Destination Wedding

Wedding day sticker shock

October 31—It’s hard to believe I’m getting married this week after spending 20 years as a monk. It’s even harder to believe the price for the whole shebang.

We planned a simple, low-budget affair, but things quickly ballooned out of control.

Finding any wedding venue in Santa Fe that isn’t crazy expensive is impossible given our city’s travel-destination status. But when our reception venue canceled on us with a month to go, we had to scramble for alternate accommodations without much choice.

We would either pay much more than we expected, or the wedding reception would be a potluck on the Plaza. After dark. In late October.

We also opted for a gorgeous, hundred-year-old wedding ring for my fiancée, Antoinette. It looked great online and was much cheaper than buying a new one — or so we thought. We didn’t know that almost every gem fastener of the ring was worn down. Repairing the ring cost nearly as much as we paid for it.

Then there was the dress. Antoinette found the perfect dress at a local bridal shop, but it was several sizes too big, and they couldn’t order the correct size in time due to supply chain issues. However, the shop owner assured us the dress could be easily altered to fit, which seemed a simple solution.

What the bridal shop failed to disclose is that alterations can cost more than paying someone to make a custom dress.

After paying for the equivalent of two rings and two dresses, plus a grab-what-we-could-at-the-last-minute reception venue, the total sticker price for the wedding inevitably broke our budget. Of course, none of that factored in the out-of-control inflation problem, which jacked everything up another 10 percent from our original estimates.

The biggest “problem” was that we wanted all our family members and dearest loved ones to witness our midlife marriage. Celebrating our union without the people we treasure most was inconceivable.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the wedding cost more than my car or what I paid out-of-pocket for college. I now appreciate why a marriage celebration was part of the dowry in the olden days, but since we are both middle-aged, a dowry, or a father-in-law to pay for everything, wasn’t in the cards.

What is the point of telling you this story except to vent? Do I have a personal finance insight to share from all this wedding planning mayhem? Not really.

I don’t have any specific financial tip to share other than to say that sometimes the things you hold most precious in your life, like what you hope will be your only marriage, are also really darn expensive. So it’s a good idea to get your financial house in order, or you might not be able to celebrate these events the way you’d like.

I couldn’t be more excited to get married to my best friend, and so far, I don’t regret spending an absurd amount of money on it. What could be a healthier and more appropriate use of my cash than to have a spectacular celebration of love?

I’ve spent most of my writing career admonishing people to get their financial house in order so they have some hope of weathering the storm when catastrophe inevitably strikes. However, I’ve failed to adequately share with my readers the joy of having money to help pay for life’s remarkable moments.

Life isn’t just dodging one disaster after another. It’s also an opportunity to revel in the goodness and bounty of existence. And the latter is much easier with money in your pocket.

While I’m still annoyed at the unexpected circumstances that caused our wedding budget to explode, what overwhelms any irritation is unbridled gratitude. I’m thankful our budget could break without derailing the wedding or going into debt, and I’m glad to have sticker shock instead of buyer’s remorse.

It took hard work and sacrifice for Antoinette and me to be financially stable for the first time in our lives, and I wish everyone could experience the enjoyment and power of being a little bit wealthy.

When used in love and service, money is truly miraculous.

Doug Lynam is a partner at LongView Asset Management in Santa Fe and a former Benedictine monk. He is the author of From Monk to Money Manager: A Former Monk’s Financial Guide to Becoming A Little Bit Wealthy — And Why That’s Okay. Contact him at douglas@longviewasset.com.