Saturday, November 22, 2008

Can You Afford Your Child’s Wedding?

Over the past few months, I have received countless phone calls and held innumerable meetings with parents trying to pay for their children’s weddings. Instead of enjoying the fact that their children are about to start building homes and families of their own, many parents spend a lot of time worrying about how they will be able to pay for the wedding. In many cases, the only way that the parents can afford to make a wedding is to spend far more money than they actually have, leading them into serious debt, or in a few cases, near-bankruptcy. This does not only apply to parents that barely scrape by on a monthly basis. Plenty of individuals who have saved over the years, or have received an inheritance or some type of gift worth anywhere from $50,000 to $140,000 are often in the same position. For example, one person with whom I met recently had $90,000 set aside for making a wedding. However, she is now worried that this would not be enough to pay for a good shidduch for her daughter. Another client told me that his daughter has been dreaming of her wedding ever since she was a little girl, and she doesn’t want to skimp on anything. She wants to buy her own dress, have the most beautiful flowers and the biggest band … etc. The only problem is that the family is still financially reeling from the last wedding that they made, six months ago.

I will not use this column to state my personal opinion of the current system. What I think about it is irrelevant. It goes without saying that these important issues should be handled by the Gedolei Yisrael. However, I would like to provide a few tips to potentially ease the financial burden on anyone who is about to make a wedding. Keep in mind that this isn’t some magic formula which will make you suddenly able to afford the wedding and everything else that goes along with it. However, it may help you to get better organized and save some money.

Make a List
When planning a wedding, the first thing that parents need to do is make a list. In one column, write down how much you are able to realistically give to the new couple. In another, make a list of all the possible expenses that can arise from the actual wedding, such as photographers, flowers, chassan and kallah gifts, hall rental, etc…. If it’s the first wedding that you have made, it may be a good idea to speak to friends who have already gone through this process. Next to the type of expense, write down the estimated cost. Then, in a third column, list the expenses for the couple’s new home, including buying/renting an apartment, linens, appliances, and other necessities. It’s important to differentiate between these two types of expenses because it allows you to prioritize where your limited funds can go.

Instead of simply coming up with a certain budget for the wedding and using it without much thought, creating this list will give you more control of each spending decision. It can also eliminate certain less vital expenses, distributing that money toward the most important needs. In the long run, this type of organization should help you save money.

Buy Second Hand
With the current shidduch system, the phrase, “can’t afford it, don’t buy it,” doesn’t seem to apply. However, one thing that can be done is to buy second hand. The new couple doesn’t need a brand new Shabbos table or bookshelves. Used furniture that is in good condition should be sufficient. A few years down the road, when the couple has the means to upgrade, let them pay for their new furniture themselves. Thousands of shekels can be saved if practical decisions are made with regard to what is purchased for the couple.

Since we can’t necessarily change the current system, it is worthwhile planning accordingly and trying to keep all expenses within the initial budget. Then you can sit back and enjoy your simcha and the nachas that the newly married couple will give you.

May they build a Bayis Neeman B’Yisrael.


mother in israel said...

If you're not reading, I suggest taking a look.

Aaron Katsman said...

MII- thanks for the tip