For a lot of young women, weddings are a dream come true. But for a lot of dads, they can quickly turn into a nightmare if the wedding isn’t budgeted for in the right way.
In this excerpt from her book, Smart Money Smart Kids, Rachel Cruze talks about some lessons she learned during her wedding experience and how her dad, Dave Ramsey, made the whole experience a lesson on budgeting.
It should be no surprise to you that when the Ramsey girls got married, there was no blank-check, whatever-you-want, the-sky’s-the-limit kind of attitude from my parents. They were so excited, and they loved my future husband, Winston, but Mom and Dad were obviously going to be realistic when it came to the wedding expenses.
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Winston and I dated for a year and a half before he popped the question. From the first day of our engagement, we started planning my . . . er, I mean our . . . dream wedding. Oh, who am I kidding? I had been planning my wedding for most of my life! I actually dressed up as a bride for Halloween when I was four years old. I watched Father of the Bride so many times that I already knew what I wanted my wedding to look, sound, and feel like. Yes, I had enough maturity to realize that the wedding is just one day while the marriage is for life, but still—I was ecstatic. My wedding was going to be beautiful!
Mom and Dad took us out to dinner soon after Winston and I got engaged so we could all have the wedding budget talk. Mine was the first wedding in the family, so it was new territory for all of us. Because they trusted me with money and knew I had a lifetime of experience managing it responsibly, Mom and Dad decided to give me one final, enormous teaching opportunity: They let Winston and me run the entire wedding budget ourselves. They told us at dinner how much they would give us toward the wedding, and they actually gave us one check in that amount. As an extra incentive, they told us that we could keep any money we had left over after the wedding. I vividly remember Dad saying over and over, “Rachel and Winston, this is it. This is all the money we are going to give you. When the money’s gone, it’s gone.” Is this sounding at all familiar?
That week, we opened up a checking account under both our names for the wedding budget, deposited the check, and got to work. Winston and I still kept our separate checking accounts for everything else, though. Managing the wedding budget together was a great exercise, but it’s never a good idea for a couple to actually mix their incomes and regular accounts until they are officially married. It’s sad, but things can still go wrong during an engagement. I’ve talked to ex-fiancées whose would-be spouses went crazy and destroyed the other’s finances as they were leaving the relationship. Don’t let your child get caught in that disaster. Of course, if Mom and Dad had concerns about Winston and me getting married, they wouldn’t have given us the wedding money at all!
Over the next several months, everything went great. We ordered the flowers, booked the reception location, and I found the perfect wedding dress. Two months before the big day, there was only one item left on the list: chairs for the reception. I was getting ready to place that order when I stopped to check our wedding bank account balance. My heart sank. There wasn’t enough money in the account! I went into full Rachel-drama mode, complete with tears and some mild hyperventilation. My roommate said, “Rachel, calm down! Just call your parents and ask for a little more money.” I cried, “You don’t understand! They won’t give me any more!”
I pulled myself together enough to call my wedding planner. We did what many couples today would find shocking: We started cutting things out of the wedding plan. The flowers in the sanctuary turned into berries and holly (which actually looked great for our December wedding). We decorated every other pew for the service instead of dressing up every one. We canceled the car service from the church to the reception. We cut every corner I could think of, but there still wasn’t enough left to get the chairs we needed for the reception. I was stuck.
Finally, torn between competing emotions of embarrassment and humility, I called home. I told Mom and Dad what happened and how hard I had worked to fix the problem, but I was still short. They told me that they’d discuss it and call me back. I can only imagine that Mom spent the next hour convincing Dad to help me out, because when they called back, they agreed to give me enough to cover the chairs. Dad was pretty clear with me, though. He said, “Rachel, this is the first, last, and only time we’re giving you extra money.” I was actually surprised, but I shouldn’t have been. My parents knew I had done everything possible to fix the problem, and they knew that I wasn’t running around spending money on all kinds of crazy things. We’d been having those discussions my whole life, so we knew we could trust each other. In their final budgeting lesson to me before I left their home for good, my parents chose to live out my favorite money principle: Too many rules is legalistic, but too much grace is enabling. I’m so grateful for parents who were able—and willing—to keep that balance with me throughout my life.
To get practical tips from Rachel on how to save and budget for your daughter’s wedding, be sure to order a copy of Smart Money Smart Kids!