A Bump in the Wedding Road, a Financial Freakout

In Depth

Everything is going great! will be my last words, just as they are for so many others—right before Satan’s pitchfork sails through the space between my back ribs, pierces my heart and lungs in one sanguine grab, and I am hauled away, bobbing like a chunk of sirloin on a kebab, down all the flights of stairs to hell, where I will be roasted, like a summer dinner, over forlorn flames.

That is how I was feeling—like everything was going great—until this past Monday, when, I suppose, I’d uttered that foolish phrase one too many times aloud, and punishment was issued swiftly and without mercy. It’s not my fault entirely; everything was going great! I was waiting on a quote from a very nice florist, so I could compare it against a very fair quote I’d gotten from another very nice florist, and once I chose one, I’d be done booking all of The Big Things for my wedding day. This task had seemed insurmountable at first, long ago in January when the whole thing started, and now here I was, sashaying along, booking this, choosing that, designing this, building a guest list, etc., etc..

All the while, I was saving money like a goddamn oil tycoon, really stashing that shit away, half worried that the bank would find me and have me arrested, convinced I was a criminal, because no way could a woman with my financial tendencies suddenly become such a proficient saver. But no—my eyes have really just been on the prize, and I’ve been working my tail off and saving, if you can believe it.

And then, Monday. Punishment. Swift. Merciless. I am informed that a lucrative freelance gig, one I’d affectionately dubbed my Wedding Job, which funds all my savings after my regular job’s paycheck is thinned out by rent, bills, and student loan payments, has decided to replace me with an “in-house” “full-timer.” I know this is coming, because that is the nature of all freelance work (“easy come, easy go”), but still the finality of it stings like hot jellyfish burn. All that extra money…gone. It was there, in my bank account every two weeks like a smooch, poised to be plopped straight into my wedding savings as if it never even existed for anything on earth but eucalyptus garlands, and now: poof.

Everything is no longer going great. And while I will no longer be pounding at my laptop like a madwoman, cranking out copy for an extra 15-20 hours a week after work, I will also no longer be able to relish in the glorious satisfaction of quicksaving, and watching the number plump up and up and up. Now I’ll have to play by regular rules, do things the old fashioned way, which I hate: Work a normal amount, stop working at 6:00 PM, and save a little bit over a long period of time. Just kill me.

The panic set in the moment my freelance client gave me the news-—a panic I knew well, after four years of living in New York and teetering on the edge of broke-ness, only to have miraculous freelance opportunities pop up when I needed them most, only to have them disappear months later just as suddenly. It is de rigeur in a city that has far too many people living and working within its confines; it is impossible for everyone to do well all the time. But that doesn’t make the panic any less real, especially when I have a fucking wedding to cover in local cheeses and pillar candles coming at me in ten months, goddamn.

Of course, it’s not really about the wedding, is it? Nothing ever is, when you’re planning a wedding. Here’s what panics me more: That Joe and I are no longer the almost-equal earners we were for those precious months. Getting comfortable in my Salary Plus™ payment plan tricked me into a false sense of forever financial security—and, even more intoxicating, financial equality—with the man I love and am building a life with. Talk about a bump in the road.

See, Joe and I come from families of different financial backgrounds. So I was excited to start a marriage predicated on equal footing, and it was all going to start by cutting the wedding costs cleanly into two halves. It felt so simple, like splitting the check at dinner. But now that I’m running the numbers, I know what really might have to happen, and it’s something I’ve been dreading since the very beginning: Joe covers more, because he makes more, and I have to be okay with that, because, hey, we’re a team now! And after taking care of myself for so long, it is uncomfortable to start allowing someone else’s hard-earned money to winnow its way into my hands, to be dispersed however I please, as if Joe, a person who slept on dollar-store sheets when we first started dating, should suddenly be paying for all of our wedding’s peonies, just because I want them.

“Soon you’ll be merging finances anyway,” says my most rational side, who is also a bore.

But the thought of dumping all of our money into one big bank pit freaks me out even more: What if some of his money makes it to my debit card, and I accidentally spend it on fake eyelashes at Duane Reade? Or on new underwear even though I have 80 pairs of underwear? Or on drinks I buy my friends to lure them to stay out later with me? Why should anyone’s money but my own pay for my own doctor visit copays, lunches, tampons, visits home to Mom and Dad? Yes, this was bound to happen eventually; there’s no point to keeping our money completely separate forever. But ugh, I recoil—like a magnet repelling away from another—can’t I just fake wealth forever, and can’t we just stop at sharing toothpaste and bad jokes?

When I tell Joe I’m about to lose my beloved revenue stream, he can smell my fear. He knows my panic triggers by now. It is my most practical reason for marrying him.

“You’ll figure something out,” he says, squeezing my hand. “You always do. And you’ve got me.”

“But… the wedding! All the stuff we have left… the bus, the photo booth, my dress alterations, your ring… And then everything after,” I say, trailing off. I can’t fight the image of that one emoji, the stack of cash with the wings. All that money I found myself months ago, now flying away. Gone, gone, gone.

“I can take care of some of that,” he reassures, always so reassuring. He doesn’t think about money like I do.

“But—” I start. No.

“You can just pay me back, if it’s that big of a deal,” he laughs. “I know where you live.”

We laugh but he knows I will pay him back, no matter how long it takes. Just like I did when we moved and spent too much at IKEA. Just like I did when the dog’s vet bill soared near quadruple digits. Maybe for now, that is our take on financial equality: he covers the down payment, and I cover my half in a series of small, slow, interest-free payments. Maybe we’ll switch someday. Maybe the fact that I am the one who replaces the toilet paper and the hand soap is worth its weight in income brackets.

In that case, everything is going great. For now.

Watch this space weekly as Lauren Rodrigue shares the victories and freakouts of planning her 2016 wedding and the marriage that’ll follow. Tweet her at @laurenzalita.

Image via Shutterstock.

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