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Plan your wedding within your means – Francis Ewherido

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I went to visit a banker friend recently. When I got to his office, I met one of his usually cheerful female subordinates moody. I was curious. I later found out she is getting married soon and had ran out of cash. Her wedding budget is N10m, while her salary is N1,800,000 per annum. My friend said that her fiancé probably earns less.

wedding ring

So, together, their income is about N3.2m per annum. From the look of things, not much assistance will come from their families because both of them actually support their parents financially. Yet they want to spend an amount more than their combined salaries for three years for their wedding!

I felt like sitting her down for the pre-wedding lecture I normally give my marriage course participants. But I refrained for two reasons. One, she never told me she had any problem, so I did not want to be a meddlesome interloper, as the lawyers say. Two, when people about to wed are in that mood they are only interested in one thing: the person who is ready to give them the money, not unsolicited advice. They just want to follow their minds.

But if I have the opportunity to talk to her, this is what I will tell her and I guess others preparing for their wedding might also find it useful. One, when you are planning your wedding, include a financial plan, encapsulated in a budget. Marriage is one institution where you need planning to get results in all spheres: family planning, financial planning, career planning, children’s education planning, retirement planning. It is planning and planning all the way.

Like all budgets, your wedding budget should be in two parts: expenditure and income (receipts). To come up with your expenditure profile, you write a list of all the items you intend to spend money on and attach figures. The total sum is your expenditure. Your income, on the other hand, comprises your money in the bank and other financial instruments like stocks and treasury bills.

Your anticipated income minus expenses between when you draw your budget and when your wedding will take place can also form part of your income. But promises of financial or material support cannot be included in your income segment until such promises are redeemed.

In fact, I advise people preparing for marriage not to expect assistance from any source. If it comes, it becomes a welcome relief, if it does not; you are not disappointed, disorganized or thrown off balance. Anyway, when you are done with your budget, check whether you have a surplus budget (where your income outstrips your expenditure), balanced budget (where income and expenditure are about the same) or deficit budget (where your expenditure is more than your income). If you have a deficit budget, you need to adjust your expenditure until your budget is at least balanced. That is what my friend’s subordinate and her fiancé should do, because it is not good for you to start married life on a financial deficit.

Two, we said earlier that you should write a list of items you need for your wedding, but do not just write your list; write it in order of priority from the most important item, the ring, which you will exchange on your wedding day, to the least important item, which can be anything, depending on your value orientation. Prioritizing is important because if you start buying the items in order of priority and run out of money because of wrong projections or price fluctuation, you would at least have taken care of the important item. Priortising is also a very good way of balancing an inadvertent deficit budget. Priortising makes you to live within available resources without upsetting the apple cart.

Three, you should not borrow money to do your wedding. In fact, you have no good reason to borrow to do your wedding. My friend’s subordinate wanted to take a loan of N2m, but my friend turned it down. I fully support his stand. Marriage is not a business, so why borrow to do it. Simply work within your available resources.

Four, do not do your wedding to show off. That is one of the reasons why people borrow. Virtually every married person has come to realize that marriage is an individual race. There is no competition, if you truly understand the marriage institution. You simply decide how to live your life to suit your circumstances. You get a taste of the personal nature of marriage on your wedding night. After all the ceremonies, when it is time to go to bed, you are all alone with your spouse; your life of individuality begins. The crowd of family members, friends, well wishers and even mischief makers will not be there.

Five, do not allow anybody to force you into unnecessary expenditure. That is another reason why people borrow money to do their wedding. You have cases where parents, parents-in-law, uncles, aunts and prominent relatives belong to clubs and associations that only take certain kinds of drinks or food. Such special arrangements invariably lead to additional costs.

I usually advise my class that anybody who is going to distort their budget must supply the additional fund. If not, they should stick to their original plan. The heavens will not fall. After all, the wedding would have taken place earlier. Wedding reception is just an embellishment.

There are many ways to cut cost if you run out of cash. You can reduce the number of your guests, go for cheaper reception venue, reduce or eliminate expensive drinks, rent a wedding gown instead of making one, get friends/relatives to do the cooking instead of engaging a caterer, etc. I always tell young people not to worry about their humble beginnings. I can show you many billionaires today, who got married while living in a single room, who borrowed suits or their wives hired weddings gowns, who could not provide enough food and drinks at their receptions. But today they can feed multitudes.

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