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Avoiding the high cost and high stress of weddings

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Mark C. Weitzel

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By Mark C. Weitzel

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The national average cost of a wedding day in 2016 shot up to $35,329, according to a survey by The Knot. That's a jump by $2,688 from the 2015 average of $32,641.

I don’t know about you, but as the father of three daughters I find that statistic deeply troubling. That is a lot of money to spend for just one day, or more realistically about eight hours.

That comes out to just over $4,400 an hour. That same amount of money would make for a 20 percent down payment on a $176,000 home for the young couple.

I think the reason for this absurdity can be found in the financial axiom that when we make emotional decisions, we tend to make bad financial decisions. And few things can be more emotional than a wedding.

Couple this with an industry that has gotten more and more creative at separating you from your money by creating things you “need” that “everyone does” and it is no wonder the price has skyrocketed.

“Save the date” announcements are a new and added expense that doesn’t need to occur, as is the “groom’s cake.”

First, anyone who is going to be invited knows the date. They don’t need a special reminder in magnet form that sticks to the fridge. Second, why does the groom need his own cake? Is the cake that cost hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars not good enough for both of them?

Everything for that special day is an upsell that are just pennies apiece. But when you start adding pennies up, pretty soon you are talking real dollars. The next thing you know, you are stressing and fighting about each expense from the floral arrangements to the wedding dress to the DJ.

So, I would like to offer a simple solution to all of the financial/emotional angst that leads up to the big day. I have employed this technique to all three of my daughter’s weddings as well as have several of my friends. By using this technique, every step of the process was not only enjoyable but there was never a single fight about what anything pertaining to the wedding cost.

You see, I discovered a long time ago that my girls were pretty frugal with their own money but that they had no problem spending unlimited amounts of mine and my wife’s money.

So, when the time came and they each came to us and said they were ready to get married, my wife and I sat down and decide how much we were comfortable spending on this wedding. We then sat our daughter and future son-in-law down and handed them a check.

We told them if they wanted to spend more than this it was on them and by the way, they were not allowed to take on debt to do it. But spend less than that and they could keep the difference.

From that moment forward my wife and I didn’t care what anything cost. Our money was spent. Exactly how was up to my daughter now. My daughters were no longer spending our money they were spending their money. Three weddings and not a single argument about what anything cost.

There was a down side I didn’t anticipate, as at one point I had to pull my most frugal daughter aside and inform her that she really needed to have more than one kind of dipping sauce with the McNuggets.

Mark C. Weitzel teaches in the Finance Department in the College of Business at East Carolina University.

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