For some reason, the topic of weddings and relationship breakdown has been in the press a lot recently. I happened to see an article in the Guardian, the sub-title of which encouraged me to read on. "My big, fat DIY wedding" shouted the headline. "The average cost of a wedding in the UK today is £21,000. Keen crafter Momtaz Begum-Hossain set out to spend nothing. How did she fare?" continued the sub-title.
Given that the article was about costs, I was expecting Ms Begum-Hossain to have spent way less than the £12,000 she revealed that she and her husband spent in total on their wedding. £12,000 doesn't sound like "spending nothing". I agree it's far less than the £21k that is supposedly the average cost of a wedding in the UK, but it's still not really "spending nothing". I also think that the £21k average figure is skewed upwards by a small number of extremely expensive weddings - I think all of the people's weddings I have been to in my life will have come in at under £20k and I suspect a lot of them substantially less. £12,000 the article stated, was the top of Ms Begum-Hossain and her husband's budget. As someone who has got married and writes about weddings and has an engaged sister, the costs of weddings do interest me. But what this article really said to me was you still have to spend a lot to have a nice wedding. Which just shouldn't be the case.
Consider the breakdown of the budget: Venue: £5,500, Catering: £3,500, Entertainment: £1,000, Drinks: £600, Decorations: £300, Extras: £200, Dress: £200, Groom's outfit: £90, Wedding cake: £100, Flowers: £0, Transport: £0, Wedding ring: £0 = Total: £11,490
Whichever way you look at that budget, I think it's misleading. It doesn't include photography (yet there are photographs - they say a friend donated the expertise of videography so perhaps that included photography) or invitations and even allowing for her making her headpiece and shrug herself, £200 is a very small figure to include all extras including her shoes.
They also spent almost £10k out of their £12,000 total on the venue and the food/drink. No matter how much your total figure is, that seems a disproportionate percentage. What it really says to me is, we had a £20k wedding but only paid just over half of the actual costs because we have a bunch of really talented friends. Which is awesome, but not much help to the readers who don't have friends who can use their professional talents in such fashion but who do want inspiration on keeping their costs low.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is a right or wrong way to get married. And a budget is personal to the couple - what one couple thinks is a fortune may be a pittance to another. I just think that articles which proclaim to show and inspire people to do DIT/hand crafted wedding for the sake of spending the least amount possible should be less misleading.
I've also read quite a few articles this week on relationship breakdowns and dealing with divorce. Without giving away too much about myself, I deal with these issues during my working day, and a lot of the people I see say that they had wished they had done things differently with hindsight. Which, of course, there are things that you can do differently if you do wish to protect your assets in the event of divorce or death or separation. These are conversations I have had with Husband, the higher wage earner without a student bank loan to repay. I question whether, should we buy a house, whether we should have a deed of trust in place, so he recovers the same percentage as he put in. When facing the question about what car (or rather, how much) to buy, I found myself saying "well, it's going to be mainly your money paying for it, you should have more of a decision on the cost". To which he always responds, "we're married. It's no longer your debt and my money. It's a collective team effort now and we make the decision based on our needs".
Which is what I say to my clients when they ruminate how they could have behaved differently. If you enter marriage expecting divorce, it can't be the best starting point. Yes, I think you should discuss things and yes, protect certain pre-marital assets if the circumstances are strong enough to warrant it, but in the ordinary run of things, I would hope that whatever the situation in the future, one is able to treat their spouse with enough respect to make a decision regarding the assets that allows both parties to live the best possible independent lives.