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Sunday, June 30, 2013
WASHINGTON - Every year about this time I get questions about the high cost of weddings. Here are some that came up during a recent online discussion.
Q: Can you explain why people plan to spend the equivalent of a down payment on a house or the cost of a new car on a single big party when they still have student loans - and then they want to buy a house? I find such thinking insane. If you took the word "wedding" out of the equation you would get, "I want to invite 100-plus people for a big party at a posh location, and (usually) I want my parents to pay for it."
Singletary: It's pressure, or people have been waiting for the big day where they are the center of attention . I wouldn't spend on a lavish wedding if I had debt, but I understand how it happens. For my part, I just try my best to talk good financial sense into people.
Q: My fiance and I are both 25 and we are not in a financial position to pay for a wedding. Our families do not support us getting married for a myriad of reasons, one being we're 25 and "haven't lived life." What would you suggest that we do?
Singletary: Despite their families' objections to their getting married, these readers also implied there was pressure to "go into debt for a wedding to satisfy the desires of our family and friends."
If you have done all the right things to make sure you are ready for marriage, then have the wedding you can afford. People will want you to do a lot of things out of tradition or their desire to be sure relatives or friends aren't left out of the celebration. But they aren't going to help you pay for it.
You can get married without the big bill. The bottom line: Don't go into debt to satisfy anyone.
Q: I am getting married! I'm so excited and we are thrilled to be able to spend our lives together. We both don't come from a lot of money and we are working hard to pay things off and get our financial house in order before we wed. Recently, my father passed away and left some money for me and my sister. I'd like to have my wedding in a place that 's a bit costly and I'd like to tap into what was left for me to do it. I think if my dad were here he'd move heaven and earth to make this happen for me but after going through Prosperity Partners, I know there are better ways to spend money than on one day of a wedding celebration. I am paying a mortgage and have student loans, and my fiance has plenty of debt. So, what say you?
Singletary: Prosperity Partners is the financial ministry I direct at my church.
Look. I do understand. Wedding. Family. Friends. Your big day. You want to celebrate.
But unless you have no debt, you can't afford to spend much on a wedding. I'm talking have the reception at your papa and mama's house with Kool-Aid, hot wings and grocery-store wedding cake. And certainly rule out a wedding at a more costly place.
If you were my daughter, I would move heaven and earth to help you become debt-free. Use the money your dad left to start your married life as free of that burden as possible. Most of what you spend is on the reception, which is just a party, and a one-day party at that. Debt can live on for many days and decades.
Q: Maybe you should ask all of us who had nice but inexpensive weddings how it went. Take my case. I have been married for more than 30 years. We were married in the garden of my mother's home. Our plain gold rings came from W. Bell & Co., a now-defunct catalog store. I think we paid $50 total for them. Our wedding cake came from Woodward & Lothrop. It was on sale and cost about $100. We had champagne from the corner liquor store and a few little "finger" sandwiches. That was it! Oh, and my dress was an antique, found in my grandmother's attic. I think it was from a distant relative's confirmation ceremony. Flowers were from my mother's garden. We had about 75 people total. It was really nice and everyone had a great time.
Singletary: I hear you. I had a frugal wedding. I also purchased a second hand dress. (I figured the bride who wore it before me wasn't going to be at my wedding.)
I still understand that people want their big day. I don't begrudge them that if they have the money to pay for it - but not at the expense of getting out of debt.
Michelle Singletary is a personal finance columnist for The Washington Post. Her column runs on Sundays.
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