Having the Money Talk: Wedding Budget Tips from Slate Advice Columnist Emily Yoffe

Wedding Budget Advice Emily Yoffe

Photo: Getty Images

Emily Yoffe, the writer behind Slate's Dear Prudence advice column, offers her best tips for navigating the money talk. From how much money to spend, to how to talk dollars and cents with your fiancé (and his parents), here are some of her top wedding budget tips.

Brides: What's a sensible amount of money to spend on one's wedding?

Emily Yoffe: I don't have the perfect number, but I will say that you should definitely start with one—whatever makes sense for you and your family—and work backwards from there. Way too often people start with the concept of their day and then try to scramble for their money, and that's the wrong way to go about it. My number one feeling is if you're worried about writing that check or your parents are talking about how this is going to affect their retirement, you're spending too much.

Brides: Is going into debt ok? How about a little debt?

EY: I'm firmly against going into debt for social occasions. You can go into debt to buy a house, but not to throw a party. That's just my opinion.

Brides: What should you avoid saying when having the money talk with your fiancé?

EY: One thing you should avoid saying is "My day." Yes this should be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but that doesn't mean you should pull out all the stops and do things you can't afford because the day is so special. Just because it's "your day."

Brides: How should you approach the money talk with your in-laws?

EY: Carefully. You're starting a relationship that, if everything works out, should last for decades, so get it started on the right foot. You don't want to have to overcome bad feelings. Just be really sensitive and get your focus off the day, and onto the long-term. Think about Thanksgiving ten years from now. Do you want your in-laws still pissed off about what happened at the wedding?

Brides: If your mom is covering the whole floral budget, does she get to choose flowers? In other words, what kinds of privileges does the payer get?

EY: When you're taking other people's money, they think they have a say, and guess what: They do! There isn't a rule that says "each dollar means this much influence," but money means influence. That's the way the world works. Sorry!

Brides: So you should just let your mom pick the flowers then?

EY: Unless you think she has horrendous taste, it might be better for you to let her. I mean, has anyone ever sat at a wedding saying, "I cannot believe she used mums!"? No one is going to be that judgmental about it.

Brides: How should you keep financial stress in check?

EY: Here's some perspective: Think back on the parties you've gone to—do you remember every detail? No—what you come away with is a tone. So don't stress out over each little thing. Keep your sense of humor, always. And remember, you're welcoming the people you love to see one of the happiest moments of your life—everything will be fine!

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