Tag Archives: rings

How to pay for everything else that isn’t the wedding

As much as I love discussions about wedding budgets, and I think there’s not nearly enough of that going on, I also think they’re a bit misleading. In the bigger financial picture, there is so much more to getting married than putting on a wedding.

Things that are not in my official wedding budget, but are marriage related include:
Rings. And I didn’t even have an engagement ring, which let’s face it, is common practice and tends to be costly. We are having wedding rings though, and those things are important to me and something we intend to wear forever. So it’s not a trivial cost.
Honeymoon. Hello. WHY does no one talk  about how they financed the honeymoon.
A physical photo album. Turns out, digital files get corrupted. I’ve got my eye on A La Carte Albums*.
Makeup, shoes, jewellery or any other thing that will get re-used but still has to be bought for the wedding.
A thousand incidental costs that will occur close to the wedding. Stuff like picking people up from the airport, making sure we have enough sheets, pillows etc. for everyone who’s staying over, taking visitors out on site seeing excursions. Giving them lots of cups of tea.

In addition, many like to indulge in such pleasures as
A rehearsal dinner, which is evidently A Thing in the States, but happily is yet to become A Thing in other places, as far as I can tell (long may this last!).
An engagement party.
An engagement
‘sesh’ oh god that term is like nails on chalkboards. Please just say session. While we’re at it, please tell me that I am not the only one who finds the term ‘adorbz’ to be kind of, irritz. It’s just really annoyz.  It makes me want to have a stomping sesh.  
Honeymoon attire. 

And probably a bunch of things I couldn’t even think of. Oh yeah, and I also just remembered that some time next year, M and I will be having a second wedding reception in our hometown, Auckland, for all the peeps there that couldn’t make it.

So that’s all quite a lot. And if you are following the guidelines of basic personal finance advice, you should be doing all of this without a) going into debt, or b), sacrificing your long term savings.

Back when I wrote the How to Decide on Your Wedding Budget series, I talked about the fact that typically you might have 10-20% of your annual post-tax income to spend on stuff that isn’t bills and other day to day expenses. So I reckoned 10-20% was a reasonable wedding cost, and chose 10% as the benchmark to use as a way of erring on the cautious side. But now I realise that it wasn’t cautious at all: you’re probably going to need the entire other 10% to fund all this other stuff. And this is assuming you don’t have even more financial demands the year leading up to your wedding – student loans, an emergency, a friend’s wedding in Bali to attend. A period of unemployment. Gah!

There’s really no way around it. The year before your marriage is going to be expensive. Your options are going to be to keep the actual wedding costs at 10% or less of your income, and watch what you’re doing with the engagement, honeymoon plans, and rings whilst hoping to have no emergencies, to keep the total under 20%, OR since a lot of people are already under a lot of financial pressure and don’t have that money to spare, do without all those extras. Though you probably still want rings. In light of my revelation the other week that plenty of people can’t really manage even just the wedding without family help, all of this is pretty bleak.

Ultimate moral of this story: I wish the majority of wedding blogs were about small budget weddings.  Sigh, what’s new.

*This company will edit your wedding photos and compile them into an album.  I really dig this because it meshes perfectly with the idea that your wedding photos are going to be taken by lots of people (ie, a few by professionals plus lots by multiple guests). A La Carte Albums will put them into a coherent narrative. Such a great option for those of us who can’t afford/refuse to buy the big packages from photographers.

How to make your wedding special without spending money

I think one of the fundamental reasons why weddings have gotten financially out of hand is that people want their weddings to feel special and meaningful, and they mistakenly believe that the way to make that happen is to spend a lot of money.

There is actually some validity to the idea that money makes things special. Here’s a great example of how stupid our human minds are: things that are rare or expensive become regarded as wonderful luxury items that speak of status and are to be coveted. Critical to note: it’s not that the inherent awesomeness of the item in question pushes up demand and price. It’s that an item that is hard for the average person to obtain becomes a symbol of luxury, and therefore everyone starts to covet it.

Like when the Dutch used to have to pay taxes on stairs, and so then the fanciest houses in Amsterdam started having two staircases leading up to their front doors. Or eating shark’s fin – it’s a tasteless piece of cartilage that originally only the rich families in China could afford to eat, because it takes days of labour from a skilled cook to do the preparation that makes that crap approach edible. And then the general population got the message that shark’s fin is a luxury, and next thing you know it’s become a wedding staple in Chinese culture.

But there are other ways that our pathetically manipulatable human minds assign specialness and meaning to things: the time, effort, and skill to make something (a proxy for money), sentimental association, and ritual and ceremony. Though of course these things get muddled up, for instance you’re likely to have have a sentimental association with certain rituals. And things that were originally valued for their hard-to-make-ness have become commonly regarded as ceremonial necessity. I’m looking at you, Wedding Cake. Also you, Thousand Dollar Wedding Dress. But the upshot is, you can still make your wedding feel, uh, properly weddingy, even if you can’t afford a wedding cake that costs $5 per slice.

Here are some ideas.

1. Time, effort, and skill

For my wedding, the biggest deposit of specialness in this area is going to come from the fact that various family members, from a variety of continents, will take the time and effort to come be gathered together in one place. It’s something that our family only ever gets to experience any more at weddings. Time was when all my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all lived in the same country. We saw each other regularly and had Christmases together. No more. Now I go years without seeing cousins I saw all the time growing up. Being reunited with some of them at my wedding is a big, meaningful deal.

Other ways people might implement this idea could include taking the time to sew an exquisite dress, spending the effort to make a really special cake, having a bunch of people pitch in to put the centrepieces together.

2. Sentimental association

This is when you include objects that belonged to a loved one, or do things that remind you of your love for someone, or something that just means a lot to you. Playing a song that is meaningful to you. Giving speeches and toasts also falls into this category – they serve to spark emotion, maybe get a bit nostalgic, and bring love to the surface.

I plan to do all these things. My wedding ring is going to have a diamond that my mom’s grandfather gave to her. And we will play the songs, and we will have the speeches.

3. Ritual and ceremony

This is the heart of what makes something a wedding and not a family reunion with centrepieces and speeches. This one is cultural. I was raised in an Anglican community. For the people I come from, this means there are certain way weddings are done, and if they’re not done this way, they’re not as much of a wedding. Plus the stuff that is not part of the religion but has become definitive (you know what I’m talking about – veils, white dresses, and so on).

The tricky part here is when you’ve already rejected some parts of the culture that make no sense to you. For instance, I am no longer religious, so having religion be any part of my wedding is not something I want. Also I just don’t really like veils. And also I don’t dig myself in white. But I still want it traditionally weddingy enough that everyone there feels that it’s meaningful.

Everyone will strike their own balance here. For us, there will be no priest, no prayers, and no sermon, but there will still be an aisle walk, readings, vows, a ring exchange, and a kiss. I won’t wear a long white dress or a veil, but I will carry a bouquet, wear a light coloured dress, and probably have something nice in my hair.

So, I offer this as hope for any engaged couples out there who might be despairing the difference between their original wedding fantasies and what it turns out they can afford. The beauty of your wedding does not come from money. You can still go ahead and have something incredible. And stay financially solvent to boot.

What happens when you tell people you’re engaged

It’s been two weeks since we got engaged, and the business of spreading the news is now over…more or less. Turns out, it’s not as straightforward an operation you think it’s going to be, and the aftermath is not necessarily what you think it’s going to be either.

1. News spreading

There’s a touch of project management when it comes to news spreading. There’s tasks that can’t be done before other tasks are done, and there are delays that stop one series of linear tasks from progressing, while another branch of tasks speeds ahead and is waiting on you to catch up and do the next one. That sort of thing.

The essential thing is that the gossip radiating out from you spreads out evenly at an equal pace in all directions – I don’t want it to have reached an outer layer on my left when I haven’t yet reached the second layer on right. Make sense? ;)

We wanted it to go more or less in this order: Parents & immediate family, close friends, extended family, other friends, office people, facebook. Facebook comes last because you do not want your brother hearing about it via his girlfriend’s facebook account. Speaking of facebook, has anyone else noticed how it fills the role that newspapers used to? Does anyone put announcements in the paper anymore?

At E + 48 hours, the news still hadn’t even penetrated all of Layer 1 (parents). Such is the nature of everyone changing countries all the time. We got 3 out of 4 down on skype within 24 hours, but had to wait to tell my Dad because he was travelling, and it’s not news you want him finding out on an email for the 10 minutes at the airport he has internet access.

So Monday morning starts and I can’t keep myself from telling my colleagues, but my poor Dad is oblivious. That night after I let my Dad know, we crossed quite a few more off the list: skype to Granny and to Aunt C, which also necessitated immediate messaging of cousins in UK so that Aunt C could discuss the latest with her daughters.

Meanwhile on the friend front, I emailed my besties (bearing in mind they are in different countries from me and it was not weekend, couldn’t call them boo), considered the option of waiting to tell our local friends in person, but then sent them facebook messages because I COULD NOT HOLD IT IN. But it’s ok, I got to the loo in time. Just kidding, I never made it. Just kidding just kidding…

By the end of the workweek I was bursting to announce it on fb but we still hadn’t crossed off some South African extended family, they in the land of Not Everyone Has Internet. Finally 10 whole days after being engaged, I updated my relationship status.

 2. Aftermath

It’s interesting how varied the reactions are. Some people are all “LET’S DRINK CHAMPAGNE ASAP” and other people are more “Meh”. Once our wider community found out, we got messages from some that went “Wooohoo I’m so happy for you!”, to clicking Like on fb. Or not.

You know what the first question people ask is? How did he propose! And then you know what they ask next? When is the wedding! And then they say, Let me see the ring!!! So I’ve told the story of the island, the beach, and the sunset a bunch of times. And we’re getting used to explaining why there is no ring. I want just a wedding ring, so that I only have to wear one ring forever (I wear other rings, just not the same one everyday). And I want to wait until the wedding before I wear it.

Meanwhile things are feeling maybe just a tad anti-climactic around here. There will be no engagement party – all our people are on other continents. We almost had a very casual get together last weekend with our local circle, but then decided to take a nap instead for a change after the crazy month. And then there’s the whole stalled wedding planning thing.

Still, we continue to be happily in love, and our favourite people continue to be thrilled for us. And if that’s not nice, Mr Vonnegut, I don’t know what is.