Monday, April 5, 2010

Our Weddings Are Investments

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.

Harumph.

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.

11 comments:

  1. we just had our second part of our venue fee taken out a few weeks ago and I almost vomited all over at the number. I KNEW what the number was going to be- but the reality of it was worse. I had a moment of- do we really need our venue to cost this much??

    and then I remembered all the hassle and grief trying to find a venue that had what we wanted- the ocean, a firepit, a place to eat and seat my relatives, a place to dance and a beautiful spot to get married.....

    all our decisions were made thoughtfully, it's not like we decided to spend that much just 'cuz. And as I've been reading your thoughts here, it really seems the same for you. You've thought it out and have valid, rational reasons for the price.

    I think we're just so scared of falling into that 'ridiculous spending bride' label that we see so much of out there. I don't want to be 'one of those'....

    But I'm not- and I know that. :)

    Sounds like you guys are also working out your Journey.

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  2. Yes the numbers are scary. Sometimes it feels like funny money. Like I'm having an out of body experience. It is the most money I've spent on anything.

    Yet I totally agree I am investing in us, my family and friends. It is so much more than the sum of its parts.

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  3. Aaaaaaaah, the money talks. Me and TCM have issues with these! Good that you are having them. I did our JOINT taxes this weekend and let me tell you: Yee-Fucking-HAW for filing jointly!
    I needed TCM to give me a form he was supposed to have for his law school loan interest. He said to skip it that he couldn't find it. I FORCED him to get online and find it. That little ditty got us $800 back! It took an hour or two, but I finally go an apology for trying to blow it off.....
    :)

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  4. loved this post -- i haven't REALLY started wrapping my head around the budget yet, because i'm actually scared of it. we also have scattered friends and family, and it will be the first time i've seen my best best friend in about 2.5 years. so yes, INVESTMENT!

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  5. Since the boy is self-employed, his income is variable. One of the most difficult things, for us, has been figuring out how to budget everything since we never know what he's going to make or when. We could go on historical numbers (I'm a budget nerd so I've logged everything for the last 3 years) but with the recession it's impossible to predict. It does leave me stressed more than not. Still, I think it's been a valuable growing experience for us. We know what it takes to plan and save for a mutual goal and we're learning to prioitize.

    It sounds like you and Jason are on a good track.

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  6. We've been living as single-committed people, when it comes to money, sounds similar to what you've been doing - we each put a certain amount of money in a joint account each month and pay all joint expenses out of that, but we handle everything else with our own money.

    It works well for us, at this point, because we both make pretty much identical salaries and we spend money very differently, so the fact that I don't really have to pay attention to his personal spending habits helps me not get all controlling. Our deal is that we get to spend our personal money on whatever we want as long as we're meeting our joint obligations and neither of us is incurring any debt (because that would eventually involve both of us).

    However, if one of us was suddenly making significantly less money, we'd need to re-adjust. I've heard that some couples handle finances on a percentage wise basis. So the partner who earns more money contributes X percent of the joint money while the other partner contributes a smaller percent.

    I've heard from other people that merging finances completely is wonderful - I'm just not sure I could handle it, honestly.

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  7. I feel you on the money issues. Did you add next years tax refund to the tally? If you file early (Febish) you will get it before April.

    I know this may sound strange, but try thinking that you guys have more than enough money and that you will have everything you need for the wedding day. We started thinking like this and slowly but surely everything started to get taken care of money wise. It was like positive thoughts were making everything great. Give it a try, it won't hurt, but it may help a lot :)

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  8. Becca, this is totally it. You are investing in memories that will never be recreated. You are wise beyond your years woman! I know that its frustrating at this point but you will feel nothing but pure joy surrounding you in April so much love and happiness in one day and one huge moment of both your lives.

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  9. It's funny how you don't talk about money until the engagement. With the exception of the "OMG this cost how much???" conversations, we didn't really even talk about our personal finances until a month before. and didn't really come up with a real solution until three months later. I had gotten us a joint checking account and I was buying all of our groceries and making all of our payments out of "our" fund and then I realized that I was feeling guilty about every little thing I was buying even thought he can buy bike parts any time he wants too - and worse has a huge rationalization thing going on. So now we have a joint checking account and we each have separate personal funds. Essentially, we give each other an allowance after all the bills are paid. Now I don't have to feel guilty when I come home with a new pair of shoes.

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  10. @Eco Yogini - I'll be panicking about every check too, even if I expect the bill and have money for it. I just hate spending big chunks of money. I'm preparing myself now.

    @TSB - We won't file together until 2012, and your story is why I'm okay with that.

    @Rachel - I don't think I'll ever be okay with completely joint finances, for reasons I'll probably discuss here at some point, though I understand the value of it. I thought our system was working perfectly fine until the wedding, but I'm realizing the limitations of mostly-separate finances and joint obligations that go beyond paying for bills and vacations.

    @Buhdoop - I've never had a refund before, so I won't count on it next year either (I actually have a tax buffer fund in case I owe.) But I'll definitely file early now, just in case there's a Federal present waiting for me at the end of the process!

    @sera - yes, I think we'll end up here. Because I'm feeling all the guilt you describe and, like your partner, my partner does not. The emotions about it are harder to manage than the actual numbers.

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