Why Attending Family Weddings Helps With Financial Intimacy

Mar 29, 2024
An aerial shot of the bride and groom having their first dance surrounded by friends and family

Recently I got to attend the wedding of the flower girl from my own wedding. I have watched Samantha grow up over the years since she walked down the aisle 17 years ago at my wedding. It amazes me to see how much she has matured, which reminds me of the many lessons I have learned about what it means to be married to another human. 


Family weddings are a powerful time to stop and reflect on our own lives and journeys, including the decisions we have made, are making, and will make in the future. There are countless decisions that a couple makes about their lives throughout their relationship — many of which have financial implications. 


What makes attending this wedding even more interesting is that I left the wedding on Saturday and flew directly to a financial planning conference. This was no ordinary financial planning conference about investments, tax strategies, and college funding; this was all about the humans making these money decisions and the psychology behind them. Love and money continually weave through my mind and life. I continually try to make sense of and help others make sense of this powerful intersection that can lead to increasing financial intimacy. 


I know now without a shadow of a doubt that every person has a money history and set of experiences that shape how they think, feel, and behave with money. I wish I knew this going into my marriage 17 years ago. It would have saved us so much heartache and grief over the years. 


Planning and Coordinating a Trip

Each family member has their own way of approaching trip planning. Often one person takes responsibility for coordinating the lodging, transportation, planned activities, and how much money to spend for each part of the trip. 


As my wife and I planned this trip for the wedding, we continually worked to coordinate between her expectations, mine, and what we imagined our kids would want and need. We had multiple conversations with her brother, parents, and the extended family members we would see at Samanatha’s wedding. 


Each of these conversations had a financial component. Do we fly or do we drive? Do we book a hotel or a VRBO? Do we go to this attraction or just lay low? Go out to eat or cook in? You get the picture. You likely have had these conversations around trips too.


Beyond the “do we or don’t we” conversations, we layer in the meaning of the wedding and what that looks like. Cultural and personal expectations around significant life events can shift our money priorities.


This type of trip is ripe with opportunities for misunderstanding when we don’t appreciate, respect, and understand each other's financial needs and desires. Financial intimacy helps to make this type of trip planning meaningful and joyful instead of stressful and full of anxiety about the money spent to attend the family wedding. 


Seeing Yourself in the Family Life Cycle

When we attend family weddings, we are faced with the reality of our own aging experiences and the ways life has unfolded in expected and unexpected ways. The greater picture of our family’s life journey is reflected by who is at the wedding and who is not. 


For us, these events are also a marker of what has changed since the last wedding. In our family, an aunt has passed away, and Samantha’s older brother has now been married for three years, which was the last family wedding we attended. Samantha’s other brother has a serious girlfriend he will likely marry. The conversations are not the same ones we had when I met them 17 years ago at my wedding. 


Life continues to progress. Attending family weddings is an opportunity for us to reflect on the new roles and expectations of us in the family life cycle. I am now an uncle to kids ages 17, 13, 10, and 5. 


Our sense of who we are continues to grow and stretch by being at family weddings. This is essential in our financial maturity and the way we see our responsibilities in the family. We are reminded of the special place each person holds in the broader family, including our own. Seeing aging parents puts the past into focus: we were once taken care of, and we are now taking care of each other relational and financially, 


Remembering Our Wedding and Commitments

Watching Samantha (whom I share a lifetime of memories with) exchange vows to Michael (whom I have only met a few times) reminds me of the leap of faith we all take when we enter into a marriage. We know — and don’t know — what we are signing up for. 


Each spouse brings their family history of life and the ways they experienced being loved and cared for throughout their childhood. They bring with them a myriad of expectations about marriage, many of which are not fully stated but will be lived out over the course of their marriage. 


Watching the pastor oversee the vows of commitment, care, and love brought back to my mind my commitment to my marriage. That same dedication lives deep within me, but is so powerful to be reminded of it as I watch others commit to the experience of marriage. 


Our commitment to marriage and the vows we declare before family and friends will be challenged, strained, and, in some cases, brought to a breaking point. This almost seems inevitable based on my experiences in my own marriage and having worked with countless other couples over the years in therapy and financial planning. 


It begs the question, “How do we tend to this commitment over the long arch of a married life?” 


I wish there was a simple three-step process or rule of thumb to follow. It is more complicated than that. However, I have come to appreciate one essential element: the ability to work on our financial life together in a collaborative and loving way deepens trust and connection in relationships. When we allow both love and money to flourish in our lives, we create opportunities to achieve both shared and individual goals.


Watching the First Dances and So Many Tears

For me, first dances have come to symbolize more than even the exchanging of rings. To dance with someone is to be in sync with them. The first dances display to the community gathered around that the couple is acting together. They are transitioning from being individuals to a cohesive unit, which is incredibly meaningful. 


Watching the bride and groom dance together reminded me of my own first dance — the joy, gratitude, and appreciation I felt for being married so many years before. Watching Samantha dance with her father evoked a deep admiration and respect for the commitment parents make to raising their children into adulthood. Watching the groom dance with his mother, I could see and feel the deep love shared between a mother and son. 


My mind turned to when each of my three boys will dance with their mother at their weddings. The tears rolled forward as I imagined this future experience. It drew me into a deeper appreciation for my wife and all of who she is to them and does for them. This deepening in my admiration for my wife adds to the foundation of wanting to work together to build and fortify our family. 


When I think about financial intimacy, I know it comes from a deep bond between two people and their commitment to care for and collaborate with one another. Financial intimacy is a dance with love and money. Every couple writes their own choreography in the way they handle money. Learning to do new financial dance moves is a part of the dance of life. 


The next time you go to a family wedding, I hope you take the chance to reflect on the meaning of marriage and money — the many ways it weaves through your life and how the commitment another couple makes can magnify the commitment you’ve made to each other. 

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