In a society with high divorce rates, you would think that “until death do us part,” would be the wedding vow people are most worried about.
In my case, there was another strong contender: “for richer or for poorer.”
Many young people are afraid to tie the knot because they are swamped with student loans, or they want to wait until they can afford their own home. No doubt they are doing what they feel is financially responsible and everyone will marry when they feel set.
My husband and I were living with our parents when we were dating and later engaged. Both of us had small side jobs that made a little bit of money, but nowhere near enough to support both of us on our own. Our wedding rings combined were no more than $250; neither of us owned a car; and churches we called for a ceremony asked for more money than we could give. Honestly, I was surprised we could afford the marriage license!
We thought we had cleared this financial hurdle when my fiancé was offered a fully ride for a master’s program! We would go back to his old university in a town he was familiar with, and with friends nearby. Things would still be tight, and we would have to live in student housing, but we would be on our own.
A wedding date was set for June, before we would move out-of-state that fall. We even researched midwives near the university town, so we could start the family we had been longing for!
All the careful planning did not prepare us for the wrench thrown into our preparations. We discovered that not only had my fiancé been misled into thinking his master’s program was fully covered, but if he wanted to continue, he would have to pay for every single cent of it! Of course there was no way we could afford this. By the time we found out, it was too late to go back to his previous job offers.The life we planned so much for was totally obliterated. Even now he hates talking about it.
We felt so defeated. At one point I’m sure I cried because we couldn’t even afford to elope! Being a faithful couple, we longed to have a traditional, if simple, wedding in a church, with our family there. But after being chastised and belittled for being financially irresponsible, we both felt that somehow we just weren’t good enough to be married. It felt like we didn’t have the right to marry in our situation. Guilt plagued our desire to live and love together.
With all these pressures bearing down on us, we realized that we would rather be poor street rats sharing a cardboard box together and married, than living comfortably in different homes, apart from one another, still trying to get settled down. The pressure of delayed wedding dates, last minute calls to a different pastor, and more helped us to realize that we had a choice to make: Either we marry now, “for richer or for poorer,” or we would never get married at all.
And we chose to marry poor.
The June wedding was still set with the same pastor who counseled us through these hard times. Both of my parents offered their homes for us to live in. Friends and family alike stepped in, giving us leads on employment opportunities and offering to drive us to interviews. I believe that once people saw how seriously committed my fiancé and I were to each other, they realized that, yes, we were meant to be together. Money didn’t matter, only our love mattered.
Four years and two babies later, we find ourselves living with family again—but still enjoying our June anniversaries. My husband switched to a lower-paying job for his sanity’s sake. We’re still paying off student debt, and still using our old car. However, this is nothing new to us. In fact, our financial struggles at the start of our marriage prepared us to face times like this as a couple. We knew how to lower monthly payments, we know all the ins and outs of buying groceries on a shoestring, and we are better than ever at financial planning.
My husband and I both know we will not be in this spot forever. Slowly but surely we are saving up money for a home and hope to buy next year. And should another spot of money trouble ever come up, we know that we can do it again. And again. However many times it will come up in our marriage!
Struggling with money is hard. That is why my husband and I chose to struggle through this together as a married couple, using love to keep us going. At our wedding we vowed “for richer or for poorer,” and it has held us together ever since.