What are your biggest dreams for your child’s future? For most parents, it is to see him or her grow into a good person, get a top education, make a decent living, and settle down and get married to a wonderful spouse. All of these are worthwhile expectations, and many of us would say that this is why we work so hard.
Yet as a financial adviser, I have seen many families where, when it comes to marrying off their children, the dream turns into a nightmare. The wedding is a financial free-for-all, with the expensive flowers, a top band, luxury caterer, and the fanciest hall in the city. The young couple dance off into the sunset (possibly to the apartment that Mom and Dad are also paying for) while the parents are left with huge debts. Sometimes, desperate parents take on loans that they know they will never be able to pay off, and they end up borrowing from one loan fund to pay off another until they drown in their accumulated debts. Stories abound of the unfortunate father who dropped dead of a heart attack just after the wedding because he just couldn’t cope with the stress.
But let’s ask an honest question here: What is more important? The wedding itself or the years of marriage that follow? Even if you had the money to pay for a lavish wedding, wouldn’t you rather give it to your newlywed children so that they can start building their own home? Or put some of it aside for the next wedding or for your own retirement, as you don’t know how things will be in a few years’ time?
Part of the problem, of course, is what society expects. We wouldn’t feel any pressure to keep up with the Joneses if the Joneses weren’t so fussy about the name of the hall or the caterer, or whether the bride borrowed her dress or actually bought one.
It’s time to change our expectations when it comes to weddings. What’s more important? A happy bride and groom who had a simple wedding and whose parents are healthy (both physically and fiscally), or the young couple who had the “top” wedding, but whose families cracked under the strain? A marriage is supposed to last forever, not the expenses incurred from the wedding.