Every Battle Is Won Before It Is Ever Fought – Sun Tzu
If you’ve ever thought that you might need Chinese philosophy to fight wedding expense creep, you’re probably right (and you also spend a little too much time thinking of war analogies). The cost of a wedding can be a real battle. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding has skyrocketed to $28,427 in 2013. You know who bears the brunt of much of that?
I know that when Sun Tzu wrote about taking the high ground, appearing strong when weak and weak when you are strong, he probably wasn’t talking about weddings….but he could have been. If your wallet is going to escape alive, you’ll need a top notch strategy to help with the bill (if that’s your goal) and keep everyone happy.
My clients Linda and Tom ended up spending $23,000 as “their share” of their son’s wedding. When I asked why the expenses were so out of hand, they said, “Bethanny (the daughter-in-law) had her heart set on a fairy tale wedding. Her parents couldn’t afford much, so we thought it was best to chip in more.
I felt horrible as their advisor for not helping them cut the costs to a minimum!
Even if you’ve done a swell job teaching your kids about money, let’s be honest for a moment; many young people have no idea what money really means….even if they’re at wedding age. Now that they’ve seen the William and Kate wedding, watched the spectacle of Kanye asking what’s-her-name to marry him by renting out an entire arena and hiring an orchestra, your child may think that it’s their turn to create a special, expensive day.
While I don’t question that the day should be special, there’s no reason to break the bank….especially your bank. If your child is the one with pie-in-the-sky dreams involving your wallet, it’s time for you to remember Sun Tzu and focus on what’s important.
When I’ve had clients come to be with children who are getting married, my advice: act quickly to establish the ground rules. Your ground rules don’t have to be the same as your child’s. There’s no reason for you to try and keep up with escalating wedding expenses. Frankly, if you don’t want to, you don’t even have to get involved.
Here are five of my favorite tactics to cut costs and save your sanity while keeping the fun meter set to high (and without getting yourself uninvited from your own child’s wedding!):
1) Tell the bride and groom immediately how much you’re willing to contribute. Make this gift a set amount and if possible, write the check immediately. After that, stop writing checks! Remind them of your agreement if they ask again. If costs arise, you’ve already done your part and should encourage them to find places to cut.
2) Give the couple your cash gift without specifying whether it’s spent on the wedding or not. In fact, make it clear that this is a gift. I love the idea of helping a young couple learn to save (or learn from the “I should have” lesson of spending a ton on a one day event). If you wish, you can even refer to this money from the beginning as “your wedding gift” to them, so that you aren’t on the hook for a separate gift later.
3) If everyone’s amenable, try services such as Rent The Runway for bridesmaid gowns. Not only will everyone look top notch, but the wedding party will share in some of the savings as well.
4) Offer to use your influence or ability to research to help the couple cut costs while keeping the event elegant and special. Ask them if they’d like to you send them creative ideas for:
– Food options
– Wedding and reception locations
In each of these areas there are hundreds of great, low cost ideas online that you can easily explore.
5) Lastly, if you’ve followed these points, don’t insert your ideas or desires for the wedding into the mix. As a guy who worked with couples about to get married for ten years, overbearing parents can ruin the entire event. Give your gift and get out of the way unless you’re asked. I know it’s your money, but remember that you gave it to them for THEIR planning, not yours.
These five areas will help you lower the cost of a wedding and save your sanity. You’ll gain “the high ground” Sun Tzu wrote about in his philosophy and avoid the nightmare of creeping wedding costs. Hopefully it’ll help the new bride and groom find creative ways to cut expenses and still have an awesome day.
Mother of the Bride or Groom? I’ll Help Make The Day Special
I know when you come to Stacking Benjamins you think of women’s fashion…
If you’re the mother of the bride, check out Soulmates.com for some dress ideas. At the very least, you could win one right here just by being one of my readers!
How did you cut expenses at your wedding? Not married? What are some of the best ideas you’ve seen? Let’s share more in the comments below.
I’ll have some more direct ideas in this week’s Stacker newsletter, too! Sign up at the top of the page.