If you Google “money and marriage,” most of the top results are articles and studies that offer desperate couples advice on reducing arguments and full-blown fights over financial issues. Money is a touchy subject for so many people, and for a relationship on track to marriage, money is a particularly important topic as you get closer to combining incomes, assets, expenses, debts, and tax filings. Here’s what you need to know before you get engaged.
Crucial Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged
If you’re on the verge of proposing to your current partner (or expecting a proposal in the near future), here are some questions to ask each other before popping the question.
1. How much debt do we have?
Debt is one of the biggest concerns in any long-term relationship as you increasingly share more expenses and navigate through the minefield of legal obligations for other people’s debts. And, it’s something you need to know when you get engaged.
For instance, while most spouses are not responsible for student loan debts (unless one spouse co-signed for their partner’s loans at any point in the relationship), “community property states” complicate matters because debt is viewed as owed by the “community” (the married couple), even if one spouse had nothing to do with the loan.
So, what debts does your future spouse have? Do they have any loans for bad credit? What credit cards, student loans, and other consumer credit debt do they have? These are the questions you should ask right from the start.
If you live in Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin, then you live in a community property state and might be liable for your spouse’s debts once you’re married to them.Do you know all of your partner's dark financial secrets? Ask these questions before the wedding.Click To Tweet
2. What does our income/asset situation look like?
It’s amazing how many people can be in relationships for so many months or years without discussing seemingly basic financial matters such as income and assets. It’s important to know approximately how much money each earns per year, in addition to calculating your net worth because these figures offer a realistic glimpse into your financial situation and might determine how feasible it would be to get engaged.
For instance, if your potential fiancé has a considerable amount of credit card and student loan debt, but their annual income is significantly higher than your own, then the idea of marrying them shouldn’t be tossed on the backburner if your only concern is their debt because their income and/or assets will help them pay off the debt (assuming they’re financially responsible).
Calculating your collective income and assets can also help you decide how you might file taxes after marriage (jointly or separately), divide up expenses (if one spouse earns significantly more, will they cover more expenses or split 50/50?), and pay for child-related expenses (or decide if one spouse will quit their day job to be a stay-at-home parent if you decide to have kids).
3. Are they a spender or a saver?
The old adage for relationships says “opposites attract”. But, when it comes to finances, this is often untrue. If you grew up in an extremely frugal family and your future spouse grew up in a family that spent money lavishly without much concern for racking up debt or finding ways to trim expenses, do you think you two could overcome the gap between the financial attitudes you grew up with after you get engaged?
On the flip side, are you more of an impulsive spender while your partner seems overly stingy when it comes to getting the best deals on everything you consider buying? It’s not impossible to make things work out if you and your partner happen to be on opposite ends of the personal finance spectrum, but it could be a potential area of conflict in the future if you get frustrated with each other for their attitude towards money.
4. Do we share the same financial goals?
What happens if you want to buy a home someday, but your partner thinks that renting forever is the best option for your lifestyle? Does one of you prioritize saving for long-term goals like retirement while the other person wants to enjoy living in the moment by dining out more frequently or upgrading your lifestyle in other ways?
If you don’t share the same short and long-term goals, you could possibly run into some roadblocks after you get engaged and after you’re married and ensnared in a much trickier web of financial and legal obligations. Don’t let rose-colored lenses about your future together lead you to shrug off your financial goals in favor of a “we’ll figure it out later” mentality. Instead, it is crucial to collaborate on a realistic strategy for attaining your personal and collective goals well before you need to make these decisions.
5. How easy is it to reach compromises together?
This question isn’t, strictly speaking, a financial one, but rather a general question about your personalities and approaches to conflict management. Whenever you have arguments, do they (or you) blow up and follow up with the cold shoulder treatment? Or, are you both willing to calmly sit down and communicate your problems in order to reach a compromise?
The ability to compromise is absolutely critical for financial management in a married relationship (especially if you have different views on money in general). If either of you is reluctant to compromise, then this could be problematic for resolving larger issues like following through on savings plans, repaying debts, handling budget changes, and dealing with other money-related matters later on in your relationship.
As with your financial goals, it’s important not to shrug off this issue as “it’ll get better later” or “we’ll figure it out if it happens” – instead, work on achieving compromises in both personal and financial arguments to strive for a better future together with minimal conflict.
6. Can we afford a wedding in the near future?
Perhaps you and your partner have near-perfect alignment when it comes to your views on money management and long-term financial goals, but could your current situation afford the cost of marriage?
The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is $26,720, and while there are ways to save on this (e.g., inviting fewer guests, renting attire, finding free venues, etc.), the cost of weddings is still pretty hefty for younger couples to manage without significant assistance from family and friends.
Unless you have a pressing reason to get married sooner rather than later (such as qualifying for company-subsidized health insurance for an otherwise uninsured spouse), you might want to postpone the engagement and marriage process until you’re on a more financially stable footing.
Did you know the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. nowadays is $26,444? That’s more than what some new cars cost, and it can be disheartening later on when you and your new spouse are house shopping and could’ve used a few extra grand for a decent down payment. But, there are several ways how to save money on a wedding.
7 Ways to Save Money on a Wedding
Instead of breaking the bank with a fairytale wedding complete with all the bells and whistles, here are a few ideas for an equally wonderful but more wallet-friendly wedding.
Shrink The Guest List
The bigger your guest list, the bigger your venue and meal expenses will be in order to accommodate all your guests. Rather than inviting everyone and their mother, consider inviting only your closest friends and family members to the ceremony and then host a reception or celebration with your larger social circle afterward. This way, everyone gets to be a part of the festivities, but only the most important people in your life are there for the intimate ceremony.
Alternatively, the New York Daily News points out that you can request no children or plus-ones in order to trim your wedding guest list without excluding anyone who you truly want at your ceremony.The average cost of a wedding in the U.S. nowadays is $26,444. Here are 7 ways to save!Click To Tweet
Beautiful Venue Bargains
The venue is usually the largest expense when it comes to planning a wedding, but there are many frugal alternatives to dropping thousands of dollars on a pristine location for just a single day. If you haven’t decided on a day yet, then avoid Saturdays at all costs.
As the most common day to get married, Saturday prices for wedding venues are significantly higher than Friday or Sunday venue rental prices. You can also opt for an off-season wedding in autumn or winter (avoid December unless it has special meaning for you, however).
Aside from choosing an optimally affordable date for your wedding, additional ways to save on your wedding venue costs include negotiating the price (find out what they charge for a facility rental before mentioning it’s for a wedding), hosting your wedding ceremony and reception at the same location, and perhaps seeking out alternative venues that don’t normally host weddings (such as a bed and breakfast, a friend’s large backyard, a local park, etc.).
Rent/Borrow The Wedding Dress Or Tux
There are different pros and cons of buying versus renting your wedding attire, but if your main priority is affordability, then renting or borrowing is the way to go. For the bride, you can rent from a local dress shop or browse through Rent the Runway’s selection of wedding gowns for rental prices as low as $70. For the groom, Menguin’s collection of tuxedos is a fantastic option to start with, thanks to their customizable fitting options and prices starting at $85 for a rental.
If you know someone of similar size and body type who might be willing to lend you their dress or tuxedo, then borrowing your wedding attire is your cheapest option available (but you still might want to buy them a small gift to say thank you).
Sure, renting and borrowing don’t have the same sentimental value of having your very own dress or tux to treasure forever, but if you’re only going to wear these outfits one time, then affordable attire is the way to go.
Funky Alternatives To Floral Arrangements
With the average cost of flowers and decorations hovering around the $1,500 mark for weddings in the U.S., there must be ways how to save money on a wedding on these temporary items without leaving your venue with a bare-bones appearance, right?
Yes, in fact, the Rock N Roll Bride blog has 33 alternative bouquet ideas including origami flowers, homemade felt flowers, flowers made of book pages or music sheets, and more! Traditional flowers will wither away within a few days of the wedding, but nonorganic materials will last you for many years to come (and save you money on floral arrangements!). What types of flowers will you order for your wedding when you get engaged?
Hit Up Your Photography-Savvy Friend
Wedding photos are extremely important to preserve the memories of your special day forever, but doling out $3,000+ for a professional photographer and videographer is too expensive for many couples. Instead, ask a photography-savvy friend who owns a good-quality camera to take pictures at your reception (don’t forget to buy them a gift to thank them!) and limit your professional photographer to the 2-3 hours of the ceremony itself.
You can also ask guests with smartphones to download a free wedding photo sharing app, such as Wed Pics, so you can get dozens of shots and angles of the ceremony and reception from the very folks sitting in your audience.
Ditch Traditional Catering And Bar Options
Catering is yet another outrageously expensive cost for weddings before you get engaged, but your guests don’t need filet mignon and an open bar to have a good time at your reception. Oftentimes, you can ask the venue if you can bring your own appetizers (cheese and cracker plates and fruit salads are perfect) and bring your own alcohol to avoid the surcharges on venue-provided booze.
The Portable Bar Company points out you can also save money on alcohol by offering your guests a limited bar (specific timeframe or set number of drink tickets per person) or providing only beer and wine (and perhaps champagne for a toast to the newlyweds).
If your venue allows outside food, then ditching the catering option and having a food truck wedding is an increasingly popular (and affordable) option for weddings. If you’re still unsure what to do about your menu, there are also thousands of ideas in the Cheap Wedding Food category on Pinterest to spark your imagination.
Bye-Bye Band And DJ
In the age of Spotify and Apple Music, you can save tons of money by self-DJ’ing your wedding you need to think about before you get engaged. This option is best if the venue has its own speakers through which you can stream your party playlist and let guests add their favorite tunes throughout the night.
Sure, there may be more fanfare with a melodious band or a funky DJ who knows all the tricks to keep your guests entertained, but if the cost difference is $0 or $2,000+ then being your own DJ might be best for your wedding.
Wedding expenses shouldn’t drive your financial situation into the red before you and your significant other even have a chance to experience life together as newlyweds. As you can see, there are plenty of ways how to save money on a wedding without sacrificing the magic of your big day or shortening your honeymoon to recover from the costs of the wedding itself.
If you’re currently in the midst of planning your wedding, keep this quotation from Jane Seymour in mind: “I think a lot of people get so obsessed with the wedding and the expense of the wedding that they miss out on what the real purpose is. It’s not about a production number, it’s about a meaningful moment between two people that’s witnessed by people that they actually really know and care about.”
Getting engaged is one of the most exciting events in a person’s life. Rather than putting a damper on this special occasion, realistically examining your financial situation and mentality towards money could help prevent problems and conflict from cropping up in the future. After all, money remains the #1 reason why couples fight, so don’t let avoidable problems harm your relationship by tackling them before they become serious issues.
Did I miss any? What are the key questions to ask before you get engaged?