This weekend, I was once again ready to throw my hands up and run screaming from everything associated with weddings. Even worse, this weekend I spent a few hours of mourning the lost simplicity single-person decision making and single-person responsibilities. Then, of course, I promptly turned around and thanked every possible diety for having Jason to share my life with after being reminded, yet again, why we're bothering to tackle this beast of a wedding expense and all the associated hassles. It's been, to say the least, a very mixed up weekend.
If I wanted an easy scapegoat for the weekend's mess, I'd blame my taxes. Which might seem odd, seeing as how I'm getting a tax refund this year (for the first time ever.) But instead, I sat there fuming on Saturday morning, angry that every darn cent of the refund is heading straight into our wedding fund. Even worse, I tortured myself with math and realized that we'll still be $5000 short of what we need next April, based on our current saving plan, even including this tax related windfall. I was particularly ticked off because I'd just upped my monthly wedding savings by another $100. Yet again. And yet it still won't be quite enough.
I was not happy. For me, every month is a struggle and a decision about where to spend my money: on my car repairs, on my medical bills, on a much-needed night out with friends, or on the wedding. Whereas for Jason, the bulk of his contributions are coming at the end of the year from his bonus (he's meeting all his contractually related benchmarks to achieve the bonus, so it's not just pie in the sky imaginings). Which means that I struggle with the wedding versus life-choices every day, whereas Jason rarely has to engage with what it means to sacrifice the nice little things to finance the wedding instead.
My tax refund frustration turned into a serious discussion about finances, emotions, and how this partnership needs to adjust. Because even though we live together and have a joint checking account for shared household expenses, we're both still acting like single people when it comes to everything else associated with our finances. Everything is transparent, of course, but if he wants to pay for a new guitar amp, it's his money and his call. Similarly, if I want to buy a new fancy dress, it's my money and my call. Which is great... until it's our wedding and not really our money. Or if it's my medical bills last month paid for with my money/my call, leaving him with more fun money at the end of the month than I have and me with more frustration.
Getting married is a process. It's so much more than the single day at the end of these negotiations and frustrations. And I'm finding this process of planning a wedding is as much part of the marriage process as anything else. Because it's the time when we run up against the limits of our current singleton systems. And it's the time when we have to learn new partnered ways of doing things, even with a partnership that worked perfectly well before the engagement hullabaloo. This marriage stuff is bigger and more fraught, and the balancing is more delicate and necessary than ever before. We've agreed to start finally working through Smart Couples Finish Rich, which is much more of a workbook approach to talking about separate and joint values regarding money than it is about chasing dreams of wealth. We've agreed, yet again, that this process of figuring things out is both frustrating and comforting, and that we're really happy to have this period of engagement.
And, once again we agreed that we're really happy to be planning a wedding together, despite all the frustrations and budget woes. We know we'll figure it out and we know that it will be worthwhile. We know there's a reason our wedding will cost so darn much: we're paying for meals with a large number of loved ones, for a large party to facilitate our celebration, for a photographer to capture memories of that joy, for people to help us focus on the joy and not the clean-up, and for the travel to get the people we love all safely back to the hotel. In other words, we're investing in joy.
Our families don't live nearby. The wedding weekend may be one of the few times our families ever get to meet each other and it may be the only time we'll ever get to spend a weekend with our scattered loved ones: high school friends, college friends, Los Angeles friends, and our large families. When else will I have the opportunity to gather my girlfriend living in Europe with our other girlfriend and her new baby with my step-grandmother and her new boyfriend with all of Jason's family? Never. And it's going to be amazing.
And so, my tax refund argument was worth it, as is putting the entire darn thing towards this wedding. Because our weddings are investments in us: in our marriages and in our expanded families and in our expanded joy. They are not investments in photos or investments in nice dinners, though that may be the format that some particular expenses take. Instead, our engagement period and wedding are very clearly investments in our future as a couple and as a family.