Many couples and their parents get carried away with the prospect of a dream wedding and do not stop to contemplate the actual marriage. In Nigeria, marriage is the merger of two extensive extended families. This means that you risk “offending” hundreds of people that expect to be on the VIP or VVIP guest list!

By Nimi AKinkugbe

Here are a few ideas to navigate the big day:

Money Talk

Financial concerns are a leading cause of friction, often leading to separation and divorce, yet most couples go into marriage without ever broaching this important subject. Talk about your goals and what you would like to achieve in the next year, five years and beyond, such as starting a family, buying a new car or paying a deposit on your first home. Keep them in view as you discuss the wedding plans. This should help keep things in check as you prepare for your life journey together.

Prepare a Budget

A good first step to wedding planning is to prepare a detailed budget listing everything you can think of that you will need; this includes both the traditional and religious wedding ceremonies, pre wedding events, the wedding reception and the honeymoon. Prioritize according to the things that are most important to you. A contingency fund
is useful for unplanned expenses; there will be some. Costs include invitations, the wedding dress, hair and make up, outfits for bridesmaids and grooms men, church fees, choir and musicians if it is a church wedding, DJ, band, reception venue, caterer, wedding cake, photographs, videographer, florist, guest favors, hotel, transportation. A wedding or event planner can usually negotiate with their network of vendors for significant discounts, extras or to waive certain rental fees. Guests have come to expect and enjoy a good selection of mouth-watering finger foods popularly coined “small chops” in addition to the main meal. Just deciding to cut back on numbers can add up to huge savings. Drinks are a major cost particularly if spirits, fine wines and champagne are on the list. Provide guests with basic drinks including water, fruit juices and soft drinks and drink tickets specifically for alcoholic drinks; after using their tickets, guests can purchase additional drinks with cash should they wish to do so. This is fairly common
in other societies; we tend to try to keep up appearances and don’t want to look “cheap.” Guest favors should be small meaningful mementos of sentimental value. Large wedding cakes are a huge waste as usually desert is served at the wedding. Apparently 50% of the wedding cake goes to waste as half the guests have left before it has even been
cut and shared! Replace some of the tiers with “dummy” cakes if you must create that semblance of a multi-tiered Royal Wedding cake!

What are the most important things to you about your wedding day? The ring, your wedding dress, or the photographs and video that capture all the memories? You can buy a beautiful ring without spending a fortune and
upgrade as a sentimental gesture on a future anniversary and as you refine your preferences. Must you have twenty bridegrooms and twenty bridesmaids? Cutting that by half or more makes a big difference particularly if you are
paying for their outfits. You can rent the bridal train outfits at a fraction of the cost of buying.

Start Early, Plan Ahead

Ideally, parents should have been setting aside funds for family weddings as for other major goals such as funding your child’s education. Invest according to your time horizon. For a wedding that’s just less than a year away, funds
should be placed in a bank fixed deposit or a money market mutual fund. If your expectation is for weddings to be well over five years away, you might invest in a portfolio of stocks for the prospect of long-term capital growth. An
equity fund offers flexibility, diversification and professional management. If you start to build a property portfolio early, it develops into a wonderful vehicle that can fund education, retirement and weddings.

Who pays for what?

In the past, it was the bride’s family who was expected to cover most of the costs. Nowadays, both families tend to play a role; it is less about tradition and protocol, but rather, about circumstances, common sense and who can
afford what, that should dictate who pays for what. Starting with a budget is the best place to start. Splitting a bill between two families can be complicated as each family has an idea of what they want for their child. Money conversations can be awkward so do be sensitive; sometimes the richer family may feel entitled to more
control if they are footing most of the bill. An early joint meeting is necessary to bring some alignment with expectations and frequent communication to carry everyone along helps. You don’t want relationships to be strained even before the wedding. Don’t feel bad if you are a parent of the bride and cannot afford to pay for the entire wedding. Very few people expect that anymore. Just don’t be railroaded into wiping out your retirement savings just to keep up appearances. The “Bride Price” or “Dowry” is the monetary payment to the parents or guardians of a bride by the groom on account of marriage. It ranges from a token sum of a couple of two thousand, to huge sums in a mix of monetary value and household items, food and livestock. Some families opt out of this tradition and waive the dowry altogether.

Don’t jeopardize your retirement plans

It is nice to want to put your children first, but you cannot afford to sacrifice your retirement to fund your children’s weddings. Whilst it might be nice to move in with your children in your twilight years, it shouldn’t be because you are broke. Your retirement plan, your emergency fund and medical insurance must be your priority, ahead of children’s education and wedding plans.

Avoid borrowing to fund a wedding

It is never wise to begin a marriage carrying significant debt. If you cannot pay for it now, you can’t afford it. Rather than borrow to finance a huge wedding, mark the occasion with a modest ceremony and celebration. A bigger celebration can take place later. Remember it’s just for a day.

Invite fewer guests

Be confident about what you want; today, couples are confidently inviting only those people who are most important to them. Simpler, scaled-down and more intimate weddings are possible. Destination weddings are becoming very popular and are one of the ways that couples have been able to reduce the numbers of guests and have a more manageable day. It does transfer significant travel costs to guests though who spend thousands of dollars attending. Imagine if just a fraction of those funds were handed to the newlyweds instead! Yewande Zaccheaus, CEO of Eventful Ltd, a leading event planning company in Nigeria says “Most of the weddings we organize range from 1,000 to 2,000 guests. Our African heritage of large circles of family and friends who simply must be invited to the event does make weddings extremely expensive. We now recommend a small engagement and a larger wedding or a large engagement and a small intimate wedding, as a practical way of reducing costs. We keep telling our clients, there is life after the wedding day!” A small wedding, by Nigerian standards, of say one hundred guests with an intimate reception in a nice restaurant will save you lots of money; yet this won’t even cover the cost of renting a hotel banquet hall. A weekday or off-season date as opposed to a December weekend will also be cheaper.

Shared Costs

In many churches and wedding venues, there might be more than one event holding on the same day. It is worth considering sharing some of the costs so that both parties can benefit from the splendid floral and other decors particularly if there is a relatively neutral colour scheme; beautiful flowers for a 10 am wedding can still be retained for a noon wedding same day. Hold the marriage ceremony and reception at the same venue will also keep costs down.

Get a little help from your friends

You will find that there could be significant savings if you would just ask. In lieu of a gift, a relation might offer to host one of the ceremonies in their large garden, your talented friend might want to use this event to showcase photography, culinary, music or makeup skills. A family member might provide the getaway car, and with the use
of a vacation house and the gift of air miles, you could have a wonderful honeymoon.

It is about marriage and not the wedding

Don’t start out in your life together broke because you were trying to impress everyone. Don’t let the wedding ruin
your marriage; remember it is about the marriage and not the wedding.

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