How I Squandered My Wedding Cash—Without Even Trying

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Hayes Wedding PicOn my first date with my now-husband Mike, I was full of nerves, stammering away while getting to know him. He was the cute bartender I’d met on Bleecker Street in Manhattan.

We shared stories of our families, our upbringings, our favorite books and the characters we’d met in the city. He was a New Yorker, an old soul who seemed to know everyone in the Village. When he kissed me on the walk home, I knew I’d stumbled upon something special.

After we’d been living together just over a year, he got down on one knee on a sidewalk in SoHo—the same patch of pavement where we’d shared our first kiss two years earlier, in front of my old dorm room at NYU.

Planning Our Dream Wedding

That same night we began to plan—what was meant to be a small affair. “Intimate,” I remember saying.

We had initially contemplated a destination wedding with a family-only guest list—something whimsical and dreamy. A year before Mike proposed, an old editor had tossed me an assignment writing about Italy’s Pontine Islands. Something about the story had stayed with me, and I’d spent countless hours imagining myself saying “I do” alongside majestic seaside cliffs somewhere on the Mediterranean. It was all so terribly romantic. But the plan quickly proved to be more difficult to get off the ground than we thought.

For starters, my sister became pregnant with her second child shortly after we were engaged, making it difficult for her to travel. And with aging grandparents and financial constraints of siblings and other close relatives, the idea of a small wedding on the Amalfi Coast quickly evaporated.

  • Barbara

    I think you have to give yourself a break. It sounds like you were married shortly before the great recession, and like most everyone thought it wouldn’t last as long as it has. Using your wedding stash to maintain your lifestyle isn’t all that hard to swallow. Some lost hundreds of thousands, and my husband and I lost everything after 7 years of being married and just buying a house and having our first baby. Of course none of that went as planned. But out of everything I embrace the experience as its taught me valuable lessons in frugality, simple living and minimalism. Forget mistakes of the past, since if you truly think about it, much was beyond your control. Just enjoy your beautiful family and continue looking to the future. 8k in the bank right now wouldn’t change much… it’s your loved ones that count.

  • AMK27

    The timing of this article is fantastic! I just got married a few months ago and we were pretty surprised at how many cash gifts we received. It’s been funneled into our savings account for “later,” but I read your story thinking this could be my own.

    Crowdsourcing ideas from LV readers — if we don’t have any credit card debt and don’t live in a very expensive city like New York, what is the best way to use this wedding money? Where should it be kept? (Obviously not a savings account that can be easily accessed,)

    • AMK27

      I should probably add that we already have an emergency fund, and got rid of our student loans before getting married.

    • Amy

      If you have any other debt, now would be a good time to pay down part of it. How is your retirement situation? You and your husband should be contributing regularly to a 401k or similar – this cash could help jump start those funds if needed. Otherwise, do you have plans to buy a house in the future? Depending on your timeline for that, you could put the wedding money in an online savings account or an investment account, which you continue contributing to as the start for a down payment.

    • ChiTownGal

      Even though the interest rates are terribly low, you could put some of the money into a CD at the bank. You wouldn’t earn much on it, but it would be safe and not easy to access (although you could get to out in a true emergency).

    • http://sjmarathon2012.tumblr.com/ WhitneyF

      Sounds like you and your husband should sit down and discuss life goals. Want to own a home? Want to start a family, be a stay at home mom? Want to travel or start a business? Retire early? All of these things take money. Sit down together and discuss what life goals you want to invest in and start using some of the money for that. Stash the rest in a high yield checking/savings account or an index fund.

    • Lauren P

      Might want to post this to reddit.com/r/personalfinance

  • phdinprecarity

    Sounds like the biggest financial problem here was the “burden” of having children due to unpaid maternity leave–a societal problem that you’ve internalized as a personal one. Most advanced economies around the world offer months of paid maternity leave. Sweden provides 18 months of paid parental leave that can be split between the two parents how they see fit. It’s strange to me that as a society we have decided to make life extremely difficult for young couples starting their families, instead of recognizing that this is a normal and predictable part of life. Had you had access to paid leave, you could be on your way to investing or buying a home.

  • http://batman-news.com Tiffany

    We got married last July and our wedding gift money is still sitting in the bank. We haven’t really talked about what to do with that money, but we also haven’t touched it at all. Its nice to have it there as a cushion and for some big plan that hasn’t materialized yet. But this article will definitely bring the topic up again in my house.

  • Hope Rehak

    I think the number one problem here is that the USA is the ONLY (yes, only) industrialized Western country without guaranteed, federally legislated paid maternity leave. This is a women’s right’s issue but it’s also a human rights issue. Until that basic freedom is legally mandated, the suggestions at the end of this article are just band-aids on a geyser.

  • Thornye Rose

    Why do people having unprotected sex act all surprised when pregnancy occurs???????????????