Weddings are so romantic, beautiful, emotional, and meaningful. Friends and family travel thousands of miles to spend a few hours to witness the union of two people dedicating the rest of their lives together. With all the attention, pomp and pageantry and spending that a Nigerian wedding can entail, if you are not careful, it is so easy to focus solely on two days of festivity and little else. It’s not about the wedding day, it’s about the marriage.
Here are some things to consider as you plan a wedding:
Can you afford a royal wedding?
Your dream might be to have a royal wedding but can you afford it? A good first step, as you figure out how to afford the wedding, is to determine the extent of your financial responsibility. Start with a budget. Budgeting is simply balancing your expenses with your income. Creating this spending plan helps you to determine in advance whether you will have enough money to do all the things you need to do or would like to do. This is the time to differentiate between wants and needs.
Make a list of everything you will need for the traditional ceremonies as well as for the formal religious ceremonies and the receptions that accompany them. There can be so much involved but not all are necessary; from the cost of the reception venue, a wardrobe for both the traditional and church ceremonies including the wedding dress and grooms suit, jewelry, shoes, bags, food, drinks, rentals, flowers, photography, videographer, choir, organists, band, décor, party favors, rings, make up artists, hairdressers, stylist, gele tiers, a wedding planner, and several other costs that pop up. Estimate what each item will cost. Refine your budget as you get price quotes, and identify the things that are most important.
The costs can be overwhelming so be sure to prioritize. Small compromises can lead to huge savings; focus on what really matters and will make a difference on the occasion and always keep your budget at the back of your mind. One of the most significant factors that influence your costs is likely to be your choice of the reception venue. The rental of the venue can be far more than the newly weds will need to rent their first home for a few years.
The mammoth Nigerian wedding guest list
The guest list has become a significant challenge in Nigeria as families try to manage societal expectations against their finances. Are you obliged to invite literally everyone that you know? Does your guest list have to include all your colleagues that you have ever worked with, all your business associates, directors of all the boards that you have ever served on, everyone in your church or mosque, every member of your staff, your extensive 1,000-strong extended family and their relatives too?
With a massive crowd, no matter how much cash is available, the experience can be ruined for everyone. With what can be endless costs, knocking a few hundred people off your guest list will literally save you hundreds of thousands, even millions of naira and create a much more pleasant experience that the couple, the parents and their guests can actually enjoy. Consider inviting your closest family and friends, particularly those that have a personal relationship with the bride and groom. It may leave you less popular though, but focus on what truly matters. The key is to prioritize. If you were not invited to a wedding, don’t bear a grudge; you will face the same dilemma in time.
Communication is key
In Nigeria, a marriage is a merger of two families and the last thing you need is for relationships to be marred from the start over money matters; indeed for some families, this can be the start of frayed relationships. It is just not worth any angst. Communicate early and as often as required with your son or daughter and their fiancé as well as your in-laws to manage expectations. With a good sense of what the couple wants, and what funding is available, you can be clear about how much you are willing and able to contribute.
Who pays for what?
How you decide to split the costs of your son’s or daughter’s wedding depends largely on cultural nuances and preferences, the financial standing of each family, and on the bride and groom themselves. Early discussions are a good way to determine who pays for what. Tradition was not financially kind to the bride’s family expected to pay the lion’s share of wedding costs, which can be a huge strain for the father of the bride.
Nowadays, circumstances and common sense, not tradition should dictate who pays for what. The groom’s family may wish to pick some specific significant costs, such as catering for a significant number of guests, the venue or drinks at the reception. Don’t feel bad if you are the parent of the bride and can’t afford to pay for the entire wedding. Very few people expect that anymore. Don’t let your ego or pride come into play; if you can’t afford it, don’t pretend that you can.
The best way to decide who will pay for what is for both families and the couple to sit down together and have a frank discussion about what each party can afford to contribute. Financial conversations can be uncomfortable so do handle this with sensitivity. Separate meetings are sometimes necessary, but it’s best if you can get everyone together at one time to brainstorm and share information and finalize arrangements. If family A insists on inviting 1,250 guests and Family B is only able to fund 250, let Family A pay for the 1,000 guests.
Don’t jeopardize your retirement for your child’s wedding
Naturally, parents want to give their children, especially daughters, dream weddings. It is nice to always put your children first, but be mindful of becoming overwhelmed by societal pressure so close to retirement and dipping into your retirement savings to fund a wedding that you cannot afford; you must always be able to take care of your own needs.
Your retirement planning, your emergency fund, medical insurance are goals that must be priority. Don’t jeopardize years of saving and investing for your later years trying to impress “everyone” over just a few days. What your children need most is support beyond the wedding day.
The Indian community because they have extravagant expensive weddings, plan several years in advance and make a wedding fund part of their financial plan particularly where daughters are concerned. Apart from education and retirement planning, it is worth considering planning several years in advance for your children’s weddings so that you can give them a wedding of choice without considerable strain.
Avoid going into debt to fund a wedding
Some couples, or their families, decide they simply must pull out all the stops for a wedding. They want nothing but the best, even when they can’t afford to pay for it; they take out wedding loans or sell property and stock from which they earn critical rental and dividend income to meet the expenses. Avoid going into debt for the wedding dress, the wedding or the honeymoon. But for parents who are up against time constraints, borrowing sometimes makes more sense than selling assets. If you must borrow, ideally, it should be because there is an imminent inflow to offset the loan. You don’t want to be paying interest to offset wedding costs; that money should be put to far better use deployed in other investments or in a retirement account or to support the new couple in this early stage.
If it is the couple footing the wedding bill, avoid going into debt for it. Scale down the size of the wedding and have a bigger celebration when you can afford it if need be. It is never wise to begin a marriage carrying significant debt.
Although the rings are important, don’t spend more money on them than you can afford. A ring is a symbol of marriage; focus on this and not the monetary value. Avoid spending millions on a diamond ring to dazzle if you don’t have money for more important things such as renting a home. For a significant anniversary, you can consider upgrading the ring if it is that important.
Weddings can be overwhelming and expensive; starting out with millions of naira in debt is great stress for a newly married couple that need suitable housing, as they plan for a family. What really matters is to start with a firm and solid foundation and build a future together.
We all dream about that fairytale wedding, but remember that after the excitement and fan fare of the wedding ceremonies, it will be time to face a financial future together; it is not just about the wedding, it is about real life, and the marriage that follows all the ceremony. Remember, you can have a beautiful wedding day without breaking the bank.
Coming Soon: “Money Matters from the Mother of the Bride” by Nimi Akinkugbe.