With wedding season upon us, I’ve been getting into plenty of discussions wedding scheduling, planning – and importantly, cost.
The discussions I have heard regarding wedding cost have been disparate. Many people feel that, since it is a once-in-a-life-time event (well, its supposed to be -I’m not sure it is in the Western world where the divorce rate is 45%), it is worth spending money on the big day. Others feel that to pour thousands of dollars into one day is absolutely atrocious, and could be better spend. Many people have told me that even if you try to budget, one small thing leads to another, which incrementally increases the cost to a substantial difference.
While I believe that no person should ever spend beyond their means, or even their budget, for a wedding (like many other milestone events), it is worth celebrating with all the people you love.
A lot of people say to me “that’s so much money for one day!” – and they are right. But you ought to know two important things: one, celebrating marriage doesn’t have to be terribly expensive. A little creativity can result in something beautiful, and affordable.
Second (and much more important, in my humble opinion), money has most value when it is spent for enjoyment. And while we should never be wasteful and reckless with money, the there is limited value beyond face value, when money is sitting in a bank account, and not being spent in a way that increases its value through utility and enjoyment.
People are right when they say that upgrading your car, or house, or engagement ring are wasteful activities. You don’t need those upgrades. People are right when they say that buying your wife flowers on Valentine’s Day is expensive, and a rip-off, and part of a commercialized holiday that isn’t necessary to show love. The money spent on flowers could go into your mortgage or car payment, or even gasoline for the week – and every little bit helps, so it is important not to waste money. I agree.
But my attitude is, it is better to live in a smaller house and be able to go on a vacation every couple of years, than live in a big house, and be stressed out because every dollar is needed to make the mortgage payment this month. It is better to have a Toyota Corolla instead of a Mercedes, and put the saved money on insurance into a fancy dinner with your family, and the extra gas money into a bouquet of flowers for your wife – not because you have to or because the flowers are worth $30, but because you want to see her smile.
Many (not all) men see a wedding day, or Valentines Day, or other gifts as these unnecessary, wasteful expenses that men have to pay because women want them, and that these women don’t realize that the money could be better spent in a different way.
But what you don’t realize is, those little gifts, and love notes, and effort you make (even for no cost – like a foot massage!) make your wife fall in love with you a little more. The day you come home, with a small bouquet of flowers you picked up from the grocery store for $4, your wife falls in love with you a little more. Yes, the flowers will die after a week of sitting in water, and yes, it will be a sunk cost. But those flowers tell your wife you were thinking of her, that you love her in a way that means you feel compelled to show it for “no reason at all”, and that even though you are married, you still believe in wooing her, because the wish to make someone be “in love” (should) continues after marriage. And that feeling – that feeling that your husband loves you so much that he has to show it – that feeling lasts a long time. Every time she sees those flowers in the vase (and even after they die) she will smile and feel a warm feeling her in her heart. With $4, you managed to make a person’s week so much better.
You may think a wedding day is an extravagant cost, sunk into one day. And you might be right. But you don’t realize that this wedding day will be a day your wife remembers forever. She will look at the wedding album one, five, ten, twenty years from now, and she will smile the same beautiful smile she did on that day, and say everything was perfect on that special day. She will tell your children, and your grandchildren, about the day you made her feel like a princess. It is one day, but the memories will last a lifetime. The utility, the enjoyment that comes out of that one day, is priceless.
I’m not advocating for people to be wasteful. I’m not advocating for extravagance that breaks the bank, or even excess that doesn’t break the bank. What I am saying is – the fact that you might not see the value in something, doesn’t mean there isn’t a component to it that makes the experience worth much more than the money you spent, especially for someone else.
I think we should money in a way that makes others happy, while recognizing we are fortunate, and living within our means. When we die, all the money in our bank accounts will be worth nothing to us. We won’t take any of our possession with us, regardless of whether you have a Corolla or a Ferrari. But the memories we create with our money, over our lifetime, will give us a sense of richness that will make death, and life, meaningful.