW MUCH CAN WE SPEND

Here’s all you need to know for this one: 

  1. How much support will you receive from your family?  
  2. How much do you currently have saved?
  3. How much can you each save between now and the wedding day?

Knowing how much support you may/will receive from your family means you have to have a conversation with your loved ones.  If you do not want to ask, then simply assume this figure is a big ol’ goose egg.  This delicate conversation can be as uncomfortable or casual as you make it.  You know your family best, thus, you will know the proper way to broach this subject.  

Next, you’ll want to evaluate each of your current savings.  And no, do not utilize your emergency funds for your wedding.  But y'all are smarter than that.  So I’m not too worried about you dipping where there ain't no sauce (I just made that phrase up).  Do you have investments you’d like to utilize for your big day?  Sell those right meow.  Most engagements are between 12-18 months.  That’s way too short of a time frame for dedicated funds to be invested in the market.

Lastly, what can each of you set aside between now and your wedding day?  For example, when Dan and I got married, I was aggressively paying down my student loan debt.  Literally the week we got engaged I reduced my student loan payments so that I could start funding our wedding account.  It’s rare for someone to get engaged AND a pay raise at the same time.  For that reason, you’ll have to be strategic on where your wedding cash flow comes from.  Some ideas include canceling memberships, reducing retirement contributions, getting a side hustle, or not going out to eat as much.  Whatever it is, figure out a way to stash cash for your one special day.

HOW TO TRACK YOUR SPENDING

I love budgets.  I just do.  I know not everyone happily boards this train with me, and so the easier I make this topic for folks the better.  Here’s the gist of it:  once you have your resources accounted for, you can spend it however the heck you want.  Molly, our wedding planner expert, stated she asks couples to each pick their three things most important to them and work down from there. 

For example, we spent about $500 total on our wedding attire (dress, suit, and accessories) which was about 1.4% of our total $27,000 budget.  Some websites suggest allocating closer to 5% ($1,350 in our case) towards this expense.  For Dan and I, wedding attire was not a top priority, but a great outdoor venue was.  Once you have an idea on your biggest and most important expenses you can start to decide where you want the rest of your funds spent.  

When you create your budget, play around with estimates.  You won’t know all your exact figures right away, so put in realistic placeholders to start.  You’ll also want to keep track of when a payment is paid or due by to make sure your cash flow is available when needed.  To help you get started, we created a Wedding Budget Template via Google Sheets for your convenience.  Check it out below:

Get Your FREE Copy of Our Wedding Budget Template

PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS

Not your typical, cutesy wedding blog anymore, is it?  We lay out all of the options so that our clients build confidence and knowledge to make these types of decisions for themselves.  Therefore, we would be doing a disservice to our readers if we didn’t bring up prenuptial agreements when it comes to financially preparing for your big day.  So here we go!

The purpose of a prenup is to create an agreement (typically financially related) should the couple experience divorce or death.  A prenuptial agreement is completed prior to saying, “I do,” whereas a post-nuptial agreement would be completed after.  Yes, setting up a prenup can be the most unromantic thing you do during your engagement.  But, without proper preparation comes improper outcomes.  Because without a prenup:

Your state laws determine what happens to assets, property, and debts accumulated during a marriage in the event of a divorce or death.  Therefore, an agreement already exists between the two of you, with or without a prenup...

If you don’t want decisions made by the state in regards to your assets, property, and/or debt in the event of death or divorce, a prenup is a wonderful solution.

HOW DO WE KNOW IF WE NEED A PRENUP?

You won’t!  Think of it like insurance.  You're hoping you won’t have to use it, but if you do, it’s there to help if the situation presents itself.  But let’s be real, when people like us think of prenups, we immediately think of celebrities.  They are easy candidates for prenups because they each typically have large estates and have a high divorce rate.  But, there are still many reasons why ordinary people should consider getting a prenup (even though less than 5% of marriages get prenups).  Below lists situations in which a couple should consider getting a prenup: 

  1. Second Marriage
  2. Children from previous relationship
  3. One or both partners have large assets
  4. One or both partners has a large income
  5. One or both partners has a large amount of debt
  6. NOTE:  federal debt (like student loans) may still be liable to both spouses regardless of a prenup!
  7. One or both partner owns a business
  8. Inheritances (businesses, assets, property, trusts)

This list is not limited to what’s above!  Connect with us and an attorney to see if your situation should consider this step prior to getting married.  You will also benefit from reading our blog about who is responsible for what when it comes to debt in a marriage.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER

By prioritizing the financial aspects of getting married, you two are setting yourselves up for success.  We have worked with thousands of couples over our careers.  It is blatantly clear to us who has prioritized this part of their journey.  We have yet to meet a couple who financially prepared for their big day and regretted it.  However, we have sadly met many couples who did not prepare and suffered accordingly. 

The good thing is that most of the couples we work with are GLADLY willing to take this step on.  So we ain’t worried about ya’ll.  You are amazing listeners and adapters, so you two just keep doin’ your thang!!  When you are ready to take the next step in your finances and relationship, you know how to get a hold of us.  

Oh!  And don’t forget to check out this piece written by Dan-the-man after the big day:  Post Marriage Financial Checklist.

*This includes engagement ring, ceremony, and reception and is according to a 2019 study by theknot.com

- Natalie

Disclaimer:  This article is for informational purposes only and is not a recommendation of Fyooz Financial Planning, Natalie Slagle CFP®, or Daniel Slagle CFP®. Past performance may not be indicative of future results and may have been impacted by events and economic conditions that will not prevail in the future. Therefore, it should not be assumed that future performance of any specific security, investment product or investment strategy referenced in the article, either directly or indirectly, will be profitable or equal to the corresponding indicated performance level(s). No portion of the article shall be construed as a solicitation to buy or sell any specific security or investment product or to engage in any particular investment or financial planning strategy. Any reference to a market index is included for illustrative purposes only, as it is not possible to directly invest in an index. Indices are unmanaged, hypothetical vehicles that serve as market indicators and do not account for the deduction of management fees or transaction costs generally associated with investable products, which otherwise have the effect of reducing the performance of an actual investment portfolio.

Natalie Slagle
Founder, Fyooz Financial
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