NEW YORK (MainStreet)Cash is cash and love is love, and never the twain shall meet. That seems to be the motto when it comes to most wedding rhetoric, doesn't it? Personal finance rarely comes up during the remarks during the ceremony, the speeches at the reception or the toasts at the after-party.
There might be vague wishes for prosperity, there might be whispers among attendees about the couple's wealth and the whole shebang might be ostentatiously expensive, but official American wedding discourse tends toward mushiness. Like so many public events, it's seen as gauche to bring up income.
It's time to break that taboo. Wedding season is upon us, and when we talk about the lucky couples, let's stop being afraid to talk about dollars and cents.
For a case study, take the recent nuptials of a good friend of mine from college. He's an incredibly smart and hard-working gent, and the start-up he's run non-stop since college has become insanely profitable. His wife just finished medical school, and, with any luck, she'll eventually use her skills to rake in some dollars, herself. Money isn't an obsession for them, but they value financial stability and discipline.
My fellow twentysomething guests and I knew all of these facts quite well when we arrived for the wedding. Nevertheless, many of us were shocked at what we heard at the reception.
When their fathers (both Taiwanese immigrants) spoke to the crowd, they were astoundingly frank about money. The father of the bride spoke unironically of how marrying my friend was a "good investment," due to his healthy-and-growing income. The father of the groom spoke lovingly of how proud he was that his son could now afford expensive Yankees tickets (a luxury he, as a father, wasn't able to provide his son two decades ago). Both dads proudly touted the couple's recent acquisition of a great apartment.
The weird part is, none of this subject matter was uncomfortable to hear. It was clear that these men were very proud of the couple's robust -- and self-made -- nest egg. And why not? Let's follow this example. There are at least three good reasons to do so.
First and foremost, talking about money can prod young unwed attendees to be smart about cash if and when they choose to get hitched. Weddings are expensive endeavors, and starting a life as a married couple can bring a ton of financial headaches (from joint bank accounts to shared living space to kids and beyond) -- but it's easy to fall into a love-conquers-all mindset. As long as the couple are committed to each other, the reasoning goes, why not get married?
But leaping into marriage without thinking about your financial present and future can be disastrous. With the Millennials in a near-permanent state of financial precariousness, this generation of potential newlyweds has to keep money on their minds.
So imagine a world where, nearly every time you went to a wedding, the speeches forced you to think about the monetary aspects of marriage. Perhaps it would become more difficult to ignore fiscal reality when you think about starting a life-long partnership.
The other reason to bring up money at a wedding is to normalize it as a topic of discussion. Even for people in the crowd who have no plans to get hitched anytime soon, there's no sense in ignoring the fact that cash rules everything around us. At a major life event like a wedding, why not take stock of that central aspect of life?
O.K., time for some caveats. Of course, there should never be any public shaming of a couple that isn't rolling in ducats. I'm talking about normalizing praise of wealth, not derision of poverty. If the newlyweds are struggling to get by, everybody hush up about money.
Same goes if the couple are the kinds of people who would be made uncomfortable by money-talk on their special day. If you're making a speech, use the same discretion when it comes to pecuniary matters that you would with any other topic. And please, don't dwell on money -- there's no need to make it seem like that's all the two of them care about.
But if the pair have done well for themselves and are proud of it, why not toss them a bone or two? Mention their fiscal smarts! Talk about how great it is that they have a financial foundation upon which to build their life together! Give them a shout-out for taking in some dough! It can't be more awkward than highlighting embarrassing sexual episodes, right? And bringing that stuff up is practically de rigeur!
Live long and prosper, newlyweds. There's nothing wrong with it.
--Written by Abraham Riesman for MainStreet