Megan and Michael returned the following week with a file folder full of brochures and an excel spreadsheet called “Wedding.”

“We went to six different places,” Michael said, gesturing to the folder. “Everything from hotels to specialty wedding venues to halls. There are a lot of options. One thing we have figured out is that the biggest cost is the meal. The more guests, the bigger the cost.”

“We’ve had a long discussion about what ‘inclusive’ means to both of us,” Megan added. “It comes down to making our guests feel that they are important to us, that we’re glad to have them at our wedding. Besides the cost, the difficulty with having too many guests is there simply isn’t enough time to spend any kind of meaningful time with them. Michael (of course if had to be Michael, Mr. Numbers!) estimated if we have 200 people there and spent two minutes with each one, it would take more than six hours just on that alone. I want to dance at my wedding, and enjoy talking to people, not be on some kind of hurry-up-and-onto-the-next person schedule.”

“So we’ve decided to limit the guest list to 100 people, outside of the wedding party,” Michael concluded. “As I said at the outset, it’s one day, but we agree that we want to make sure it’s a memorable, meaningful day. In terms of our Wants priorities, for now they are the wedding, including a honeymoon, and the apartment/entertaining friends to a lesser degree. Those are our Wants as a couple, but how do we deal with individual Wants? I really am not up for consulting Megan every time I want to have a beer with the guys.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” I said. “It’s important for you to have separate ways of dealing with joint Wants and individual Wants. I suggest that you each retain your own bank accounts, and use those for your individual Wants, and every month, transfer over whatever you agree is for individual use. Then set up a joint account to deal with the Must Haves and a separate joint account for the Wants you’ve agreed to as a couple. Every couple splits up the Wants differently. As long as they don’t exceed 30% of after-tax income, it doesn’t matter how you do it.”

“Ok. That’s four accounts.” Michael confirmed. “We both use the same bank, so that should be easy. Which account do we deposit our paycheques into?”

“Into the Must Haves joint account. Currently all your savings are in the form of debt reduction, so have the extra payments come out of that account automatically. Once a month, or however often you agree upon, transfer your Wants amounts to the three other accounts. The combined wants go to the Wants joint account, and your individual Wants to your own accounts,” I replied.

“What do we do about the credit card charges?” Megan asked. “Which account do they come out of?”

“Again, every couple is different,” I said. “It’s important for each of you to maintain your own credit rating, so you may want to continue with your own credit cards. Use those for your individual Wants and pay them out of your own Wants accounts. Some couples have a joint card for all the rest, and pay that out of their joint Wants account. It helps keep things cleaner, and also, having more than one card in case one gets compromised can be useful.

“The real key is staying informed. It’s all too easy to “not look”, using the excuse that it’s too hard to keep track of. It’s less likely to happen with you, Michael, with your Analytical & Structural thinking preferences, but Megan you may need to need to push yourself a bit. Lean on your “almost” Structural preference and make sure whatever system you set up, you stick with. There are some excellent Apps available to keep you up to date with your spending vs targeted amounts. Check out, for example.”

“I’ll look into those, and I agree, I need to make an effort. It’s too darned easy for me to let it all slide. Back to the wedding for a minute,” Megan said, changing subjects, “We’ve agreed that since it’s our joint Want priority for now, we’ll set aside $1000 a month toward it, $400 a month towards good food, entertaining and getting the rest of what we want for the apartment. That leaves us with $250 each for ourselves. Dad & Mum have said they will give us $10,000 for the wedding. If we plan on getting married in a year, our budget is around $22,000. Do you think we can do it?”

“You tell me,” I said. “What did you figure out from your research?”

“The average cost per head for the meal, including alcohol is about $120,” Michael said, looking at the Wedding folder. “At 100 guests, plus wedding party, we’re looking at over half the budget just on that. Flowers, Megan’s dress, photographer, invitations, rehearsal dinner, and honeymoon have to come out of the rest. Looks like we can do it, but we may need to sharpen our pencils.”

“Watching those wedding programs, the list of possibilities is endless. They ought to call that program ‘Say Yes To the Debt, not Say Yes to the Dress’. But we have our wish list, and we’re going to stick to the budget. We still have to get buy-in from the rest of the family on the 100 guest limit. That should be a treat,” Commented Megan, making a comical face. “Your mother was at 250 all by herself. Who’s going to be the bearer of that bad news?”

“Both of us,” Said Michael firmly. “This is our wedding. Inclusive doesn’t mean a free-for-all. If we have to set priorities, so does everyone else.”

“I’ll be waiting for an update,” I said. “See you in about a month.”

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