Even though we are still in the middle of COVID, weddings are back in business, and so you can expect to see a lot of engagement announcements over the upcoming holidays, when typically over 25% of couples get engaged while surrounded by their families to celebrate the good news.
Last year, the average wedding cost dropped from almost $38,000 (in pre-pandemic times) to about $19,000, largely due to the trend of micro-weddings with less than 50 guests, which may well continue into 2022. Nonetheless, difficult money talks are an inevitable part of the planning process, which will require the couple tying the knot to quickly reach a compromise on their guest list and lock in a venue, which may have limited availability due to postponed events from last year. Other vendors will also have to be vetted, including a caterer, florist, photographer, and the entertainment. Almost all these service providers will require deposits and legal contracts, which need to be reviewed carefully especially in light of the stringent (often non-refundable) new COVID clauses that many have added this past year.
Navigating this entire process is a good exercise in communicating respectfully while working on a budget, managing disagreements, and truly learning about each other’s family dynamics. If this all becomes overwhelming, invest in some pre-marital counseling sessions. Often, when money is really the only source of contention, the solution may be a simple prenuptial agreement, which forces the parties to focus on what they believe is a fair and reasonable expectation with respect to (1) contributions towards household expenses during the marriage; (2) spousal support, if any in the event of divorce; (3) what each will continue to keep as separate property; and (4) what assets the couple will accumulate as joint property.
The reality is that marriage in the 21st century is nothing like those of prior generations. The traditional marriage model, where one stays home and raises kids while the other works to financially support the family is now less than 25% and in over 1/3 of households the women now out-earn their male partners. Most couples I encounter have never co-mingled their bank accounts, except for one joint account to pay shared expenses. Many are then shocked to learn that this may not matter to the courts when it comes to how the state defines marital vs. separate property. Also, if there’s a disparity in incomes, alimony may be in play upon separation, and let’s be clear that sometimes means the women are paying the men spousal support, unless they got an alimony waiver in a prenup or post-nuptial agreement.
Prenups are no longer just for second marriages, trust fund babies or Hollywood stars; they have actually become quite common among young professionals, who want to minimize the risk of financial ruin in the event their marriage falls into the 50% category that does not last. These contracts don’t just protect what you currently have, they can provide security for what you have yet to earn, such as retirement assets, intellectual property rights, or partnership interest in a company. Debt can also be clearly assigned to the party that incurs it so there is no accidental accumulation of marital debt, which is often an unpleasant discovery in most divorce cases.
A truly loving partner will want to work with you to find a mutually agreeable solution to any financial concerns that may arise as wedding plans are finalized. An experienced family law attorney can help you craft a fairly straight forward contract to memorialize your understanding at a rather insignificant cost compared to all the other costs associated with a wedding. Why not explore this option that will buy you both some peace of mind?
Here is a short 2 minute video describing the prenup process:
Prenuptial Agreements Talk by Regina DeMeo – YouTube
By Regina A. DeMeo