5 Money Lessons We Learned from Our Daughter’s Wedding
by Debbie Sassen
Debbie Sassen, financial planner & money coach with Labinsky Financial, helps smart, talented people develop a healthy and confident relationship with money – without the financial mumbo jumbo.
Weddings come in all shapes and sizes. Small intimate affairs with family and a few close friends. Large gala simchas characteristic of marriages between Chassidic dynasties, and somewhere-in-the-middle celebrations. Our daughter’s recent marriage fell somewhere in the middle.
Nevertheless, between flowers and smorgasbords, musicians and photographers, wedding costs will run into the tens of thousands of shekels.
How many tens of thousands? That all depends. And believe it or not, it’s something over which you DO have control.
Let me share with you Five Mindful Money Lessons I learned from our daughter’s June wedding.
- Know Your Numbers.
You’ve heard it before. And there’s even an online budgeting tool with the same name – you need a budget.
When it comes to weddings, one-thousand shekel checks slide out of your checkbook faster than omelets off a non-stick pan. A budget gives structure to your spending and boundaries to your cash.
Before you call the hall, the caterer and the band know much you can afford to spend.
If this is your first wedding, you might need time to collect the costs and figure out how to juggle all the pieces to fit within your budget.
Our recent wedding was the third one we celebrated in the last five years. Since I’m a financial nerd, my existing spreadsheets and historical data provided the information I needed to get going straight away. If you don’t have this information contact someone who does have the basic information to get you started.
- Put Yourself before Your Kids
When I teach live workshops and my online class Smart Women Build Wealth, I caution people not to spend all their money on their children. We love our kids dearly. We’re excited for them and we want to throw a special and joyous celebration. The problem is that if we take care of all of our children’s needs, wants and desires – spending down our financial reserves in the process – we risk our retirement and the financial sustainability of our future.
Parents sometimes re-mortgage their homes to marry off their kids. Make sure you understand the long-term ramifications of your financial choices before you make them. No one is getting out of their rocking chair at age 85 to get a job and pay the mortgage. It just doesn’t work like that.
- Expect the unexpected.
Life happens. Always. Hiccups and whoopsies are part of every celebration. Let me share with you what happened to us.
My daughter ordered a beautiful dress online from China, which arrived in Israel six weeks before the wedding. We found an experienced seamstress. We had plenty of time to alter the dress.
But two weeks before the wedding, the seamstress went AWOL.
And I had a stressed out kallah in my house.
So, I did what any mother would do two weeks before her daughter’s wedding (with Shavuot in the middle): rent a custom-made dress from a local bridal salon.
That cost a bomb!
Luckily, since I’m a financial nerd, we have an Emergency Fund. But even non-financial nerds can ensure they have emergency reserves in place.
When you prepare the budget for your celebration, leave yourself a financial cushion.
Don’t accept the first price quote you get. Vendors usually quote high at first, leaving a margin for negotiation. We negotiated the cost of the hall, the music, the photographer and the food. You can save money, if you’re willing to haggle.
Since our budget was on its way overboard after the wedding dress episode, I asked the caterer how we could reduce the costs. After discussing the options, I chose to simplify the first course.
Lesson learned: even as you near the date of your celebration there may still be wiggle room. While some costs cannot be changed, others might be flexible. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about your need to cut back.
- Have that money conversation.
Get on the same page with your spouse. Make sure your kids know your limits. And clarify with the other side who pays for what. When two families come together b’simcha, protect your relationships from the start. Be straightforward and clear so no one feels like they’re being cheated or being forced into uncomfortable situations. Being clear is especially important since frequently you’re having these conversations with virtual strangers who may be speaking very different money languages.
Since our son-in-law’s family lives abroad, they invited fewer guests than we did. Mistakenly, I quoted them half the catering costs instead of their portion. And they were a bit surprised. Luckily, I caught my mistake quickly, apologized for the oversight and corrected the figures. Everything worked out beautifully and together we celebrated a beautiful simcha. In fact, I think that navigating a sticky money conversation up front brought the two families closer together.
Weddings are wonderful and special occasions. We hope and pray that each newly married couple merits the building of a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael. Taking care of your finances helps you rejoice in your simcha with a full heart. Without paying for the celebration for years and years to come.