The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted millions of Americans to put plans, including weddings, on hold.
As 2022 unfolds and, we hope, the worst of the pandemic is behind us, nuptials are expected to take place in record numbers.
The Wedding Report, a wedding market research firm, projects there will be 2.5 million weddings this year, the highest number since 1984. That’s up from 1.9 million in 2021 and 1.3 million in 2020. The average engaged couple is expected to spend $24,300 on their wedding this year.
This big-ticket life event can be an opportunity for prospective spouses to make sure they are on the same page with their finances before they check off “married filing jointly” on their tax returns.
Money conversations inevitably crop up during wedding planning. They can include not only the couple but their parents as well.
“Your money history is right there in the room with you,” noted Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, a wealth psychology expert and host of the “Breaking the Money Silence” podcast.
When moments of financial conflict arise, Kingsbury recommends that couples fight the urge to argue and instead get curious as to whether this signals there are “money values” that you as partners do not share.
“It’s an opportunity to have a ‘money conversation’ and decide what you’re going to do,” Kingsbury said.
Schedule formal money talks
While those impromptu financial conversations can turn into moments of realization, it is also a good idea for couples to schedule a series of formal money talks.
Kingsbury recommends a series of three 30-minute meetings.
For the first, one member of the couple gets to take their partner to their “money island.” The partner holding the meeting has an opportunity to explain how they handle money, what they learned about it growing up and how money makes sense to them.
“It’s kind of like taking them on an exploration of how you think and feel about money,” Kingsbury said.
Their partner, in turn, should listen without judgment, as they would if they were encountering a foreign culture on vacation.
The second 30-minute meeting would give the other partner a turn to share their money beliefs and history without judgment.
In the third 30-minute meeting, both members of the couple can discuss what they like about each other’s approaches to money.
It’s important to emphasize the positives, Kingsbury noted. So instead of focusing on the fact that one partner has a lot of debt, notice the fact that they may make spending on experiences a priority, for example.
Those conversations can serve as a starting ground as you decide how you’re going to handle money together as a couple.
Loop in a financial expert
As couples work to identify their financial path forward together, it is often constructive for a third-party professional, such as a certified financial planner, to make sure they are on the right track.
Even if the two do not have a ton of assets or are not necessarily high earners, there are financial planners who will work with them, Kingsbury said.
Certified financial planner Dawn Dahlby, CEO and founding partner of Releve Financial, said she recommends couples loop in an expert who can help them identify key areas they may be neglecting while they’re caught up in where to get married, how to pay for their wedding or where to go on their honeymoon.
“It matters short term, but what really matters is the bigger picture of where you’re going,” said Dahlby, whose firm has offices in Woodbury and St. Louis Park, Minnesota, and Scottsdale, Arizona.
“You have to have a comprehensive financial plan in place prior to getting married and have a third party to come in and talk to you and your spouse about those things that maybe you’re not even focused on,” Dahlby said.
Ideally, couples should connect with a professional who will help them create a strategy — such as building their cash reserves and financial protection — rather than trying to sell them a financial product, she said.
Get in sync financially
Many couples make big financial decisions together even before they walk down the aisle, such as moving in or buying a home together. Others may decide that formal marriage is not for them.
Even so, it’s still important to make it a priority to communicate about money, Kingsbury said.
It probably shouldn’t be a topic of conversation on a first date. But you should make it a point to communicate on the topic the moment you know you are serious and committed as a couple, Kingsbury said.
Addressing those conflicts well — and resolving them — can help strengthen the relationship.
“If you have a better relationship with money in a partnership, you often have a higher level of intimacy as well,” Kingsbury said.
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