THE FINANCIAL REALITIES OF THAT BIG FAT IRISH WEDDING

That was quite a wedding. Total cost, an estimated £23 million or thereabouts, though the bride’s father was able to dodge a serious bill: he only had to foot the cost of the bride’s dress and trousseau, flowers and assorted bits and bobs. He also paid for the bridesmaid’s costumes and the cost of putting everyone up at a pricey London hotel the night before.

That was quite a wedding. Total cost, an estimated £23 million or thereabouts, though the bride’s father was able to dodge a serious bill: he only had to foot the cost of the bride’s dress and trousseau, flowers and assorted bits and bobs. He also paid for the bridesmaid’s costumes and the cost of putting everyone up at a pricey London hotel the night before.

Money Express wil Jill Kerby in association with Aviva

His total cost – a mere estimated €100,000.

Well, it was quite a designer dress, but only the most extravagant of Irish weddings in the great boom years (GBY) seldom hit that lofty figure. This young couple are, of course, royalty, while the Irish who spent six figures on their wedding, only wanted to be royalty – if only for one special day.

Like all the other illusions we surrounded ourselves with before the economy imploded, the huge white wedding has finally fallen back down to earth. Little girls, we can only hope, will not dream of their big day in IMAX dimensions, just a modest technicolour.

As my own friends (and a few close cousins) hit middle age, I find myself going to at least one wedding every summer and this year, in June, is that of a son of close friends and according to his mother, one of my oldest friends, this will most definitely not be a GBY Great Big Fat Wedding circus.

There will be about 60 guests – close family and friends only – and at least that many more for the ‘afters’, The reception will be held at a very nice golf club venue where the groom and both dads play. There will be three bridesmaids, (who are going to wear short dresses apparently) and friends are donating video equipment and the cameraman, (though they will have a professional still photographer).

The bride and groom are even honeymooning here in Ireland – when did that last happen? - and will then go to Paris for a few days for the very good reason that the house they bought together in 2007 is in pretty serious negative equity. Irish bridal suites are going for a song these days, they discovered.

The total cost will be under €10,000 said my girlfriend, and both sets of parents are going to split the cost. (Apparently the bride’s mother has been saving every penny of child benefit for this big day – which again has to raise some questions about the morality of a universal, untaxed benefit that was originally meant to help low income families with the cost of raising their children, not to help fund the wedding days of the comfortable middle classes.)

Anyway, these families and this couple have their financial heads screwed on properly and their plans sound really lovely. The new economic reality forced them to scale down their original plans since they could no longer afford to pay for the day, as they originally planned. But it’s going to a more informal, less stuffy day that will be remembered, I think, by everyone for not being so ostentatious and frankly, unreal.

Since the wedding day just lasts 24 hours, and your marriage will hopefully last for considerably longer, all young couples setting out on a life together (though perhaps not the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) need to consider a few other financial niceties:

They should both write wills and take out life insurance on the life of the other. Previous wills are null and void once you get married. They’re easy and inexpensive to arrange and you can do them yourselves, so long as they are composed, signed and witnessed properly. The life insurance is a way to ensure that you new spouse isn’t financially devastated as well if the worst happens; a 25 year policy for a pair of 25 year olds (you can buy joint policies) is very cheap, but premiums will go up as you age, so if you plan to have children why not buy the term life cover now while it is such good value. (Check out the Regulator’s website, www.itsyourmoney.ie or speak to a good broker.)

If you already own a house then chances are that your mandatory building insurance also includes contents. If it doesn’t, arrange for proper insurance. You can also insure the wedding (and gifts) if you want – and yes, cover includes being left standing at the altar.

Talk about your money issues before you marry – so few couples do. Make sure you both know exactly earn, how much debt your carry, the state of your savings, investments and pension fund. Think about whether you want joint accounts or keep them separate with perhaps just a joint savings account. If you are in serious financial difficulty right now, go and get some help, either from MABS or a good debt management advisor. Huge credit card bills and personal loans that are in arrears is not the ideal baggage to be carrying into your marriage.

I know it’s a little early to be talking about starting a family or retirement, but both of these events will need to be funded. Child-care costs can be the equivalent of a second mortgage; maternity leave benefits are capped and retirement (don’t I know) creeps up on you sooner than you think. You need to know some of the costs involved so that you can make small adjustments early on to your spending and lifestyle.

Now where did I put that little bag of confetti…

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