Advisers marry wedding day dreams and financial guidance

The newly engaged and their parents get advice for the big day

Jun 9, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

By Alessandra Malito

When couples get engaged, it's not just wedding bells they'll hear — there's also that sound of the cash register.

With the big day getting increasingly expensive — in 2013, weddings cost almost $30,000 on average in the country, not including a honeymoon — couples and sometimes their parents look to their financial advisers for how to tackle the bills ahead.

“Some people want something small, others want a big to do,” said Mary Beth Storjohann, founder of financial planning firm Workable Wealth in San Diego. “It's really about educating them, that's a big thing for my business as it is, so they understand what their options are and what the effects of this decision could be.”

Ms. Storjohann, who recently married, used her background as a financial planner to assess her and her husband's own priorities for their wedding day, something she suggests other newly-engaged couples do. A friend gave her a book, Bridal Bargains: Secrets To Planning A Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget and said she may have used it even more than her wedding planner.

“It's about setting expenses around costs,” Ms. Storjohann said. “Do you rank your wedding over a down payment for a home?”

While Ms. Storjohann and other financial advisers may not be wedding planners, looking at every wedding item to the very last detail, they often help couples use their wedding days as a jumping off point for their future financial goals.

Dave Polstra, a financial adviser and partner at Brightworth Private Wealth Counsel in Atlanta, paid for all three of his children's weddings. After his first daughter's wedding, he changed his strategy from cutting checks throughout the entire planning process to having his children manage the wedding day money for themselves.

“It was really interesting to watch the difference and to see how my second daughter, who is a very good steward of money, managed and designed and did her wedding herself,” Mr. Polstra said. “That saved her and her husband money — they were able to put a nice piece of change in the bank.”

Some advisers are working with their clients to plan their children's weddings from an early age. Rett Dean, a principal at Riverchase Financial Planning in Dallas, tailors his advice to his clients based on the children's age.

“I think staying in front of anything like that is going to be very valuable,” Mr. Dean said. “The value with earlier kids is it comes into the impact that it has on the other goals the family has.”

Mr. Dean has the unique advantage of seeing weddings from both the perspective of a financial planner and of a wedding planner.

“As a financial planner, we're looking to find cost effective ways to make things happen, but living with a wedding planner wife, I have the exposure to what the realities are,” Mr. Dean said. “The advice we give them is making sure as they do research and then they start their planning process they're making sure they remember all along, this is about them as a couple coming together and not so much about having to impress a lot of people with a very big event.”

From there, the financial planners and clients can assess what to prioritize and what is reasonable. And ultimately, the way a couple responds to the financial challenges of planning a wedding can be a good indicator of what's to come.

“If they can plan for this huge financial event, this huge party, and have a conversation and get on the other side of it, not having debt and stress and feeling good that they can start their life together,” Ms. Storjohann said. “I think that's an important thing to do.”

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