Jacqueline Soares,

Non Denominational Officiant

I DoToday.com

I Do Today & Forever More

Officiant for Orange County and Greater Los Angeles

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Five Wedding ‘Staples’ to Skip

Posted on 6 September, 2015 at 14:53 Comments comments (108)
The save the dates are in and the invitations on their way. In just a few short weeks, wedding season will be in full swing, along with the stress of the average $31,213 price tag for the happy couple and $592 average cost for guests. That’s according to the annual wedding report from The Knot and a recent survey by American Express.

With weddings and pre-wedding events already crowding the planner pages of every other spring and summer weekend, it’s time to think budget.
Every year, the same financial concerns come up, and despite the whispered misgivings of the budget-conscious and financially-strapped, the unreasonable wedding culture continues. Even the most grounded and low-key brides-to-be eventually fall prey to the hysteria of wedding mania, as the most frugal guests get caught up in unreasonable expectations and fears of violating misguided laws of etiquette.

Social, cultural and familial precedents, along with high emotions and unrealistic expectations set by media and pop culture, fuel the continuous escalation of a simple celebration into a high-cost, high-stress event.

What the wedding industry seems to be suffering from is a gross lack of perspective. Practices that are completely and entirely optional have become thought of as must-have staples, driving many couples either further into debt or farther from major financial goals such as buying a home or starting a family.

While every bride and groom will have his or her own priorities when it comes to planning the big day, it helps to start with the bare bones of what’s required – a marriage license and officiant. Remembering that everything else is optional might help infuse a long overdue dose of reason into the wedding industry. 

Here are some prime examples of optional wedding rituals turned overblown staples that you might be better off without.

The engagement ring: After the reception, the engagement ring is the second biggest wedding expense, coming in at an average of $5,598 in 2013. What couples seem to have forgotten is that it’s the commitment to marry that makes them engaged, not the money spent on a piece of jewelry that will become redundant once wedding bands are exchanged. The standard three months’ salary spent on a ring could be used to fund so many alternate, shared endeavors, such as furnishing a home or kick starting future college saving. Buying into an artificially controlled diamond supply will not make your love or relationship any more valuable, but it certainly can result in a significant hit to your net worth.

The pricey wedding dress. You don’t have to skip the dress entirely, but you can certainly pass on the several thousand-dollar price tag. Wedding dresses are for one day only. Affordable alternatives can be found online, through resale sites and dress rental companies. You might even be able to borrow a dress from a family member or close friend.

Paper: It’s the thick of the digital age and despite a slight decline in average spending on invites, the 2014 mean price tag still sat at $439. Given the ubiquity of digital correspondence, including five different pieces of paper in one invitation that already references an online website for more information seems awful wasteful, both financially and environmentally.

Pre-wedding events: What started as a singular precursor to the big day has evolved into an engagement party, lingerie party, spa day, bachelorette party and goodness knows what else, each with its own set of commitments and fiscal expectations. The tab for these cumulative events tacked onto wedding day costs can easily soar into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Add to that a destination event, an increasingly common choice among couples, and you can pretty much count on kissing at least one of your personal financial goals goodbye.

Gifts: With so much spending required for guests to simply attend nuptial celebrations, a return to “presence as the present” might be in order. The $592 average cost of attendance doesn’t even include gifts that often follow the misguided “cover the cost of your plate” myth – easily tacking on an extra hundred bucks or two. As the etiquette experts say, an invitation is not an invoice.Give in line with your budget and in a way that makes for you and your relationship with the happy couple.

A wedding is a celebration, and stressing over overblown costs is a total buzz kill. It’s time to strip away the many so-called staples and redefine weddings, building from the ground up, prioritizing what’s most important. While expectations and emotions run high, you can stay grounded in your fiscal reality by connecting with what’s ultimately the most important part of your big day – your new relationship.

Stefanie O'Connell is a New York City based actress and freelance writer. She chronicles her struggle to “live the dream” on a starving artists’ budget at thebrokeandbeautifullife.com and her book, “The Broke and Beautiful Life,” is now available.

Planning Your Wedding While Planning for the Future

Posted on 25 July, 2013 at 19:48 Comments comments (16)
Your wedding day should be special, with family and friends gathered to help you celebrate, the ceremony reflecting your love and the reception providing a perfect finale.

The last thing you want to be thinking as you walk down the aisle, or as youand your new spouse dance the first dance at the reception is "how will we pay for this?" The time to answer that question is well before the big day.

Setting a
budget for your wedding from the very beginning will make it easier to plan an eventthat is within your means. Because getting married is such an exciting time inyour life, without a budget in mind, it is easy to overspend.
Is the perfect weddingdress $1,000 more than you thought it would be? Without a budget, you could convince yourself that you deserve to spend that extra cash instead of continuing the search for a more affordable yet lovely dress.
Likewise, without a budget, you might give in to your new in-laws' request to invite distant relatives andtheir children to the reception. Instead, you can simply say, "I'd love to, but our budget limits us to a small guest list."

To establish a budget, first figure out who is paying for what. Will either set of parents be pitching in, or will you and your future spouse be paying for theentire wedding? Then, come up with a dollar amount that is realistic based one veryone's contributions. On average, U.S. couples will spend $26,800 for their wedding - and that does not include the cost of the honeymoon, engagement ring,bridal consultant or wedding planner. The
reception is the single largest expense.

Of course, there are many ways to trim costs; you just have to decide where you are willing to compromise. Can your mother help with the
planning so you don'thave to pay a wedding planner? Is it really necessary to have an open bar at the reception? Do you really need a limo to drive you to the ceremony or can you get your rich uncle to drive you in his Mercedes?

"If you decide that you won't have enough money to pay for the wedding incash, or that your honeymoon must include a trip to Paris, you may have to get a loan or use your credit cards.
As long as you have a plan for paying off these large expenses, that's O.K.," says Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education for Experian, a global information solutions company. If you do decide to use credit, she suggests checking your creditreport before hand to make sure that you'll qualify for the credit when you need it.

If you and your spouse are paying for the wedding yourselves, another good incentive to stay on budget is the fact that you'll have other expenses once you're married. You may want to buy a house in the near future, or perhaps one of your cars is on its last legs. "You don't want to have a lot of debt from a wedding  if you plan on making a big purchase in the near future,"says Sweet. "Lenders review your credit report and credit score as part of the lending process and if they see that you are in debt close to your creditl imit, they may not extend you the funds needed for a new car or home."

Of course, planning your wedding and your future together isn't all about dollars and cents, but getting these matters out in the open can make for smoother sailing as you start your lives together.
About the Author...
For more information on checking your credit report, visit www.Experian.com.

Courtesy of ARA Content

Etiquette on Asking for Money vs. Gifts

Posted on 29 January, 2013 at 16:55 Comments comments (16)
Asking for money vs. a tangiable gift is still a sensitive subject, yet in these economic times it could very well be the most helpful way for the newlyweds to obtain what they really need. Elimating the dreaded task of returning gifts in duplicate and/or gifts that are not really needed in this season of their new lives together.
Below are some well written articles or advise on how to approach this subject with wedding guest and family memebers.

Before the Wedding and Honeymoon--It's Time to Discuss Your Credit Image

Posted on 3 October, 2012 at 13:45 Comments comments (782)
I" to "We”
Marriage shifts the focus from “I” to “We” in many ways.  One of the most significant areas for couples to understand is the impact their marriage will have on their credit image.
Up to this point, you may have been managing your finances separately.  With your marriage coming up, the credit “talk” should happen sooner rather than later.  It has been studied, quoted and written about for years how important communication about finances is to a successful marriage.  Many newlyweds hit the proverbial brick wall once all the dust settles after the wedding and honeymoon.  Credit education prior to marriage will help prevent unpleasant surprises.
The Credit Crunch
With the recent economy leaning towards tighter credit, more emphasis will be placed on credit scores and your credit image.  Understanding credit is more important than ever.  Your credit image is a snapshot (like a photograph) of your credit worthiness at a fixed moment in time.  A credit image is how you look to others who are making decisions about you.  This image determines what interest rates you are offered, and affects many other decisions made by lenders, landlords, employers and insurance brokers.
Whether this is your first marriage or not, you probably have some sort of credit profile with all three credit reporting agencies.  And knowing how to build a strong credit profile, score and image will give you a financial edge in your future together as husband and wife.  If you set aside some time to openly discuss this issue as a couple, it will save you many future misunderstandings.  You can also begin working as “We” by deciding how to share the tasks involved in building an enhanced credit image.
Find Out Where You Stand
First and foremost, go to www.annualcreditreports.com and retrieve your free credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.  There is no cost to pull your reports from this site once a year.  Once you have all three reports (total of six for a couple), comb all the information on these profiles to make sure the information reported is true and correct.  70% of all reports have some inaccuracy in them.  If there are any inconsistencies or inaccurate information being reported, this is the time to dispute it.
You may also want to purchase your credit score.  Currently, the FICO score is the most widely used score; however, it makes the most sense to do your research first to know where you both stand and whether corrections need to be made in your credit reports.
Good Score/Bad Score
Maybe one of the “I’s” in this relationship has had some bumps in the road regarding their credit profile and the other “I” may have better credit standing.  One suggestion is that you add your spouse (once married) to one of your credit cards as an authorized or joint user.  If you do this, make sure the credit card company reports this credit history to each of your social security numbers.  Over time, the spouse with non-existent or poor credit can establish or re-establish a good standing credit profile.  Since the most recent 18-24 months of history weighs heavily on credit risk considerations, it won’t take long to begin to see improvements in the lower score.
There’s Strength in Numbers
Prior to marriage, you probably have operated as “I’s” in your credit lines, payment history, and credit scores.  If you have good standing credit lines, continue to maintain them separately.  Over time, you will most likely make a major purchase like a home or automobile that may require you to go into a contract jointly.  At this point, each of your credit scores will affect your joint credit and two high scores are definitely better than one.
A Final Thought
Another topic to consider is name change.  If you are deciding to change your name, remember to start with the Social Security Office and then the DMV.  Next, you may consider reporting your name change to your creditors.  This will not obligate your spouse for any contracts you entered into previous to the marriage, as long as neither one of you entered into the contract as “We” before marriage.
There are many changes when two “I’s” become “We.”  Start now to practice working together so that these changes work for, rather than against, your marriage and long-term future.
© October 2008 reprinted 2012