The holiday season is a popular time for people to pop the question. And soon thereafter, engaged couples will begin to plan for the big day– finding the right venue, deciding on the perfect menu, developing the guest list, and selecting all the necessary vendors for the special day, all of which will cost an average of $25,000 per wedding, and in the DC Area yields about $1.1 Billion a year in business. Needless to say, this is an intense endeavor with significant demands on your time and finances, so before you take that big step try to take a step back, and just ask yourself these 4 key questions:
1. What are the reasons you want to get married? The motivating factor should not be because you are tired of the dating scene or feel external pressure either as a result of a biological clock ticking, finances, or having a visa that is about to expire. It is also not healthy to want to play the role of a savior– although we all want to help those we love, it grows old when one person constantly needs to be rescued by the other. Furthermore, applying the sunken cost logic, i.e. we have invested too much time or money into this relationship to call it quits is very faulty logic. If things are not good now, it is not likely to miraculously get better by committing yourself financially and legally to one another. Indeed, the only real reason you should want to tie the knot these days is because you genuinely love that other person (accepting them the way they are and not the way you wish they would be), and you cannot picture life without him/her being a part of the many adventures that lie ahead.
2. Are you in sync about finances? First there is the issue of paying for all the costs associated with a wedding, which is no small undertaking. But beyond that are much deeper questions: How important is it for both of you to save vs. spend? How will you manage a household budget? Will you want to keep separate accounts or create a joint account, and who will manage them? Do you want a prenup to define what will remain separate versus joint? Are you both self-supporting? If not, are you worried about alimony? If so, do you want to ask for a waiver or set caps in the event of a divorce? If all these questions seem overwhelming or are a sore subject between you, then ask for help– invest in a consult with a legal or financial expert to help you structure your partnership in a way that will work for both parties.
3. How well do you resolve conflict? Conflict is inevitable when there are limited resources, and here the main two often in dispute involve time and/or money. So, how do you find a resolution? Your communication styles and tolerance for conflict will differ, that is normal. But, are you able to hear each other’s points of view and address one another’s concerns respectfully? Do you feel like you work well together as a team? If not, are you willing to work with a couples counselor to develop strategies that will enhance your relationship?
4. What are your dreams and aspirations? We all have a vision for what we want out of life, and each of us has a Constitutional right to actually pursue our own happiness. But, when you get married and join forces with someone, you need to make sure that you are both in agreement as to your family’s core values and vision for the future. Put bluntly, you cannot move the tandem bike forward unless you are on the same page as to where you are heading and the pace you want to use when pedaling.
For all those about to take the plunge this holiday season, please know that you are not the only one who wants a happily-ever after, all those that love you want that for you too. Just take the time to carefully think through these 4 basic questions before you go shopping for that very expensive piece of jewelry, for it is indeed true that the life partner you pick is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life.
Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.