A wedding dress was hanging in my closet. A deposit had been paid on the reception hall. Then, I called off my wedding.
After seven years with my fiancé, Jeff, I finally realized our relationship wasn’t heading in a positive direction. I was the breadwinner and the responsible one. Jeff could never seem to keep a job for more than a few months at a time and he depended on me to pick up the slack. I carried the majority of the financial burden in the relationship, and I had finally had enough of it.
I’m not the only one to call off a wedding, either. A 2013 study by The Wedding Report found that 13 percent of engagements (about a quarter-million) don’t end in marriage.
Luckily, this major life curveball had a silver lining: I learned a lot. Here are three money lessons in particular that I learned from calling off my wedding.
1. Be Alert for Financial Red Flags Before Walking Down the Aisle
When we’re in love, we tend to put on blinders to the financial red flags being waved right in front of our noses. For instance, the jewelry store required his mom to cosign for the engagement ring because his credit score was so dismal. One month, Jeff didn’t have enough money to make the ring payment — so I made it for him. That’s right — I made a payment on my own engagement ring.
Deep down, I wanted to marry a man who I considered my financial partner. Yet, Jeff and I were caught in a parent-child financial pattern. He would do something irresponsible with money; then, I would scold him and eventually bail him out.
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2. It’s OK to Walk Away From “Sunk Costs”
To ensure my long-term happiness and success, I had to be OK with losing some money. I lost the deposit on the reception hall and only recovered 25 percent of the cost of my wedding dress at the consignment shop. I also compensated my three bridesmaids for the dresses they’d already purchased.
I’ll admit, it felt like I was flushing dollars down the toilet, but I knew deep down the costs, both emotionally and financially, would be even higher if I went through with the wedding. I know this for a fact because I’ve seen it firsthand. My friend, “Tonya,” didn’t call off her wedding — and she should have. Two years and many dollars later, her divorce was final. “I was in love with the wedding and being married, not with my fiancé,” she admitted to me.
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3. Don’t Become Financially Entangled Until Your Union Is Official
Because Jeff had racked up two DUIs in six months, we transferred his car into my name and covered it under my insurance policy (yes, our troubles ran much deeper than the money issues). When I called off the wedding, I didn’t realize what a hardship it would be to get Jeff’s car out of my name and off my insurance. Eliminating my name from the apartment lease was also a hassle, not to mention getting Jeff removed as an authorized user on my credit card account.
It’s best not to intermingle your money until you’re officially married. If you want to open a joint checking account with both of your names on it specifically for wedding and honeymoon expenses, go for it. Just don’t add your fiancé’s name to your existing accounts until your union is official.
For those who might be wondering, yes, “happily ever after” happened for me three years later when I married Nick, who is very smart with money. Early in our dating relationship, we talked extensively about finances. We’re celebrating 15 years of marriage soon, and being on the same page financially has played a big part in our success.
Don’t forget — when you marry someone, you’re not just entering into a romantic partnership, but also a financial partnership.
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