Merryn's Blog

Why I'm worried about the royal wedding

The royal wedding represents a clear and present danger to the personal finances of all the couples getting married in the UK over the next few years.

I'm worried about the royal wedding. Why? A couple of reasons. The first is that it's resulted in my inbox being filled with even more stupid press releases than normal. It's so bad I'm thinking I might keep an eye on them and then announce the worst wedding-related press release just after the big day (add any entries of your own below).

But we already have one that I think is a real contender in the lame stakes. It comes from Tesco Telecoms. The release announces that to enhance everyone's enjoyment of "bridal gossip", it is to "give away free international calls to landlines from the moment the wedding starts at 11:00 until it ends at 1:00 so "allowing customers to give friends and family a running commentary of events as if they were sitting in the church pews themselves." So people watching the wedding on telly here are likely to call people watching it on telly abroad? Hmmmm. Tesco may want to "add to the celebrations" but I'd say this is a pretty unconvincing way to get started on doing so.

However, they aren't all bad. One just came in from Menzies pointing out the legal and tax implications of getting married. It is full of useful reminders. A marriage invalidates any prior will planning so all that needs to be done again. Imagine if William died without a will. Would the Middletons end up with the crown jewels? Odds are the royal family have thought all this through, but just because the rest of us have fewer assets doesn't mean we shouldn't too.

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Next up is equalisation of income. With more people now falling into higher tax bands, it makes sense for all investment income and all capital gains to be in the name of a non-earning spouse (Kate in this case).

Finally, pre-nups. It is hard to imagine that there isn't some kind of deal between Kate and William, but there probably should be with many of the rest of us too. Historically, pre-nups haven't been recognised, but the tide is turning. So if you want to protect your existing wealth in the case of marital breakdown you really should have one. All good points. I'm hoping for more releases like this one but I'm not holding my breath.

There is another reason why I am worried about the wedding. I think it represents a clear and present danger to the personal finances of all the dreamy couples getting married in the UK over the next few years. There was much talk about William and Kate having a do in keeping with the times. One that reflected the dismal state of the economy and the fact that much of the country is dealing with fast-falling living standards. Think low key and unostentatious.

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But however much the royals might think they are being frugal, their frugal just isn't the same as our frugal. Kate will be arriving at Westminster Abbey (where there will be 1,900 guests) in a Jag and leaving in a carriage procession accompanied by various troops on parade. There will then be at least three parties. First a reception for private and public guests. 600 people will attend this one. Next a sit-down, three-course dinner hosted by Charles. There'll be 300 people at that. And finally there will be a disco with "cheesy" music, a professional DJ and a cocktail bar for the young after the Queen and her lot have gone to bed.

Kate will also have two dresses (at least). Neither will be exactly off the peg, and I bet she'll be stumping up for more than your average hairdresser too. Then there is the fact that her entire family will be staying in the Goring Hotel in Victoria, a place my family occasionally used to frequent until the price of a glass of wine went over £10 and we relocated after-work drinks to a pub in Putney instead. Add it all up and austerity it ain't.

You might think that doesn't matter. After all, given that the Windsors are by any measure still rolling around in money (and William's new in-laws-to-be are doing just fine too), why shouldn't they spend it as they wish? But brides very often lose their minds in the months before their big day, and with the average wedding in the UK already costing around £20,000, brides around the country are letting themselves be conned into destroying their finances for the sake of "one perfect day."

So they spend £1,500-plus on dresses they will only wear once; £400 on having their hair and makeup done so they look nothing like they usually do; and £1,000 on a photographer to record the look. They spend another £1,500 on the engagement ring and £700 on wedding rings. Then there is the massive £8,000 or so splashed out on the reception itself and the £300 that goes on the groom's outfit which he will never wear again either the silly party favours and the overpriced but inedible cake. Finally there is the first-night hotel and the honeymoon for which the average couple apparently chucks in another £4,000.

This is all completely nuts. For most people this money adds up to more than a year's worth of post-tax income. It is also an amount that it would take four to five years to save up and money that most young people are going to sorely need when they want a house deposit or a couple of children. So why would they spend it all on one day?

Or, even worse, borrow it to spend on just one day. The average amount saved up for weddings comes to not much more than £6,000, which means that, according to a survey done a few years ago, one in ten couples ends up paying for much of their wedding on their credit cards. This is a particularly horrible idea. Ask anyone at Relate and they will tell you that nothing ruins a marriage faster than financial pressures. Let's hope that the sight of a fairytale princess wedding on their screens later this month doesn't lead a generation of brides to create them.




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