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Maxed Out 2008-04-07 14:36:10

Maxed Out: Engaged to be Married, But Wedded in Debt

Since we just finished up Engagement Week here on the Sugar Network, this episode of Maxed Out especially stood out to me. It featured Valerie and Jason, an engaged couple in their 20s whose existing combined debt and additional wedding debt was making them frantic. They say that their goal is to start their marriage off on the right foot, but they're pushing themselves even further into debt with a $25,000 wedding and no budget to speak of — Jason says they're winging the wedding expenses and hoping that their guests will be generous with cash gifts. To see how financial guru Allison Griffiths helps the couple overcome their money-related stresses and live happily-ever-after just


Since Valerie and Jason didn't approach Alison for help until very close to their wedding date, it was too late for her to help them establish a budget for their big day. Their money issues consisted of much more than the new debt from their wedding, in fact they had $54,000 combined debt, so she had plenty of problems to tackle. Their most expensive problem was their so-called income property that wasn't actually profitable. They rented out a house in hope that the house would pay for itself, but didn't account for property tax payments and owe $8,000 in back-taxes alone. On top of that, the tenants were constantly defaulting on rent payments, which left Valerie and Jason liable for those monthly payments.

Alison makes a plan for the couple to evict the current tenants and turn the rental property into their own home, builds them a budget, and tells them they must find a way to make more money. In the end, they're on their way to being debt free and having a monthly surplus instead of a monthly shortfall.

My biggest takeaway from this episode was Valerie and Jason's nonchalant attitude about their wedding costs. Valerie had said that there's an "unspoken rule that wedding guests should pay for the value of their own plate," so in effect she was hoping the wedding, just like their rental property, would pay for itself. That didn't turn out to be the case and they had $13,000 of debt from their wedding day. Instead of winging the wedding costs like they did, come up with a hard number for your budget and do you best to save up for your wedding day.

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Join The Conversation
juliemyjewel juliemyjewel 9 years
I am going to be married soon, and my fiance and I are having a hard time figuring out a tactful way to ask for money instead of gifts. We have already lived together for several years, so we really don't need any towels or plates, really we just need money for a house. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
equitas equitas 9 years
If you've ever been married, are married, or about to be married, then a majority will appreciate monetary gifts. Of course it is a special occasion to share with family and friends but it is also a way of sending off the new couple with something to start out with and begin their new lives together. Asian weddings go by these traditions with red envelopes. My parents give at least $500 to close relatives. Yep that's a lot of dough but they aren't in any financial debt but they're not rich either and they are happy to help out a new I think a couple can definitely make up for a $25,000 wedding. At every wedding thus far, I've given monetary gifts of at least $75 because that will cover for my meal, spirits, and then some (and I'm a fulltime student). When I graduate and make bank, I will gladly give more to help the newlyweds. I'm planning my own wedding and I've had very few friends ask if I'm registered. Some people think money is tacky but I actually think the opposite. Because it was thoughtful enough for those few to want to give me something, I went ahead and registered for a few items. But I think this registry and gift giving trend will faze out in favor of $$. It's a lot easier for the giver and receiver.
jedimasterarmi jedimasterarmi 9 years
how can you be nonchalant about going into debt for just one day?? i'd be in hysterics! it sounds like they needed to think before they leapt into planning their wedding.
sunnyheart sunnyheart 9 years
Wedding customs are regional. My family learned this when my sister married a man from Massachusetts and he didn't want to register for a lot of gifts. His family told us in many northeastern states/social circles, it's considered customary to give money and it's assumed the money is for the down payment for their first house. They are also more likely to have assigned seats and served dinners at weddings. I didn't know what to think when I first had an assigned seat and had dinner brough to me at a New Jersey wedding! In the midwest and the South, it's more common to have a buffet and buy a gift for the couple like towels or off a registry. So, maybe they expected money if they're from the NE... but come on, surely they didn't expect $25,000 in cash??!
emilyeileen emilyeileen 9 years
They should be happy their friends and family are with them on their special day! You shouldn't expect money OR gifts. In fact, it is rude to expect your guests to give you anything! You should be thankful for them attending your event first and foremost. Spend what you can afford to pay in cash, and save for your future in another way.
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
yeah, about that unspoken rule; also unheard of, lol. how would anyone know what the cost of their plate was?
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 9 years
Danielle- yeah, and it would probably be really helpful if couples wrote out how much they spending per guest on the invitation, that way their guests could figure out if they had enough cash on hand to attend or not! Or not. I don't think it's tacky to give $$ at a wedding, I thought the shower was for gifts, and you gave a check at the wedding to help with future expenses. However, I think it's EXTREMELY tacky to try to make money off your wedding, and that as in any other situation, people should gift whatever they can honestly afford, not what they think the cost of their meal was! I went to a wedding once where the bride and groom were clearly trying to make money, it was awful. They invited a ton of people, had like...the crappiest buffet line, only an open bar for the table of honor and they got married in the parking lot outside the reception hall. I can understand if the couple doesn't have a lot of money, cutting back on expenses...but this was so clearly an attempt to make cash, it was gross.
angelfromlsu angelfromlsu 9 years
I'm not asking for gifts or money. I'll pay for my own house thank you.
0danielle0 0danielle0 9 years
My understanding is that a guest's gift should be equal to the amount the marrying couple spent on having him or her at the wedding. For example, if the reception (food, alcohol, etc.) comes to $75/person, each person in attendance should contribute a gift of that value or greater. That's the guideline I've always followed...
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
We have a tradition in my family its called the "money dance" and you its for two songs, the guests Pin the money on the bride a groom to dance with them, its awesome. We got about 1000 bucks from it!
sparkle9152 sparkle9152 9 years
I am planning a wedding right now and I do think that people should give a gift and money. Those who are invited to the bridal shower give gifts and then money is expected at the wedding. Why do you think they sell those bird cages, wishing wells and mailboxes for cards at the craft stores? I don't think I am greedy and I am not explicitly asking for cash but I think it is expected. My fiance and I are hoping the cash will help us save up for a house.
reesiecup reesiecup 9 years
I completely agree, RosaDilia. As a side note, giving money is not considered tacky in many Asian cultures. We give money in "red envelopes" for nearly every occasion. It really varies though. I usually opt for giving American Express Checks or gift cards rather than cash.
stych stych 9 years
Interesting...My husband and I had a small wedding (100 guests) because we wanted it to be intimate, and simple-yet-elegant. We only spent about $3,000 total....which was mostly dinner/drinks/band. On the invitation we put "best wishes only" because we just wanted everyone to come and enjoy themselves. But we ended getting $10,000 cash in addition to different gift cards (Pier 1, etc) because of the generous nature of our family&friends. I think instead of hoping you'll get money from the guests, you'd be better of hoping you have people wanting to attend! I had a cousin who was just planning her wedding "for the money/gifts" and not many attended because of her greediness.
fadedblue fadedblue 9 years
well in some cultures, it's traditional to receive money instead of registry gifts, and the majority of our guests will definitely be falling under that category. in fact, my mom wants me and my FI to forgo the registry altogether since she feels the older adults will mostly just give checks or cash. but we're still doing one for our friends, since they are more used to the american way of wedding gifting anyway.
linb linb 9 years
I would agree - I would love to get money too. It is the most versatile type of gift, imo. The couple can use it on the honeymoon, as lawchick mentioned, or they can pay off bills, etc. But especially here in my traditional southern town, gifting money is frowned upon - it's just not what you do. Why? Who knows.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Thanks linb and law, I wasn't sure. I see a lot of wedding shows and the blog on here and it just seems more and more people want money. I understand if money was a gift instead of traditional registries: if you and your SO already has a furnished house and no registry or if you opted instead to have a registry at a bank to save up for a down payment (something I recently heard of).
lawchick lawchick 9 years
I don't think it is tacky to give money (we got a little - like $400- and it helped on our honeymoon), but most guests would feel more comfortable giving plates or towels. And some guests at our wedding didn't give us a gift at all, for whatever reason. We were just happy people came and had a good time!
linb linb 9 years
@bellaressa: Maybe I'm wrong, but I've always had the impression that giving cash as a gift was tacky. OK for birthdays, not so much for weddings. Even though I'm sure there are tons of couples out there who would want nothing more than cash.
geebers geebers 9 years
wow oh wow. I hear it more and more - rules like "you should cover the cost of your plate" - all wrong and so rude. You should gift what you can afford and what is appropriate for being invited to celebrate a marriage. Unbelievable how weddings throw all rules of etiquette out the window.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
I have a question, maybe I am slow. Do guest really give money. I thought that were coming to the wedding to celebrate your wedding. Do people really expect money, in order to pay off things.
tiff58 tiff58 9 years
I have only recently heard of the "unspoken rule" and think that it is completely ridiculous! I would NEVER expect people to think that way when giving me a gift. You choose the type of wedding that you are going to have, not your guests, so why should they pay for it? A gift is supposed to be a token of your feelings for the couple, and to help them with things that they need to start their lives together, not a way to help them pay for their wedding.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
i have been to dozens of weddings all over the united states, and i have never ever heard of the "unspoken rule" that the guest pay for the dinner! That is actually quite rude. I also cannot stand people like this who spend money on a one day event like this, than cry "help me" in the end.
sashak sashak 9 years
Its sounds to me like this couple has no clue how the real world works. I doubt two people with that sence of entitlement will stay married very long
hotstuff hotstuff 9 years
It's pathetic what people will do for ONE DAY!!! Your already in debt so have a $25,000.00 wedding because that makes sense!!! These are the type of people who could have had all their debt paid off by a magic fairy and they would still be in even bigger debt once again a year later because they make poor choices!
RosaDilia RosaDilia 9 years
They should've postponed the wedding until they were out of debt so they could afford the wedding. How can you assume your guests are going to pay for your wedding? That is plain ridiculous. Sometimes a simple wedding is the most memorable one.
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