Getting married is the ultimate celebration of love, pure and simple. Or, is it? Getting married is far more than the celebration of love. It’s a lifelong commitment to stand together for better or for worse; to work as a team establishing goals and aspirations, all while building a bond that can survive the test of time.
Next year my wife and I are celebrating our twelfth anniversary. Planning how to celebrate it has brought back memories that made me realize the things I wish I had known before we decided to get married.
Let’s face it, finances take center stage in every relationship. Before getting married, it might not be romantic to talk about money, but having the money conversation before your wedding day can make things a lot easier for after the marriage.
On this guide:
1. What Does Getting Married Mean?
2. How to Get a Marriage License?
3. Talking About Money Before the Big Day
4. Prepare a Couple’s Budget
5. Money Management Tips for Newly Married Couples
What Does Getting Married Mean?
There is a big physiological shift that comes with being married vs. living together, unmarried. My wife and I lived together for a few years before getting married; we enjoyed spending time together but each of us had independent ideas of things we wanted to do.
However, after we got married, each of us went from “me” to “we” in a hurry. Why? Because we were married! It’s automatic.
But what is marriage all about?
In simple terms, marriage is about sharing. It is about sharing personal moments, sharing your bed, sharing what makes you happy, what makes you unhappy, and of course sharing your money. Marriage is knowing that every battle you face, you’ll have a partner who will take your side.
How to Get a Marriage License
To get married, you’ll need to get a marriage license, which you can get by applying at your local municipality. All you’ll need is two pieces of IDs, then you pay a small fee and obtain your marriage license.
The marriage license is signed by the bride and groom and their witnesses during the ceremony. Then, the marriage officiant files the marriage license with the local municipality so that they can issue the marriage certificate.
Marriage License vs. Marriage Certificate
A marriage license is a permit you get to get married, whereas a marriage certificate is proof that you got married.
certificate is proof that you got married.
You should keep the marriage certificate in a safe place. You might need this document to:
- Prove you are legally married
- Apply for social or health benefits
- Change your last name
- Apply for a loan to buy a house together soon after the wedding
Talking About Money Before the Big Day
It’s no secret that problems with money can put a big strain on a relationship. Some of these problems come from bad spending habits, previous outstanding debts, or simply because of failure to have a budgetary plan.
Remember that when you get married, you go from “me° to “we,so it is important that you and your significant other get on the same page regarding how you spend money and how you want to build a solid financial footing for your future together.
The engagement ring
I learned a lot about the 5 Cs of diamonds in the weeks leading up to when I purchased my wife’s engagement ring. Frankly, I could not understand why I was going to spend that much money on a ring, but I did it because it is what my wife (then fiancé) wanted.
After years of seeing my wife treasure her ring and talk about it with her friends, I realized it was worth it; in fact, there are times that I wish I bought an even better one.
One common mistake I often see with newlywed couples is they’re trying hard to pay down debt they accrued during the lead up to their dream wedding.
According to the Better Business Bureau, the average cost of a wedding stands at about $30,000 including the wedding rings.
Bride and groom: 61%
Parents & gifts: 39%
How is the money spent?
Wedding reception: 60%
Dress/Tuxedo & other: 15%
Most couples that are starting their relationship, don’t have the cash to spend $30,000 on their wedding, so they go in debt to pay for it. That’s on top of student loan debt, and credit card debt.
Having all that debt going into their marriage means they have to spend years paying down debt without being able to buy a house, take vacations, or being financially able to grow their family.
The problem is we are being influenced by Hollywood’s fairy tale weddings.
This is something that unfortunately couples understand only years after they got married. If they could turn back time, they would not spend that much money on a wedding.
Yes, building memories is an important part of a successful marriage, but those good memories can quickly erode if it means you’ll be in debt.
You can still have a great party without breaking the bank. This way, you stay focused on what matters instead of letting fairy tales derail your long term dreams. Here are some tips you can use to save money on your wedding.
· Set a wedding budget (Download: Wedding budget template)
· Negotiate with vendors
· Host the party on a weekday vs. a weekend. It’s more expensive to book venues for a weekend day vs. Monday – Friday.
· Borrow or rent wedding décor rather than purchasing outright.
· Think of an un-traditional venue that doesn’t cost as much money
· Offer a signature cocktail and a few options of beer or wine rather than an open bar.
Prepare a Couple’s Budget
Whenever my wife and I prepare our couple’s budget, she likes to joke by saying that “my money is our money, and her money is her money”. Jokes aside, preparing a couple’s budget is a key step in staying on track to achieve your joint financial goals.
You should have a full understanding of how much money each person is making and spending. Objectively, you should have one joint account where you can easily track the money going in and the money going out.
You can then set up savings accounts with an automatic transaction being processed so that the money goes directly to the savings account without you having to process the transaction manually.
Step 1: Determine your household needs
Start by listing all of your fixed expenses. These are things like the mortgage or rent, car payments, insurance premiums, and utilities, which you’re required to pay every month.
Then, estimate how much money you’d like to spend every month on non-fixed necessities like food, gas, entertainment and include those in your budget.
Step 2: Create short-term and long-term goals
The next step is planning how to achieve your goals. These include short-term and long-term goals.
You can start by allocating a set amount that goes towards achieving the goals you have set out which can include things like setting up an emergency fund, saving for the down payment of a house, or a fun vacation.
If the money left over doesn’t match how much money you’d like to put away every month, you’ll need to trim your budget. After you’ve got your savings planned out, you can decide on where you’d like to invest the money.
Step 3: Track your spending
Pay particular attention to your spending habits. We tend to spend too much money on things we don’t need such as subscriptions and apps we rarely use.
It may take a little bit of work to get on the same page regarding your spending habits, but it’s a much better idea to have this conversation early on.
· Set up an emergency fund (six months’ worth of expenses)
· You should be saving money every month. If you are not saving money, it means you are spending too much
· Your budget should include short-term and long-term financial goals such as saving to buy a car, saving to buy a house, paying down the mortgage, etc.
· If your spouse refuses to combine finances with you, there is usually a reason. If this is the case try to find the underlying reason that is motivating their decision.
Check out: The Budgeting Binder Planner
Money Management Tips for Newly Married Couples
Many couples never talk about money before getting married. If you want to ensure that you and your spouse are moving towards your financial goals together, you’ll need to get on the same page as early as possible.
Here are some of our best tips for managing finances as a couple.
1. Write down your goals
Many people find it easier to stick to a budget when their financial goals are clearly articulated. I find that when you write them down and keep the journal in a prominent area of the home, you are more likely to keep on track.
2. Have regular budget meetings
If you’re talking about finances regularly, you’ll be able to keep a closer eye on your financial health. Set monthly budget meetings to evaluate your spending. As you look over your budget, check in on your financial plan, and see whether there are any changes you can make to move you closer to your goals.
3. Make sure your individual needs are being addressed
Saving money is important, but you should still feel like your individual needs are being met. If you need to cut costs, it should be done evenly. Some couples handle this by keeping their accounts separate and maintaining a joint account for bills and household expenses.
4. Save for retirement
Even if you can’t save much, take advantage of compounding interest by putting money in a high-interest savings account or investment account every month.
5. Be honest
Marriage is a partnership, and it’s difficult for your spouse to help you if they don’t know you’re having trouble. Be honest with them if the budget isn’t working for you, or if you’ve made a financial misstep.
6. Figure out some fun, but affordable date ideas
Keeping the romance alive is an important part of a healthy marriage. You can have affordable dates without breaking the bank.
For example, some restaurants run promotions that allow you to dine at their locations for a fraction of the regular cost. I, particularly have taken advantage of the “Summerlicious” and “Winterlicious” programs since well before getting married.
Getting on top of your finances is key to stepping into marriage on the right foot. Budgeting and saving money are common features of the first few years of marriage, especially if you’ve spent a lot of money on a blowout wedding. By budgeting and saving carefully, you can build a solid foundation for the years to come.