The cost of weddings can be daunting in today’s economic climate, where excess can, in some cases, overtake the true meaning of the marriage ceremony. Unfortunately, the hope for a special occasion can become quite a disappointment when budgetary limits are reached or exceeded before you’ve even reached the half way mark in planning. The stark reality, which most people must face, is not without its silver lining however.
Working within a comfortable budget is essential. By comfortable, I mean a budget that does not require mortgaging the house, going into deep debt or suffering in any way. Do you remember experiencing this kind of ‘comfortable’ for the first time? For some of us, this is a way of life; for others, just thinking about it is challenging. I have written about compassion in these columns many times over the years. Planning your wedding should go near the top of the list for when compassion comes in handy. You need to be very real about this process because the consequences of being too tough on yourself can ruin this special occasion.
There are usual expenses for formal weddings that create awkward moments when the responsibility of who is paying for what has not been agreed upon from the start. Granted, many couples first marry at a slightly older age than before, although marrying under the age of twenty is not uncommon. Older couples are often better established financially than younger couples, and as a result feel a greater responsibility to at least help pay for the cost of their wedding, especially if it is to be an event. There are no rules for how this should or should not be handled. Common sense and trusting your inner wisdom both help.
Today, every marriage has its own character, and as long as the process is handled gracefully, creativity and flexibility can be unleashed. Traditionally, there is a gathering of the bridesmaids and the bride two nights before the wedding for a fun ‘girls’ party, which can take on almost any shape and form. The same ‘stag’ party is enjoyed by the groom and his groomsmen. These parties are often paid for by the fathers of the bride or groom. The parents of the groom host the rehearsal dinner, generally reserved for close family and out of town special guests. The parents of the bride host the wedding and reception following. As you know, these expenses can become impossible and much smaller weddings are becoming the norm across the board. The guide above can be extrapolated to fit most weddings and many other special occasions.
Once you do decide on your comfortable budget, my advice is to have the best version of whatever kind of celebration you can within that budget. Memories are made from the beautiful moments with friends much more so than the surroundings. We want to remember those moments with smiles on our faces. I have advised many couples, gay and straight, on wedding plans. In gay weddings, frankly the only difference from a traditional wedding is that there are two husbands or two wives.
There is always one thought that I share with all of them, no matter what. Don’t let the trappings of the celebration outshine, in your mind, the significance of the uniqueness of your union. The union is what is special. The trappings are a bonus. So, be sure not to allow finances to cast dark clouds on something so special. Celebrate celebrating comfortably.
Bridesmaids can experience overwhelm some years when many of their friends are marrying and want them to stand up for them. Questions arise around the responsibility for the expenses bridesmaids have, and which ones should be paid for by the bride. Similar discussions can arise on the groom’s side as well. Once again, there are no hard and fast rules today because circumstances vary so. Traditionally, however, the bride would pay for her bridesmaids’ dresses and shoes, hair and nails, and accommodation, but not transportation. When possible, this should still be preferred, as the financial burden on a young person would be unreasonable in most cases. Finances can be a very difficult topic to discuss, but discussing it brings great clarity and peace.
Who doesn’t love being invited to a wedding? When you receive an invitation, be sure to RSVP as soon as possible, certainly within a week or two of receiving it. If you accept the invitation, you should be sure to go to the wedding. And be sure to remember to bring or send a gift you can comfortably afford. Do not be pressured into spending more money than you can reasonably budget for such expenses. A lot of the stress around the whole wedding scene would be greatly reduced if we remind ourselves of The Golden Rule. And, have gratitude because with compassion and kindness comes trust and friendship.
I would like to write a few words in honor of the royal wedding taking place today in Windsor. Thank you to Their Royal Highnesses for setting such a sparkling example of compassion, kindness and love for us all to admire and aspire to. I hope your many happy years together allow you to share your joy throughout the world.