3 Financial Attitudes You Need to Adopt After Getting Engaged to Keep Your Sanity

This article was originally published as a guest post on Britt & The Benjamins, but Brittney has kindly allowed me to post on Quills and Crystals as well. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section. I’d love to hear about your own wedding planning experience–or what you imagine it will be like! 

I guess he's stuck with me. 🙃

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On a scale of Pinterest-perfect centerpieces to spontaneous courthouse elopements, my wedding plans always fell somewhere in between (messy chalkboard art, perhaps). The closest I’ve ever had to a “dream wedding” was during a family trip to Disney World, where we spotted a bride and groom head towards their happily ever-after in a horse-drawn carriage. My jaw dropped. “I want to get married here,” I announced. I mean, why wouldn’t I get married at Disney World?

Of course, that was when I was about twelve years old—way before I knew how much weddings actually cost. Fast-forward ten years or so, and I didn’t know much other than the fact that I wanted an affordable wedding that was beautiful, but not too big or fancy. I scrapped the Disney idea (but if you managed to pull off a Disney World wedding, I. WANT. PICTURES.) and scoffed at the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding.

And that was before I got engaged. Initially, my fiancé, Drew, and I had a goal of spending no more than $10,000. The average cost of a wedding in the United States is around $30,000, so I felt pretty frugal in comparison.

I still think a $30,000 wedding seems a little extravagant, but after booking our vendors, I’m more understanding of how couples reach that point. I know now that some venues require that you use their own caterer—which means no bargain hunting for charming buffet dinners. You may want to invite all of your friends and family, which—surprise!—will cost more. You might have to travel just to get to your own wedding. And don’t forget about those deposits. And dress alterations. And postage.

Lesson learned: it’s very easy to spend more than you anticipated. We’ve had a lot of conversations about money—about wedding budgets, yes, but also in the context of our marriage—and I’ve had to adjust my financial philosophies accordingly. Here are three ideas I’m trying to put into practice before our big day.

  1. Decide what to prioritize. Before Drew and I even started looking at venues or vendors, we came up with a list of wedding must-haves. For instance, we both want incredible food and an open bar, but neither of us have particularly strong feelings about floral arrangements—so, we’re splurging on food and going the DIY-route for bouquets. Be equally upfront about who you want to invite. While I love the idea of a small, intimate ceremony, it ain’t gonna happen: my family is ginormous and incredibly tight-knit. Cutting out cousins, aunts, and uncles is simply not an option; cutting out favors or decor, however, definitely is.
  2. Don’t focus on the differences between your salaries. I’m a writer who has done my fair share of job hopping; Drew has had the same job in IT for several years. I realized long ago that writers don’t usually become millionaires, and I knew that I needed a steady source of income before I cranked out a bestseller (or anything, really, but I’m trying to be optimistic). What I didn’t know is how strange it would be to discuss finances with my fiancé, who might always earn more money than I will. Have an open discussion about your financial situation, but don’t let the numbers paralyze you. Remember: you are a team. No matter how you decide to combine finances—if at all—your ultimate goal is to have a better, more beautiful life together.
  3. Learn how to accept help—financial or otherwise. Full disclaimer: Drew and I are coming from quite a bit of privilege, and we are insanely lucky to have family and friends who are willing to help with wedding expenses and planning. For some (like me), money and pride go hand-in-hand. Generosity may be difficult to swallow if you are striving for independence; while independence is not a bad thing, this can be an opportunity to learn from people who are chipping in or offering advice. If your parents are able to pay for your wedding, how did they manage to save that much money? Even if you are paying for your wedding, there are a lot of people who are probably willing to give you advice. Ask questions about budgets, planning a honeymoon, and everyday married life. Listen to them. You’ll feel less alone, and you’ll be relieved when you learn you weren’t the only one who didn’t know dress fitting appointments were a thing.

Our wedding is still months away, and the thought of so much to purchase and plan can get overwhelming, to say the least. But I’ve realized that at the end of the day, our engagement is a time to celebrate. And better yet, we’ll soon be living our own fairy tale. No carriage required.

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Rethinking Animal Advocacy

Like many young girls, I used to dream of being a veterinarian. Then, of course, I learned that vet school required far too much math, science, and handling blood–none of which I consider my strong suits. I later realized I wanted to be a writer, but I still love animals and often wish that our house could become a sort of animal sanctuary.

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Not that we could responsibly care for so many animals. Drew and I are already the proud parents of Constable Chubs. She’s been a part of our family for over a year, and even though I may act like an overbearing mother (“Constable Chubs, you are so cute. You are a literal angel. GOD HAD THE BEST DAY WHEN HE MADE YOU!”), I cannot imagine life without our sweet feline friend. Our roommate, Kate, also has a cat named Sam. He and the Constable usually get along, but I don’t think they would be too thrilled to share their food with another cat.

I’m lucky to be with someone who understands my soft spot for animals. For instance, we have a strict no-kill policy when it comes to spiders, but Drew and I are both extremely afraid of spiders….so releasing them back into the wild is always a very dramatic process (BUT IT’S WORTH IT. Live your life, little spider. Just…please don’t come back inside, okay?).

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
― A.A. Milne

A few months after I moved to Atlanta, Drew and I started volunteering at a local animal shelter. It was wonderful, but like many wonderful things, it soon fell out of our weekly routine. Once I found a steady job and a regular schedule, I started volunteering at another shelter.

Even though I love all animals, I signed up to work with cats. I have more experience with kitties, and I (usually) know what to do if a cat gets frightened or stressed. I didn’t want to work  at the front desk or provide adoption counseling, either–I’ve had enough of customer service jobs, and didn’t want my introvert self to get burnt out from something that was supposed to be fun.

Of course, that’s where I went wrong. Caring for animals definitely relates to caring for people, but it goes far beyond adoption fees or customer service. The goal of any shelter should be to find permanent homes for each and every animal; with that kind responsibility, how could we not extend our love anyone who passes by?

After all, I know how my pets have changed my life. I want everyone to have that chance: the children who visit and read to the cats; the mom who is trying to decide which cat to bring home; the couple who has too many pets but wanted to say hello. Adopting an animal is a win-win situation for everyone–you get a friend, and an animal finds a home.

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There are a lot of awful things in the world that we cannot change. But maybe we can learn to care for a lost puppy, or save a spider from being crushed. Peace starts with empathy; empathy starts with us. If we can learn to take care of tiny creatures, how much better will we be able to take care of each other?

Has an animal ever changed your life for the better? How have animals helped you become more compassionate towards people? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments!