Once you decide to get married, you can kiss your free time good-bye. There's just so much to do. You need to make the official announcement, pick a date, and start making wedding plans. You've got to arrange for time off from work for your honeymoon, think about where you'll live, and pick out your wedding dress and tux.
As busy as you'll be, however, you've got to spend some time doing some serious thinking about your personal finances and how the wedding and marriage will affect them. A wedding can be unbelievably expensive (almost enough to make you want to elope!), and you'll be spending money on a lot of other things such as an engagement ring and honeymoon. Let's take a look at some of the expenses you might be faced with.
With This Ring
One of the very first expenses involved with getting married is buying an engagement ring. Of course, a ring is not required, but it's traditional and quite important to many couples. Just remember that it's not a smart move to buy a ring that you simply can't afford. An engagement ring should be a symbol of your love and commitment, not a statement of your financial situation. You'll have plenty of occasions to upgrade your ring after you're married.
A recent survey by Bride's Magazine showed the average amount spent on an engagement ring is $3,044.
If your girlfriend doesn't already know that you think she's the greatest, she probably won't want to marry you anyway. Don't let a jeweler talk you into buying a ring you can't afford.
Ouch! Here Comes the Bill
Traditionally, most wedding expenses were paid for by the bride's parents. But times have changed, and the way we pay for weddings has changed as well. Nowadays, the bride and groom might pay for the entire wedding, the two families might split expenses, or each family may pay for the number of guests it invites.
Bride's Magazine reports that the average cost of a wedding for 200 guests and five attendants is $19,104.
Regardless of who is footing the bill, the first important thing to do when planning your wedding is to establish how much you can spend. This will require talking to everyone who might be contributing and finding out how much you'll have. If you learn that you'll have $25,000—great! Go ahead and throw yourself a bash. If you find out you have $7,500, then you'll need to scale down and work within those parameters. You can find some good tips on saving on wedding costs at About.com. It's on the web at http://weddings.about.com.
The budget for every wedding is different, because every wedding is different. This worksheet, however, gives you an idea of the way the average wedding budget breaks down, by listing the percentage for the total budget as it normally is allocated. Use these percentages as a guide to plan your wedding, so that you can stay within your budget.
Grab your calculator and you'll get an idea of how much money you'll have to spend for each cost area.
Total wedding budget $________________
|Area||Estimated Cost||Actual Cost|
|Stationery items (3%)||$ ___________||$ ___________|
|Bridal attire (10%)||$ ___________||$ ___________|
|Reception (40%)||$ ___________||$ ___________|
|Flowers (8%)||$ ___________||$ ___________|
|Music (3%)||$ ___________||$ ___________|
|Photography (7%)||$ ___________||$ ___________|
|Gifts—attendants (2%)||$ ___________||$ ___________|
|Honeymoon (20%)||$ ___________||$ ___________|
|Misc. (e.g., special parties) (7%)||$ ___________||$ ___________|
|Total||$ ___________||$ ___________|
Obviously, these percentages will vary, as you customize your own wedding. Be sure you keep track of all your wedding expenses by saving all receipts and filing them in a safe place.
Filing Jointly or Separately?
Have you ever heard of the marriage penalty? That term is used to refer to the traditional inequity for married couples who file joint income tax returns. It used to be that the deduction a married couple took didn't even come close to adding up to the total of the deductions of two people filing separately. However, the income tax revisions of 2003 lowered this burden somewhat.
As single people filing income tax returns, each of you was eligible for a $4,850 personal deduction. If you decide to file a joint return after you're married, your deduction will now be double that amount—$9,700. That's a lot better than it used to be, when the married deduction fell about $2,000 less than the total of two single deductions.