Avoid The Wedding Debt Trap, Pt 2

Let’s talk about wedding debt. I had previously written about credit card debt back in January 2005, in the Avoid The Wedding Debt Trap article and offered some alternatives to paying for your wedding.

A recent article at Yahoo Finance, “What Credit Card Companies Don’t Want You To Know”, reminded me to talk about wedding debt again because it’s not openly discussed enough.

While you’re being fed the over-the-top, bash-of-a-lifetime dream there’s a dark underbelly to the industry. And that’s debt. Deep, soul-sucking, relationship-wrecking, stress-inducing debt.

While many couples are fortunate and get abundant financial gifts from relatives, many of us pay for at least part of our weddings. With the average wedding exceeding $27,000, and the average US household income at something like $45,000, it’s likely you’ll put some of that wedding expense on your plastic pal … and then pay for it for the next several years. Yes, years. A $5k loan at 14% interest will take 30 months to pay off with $200/month payments. Miss a payment and your interest rate balloons to, say, 27% (not uncommon at all) and the payoff will take forever.

As a cautionary tale, I want to share my own wedding debt story. My then-fiance (now-husband) and I went into debt to pay for our wedding – even with generous financial help from parents – and it turned into a struggle we never could’ve imagined.

We didn’t plan on long-term debt. In fact, we had a solid plan for getting debt-free ASAP after the wedding. I was working a cushy, Silicon Valley tech job at the height of the never-ending boom. He had a stable, long-term job (still does, even though the pay is low for our area). We’d both probably be getting raises soon. I had stock options that were about to mature. Heck, we might’ve been able to buy a house in a year (not an easy thing in Silicon Valley). No problem! What could possibly go wrong? … Ha.

After early-2002, I was unemployed and underemployed for an extended amount of time, which put a burden not only on my household finances but with my marriage as well. There were no fat raises, no stock options, no house, no job. We never, ever thought such hard times could ever happen to us. And that’s precisely why they did. We didn’t plan for, prepare for, or know how to deal with financial adversity.

You know how stats say that most couples’ arguments over finances? They don’t lie. Being poor, in debt, and stressed is pure misery for both partners.

It took years for us to get out of the debt we incurred for our wedding day (and subsequent unemployment, to be fair) – something I would NOT do over if I had the chance to relive the moment. While our wedding day was beautiful and amazing and utterly awesome, it wasn’t worth the amount of pain, sacrifice, and fear we lived in while digging ourselves out of that financial hole. Today, 6 years after the wedding, we have zero credit card debt but it was a long road to get here and to be able to maintain that status.

Some of the lessons we’ve learned and want to share:

* You cannot control how the economy will affect your job or business or your ability to find a new source of employment.
* There is no such thing as job security. You can be fired, downsized, laid off, outsourced, replaced, or your job can simply disappear. It happens every single day. Plan accordingly.
* Living beyond your means – even by a little bit – is dangerous.
* Borrowing money from the ‘rents to buy food for the next week is humbling.
* Poverty sucks. A lot.
* The more you make, the more you spend. Save more and pay off debt faster instead.
* No amount of perceived wedding day goodness is worth sacrificing the well-being of the marriage/relationship.
* You can have an utterly awesome, beautiful, gorgeous wedding on a small budget. It’s not how much you spend that makes a wedding great. Repeat that every day.
* The wedding is a teeny, tiny part of the marriage. Put all of your stock in the long-term things like financial security, personal integrity, respect for each other, and healthy communication skills because those are the only things that will get you through the tough times. And start building those things now, before the wedding.

For a long time I carried a lot of shame around this part of my life. Even now, it’s a little hard to talk about, especially in an open forum such as this. Today I’m speaking up because I see a lot of you heading down that same path to misery and I’d love nothing more than to guide you away from that.

And I think wedding finances should be something that are openly discussed, without judgment or shame, to empower every couple to make the best decisions (for them) on where/how/why to spend their budget.

So, with that, I close this chapter of my story and, in turn, open up an ongoing discussion about finances and budgets here at DIY Bride.

Notes on DIY Flowers

When it came time to write my first book, I boldly included a couple of floral projects in the mix. DIY flowers are becoming more popular with DIYers and I figured that needed to be addressed in a hip, fun craft book. Then reality set in. Me? Do flowers? I was petrified!Of all the wedding crafts I’ve done, flower arranging is my weakest area. There’s just a certain flower-arranging-gene I lack. And I had just committed to creating how-to projects. I’m happy to say that it all worked out but not without a little drama.

The floral projects are among my most favorite in the book. I’m quite proud of them and can’t wait ’til the book is released so you can see. Now that I, Miss FlowerPhobia, have gotten through the DIY drama, I have some tips and hints that I’d love to share with you.

• Flower arranging, like any other skill, takes some time and practice to master. If you’ve never arranged flowers, the day before your wedding is the absolute WORST time to try to figure them out. Spend some time practicing working with the flowers you want to use in your wedding. Buy a few bunches and learn how to take care of them well ahead of your wedding date.

• Cutting and arranging flowers will take longer than you expect. Even though I had done a few practice runs with my projects, putting together my floral projects on set took longer than I anticipated. Allow yourself plenty of time to do your flowers so that you’re not rushed and just slapping things together at the last minute. Cutting stems and removing thorns (even with a handy thorn remover tool thingie) takes FORFREAKINGEVER. Or, it did for me.

• White flowers bruise. Badly. If you’re using white or light-colored flowers buy lots of extras to replace the icky ones you’re sure to encounter. I used stephanotis for one of the projects and, boy howdy, did they ever bruise and discolor even though I was using the utmost care.

• Not every grower/supplier is the same. Do your homework! Price isn’t the only thing you should be looking at when selecting a vendor. Order a test bunch to get an idea of their quality and customer service.

Also check out:

  • * Their shipping rates (most send via FedEx Overnight – this costs a bundle!)
  • * Return and cancellation policies
  • * Hours of operation and access to customer service help (phone or email?) in case something goes wrong
  • * Delivery terms and schedule
  • * Do they ship closed buds or are they nearly in full bloom?

• Not every flower is the same. Learn all you can about the care of the flowers you’re ordering. Some require warm environments. Some like it cold. Some should have their stems cut under water. Some don’t. Some need several days to bloom. Some only last a day or so once they’re cut. Some can handle direct sunlight. Others can’t.

• If you’re doing more than 1 project, enlist helpers to get you through them. You’ll have enough on your mind and schedule without the added burden of doing all the flower arrangements by yourself.

• You’ll need water. Lots of it. Have buckets (the big 5 gallon ones are perfect) of water on standby to place your cut flowers in. Remember: some flowers like cool or cold water, others like it warm.

• Figure out transportation ahead of time. Unless you’re creating the arrangements at the venue, you’ll need to transport the flowers from your workspace to the site. Decide well ahead of time how you’ll get them there. Remember that you’re arrangements and bouquets will be bulky and that they’ll need to be in a cool place en route. The trunk of a car isn’t your best bet, especially on a hot summer day.

• Flowers have scent. It sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? I always loved gardenias until I was in a small room with 100 of them. The scent was overpowering to the point of nausea for me. Seriously. So, when picking your flowers, keep in mind the scent factor. Work in a well-ventilated area and keep the stinkiest flowers to a minimum.

• Protect yourself. Use gardening gloves when you’re working with flowers. You’ll save your manicure and (mostly) avoid being pricked (and sliced open) by thorns and stems. FYI: Roses are vicious, malevolent flowers that exist merely to gauge you with their needle-like thorns. Stephanotis excrete a sticky substance that’ll get all over your fingers and draw every bit of lint and dirt to you while you try, in vain, to keep those white blossom pristine.

Do you have tips to share? We’d love to hear them!


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