Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How Wedding Planning Changed My Financial Life, Part 1

People often describe the wedding planning process in horrific terms, saying things like "if you can survive the planning together, you can survive anything," and "I nearly divorced him/her before it even began." For me, the idea of 18 months of hellish preparation for a one-day event just isn't going to work.  In fact, I'm excited about the planning process. I'm excited to find a synagogue where we want to get married and become active members of a progressive Jewish community.  I'm excited for pre-marital counseling.  I'm excited to write our own vows.  I'm excited to throw a large party for our friends and family that welcomes everyone into our joint life.  And I'm excited to finally talk more openly about our joint financial future and further develop shared goals and values.

Yes, finances. I am a giant personal finance nerd, and I can largely credit wedding planning with making that happen. It seems I'm not alone. According to a recent survey over at my favorite personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly, wedding planning is one of the foremost reasons people credit for their financial maturity/turnaround.  That certainly rings true, based on my own experiences, and it's not because marriage suddenly makes us any more mature. Instead, it's because you're staring down a huge number for the first time, be it a $5,000, $15,000 or $50,000 wedding expense, and you freak the heck out.  And if, instead of sticking your head in the sand and charging everything on your credit card in pursuit of your magical happy perfect unicorn day, you sit down and have some hard honest conversations, you can lay down a joint framework of saving and financial decision making that will serve you throughout your marriage.

Since I'm hoping this blog will be as much marriage planning as wedding planning, I thought that budget articles could start out with why budgeting is awesome, instead of giving you some trite advice about choosing the three most important items in your budget and prioritizing those.  Any wedding planning website can tell you to cut the guestlist or to ruthlessly comparison shop on google.  But what I'm more interested in is how the back-and-forth of budget discussions can be an excellent chance to plan for a healthy financial and non-financial life together.

In part 2, I'm going to share my not-so-remarkable-and-maybe-relate-able story of financial planning turnaround via wedding planning.  If you're anything like me and the 15% of people who responded to Get Rich Slowly that weddings/engagements/pregnancy helped them finally get their financial act together, then maybe you can also start to see weddings as a financial opportunity and not just a giant financial pain in the bum.

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