Wedding Season Dos and Don'ts

April 4, 2023

It’s wedding season in New Orleans, which means second lines on Bourbon Street, sentimental toasts and lots of great food and music. For many, it can also mean financial stress.

If you are a wedding guest this year, be considerate. Show up on time, RSVP, follow the dress code and send a gift. For the best wedding gifts, stick to the registry or give cash to ensure the bride and groom get what they really want.

If you are planning a wedding, congratulations! What an exciting time.

The first step in planning a successful wedding is taking your spouse by the hand and making a solemn vow to keep it in perspective. A wedding is just one day in a lifetime of tens of thousands of days together and the most important part of that day is joining your lives together before God, family and friends. Everything else – the food, the flowers, the photographers, the invitations – that’s just lagniappe. 

The second step is figuring out a budget. Ask your respective families if they plan to contribute and figure out what savings you would like to allocate to the cause.

For parents of the bride and groom, it can be very helpful to pledge a specific amount at the outset, so the couple can decide how they want to spend it or even if they just want to elope and use the money toward a down payment on a house. If you can’t afford to help financially, that’s fine, too. You can always offer to help in other non-monetary ways.

Do not ever go into debt to finance a wedding. Never, ever, ever unless you have reason to believe your finances are about to get dramatically better. Moreover, do not count on cash wedding gifts to help cover part of the cost. Physical gifts are much more common than cash at southern weddings, so you could end up very disappointed if you factor them into your budget. If all you can afford is hosting immediate family in a park, then that is what you should do rather than starting your married life with a mountain of debt.

The lavishness of the wedding has no correlation to the quality of the marriage. I’ve been married for almost 50 years. My wedding budget was $500 and we came in $50 under because we wanted to buy a new stereo. My daughter and her husband spent a bit more on their wedding seven years ago, but they made a budget, including parental contributions and an additional amount that they wanted to spend from savings. They set their priorities and had a wedding that fit them perfectly. A more opulent wedding in either case would have been bad for the marriage, adding unnecessary stress to the first years together.

The third step is to make it personal. Sharing sweet stories in the toasts, printing baby pictures, incorporating favorite foods or special drinks, writing personal vows, hand making signs or favors or designing a great play list can make a wedding very special while costing little. An original wedding is always more fun than a cookie cutter one.

Cheers to all the happy couples getting married this year. May this wedding season bring many happy unions and little financial stress.