Weddings and Retirement Accounts: A Tale of Two New Year's Resolutions

We are all familiar with the idea of New Year's resolutions: eating better, more exercise, new hobbies, etc.

Persone Gina
Luoghi Regno Unito, provincia di Sondrio, Wé
Argomenti internet, software, linguistica

25/gen/2016 03.14.20 Antonieff Contatta l'autore

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Those were the first words I heard when I proposed to my girlfriend Gina about four weeks ago. Coincidentally, they would end up being the first words out of my mouth when I learned how much a wedding can cost.

We are all familiar with the idea of New Year's resolutions: eating better, more exercise, new hobbies, etc. I hadn't given it much thought this year, but I quickly realized that in 2016, I had no need to come up with my own.

The beast that is the wedding industry

That's because the moment Gina said "yes", a field of land mines awaited us: venues, caterers, photographers, music, attire, gifts, and more. All of these expenses joined forces to create a truly formidable resolution: pay for the wedding without turning our finances on their head.

Personally, I was content to sit back and enjoy the "honeymoon" phase of our engagement, but life had other plans. In the opening weeks of 2016, wedding planning became a very real, and very sobering part of my day-to-day routine. Just to be clear, I have no problems sitting down with Gina to discuss food, research venues, and the many other details that go into a wedding. I might not admit this in person, but I actually enjoy poring over Pinterest boards and Airbnb listings.

No, the toughest challenge was realizing that the wedding industry is an unforgiving beast that very much enjoys the ring of its cash register. Just the slightest hint of matrimony, and that rustic farm goes from $500 per night to $7,000 for the weekend. Gina and I quickly learned that this premium pricing was standard practice for most wedding services -- every little detail seemed to be accompanied by its own army of fees and expenses.

Chalk it up to our naiveté, but is it so wrong to believe that we can plan a small to medium-sized wedding in the D.C. metro region at a bargain price?

Yes, apparently, it is.

The Knot conducts an annual survey of thousands of brides and shares some eye-opening data for the industry. As it turns out, their 2014 results pegged the average cost of a U.S. wedding at $32,213! And better yet, that number increases to $39,025 for the "Washington DC/Northern Virginia/Suburban Maryland" region. I breathed a massive sigh of relief when I found that the median was closer $20,000, but that still amounts to nearly one-third of the annual median household income for the region, all spent on just a single day.

I was even more alarmed to learn that many people will go into debt to pay for the festivities. About one-third of couples rely on credit cards or other borrowings to fund their weddings, and one U.K.-based survey found that of these debt-laden newlyweds, almost half regretted taking on the debt with another 30% still paying it off six years later.

A new hope

So in the face of such daunting prospects, I turned to the one thing that has always guided me through the darkness, an old friend that neither tires nor complains: Microsoft Excel. I have compiled all of our wedding research into a centralized spreadsheet.

 

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