When your child was a newborn baby, you probably thought that this moment would take forever to arrive. Think of all of the effort that you have put into your child over the years, with so many hopes and prayers that they would grow up to find a suitable spouse and one day you would proudly stand under the chuppah and watch the happy couple tie the knot.
Unfortunately, despite all of the hopes and dreams, many parents either don’t or can’t put so much effort into saving the money that goes into paying for the wedding. There could be many reasons for this. Maybe the parents didn’t think too much about it, and because the thought of a wedding always seemed so far away, they woke up too late and did not invest their money sensibly and in time. On the other hand, the parents may have tried their best to put money aside to pay for their children’s weddings, but try though they did, there was simply not enough. Perhaps their income was just not high enough, or maybe some other events happened within the family, like a sudden illness, that consumed all of their savings unexpectedly before they could be channeled into a wedding.
Unfortunately, another huge factor in this equation is peer pressure. Very often, families feel that they have to keep up with the Joneses in a big way. It becomes very important to them, for example, to hold the wedding in a certain, fancy hall. Even though the other hall down the road is large enough for their needs, “no one” gets married there because it is not quite as upmarket as the most popular hall in town, and therefore the parents feel the need to find the extra few thousand dollars that it costs to use the fancier place. And then of course, if you are using the fancy hall, then you can only take a fancy caterer, and so on and so forth.
Finding those extra dollars is not always so easy. And this is where the debt trap comes into play. As a financial adviser, I have often met families who are drowning in debt. To keep up appearances, they decide to borrow money from a loan fund. But when the time comes to pay off the debt, their financial situation has not suddenly improved. In fact, the additional expenses of the wedding have gobbled up most of their resources, and there is nothing left to pay back. So guess what happens? They go to another loan fund to obtain money to pay off the first debt … and so on and so forth until this unfortunate family falls even more deeply into a financial black hole.
Let’s go back to the beginning of this story. If the family had been content to make a more modest wedding, with fewer trimmings, they would not only have saved several thousand dollars, but they would have also saved themselves a lot of heartache.
Marriage is not meant to be a financial free for all, and using a topflight caterer will not guarantee anyone’s future happiness.
Before you decide to drown yourself in debts from banks, gemachim, and elsewhere, take a few steps back. Think about how much you really can afford to pay before taking on the bills, and where you are going to find the money. And once you know how much money you really have at your fingertips, decide which kind of wedding you are prepared to make.Doug Goldstein, CFP®