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Good Advice and Bad Advice About Money


It ought to go without saying that all wedding budget advice is not created equal. That certainly is the case when the question is who is going to pay for what!

Just this morning I felt myself compelled to read an article at Gal Time about the ‘new rules’ for who pays for what.

The author of the piece, Analorena Zeldon, consulted two experts, Andria Lewis (wedding planner with fifteen years’ experience) and Jodi RR Smith (author and etiquette expert) about how couples should broach the divvying up of expenses between themselves and their parents.

On the upside, the article not only assumes the couple will take some responsibility for some expenses themselves (and has a convenient breakdown of who pays for what when the two of you are paying for it all), but also that the bride’s parents might choose for a variety of reasons to opt out entirely.
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What’s Up at the Huff Po Wedding Page


Sometimes it’s fun to take a gander at the weddings page at the Huffington Post just to see what’s being said there. The information and advice often ranges from the painfully trite to the downright deranged, but there’s also an occasional nugget of bridal goodness to be mined.

For instance, that photo at the top of this entry? That’s Len Kendall. When he decided to pop the big question, he went to Buzzfeed and posted this meme of himself asking Katie the Big Question… and invited his friends to create images in a similar vein to support him. The images include everything from Tim Tebow to Angelina Jolie’s right leg to… stuff I don’t recognize, but still find amusing. About the only one I didn’t see was Princess Beatrice’s hat from last spring’s royal wedding. Then again, I’m guessing the images at Huff Po don’t include every single effort.

BTW, the lady said yes.
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Planning A Wedding… Safely

wedding planning tips

Consumers don’t always have a lot of options when it comes to righting wrongs perpetrated by scammy, shady shopkeeps and service providers, so the best thing a person can do is take steps to protect him or herself from fraud before it happens. That goes double for brides and grooms, who in addition to spending gobs of money, are often dealing with leads times and options unlike any they’ve encountered in the past. I’m not saying that brides and grooms are all widdle biddy babies who need hand holding, but let’s face facts here. It’s easy to get starry-eyed when it’s planning a wedding we’re talking about, and the bad guys typically prey on people who aren’t paying attention.

The good news is that it’s not that difficult to protect yourself from the sort of unscrupulous wedding vendors who want to get between you and your wedding budget while doing as little work as possible. Unsurprisingly, the Better Business Bureau has some tips for planning a wedding safely. Here’s a snippet of the BBB-endorsed wedding planning tips that can help brides and grooms keep from losing money before or after the wedding, ending up with a sucky ceremony or reception, and maybe most importantly, choosing the wrong wedding vendors.

Pay With Credit Cards: Credit cards offer consumers added protection in the event of a problem, because you can generally have your card issuer “pull back” the charge and investigate any problems within 60 days of receiving your statement, even if you have already paid the charge. In some cases, they may extend you a longer “dispute” period. Unfortunately, checks or cash offer no such protection.

Get Contracts in Writing: Remember that all written contracts should include specific dates, products, prices, name brands, and be signed by all parties involved. Cancellation policies should also be included in the contracts. This includes any refund policies and returns on deposits. If these are not already included in the contract, insist that they are added before you sign. New York state law allows businesses to set whatever refund or cancellation policy they desire. Do not assume that if you cancel a contract, you will receive a 100% refund. Be sure that you are aware of refund or cancellation policies before you sign a contract and that the terms are completely spelled out in the written contract. Also, try to keep deposits as small as possible as they are often non-refundable. Smaller deposits may mean less money lost if there is a change in plans.

Don’t Be Lured By the Lowest Price: Your wedding is a once in a lifetime event, so you want to do it right. Be careful not to hire unknown companies simply because they advertise the lowest prices. First, research the company’s quality and reliability record.

Research A Company Before Using It: There are three simple ways to find a good company: 1) Ask friends for the names of companies that they have used with good results. 2) Ask for references. Any legitimate company will be pleased to provide previously satisfied clients. However, do not stop there. Follow through and actually call the clients to find out it they were satisfied and if they may have some suggestions about doing business with that particular company. 3) Lastly, check companies with your local Better Business Bureau before doing business with them. In the event you do have a problem, you can also contact the BBB to file a complaint.

Smart stuff! But also stuff that’s easy to forget when you’ve emotionally invested yourself in wedding planning and have a little money to spend. So be careful out there, brides and grooms. Stay starry-eyed, but keep those eyes peeled for scams. The only thing I’d add to the BBB’s advice is beware of the upsell, for wedding vendors have a knack for it and you may not even realized you’re being talked into something you really don’t want until after you’ve signed a contract. The upsell may not technically be a scam, but it is another sleazy way to part a bride and her bucks.

(Photo by Fotographix)

Who Pays for What? The Next Generation

If you look in glossy bridal magazines or in handy books on planning weddings, you’ll quickly find a breakdown of who traditionally pays for what at the wedding. In that breakdown, you’ll find that the bride’s parents pay for nearly pretty much all the big ticket items, that the groom pays for the bride’s bouquet, and lots of other handy hints.

The thing is, that’s pretty much an archaic set of rules. Who orders their flowers for the ceremony and the reception, and then expects the groom to go in at another time and choose the bride’s bouquet? Nobody, that’s who. Even the books and magazines will tell you that the rules have changed and this is just a starting place for figuring out what works for you and yours.

These days just about anyone can choose to pay for specific items or donate a wad of cash to a general budget for the happy couple to spend as they see fit. The rules for who pays went almost entirely out the window at least forty years ago. No new hard and fast set of rules has replaced the old ones.

So why do we continue to see these lists of ‘rules’ that were last likely to be followed when Donna Reed was America’s favorite TV mom? Do we even need the list as anything other than a quaint reminder of how it all used to work?

I have a radical notion: let’s ditch the list save as an historical oddity. Instead, let’s start giving real world practical advice on budgeting for a wedding. Let’s encourage happy couples to be pleasantly surprised when someone offers a donation to the funds rather than to imagine that Daddy will pay for everything because it’s his job.

If he wants to finance the whole shebang or give a gift of paying for the flowers or the reception hall or a band, that’s lovely. Accept or reject the offer based on your individual relationship and situation. Just don’t assume it’s coming until it’s offered.

There. I said it. I firmly believe that couples should expect to finance their own weddings out of their own pockets until someone else (ie:the potential donor) chooses to make the suggestion. And when that person holds out money, it is still up to the couple whether or not they choose to take it.

When Mr. Twistie and I were married, we paid for everything ourselves. We never asked for a dime. My father and his mother both donated food to the reception, but they chose to do so. In fact, my mother-in-law’s tray of home rolled sushi was a delightful wedding day surprise.

Was the budget ridiculously tight? Yes it was. Did we have to consider every penny spent carefully? Yes we did.

Would we have done it any other way? No we wouldn’t.

Brides and Grooms Are Spending Less? Sort Of.

Cost of Wedding Down

While the economy is looking up these days, the supposedly watertight wedding industry didn’t make it through the downturn unscathed. The average cost of a wedding in 2009 dropped 10.2% over the 2008 totals, according to The Wedding Report, and that means bride and grooms (and their parents) were spending about $6,000 less per affair. Cost of Wedding had this to say:

On average, US couples spend $20,398 for their wedding. However, the majority of couples spend between $15,299 and $25,498 while their wedding budget is typically 50% less than the amount spent. This does not include cost for a honeymoon or engagement ring.

So where did those couples cut back? The wedding guest list was one area that got a little trim, with the average number of guests totaling 145 in 2008 versus 128 in 2009. Even as wedding stationery gets more and more beautiful, it wasn’t exempt from the squeeze. Reception menus in particular were downsized, with brides and grooms spending about 36% less on them. Other areas that suffered include gifts for the parents of the happy couple and… anklets. (Quelle horreur!)

And yet, as articles shout that wedding vendors are suffering in this weak economy, there are some area of the wedding budget that have seen definite increases. The Wedding Report found that brides and grooms spent about 23% more on musicians for their ceremonies and receptions, 16% more on their wedding photographers, and 13% on the wedding dress.

You’ll hear no judgments from me in either direction. People will spend what they want to spend on their weddings, and I’ve been to backyard weddings and huge elaborate multi-event weddings that were equally awesome. What I will say, though, is that brides and grooms who are cutting back because they have to shouldn’t feel like they’re the only ones doing so! The stats show that plenty of couples are keeping a tighter reign on those wedding budgets so you’re in good company.

Need a bit of help in that regard? I recommend How to Have an Elegant Wedding for $5000 or Less, Celebrate Simply, How to Plan Your Wedding and Save Thousands, and of course, iDo by yours truly!

(Photo via Art Vision Studio)

A Different Kind of Proposal

Once upon a time, my dad told me that he’d give me and whoever I decided to marry $5,000 that we could spend as we liked, provided I eloped. When The Beard and I did decide to marry, that offer changed to $2,000 to put toward a “real” wedding, since my dad’s wife at the time wasn’t going to see me married without all the proper proceedings. Honestly, we probably would have put that original sum toward my wedding budget because I like weddings and The Beard is his mother’s only son, but the thought of having a few thousand more dollars in the bank to put toward a house might have been tempting!

asking parents for money for a wedding

According to a New York Times blog, the newest trend where parents and budgets are concerned is asking for money for big ticket items in lieu of a contribution to a wedding. A down payment on a home is one popular way to spend the spoils, though others might include a much-needed new car or a blowout six-month vacation.

if you’re thinking of asking your parents for cash instead of a wedding contribution, bringing up the subject if your parents haven’t offered first can be difficult. Ms. Martini Bratten [editor-in-chief of Brides] recommends that couples first find out if their parents plan to contribute to the wedding before broaching the subject and not to be shocked if parents are perplexed by the proposition. And if parents make the proposal themselves, choosing whether to take the money or not can be hard as well, though Ms. Martini Bratten said she expected many brides would probably still opt for their dream event.

Asking for money to put toward a wedding budget is difficult enough for many brides and grooms without having to find a way to tactfully say something like “On the assumption that you’re going to help us pay for our wedding, might we just have the cash instead?” I suppose it would get a little easier if your parents have already said they’ll give you such-and-such an amount, and slightly more easy if you want to spend that money on something responsible, like a graduate degree or a flat in the nice part of town.

It might be harder, on the other hand, to ask moms and dads for money when you are planning a biggish wedding and your spouse-to-be’s parents have already indicated that they’ll help pay for it. In that case, it might be awkward for both sets of parents, particularly if there is bad blood between the families and one thinks the other isn’t contributing enough to the happiness or survival of the kids. And I think that asking for cash would be especially difficult if you and your spouse-to-be are well-off enough to pay for a rather nice wedding on your own and plan to do just that, but would like some additional funds for big expenses.

In my case, The Beard and I approached all of our parents to ask (with no strings attached) if they were planning to help us pay for a wedding. At the time, it never occurred to us to use the money so graciously given to us for our wedding for something else, and the thought of asking whether it would be all right if money given for one purpose might be used for another makes me feel a little itchy. That’s why I’m wondering if any of our readers chose to use parent-gifted wedding budget funds for other purposes… if so, did you ask your moms and dads if they’d be willing to hand over cash instead of writing checks to vendors? Did proposing the idea feel weird?

Notes On a Reasonable Wedding

budget-wedding

The blog The Simple Dollar recently did a series that included posts on having a reasonable courtship, a reasonable engagement, and of course, a reasonable Wedding. Naturally, by reasonable, the author means “not costing an arm and a leg.” Nowadays I’m hearing conflicting reports about wedding spending these days, with articles like Brides on a Budget: 75% of Weddings Being Scaled Back and Wedding spend climbs 5.2 percent both appearing in my inbox. Still, there are a lot of budget brides out there, and all budget wedding advice is not created equal. I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of The Simple Dollar’s advice.

Start your planning as far in advance of the wedding as possible. Set a tentative date as quickly as possible and start planning as soon as you can, even if you’re planning something very simple.

Doing so may let you lock in prices on wedding venues, hotels, and entertainment costs, but there are no guarantees. Making reservations early is simply the best way to ensure you can reserve the wedding venues and vendors you really like. That said, don’t let your zest for making those early reservations keep you from researching wedding services before putting down deposits, because hasty decision making can blow your wedding budget in no time.

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