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Saving for a wedding? (Gulp) Some tips.

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It’s wedding season, apparently. Amid the giddy whirl of choosing the chair-covers and the napkins, fighting with relatives about the guest list and trying to keep creepy Uncle Brian away from the whisky, the financial side can get lost. 

The father (or mother) of the bride

Weddings are expensive. And, perhaps more importantly, still adhere to some arcane traditions, so chances are, if you are the parents of the bride, you’re going to have to stump up most of the cash. The groom’s parents might – if you’re lucky – pay for a few bottles of wine. Consider this payback for all those years you didn’t have to spend playing football with your son.

It may seem ridiculous to start saving when your little girl is still more enamoured of Disney princesses than the nearest fella, but it is worth starting early if possible. Yes, it may be years ahead, yes, she may not turn out to be a meringue-kind of girl, but what’s the worst that can happen? If she turns out not to be the marrying kind, you’ll have £20,000 that you can spend on a car, a holiday, or any number of frivolous pursuits.

According to Brides Magazine (which may have some vested interest) the average cost of a wedding is £30,111. Admittedly, this includes the honeymoon and gift list, but it still makes it difficult to be rapturously happy when your daughter comes home beaming, saying ‘we’re getting married’. It is also one of those gifts it’s very difficult to refuse – ‘it’s the most important day of your life’ and so on.

Peter Matthew, chartered financial planner at Jacksons Wealth, says the sooner you start saving, the less it will cost you: “Parents need to let compounding do its thing. Also, if it’s 10-15 years, and you don’t know when it’s going to be, it is counterproductive to be too cautious. Subject to an individual’s risk tolerance, a stocks and shares ISA is probably the right option.”

He says saving in a cash ISA is ‘pointless’ unless the parents only have a very short time to save – a shot-gun wedding perhaps? Equity income funds are likely to be a better option. However, he does recommend moving money out of the stock market progressively in the run up to the big day: “Parents don’t want big market movements six weeks before they are due to pay for everything.”

This will mean taking out, say, 20% every few months around 2-3 years beforehand and putting it into cash, depending on market conditions. For this, you need notice, which may not always be easy, but perhaps you could encourage your daughter into a long engagement?

Finally, as parents of a – possibly – over-enthusiastic bride, it may be up to you to put some parameters on costs. Yes, it should be a one-off occasion, yes all their friends have done it, but do you really need the harp? The thrones? The gold-leaf on the gateaux? Equally, unromantic though it may sound, if you have family assets to protect, make sure they are protected. Marriages go wrong and you don’t want to have to sell the family business because of a bitter split. Pre-nups are unromantic, but they have their place.

Weddings are expensive, but it is easy to get carried away with ‘big day’ enthusiasm. Set budgets and ensure those around you stick to them. And if the marriage is called off? Well. At least you’ve now got £20,000 to spend.

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