HOW TO HANDLE AWKWARD MONEY CONVERSATIONS WHEN PLANNING A WEDDING
Anyone that knows me, will tell you that I’m a budget nerd. Mr T and I religiously review our previous months budgets and set ourselves new financial goals at the start of every month. Similarly, we do a big budget review at the end of every year and categorise all our spending to see where we can save money and set ourselves new savings goals for the next 12 months. We’ve done this every year for the past three years and I like to call it ‘mindful money’. It was this way of thinking that eventually helped me rid myself of thousands of pounds of debt, how as a couple we bought our first house together and last year paid for our wedding (without the risk of sounding like Martin Lewis, LOL) IN FULL!
So, it probably won’t come as a surprise that we also budgeted our wedding within an inch of our lives. In a couple of weeks I’m going to do a full budget review so you can see how well (or not so well) we stuck to our wedding budget, but for today I wanted to discuss the awkward money conversations that arise whilst planning a wedding and how to handle them.
There are lots of uncomfortable discussions to be had whilst planning a wedding, I can now officially say, I’ve been there, done that and wore the t shirt, but from experience, most difficult exchanges revolve in some way, around money. Take for example the guest list, we were adamant that due to having a restricted budget, we would only invite people to our wedding that we’d physically seen in the last 6 months, unless there was good reason why we couldn’t, such as living in a different country. We applied this rule to both family and friends and this of course meant that several people were left off our guest list which understandably raised questions. We’re very lucky that our family & friends were extremely respectful of our choices and when we explained our reasoning behind the decision, they commended our desire to not want to go into debt for our wedding. But, for many other couples, their nearest and dearest may not be so understanding and this is usually the first awkward conversation regarding money that occurs.
In our case, (except for my wedding dress) we paid for almost the entirety of our wedding ourselves, personally I felt like this gave us more control over what we did and did not do on the day. However, guest lists are a very different conversation if someone else is paying for your wedding, especially if they’re paying for the venue or catering, which we will talk about later. The key to avoiding any awkward exchanges regarding money lies in being totally open, honest and in control of your finances from the very beginning.
Start by approaching your wedding planning with the assumption that you will pay for your wedding in full. DO NOT EXPECT anyone to give you any money towards your wedding, this way you avoid setting yourself up for any unrealistic expectations or disappointment. Then plan your budget. I must admit it took me a while to do this and I wish I’d done it a lot sooner but having a clear picture of what money is coming in and going out of your wedding budget will give you more control over financial decisions further down the line, as well as give you confidence to talk about money with clarity both with family, friends and suppliers. Let’s face it talking about finances in any situation can be stressful but understanding your finances is just one way to shut down awkward conversations immediately. No-one can argue with a budget!
So, what happens when someone else is in fact paying for your wedding? As I said this is a different conversation, but it doesn’t mean you have to lose complete control of your wedding. If, for example a family member offers to pay for your wedding venue or catering, the first thing you need to do is clearly ask if there are any expectations of you if you are to take the kind gesture? Be specific and ask questions like “Is there a budget?”, “Is there a limit to the number of guests I can invite?” and “Is there anyone you’d like me to invite specifically?”. Best case scenario, the answer will be ‘No’ in which case if your happy and your family member is happy then you can thankfully except and get started with the planning. Worse case, the family member has a list of expectations that you need to adhere to and therefore you need to decide whether you AND your significant other are happy to take their financial contribution based on their requests.
Opting out of financial help is yet another awkward conversation. My much-loved grandmother gets seriously offended if I don’t accept her money when she offers it. I’ve tried many a time to dodge a £20 note to later find it secretly stashed in my bag or stuffed in a coat pocket. (Is there another name for the opposite of a pickpocket, because my Nan is it? LOL) The reason I don’t like to take money from her is slightly different in that, I don’t want her to think I expect money from her. She’s my grandmother, I visit and go places with her because I want to, not because she pays me to, but I’ve since learned this is a common ‘Nan thing’ to do and she does it because she also – wants to.
I’m yet to find a way of getting my granny to stop giving me the odd twenty, so really who am I to give advice on how to graciously decline such a large sum for a wedding but once again it comes down to having clear expectations of your wedding day and you can do this not only by knowing your budget but by also being clear on your values.
Budget wasn’t the only reason we opted for a small wedding ceremony. I’ve mentioned before that Mr T had some anxiety around having to say his wedding vows in front of people on the day. He hates being the centre of attention and I wanted him to be able to enjoy our wedding without the fear of having to speak in public playing on his mind. From the very beginning Mr T was open about the fact that speaking in front of a lot of people would make him uncomfortable, that having to give a speech would cause him anxiety and so from the minute we started planning our wedding, I knew we’d have to plan our day with this mind but it didn’t mean we had to compromise. In fact, it was the opposite, we honoured our values and designed the wedding that ‘we’ wanted. Yes, it might have raised a few eyebrows that we invited more friends than family to our wedding but who could argue with wanting to make our day more personal. If your family and friends truly love and care for you, they will except your decision to say ‘no’, but there is a little more to it than just that.
Before you do anything, be clear on your values. Define who you are as individuals and as a couple, your characters, any responsibilities or commitments you might have? You’re hobbies and interests? Think about where you are most comfortable? Once you have answers to all these questions you will start build a picture of how you really want your wedding to look and feel. Having clear values will help you make decisions, that often have a lot of emotion tied to them – more meaningful. Instead of begrudgingly telling someone that you can’t except there offer of money simply because you don’t agree with their rules is a sure fire why to make an already difficult conversation, rather heated. Instead, begin by saying how incredibly thankful you are for such a kind and generous offer, then gently explain why you’ve chosen to politely decline. Explain what it means to you and your partner to design your wedding your way. Use your values as solid evidence to show you’ve really thought about your decision and this will be sure to soften the blow.
Completing the values task as a couple will also strengthen your communications skills when it comes to money. It’s commonly known that the number 1. reason couples get divorced is due to financial problems. Yup, that’s right money has been known to break up even the strongest of relationships, but if your honest and open about your values and budget, from the beginning, you’re learning skills that will be extremely valuable in the years to come. Get in the habit of reviewing these regularly too. Your values and budget are prone to change, so set yourselves review meetings so you can make sure you’re both still on track. If one of you has changed their mind on something, don’t see it as a personal attack. Instead question how it fits in with your values as a couple and your budget. I speak from experience, emotions can sometimes run high whilst planning a wedding and it’s all to easy to snap at the simplest of things. Approaching subjects from a place of ‘how does this serve my values’ really does help to put the matter into context and avoid any pre-marital flare ups.
Then there’s the cringe-worthy convo or who buys what for the wedding? Should the bridesmaids pay for their own dresses, shoes, makeup and hair? Should the groomsmen fork out for their own suits? Eeeeek! Despite what you might’ve read before, I think there’s more than one answer here but I’m going to give my personal answer and feel free to tell me what you think?
Personally, I chose to pay for everything for my bridesmaids (apart from a hair stylist as we didn’t have one) and this was for a few reasons.
As you’ve probably guessed I’m very much a, ‘if you can’t afford it, don’t have it’ type person. If I couldn’t afford to cloth and beautify my bridesmaids and flower girls, then I probably couldn’t have afforded them at all. I decided to only have two bridesmaids, that wasn’t because that was all I could afford, that was because that was all I wanted, they are my best friends and quite frankly, I needed them, but they would have been there for me regardless of whether they were bridesmaids or not. I did inform them of our budget and I did tell them, I’d be paying for everything, but I also told them I was going to try and find their dresses on EBay. The only thing I asked them to contribute was to wear a pair of shoes they already had. My thinking was that the dresses were so long it was doubtful much of the shoe was going to be on show so, it made common sense to use what they already had.
I often hear of members of the bridal party being asked to pay for their own dresses/outfits, more commonly if it’s something that can be worn again. In my opinion this is the epitome of an awkward conversation, be prepared that not everyone is going to be happy with that arrangement. Buying something that you wouldn’t have necessarily of needed if it wasn’t for the fact that someone was getting married, is an unnecessary expense and not everyone will be willing to fork out. Go back to your values, ask yourself how this fits in with your goals and budget and again explain this to members of our desired bridal party. Make it clear that you understand that they might not be able to commit and that you will respect their honesty. Don’t feel personally attacked if someone declines, remember everyone has a right to protect their own values and budgets.
Now that’s all the personal stuff out of the way with, how do we tackle awkward conversations with suppliers.
You might be thinking about asking a supplier for a discount? Woah woah woah! Stop right there! #awkwardconversationalert! Before you rush headfirst into try to fund your wedding with discounts, take a second to think that whilst this might be your wedding, the services being provided to you on you wedding day are also someone else’s living. Contrary to belief, wedding suppliers aren’t out to make big bucks out of your wedding day. Often, they’re small business owners, they need to pay for the roof over their head, the food on their table, the clothes on their back, and usually it’s not just them. They have a family to provide for, school trips to fund and swimming lessons to book. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t try to come to some arrangement based on your budget. I’ve covered how do find a good photographer on a budget and the same principals apply to most types of services – just remember to be respectful. For you this is just one day, for a business this is their life.
What happens when you think you might have been overcharged by a supplier? This did happen to me, but I was able to approach the conversation confidently and respectfully. Why? Because I always made sure I had copies of all the contracts and emails saved to my laptop and in print, not only that I also took hard copies with me on the day. I was able to refer the supplier back to the original agreement to avoid further confusion and thankfully the issue was sorted quickly and efficiently.
And then there’s the whole asking for a refund thing? Thankfully this isn’t something I’ve had experience with, but I know there are occasions where it needs to be done.
In the first instance, refer to the contract – what did it specify, and has it been signed by both you and the supplier? The only way you’ll be entitled to a refund is if the supplier breached or didn’t fulfil their duties as outlined in the contract. For example, if you booked two videographers and only one turned up, then yes you can certainly ask for a refund from the videographer that was a no show, assuming it was clear that you were booking two videographers on the original booking.
I cannot stress how important it is to have everything in writing, not only is it fact which makes it hard to argue with, but it also gives you confidence to have your say. I’m terribly apologetic whenever I must complain about anything, I absolutely hate doing it but if you approach the situation rationally and respectfully you and the supplier are sure to find a mutual way to resolve the issue.
Although, I found planning my wedding stressful I am now so grateful to be able share my experiences with you. It feels good to be able to share everything with you guys! I hope you’ve found it helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or even better more tips on how to handle awkward money conversations when planning a wedding. Until next time…