Recession Mama

{April 9, 2009}   Recession Proofing a Marriage


Today’s Oprah was all about recession-proofing marriage. Is that even possible? Now, I’m not married, but I am engaged. Since we all know that couples fight mostly about money and sex, my fiance and I have extensive discussions about finances. We’ve even gone to pre-marital counseling. Now, I’m a realist.  I’ve had to be, and although our financial picture has not changed that much recently, we are closer to each other now, more than ever, in this recession.

Before I worked freelance as a TV producer, I didn’t really know much about money. I racked up credit card debt in college, like a Freshman adding the inevitable 15 pounds. Looking back, I laugh because I think my best friend Ryan and I thought we were rich! We took cabs, instead of the subway. We ate out at nice restaurants a LOT. I mean we were going to Ye Waverly Inn before it became a celebrity hotspot with its own Vanity Fair blog! Now, I even worked my way through college with THREE jobs, so you’d think I learned something about the value of money. But it’s difficult when no one ever wants to even approach the subject.

So how did I learn? Well, essentially by getting laid off for the first time in 2002. I was a news anchor in D.C., and right before the country went to war, this company (which will not be named) laid off the entire news staff. But their questionable decision was my path to a new world — the world of television and entertainment. I loved it. My first job was on a style/fashion type show, and if you know me…that’s always been one of my passions! I know designers like a 6 year old boy knows Hot Wheels. After two years working on that show, the network decided to move it to New York City, and that’s when I began to realize the importance of networking. I also figured it was necessary to have some savings. Now, I was still living with my parents then, and they will always support me. But it was time for me to get my own financial situation under control.

My first step was to figure out how to get rid of my credit card debt. I transferred everything onto a 0% card, and I applied anything extra out of my paychecks towards paying this card off. I, eventually, even transferred my student loan onto a 0% card. I don’t know if that’s a wise move these days because financial experts always tell you not to move your money from secured debts to unsecured ones. However, this really helped me.

My brother also helped. He consolidated one of my student loans with his, paid it off, and I just paid him monthly (without interest). (My brother is really the financial guru in the family. I hope to be him one day.) Soon, after paying off all of my debts, I started saving, and I now have roughly a year’s worth of expenses saved up.

Now, here’s the dilemma. My fiance and I have been engaged for a year now. We wanted to get married this August. But with the recession, we’d like to have an even bigger emergency savings because my savings would only cover me. If we were both out of a job, it definitely wouldn’t cover him. Most of you are probably thinking this is a no-brainer. We should just wait to get married, right? Well, not so simple. A lot of wedding locations, florists, photographers, etc. are offering deals THIS YEAR. And I’m a sucker for a bargain. So, to get married or not to get married. That is the question. And…just in case you were wondering. The question is NOT to have a cheaper, lesser wedding. I’m all about getting the BEST for LESS. I just need some help. ~Katy


Heather B. says:

Great post! Planning a wedding can be stressful especially when you’re watching your money. When I got married nearly 10 years ago, my husband and I were on a tight budget. We paid for everything ourselves. (I could only spend $650 on my dress) But we still had a fabulous time! We got married at the Palmia Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico. About 40 people came.
My advice… get married. Why wait? You can go simple and elegant. Just spend your money on a great dress, a few pretty flowers, and an amazing photographer and videographer. You really just need one great photo for the hallway.

Have a fun relaxed party. Don’t get caught up in the rest because no one will remember it anyway. (I do not want to eat a cookie with the bride and groom on it and i’ve never toted home the matchbook).

I don’t even remember what we ate at the wedding and no one else does either. But they do remember the reception. We had a DJ and a “shot” table and gave everyone a shot glass as a party favor. They were break dancing by the end of the evening. And I did the splits in my wedding dress. So much fun! And very entertaining.

Would I have liked a different dress, a fancier cake and loads of extras? Sure… but it wouldn’t have changed the way I feel about my wedding day. My husband and I still laugh and smile when we think about our wedding. It STILL goes day as one of the happiest days of my life.

Just remember you’re getting married because you love each other. And that’s the best stuff that NO amount of money can truly buy.

recessionmama says:

Your wedding was wild, Heather B! No wonder you’re sweet cheeks. LOL. And it’s true. I think that was the conclusion of Oprah’s show…that money really doesn’t buy happiness and love. But you should be able to expound on that topic…because you and your husband seemed to know both feast and famine?

Carla says:

Ok you know the matron of honor has to weigh in, right? If anyone can create a first class event on a budget, it’s YOU. Not because you’ve ever had to, but because like me, you’d rather HAVE money than have people THINK you have money. So if you get great deals that won’t be around next year and if the savings is worth it, then go for it…but can you still plan a wedding in 4 months!? Yikes! Ok, wait until next year! Aren’t you glad I weighed in?

But seriously, what you and Anthony far as talking about finances from the very start…was one of the smartest, best things you could have done for your future. I wish I’d done the same…

recessionmama says:

I think that’s what this recession has forced us all to do. Take a really realistic look at our finances. I think I just had a head start because of my choice in an unstable, career (can you even call what I do a career?). You should also weigh in on the recession-proofing a marriage topic. How’s this recession and your lay-off affected your marriage? Or has it not affected it?

Claudia says:


Don’t put off your wedding to appease the recession gods. Putting off your happiness won’t help with the swirl of negativity in the world right now either!

If you’re finding great deals from wedding related companies, jump on them now. Just think, if you put it off until next year when things are better for them, you’ll end up spending much more than you would have had you stuck to your plan. Just pay cash up front for everything if possible, that way you’re not stuck with big bills after the wedding. That’s what will cause immediate stress for you and Anthony. Just be smart about your choices and you’ll find that saving so much on the exact things you want for your wedding will give you an added feeling of joy on your big day! I know I’m always euphoric when I’ve found a great bargain!


recessionmama says:

I do love a great bargain, Claudia! But you know as well as I do…that I don’t need a big wedding to be happy. That’s really the difference between needs and wants, I guess. I just want the dream wedding, that’s all. Ha! Ha! And yeah…I definitely plan on paying for everything upfront and not racking up a huge debt.

Rebecca says:

Great post. I felt the same way when wedding planning – I did not want to be ‘cheap’ about anything, but still needed to be within a specific budget. So hard to do!

recessionmama says:

Thanks for reading, Rebecca! Very hard to do. Hopefully, I’ll figure out a way!

paddlesports says:

You should get married at Marine Stadium – there will be a lost of people there that weekend! 😉

recessionmama says:

Spoken like a true dragon boater. Well, one of the other reasons we’re thinking of postponing is that one of the locations we’re thinking about has only 1 Saturday available this year, and that Saturday is the Long Beach tournament.

marty says:


Be smart. Don’t spend your money on “deals” now that will still be here for at least the next few years to come. This recession isn’t going anywhere.
Don’t do anything until you have 8-12 months worth of expenses saved for BOTH of you. Once you have the nest egg put away, you’ll have the wedding of your dreams & financial security. I say, wait it out.

recessionmama says:

Thanks, Marty! I think this is definitely the way we are leaning. Wedding of our dreams AND financial security sounds like a no-brainer to me.

Adam Chalmers says:

I sort of agree with Marty. I 100% agree the recession (I call it a depression) will be here for years to come. The only thing I worry about is inflation debasing our currency and decreasing the dollar’s purchasing power. Food and alcohol would get more expensive along with gasoline, which would make the limo more expensive. All this bailout money, stimulus money, and debt monetizing is going to hit the system in the next 6-12 months causing inflation and it’s gonna suck. If you’re interested in what inflation is and the difference between it and rising prices, I’ll be glad to create a blog post on it.

vp says:

Hi Katy — I feel for you. I’d say go for a fun celebration in a fun location and a great videographer to record the fun memories. Not many remember much else afterwards. You and Anthony will be a lot better off later, saving, especially when kids come into the picture (whenever that comes!). Incidentally there’s an article on yahoo today about a research that confirms what most know already, that kids do get in between newly married couples – It’s true for most, or 90% of couples, the study said.

Anyway… I’d say set a modest budget and stick with it. Indeed money does not buy the best fun. Take care

recessionmama says:

Hi VP,

Thanks for the article! (It was very interesting, and we actually took some time to read it together and discuss it.) We will definitely stick to a budget. I’m good at that! So true that money can”t buy fun. And we definitely would like our family and friends to have fun!

Adam Chalmers says:

Don’t forget the article also said people without kids also show diminished marital quality over time. So maybe people just shouldn’t get married at all LOL…just kidding. My wife and I were (and still are) fortunate to have her parents help us with the kids. I think one main contributors to divorce or marital unhappiness is getting married too young and not living with each other before you get married. Just my $.02

You can always get married, enjoy the benefits of being married and have the big wedding when you can. 🙂

recessionmama says:

We may just do that! 😉

Carla says:

Being laid off has certainly put a strain on our relationship, no doubt about it. And it came just 5 weeks after our 2nd son was born, so imagine dealing with all that crazy layoff insanity AND a newborn! Whew, glad those days are behind us. But the tension remains, I won’t lie. I don’t generally have many regrets, but I do wish we would have talked openly about finances before we got married.

recessionmama says:

Did you read the article that VP linked to in the above post, Carla? Interesting study on kids and marriage.

Adam Chalmers says:


If you and your fiance are truly ready for marriage there are a lot of things you can do to cut corners. In full disclosure, my wife works for Bella Pictures (one of the best wedding photography companies around), you should check them out at Anyway, my point is this…typically your wedding photography/videography expense is second only to the cost of the reception. One thing you can do is put your wedding photography/videography on your registry. So if people want to give you money that’s cool, but they can also put money toward your wedding photography as well. It’s just one of the creative things Bella Pictures offers. Regardless, whatever company you choose to shoot your wedding, you should do this. It could cut your photography expense in half and besides, people love helping the bride and groom to be get off to a good start early in life. One of the worst things a bride and groom to be can do with their wedding registry is to limit the choices for their friends and family. How many times have you looked up a friend’s registry and saw only a few things on there…especially stuff you’d kind of be embarrassed to buy because you’d feel cheap? So instead, you gave them money. So do something creative like put your wedding photography package on your registry. You’ll have at least one shower and the wedding for people to put money towards it…just a thought.

As far as some of the other comments about if you wait until next year the deals going on now will be over, are somewhat correct. What I mean by that is this…We are actually in a depression and things are going to get much worse because of government intervention (bankster bailouts, stimulus packages, over spending by the government, etc.). We have bailed out wall street to the tune of $12.8 trillion ( and that alone has sacrificed our future, our children’s future, and their children’s future. The economics of the bailouts is absurd and the morality is even worse! This is going to cause massive inflation by the end of this year and going into next year. Inflation doesn’t mean things get more expensive, it means your dollars are worth less and won’t buy as much. There’s a big difference. So it might appear that your wedding dress, tuxes for the guys, flowers, food, and alcohol are more expensive but that’s really a reflection of your dollars declining in value because there are so many in circulation. So now you have to use more of them to buy stuff. 15-20% inflation might not seem like a lot, but let’s say your wedding costs are $40,000 this year. Next year they could be $48,000!

In my opinion, if you’re ready to get married, take advantage now while things are still cheap (in terms of inflation). Even though you don’t know me, I’d be more than willing to give you my opinion on how to help you cut costs for your wedding and how to plan for the future. Good luck with everything, Katy. I’m friends with Pam. We talked more with each other on face book than in high school…go figure 😉

recessionmama says:

Thanks for weighing in, Adam. I have seen Bella Pictures’ website, and I like it very much. One of my neighbors is a photographer, and she’s a great one. I would, most likely, go to her, unless she’s not available on whatever date we finally agree on. I agree that photography is probably the second most expensive, besides food and drinks, but of me, it’s also really important. What you have left are the photos after the wedding. Go ahead and keep commenting and give me some tips on how to cut costs. I’d love it! Here’s what’s important to us: #1- food. #2 – photography #3 – music. As for registering, most Asians give money as wedding presents, and we kind of like this tradition. It will help with the honeymoon and saving up for a house. Of course, we’ve registered at a number of places already so people do have options too.

Adam Chalmers says:

To cut costs on the food, the most obvious and first thing you’d want to look at is the guest list. After that’s trimmed to who you absolutely want at your wedding you can move onto the style of dinner at the reception. A buffet style will typically be cheaper than a multi-course sit down dinner. I’m assuming you’re having an open bar which can be costly but is usually a must. With that being said, you probably don’t need to go overboard with a dessert table. With all the appetizers, main dinner, cake, and alcohol you probably don’t need an extravagant dessert table.

I’m not sure what date (if any) you’ve set for your wedding, but May – September is your typical wedding season in the United States. A wedding in October or November might save a little money too. After all, you’re in LA…how cold can it possibly get in November? In Michigan it could be anywhere from 20-50 degrees.

If you choose a DJ over a band, you’ll save a ton of money. One of the mistakes I’ve heard bride and grooms doing with a DJ is demanding they come up with the entire song list. DJs usually have a set list and there’s a reason for that. The music they play gets EVERYONE on the dance floor. Just because a bride and groom like certain songs doesn’t mean the other 148 people will. You’re paying the DJ to do a job…let him or her do it. My cousin is a DJ and his song list rocks! He changes it a little to keep up with most of the latest pop/dance music but he keeps his old school staples that everyone likes. He told me he’ll let the bride and groom pick 3-4 songs to put on the list, but he insists they don’t pick the entire list.

If by some chance you can’t get your neighbor here are some things to consider when looking for a photographer:

1. Do you get to keep your digital negatives for free?
2. Do they offer you a 100% money back guarantee? (won’t be any consolation if your pics are ruined but at least you get your money back)
3. Will they refund 100% of your money if you change your mind and go with another photographer more than 30 days before your wedding?
4. Are the pics high resolution?
5. Do you get an album with the package, or is that an extra charge?

Hope this helps. Good luck with everything, Katy.

recessionmama says:

Are you saying it’s cheaper to stick to a list of songs? Or is this just a preference of many DJ’s? There are definitely songs I would not want at my wedding. My fiance is the food snob. I’m a music snob.

Thanks for the other suggestions though! They look great!

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