Since our wedding date is in about 7 months, we’ve been talking a lot lately about marriage agreements (also known as prenuptial agreements). Did we need one? And if so, what would it look like?
I read a Global News article not too long ago that said that only 8% of couples in Canada had a prenuptial agreement, which actually really surprised me given that 4-in-10 first marriages in Canada end up in divorce!
So I asked people on Twitter if they had any sort of marriage / prenuptial /co-habitation agreement, and I got answers that ranged from “didn’t even think about it” to “wish we had, and now it’s messy.”
In British Columbia, couples who have been living together for at least 2 years share the same rights as married couples – which includes a 50/50 split of shared assets and debts. So basically you don’t have to get officially married in this province to be treated as a married couple in some aspects of the law. This can be scary for people who want to live with their partner, but either don’t want to get married yet, or just don’t want to get married at all.
When RD and I first moved in together, we talked at length about how we were going to split the household expenses, and made sure that every large joint purchase was split equally. This worked for us because we came into the relationship with similar assets, zero debt, and comparable salaries. But now that we’re getting married? We’re mostly in the “what’s mine is yours” boat, but there are some aspects of our personal finances that we both always want to keep separate. And we’ve seen too many seemingly great relationships fall apart to think we’re immune to divorce. So even though we both respect each other and (obviously) expect to spend the rest of our lives together, you can’t ignore all those scary statistics.
In researching the topic of prenups and marriage agreements, there were so many articles talking about how to approach your partner about the topic, how to resolve fights that escalate because of bringing it up, and how to convince the upset partner to get one in the end. I guess I don’t really understand why so many people think talking about a prenup is such a horrible idea. I mean, yeah it kinda sucks talking about potentially divorcing before you’re even married, but the financial topics surrounding what a marriage agreement entails are kind of must-have conversations anyway IMO – and will help you both think about your financial relationship in the future. I definitely know we had some good discussions surrounding topics we hadn’t even thought about before. Because if you put aside the emotions surrounding what marriage and a prenup both actually mean, you’ll see that personal finances play a huge role in every relationship, and is one of the leading causes of divorce.
Pros to getting a marriage or prenuptial agreement
- You are both protected in the worst case scenario. People compare marriage agreements with insurance, and that’s basically what it is. They exist for the sole purpose of being there if something goes horribly wrong. If you do end up getting divorced, you’re likely going to be in a complete emotional crisis (and you may not be thinking clearly). Having a document that lays out exactly what will happen will likely mean less stress, less fights, and less anxiety.
- Make plans when you’re happy together. If your marriage ends in divorce, it could be resolved amicably and maturely, but it could also end so, so terribly. One of the main reasons why a prenup might be a good idea is because you’re creating it when you’re happiest with each other – when you can be fair, and reasonable, and honest.
- Financial matters that need to be discussed get discussed. You get to talk about tough questions. Like, really tough questions. And discussing what a marriage agreement would look like also means you have to start thinking about finances and lifestyle – where do you really want to be in 5, 10, 20 years from now? And does that line up with your partner’s financial goals? What will you do in the future about income discrepancies, or windfalls, or inherited vacation properties, or family obligations?
- One or both of you have a substantial amount of property (or expects to acquire substantial assets). If you want to keep the family vacation home in your family’s possession, or if you plan to inherit a large sum of money or a business, it might be advantageous to have it put in writing that should your relationship end, those assets would remain in your name only.
Cons to getting a marriage or prenuptial agreement
- It’s pretty crummy timing. When you should be planning your wedding and talking about how great your new life together will be, thinking about breaking up is just about the last thing either of you want to do. It’s been a strange process listening to potential first dance songs one minute, and then talking through all the things that could happen if we were to divorce. But it’s important and we’re really putting in a lot of effort to think things through.
- It could be a deal breaker. For some people, the thought of a marriage agreement or prenup brings up thoughts of distrust, resentment, and could lead to questioning whether your partner is ready for a lifelong commitment. For me personally, I don’t see an issue with it – but perhaps that’s only because we come into the relationship with similar finances. Maybe I’d feel completely different if one of us had significant debt (or significant assets), or there was a large enough gap in our income levels.
- It can get expensive. It’s hard to predict what life will hold for you and your partner in the future, and it might be that your marriage agreement works for you when you’re newly married. But would it change if you had kids? Would it change again if one of you stopped working? Would it further change if there was an infidelity? Going to a lawyer every few years can be a costly expense that some couples don’t have the cash flow for.
- You’re young with little debt and little assets. If there aren’t any kids from a previous relationship to worry about, and neither partner has any assets to protect, a marriage agreement might not be the best fit.
So are we going to put together a marriage agreement? At this point, we’re not quite sure. But we are seriously considering it, and I would encourage anyone else living with a partner, or about to get married, to really start honest what-if discussions about the future if you haven’t done so already. You may come to realize that a prenuptial agreement isn’t the right way to go, or maybe you’ve decided that you definitely need one. Whatever happens, I think it’s naive to believe that divorce could never happen to you, and it’s also so important to keep an open dialogue going about money with your partner.
Do you currently have a marriage / prenuptial / co-habitation agreement with your partner?
They say that getting married is one of the most stressful events in anyone’s life. But I look at two of my best friends (who are also in my wedding party), and they both seemed pretty calm and collected when it came to planning their own weddings. Or maybe they just didn’t reveal just how stressed they were. :)
As we start to seriously plan for our wedding, I’m excited! It’s actually a lot of fun, but I can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by all of the choices and potential expectations that come with a wedding. In reading the paperwork from our officiant, as well as countless online wedding forums and websites, I’m beginning to realize that 1) I’ve already done stuff that is considered a faux pas, and 2) I don’t actually know much about weddings. Like what is a candle ceremony? A sand ceremony? I have no idea. I didn’t know that mothers got corsages, or that a post-wedding brunch was a thing. And I didn’t even think about ceremony music or first dance songs or having a microphone so people could make speeches, or a guestbook, or a slideshow at the wedding?
Related: We’re Engaged!
Some of these things are important, and I’m glad I learned about them, but a lot of it? It’s just not us, so we’re either not going to do them, or we’re going to do it in our own way. And while our wedding budget is by no means skimpy, $20,000 does not go a long way when you’re planning two separate out-of-town receptions that will likely end up totaling well over 125 guests combined!
Here are a few details that I can share right now! :)
- All communication will be sent via e-mail. The only thing we’re actually mailing out will be our thank-you cards. Both the save-the-dates and invitations will be sent digitally. I subscribed to a service that will handle our guest lists and invitations for multiple events, and will give us a beautifully designed website that will host all of our important details. This saves us a lot of money for sure, but mostly I’m happy for a system that will keep my guest lists organized for both receptions. I also bought a custom domain name for $1.00, and that’s that!
- We axed the engagement party and bridal shower. Neither of us were interested in having an engagement party and I didn’t want a bridal shower, so those things will not be happening.
- Along with two receptions, we’ll both have two outfits. That means two wedding dresses and two suits. I’ve always thought it would be so special to be able to wear a traditional Chinese wedding dress to the banquet, so that’s what I’m going to do. And RD will also be wearing a traditional Chinese suit which I’m really excited about. This is definitely something that is important to us, so we’re going to make it happen. But…
- I’m getting both wedding dresses custom made. At first I was going to make all these appointments to try on dresses so that I could have some sort of special bridal experience. But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered what the point was. After doing a lot of research, the dresses that I liked the most were way out of my price range, and besides, the dress isn’t a super important element to our wedding anyway. So I started researching online dress makers, and found an amazing resource of people with gorgeous dresses and really great reviews from other brides. Since what I want isn’t super complicated or fussy and I know what dress shapes flatter my body best, I’m just going to go for it.
- Our decorations will be minimal. RD is DIYing the ceremony decorations, and my sister and I are going to make some centre pieces for the reception. But other than that? We don’t have anything else planned. Ok, maybe I’ll buy a cute “Just Married” banner to hang on the table at the reception.
- I’m going to make our wedding favours. At first I was going to buy them, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to actually put in effort to thank people for coming. So I’m to attempt to DIY this task for both receptions. It shouldn’t cost much, but it’s not something I’ve ever done before … so if it fails in the test run, then don’t worry! I’ve got a back-up plan.
- Vendors are getting booked! We have booked our cake, photographer, salon appointments (hair and makeup), our hotel accommodation, seating for the ceremony, officiant, and 1 of 2 reception venues. I’m also in talks with the florist and waiting for a quote. Once the other venue gets booked, I’ll feel a lot better, but until then I’ll be a little ball of anxiety. :)
That’s where we are so far! I won’t be revealing too much more about the actual wedding details, as I know a lot of friends and family read this blog and I want to keep some of it a surprise! :) For those interested, I’m using WeddingWire for my budgeting and task list, and AppyCouple to manage the guest list, invitations, and website. I feel pretty proud that we’ve gotten this all done in just a few weeks, but at the same time I know we’re missing a lot of details (big and small) that should be sorted out ASAP.
Happy New Year!
2017 was a huge year of change for me personally, but also for us as a couple. We bought our first condo together, went on an amazing adventure to Portugal, adopted the cutest little rescue cat, and just before Christmas, we got engaged!!!!!
I don’t post a whole lot about RD or our relationship on this blog because he’s a pretty private person, but some thing are just worth sharing. :) We had been talking about getting married for a few months, so it didn’t come as a total surprise. But the proposal was sweet and unexpected, and we’re both excited and happy about our future together.
I had previously written out my goals for 2018, but now that we have a wedding to plan, my goals will be shifting slightly (updated post will be coming out soon). So yes, we’re having a short engagement. I don’t think it really mattered to either of us when we got married, but 2018 seemed to fit perfectly because I’ve always thought it would be cute to get married on your dating anniversary, and our 3 year anniversary just happens to fall on a Saturday in 2018. Plus, there are a bunch of 8’s in that wedding date … I’m not typically one to care about Chinese superstition, but it just felt like it was meant to be.
I’ve also never spent much time thinking about my own future wedding, except that if I ever did get married, I wanted something small and within a modest budget. So when we first got engaged, being the PF blogger I am, I started drafting an initial budget. I smugly thought we could have everything we wanted for under $10,000. But once I added up all the numbers, our budget was almost double that amount! I even asked a friend to take a look at my spreadsheet, and she thought what I had was quite reasonable. So I spent a few days adjusting and trying to trim costs down, but we couldn’t get them to move more than a few hundred dollars without completely compromising what we wanted. And when we really thought about it, we realized we were okay with that.
Why on earth would a PF blogger want to spend $20,000 on a wedding!? Well, because we’re having two receptions. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. :) But while the wedding day is absolutely about the bride and groom, it’s also about family. The details are obviously still coming together, but our plan is to have a small ceremony and reception on the Sunshine Coast for our immediate family, very close extended family, and good friends. Then the following weekend, we will throw a big Chinese banquet dinner in my hometown for our friends, as well as my entire extended family. This is super meaningful to us, but clearly not the most frugal way of having a wedding (and trust me when I tell you over the last week or so I’ve been reading so may blog posts and stories about frugal weddings). However, what we’ve come up with satisfies our desire for an intimate low-key ceremony and reception, as well as our strong pull to include all of our family in our celebration.
We have less than 8 months to plan a wedding, so I’m sure there will be many more posts coming your way – including, of course, our budget. Thankfully, organizing and planning events is something I enjoy doing (and I think I’m pretty good at it too), so it’ll be more fun than stressful. I hope. :)