The Moneyist: ‘Marriage sure does make love suck’: My fiancée wants a big, expensive wedding — I want to a downpayment for a house

Dear Quentin,

My fiancée and I are currently in the process of planning a wedding and reassessing where we’d like to buy a house. She is about to begin her 10-month unpaid internship in order to complete her master’s degree. 

Throughout all of this, the biggest issue we’re facing is the wedding. We have been together for close to 11 years, and engaged for one year. 

For the longest time, I thought we were on the same page — small wedding, no engagement photos, save the money and get a house. Why go into marriage in debt? 

As we begin to peel the layers of the onion, her thoughts have changed dramatically. She now envisions a wedding with 80-plus guests in a rented venue. She wants engagement photos. She wants to provide either plated or buffet food. 

‘Her parents have offered close to $10,000 to help, but I have insisted that money is better suited for a down payment on a house.’

All of these things are adding up, even though we set a hard budget of $15,000 and don’t even have a quarter of that saved. I have money in stocks and I have savings, but I am strongly refusing to touch either of them for the sake of this joyous occasion. 

Her parents have offered close to $10,000 to help, but I have insisted that money is better suited for a down payment on a house when the time comes. 

I’m being looked at as simply someone who is unwilling to budge, and she’s asked if I truly even want to get married.

How do I go about approaching this? I don’t want to stonewall her at every turn. I want her to have an amazing day we remember for the rest of our lives, but she has yet to propose a plan for how we can save this money. I am beginning to feel as though she’s looking at me to foot the bill almost entirely by myself.

Marriage sure does make love suck. Please tell me if I’m pinching my pennies a little too tightly, or if I’m right on the money.

Frustrated With Financials

Dear Frustrated,

This conversation about your wedding and how much you intend to spend is a proxy for every discussion — big and small — you will have about money throughout your married life. For instance, 80-plus guests for one couple could be a mid-sized or even small wedding party. For many others, it’s a big hoo-ha. But the question is should you go into debt for your wedding? The Moneyist gives a resounding no.

Marriage is many things, but it is first and foremost a business contract. You commit to each other legally, emotionally and financially. Your goals become your wife’s goals, and vice versa. Your money anxieties become shared anxieties. Your wife’s attitude toward life events and indebtedness — depending on how you look at it — will also become yours to navigate. 

If you can’t resolve this dilemma amicably, it does not bode well for the many challenges that lie ahead. After all, this is an expense you are entering into willingly. Imagine what might happen if one or both of you were dealt an unexpected blow like the loss of a job, a natural disaster or an illness that racked up unsustainable medical bills.

‘If you resolve this in a way that is respectful of each other and of your own boundaries, it will provide a template for how you tackle such issues in the future.’

But this is also an opportunity. It’s a puzzle that you must figure out together to move forward. If you resolve this in a way that is respectful of each other and of your own boundaries, it will provide a template for how you tackle such issues in the future. This impasse over your wedding could lead to growth for both of you. 

Examine the underlying reasons for your respective approaches. A third party — perhaps a therapist, financial adviser or, indeed, a financial therapist — could help you unpack the reasons why the wedding size has taken on such importance for your wife, and how you might be able to find a compromise. 

The wedding is a celebration of your commitment and love, but do not allow it to define your position in the world. I’ve attended many, many weddings that have cost very little money. And you know what? They rank among my favorites. 

Also read: I want to take a life-insurance policy out on my husband. He says ‘hell will freeze over’ before he’s worth more dead than alive

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

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