Weddings and pre-nups: know what you’re getting into

This summer, many of us will be toasting “the happy couple” at a wedding ceremony, whether at lavish parties in country hotels or celebrations in back garden marquees.

The average UK wedding in 2023 will cost around £20,000. That’s just for the day itself - that average figure excludes the costs of hen/stag parties, rings, honeymoons, pre-wedding family dinners, accommodation, etc.

According to Hello! magazine, the average costs for a wedding in 2022 were:

Venue hire: £8,400

Bridal wedding dress: £1,350

Videography: £1,150

Catering: £70 per head

What’s more, according to The National Wedding Survey, 47% of couples went over budget on their weddings.

That’s a lot of debt to take into a marriage, even if 63% of couples are given money by friends and family to help pay for the wedding.


One more expense that is vital

Marriage isn’t just a romantic day or special family event, it is a legal contract with implications that reach far beyond just “being together”. Marriage changes your legal status, your will, your financial arrangements and, to some extent, your parental responsibilities. This is particularly important if you are one of the 31% of couples who have children before you get married.

Many couples (in fact, we’d say most couples) don’t budget for taking legal advice before they get married or enter a civil partnership. Legal advice might sound like the most unromantic of wedding expenses, but it could be the most long-lasting investment, outlasting the flowers, cake or often the marriage itself.

Legal advice will give couples an overview of the legal commitment, the financial aspects, and the implications of any subsequent divorce. That’s not always a palatable thought for a couple, but it is important to consider. However, in recent years LGFL have noted a rise in those seeking advice on pre and post nuptial agreements.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2021, the median duration of a marriage was just 12.3 years. The divorce rate for men and women were similar, at around 9.5 per 1,000 of the married population. However, it did depend on the age of the couples, as the ONS explained:

“We have seen changes in the percentage of marriages ending in divorce by their 10th wedding anniversary. Back in 1965, 1 in 10 couples who married that year were divorced by their 10th anniversary. This increased to 1 in 4 couples for those married in 1995.”


Pre-nups for all ages

Whatever age you get married, you will always bring something into your marriage financially. This might be family wealth, your own savings, heirlooms, a home or other property, and other assets. Equally, you might also bring financial commitments such as loans, mortgages, and consumer debts.

A pre-nuptial agreement details what each party brings into the marriage, and lays out what you each would receive/retain should you divorce. You both agree to and sign the pre-nup in good time before you marry, to avoid any possibility of one party feeling pressured to sign.

A pre-nup therefore helps preserve family wealth, inheritances, and assets accumulated in your own right before you married. These details should also be reflected in the terms of your will - you will need to make a new one when you get married.

Whilst a pre-nup is not technically legally binding, a family court will take into consideration its contents if you subsequently separate and divorce, if certain conditions are met.


Post-nuptial agreements

In some circumstances, a post nuptial agreement is appropriate. This can be for example, where parties want to define their financial arrangements after the marriage, following a change in circumstances or separation. It can also be when the pre-nuptial agreement is signed quite close to the marriage, to reaffirm wishes.

If you choose to live together and not get married, a cohabitation agreement is essential. As co-habitees, you do not have the same legal rights as married or civil partnered couples if you separate.


Parental encouragement

If your adult children are considering marriage, why not encourage them to take legal advice from experienced family solicitors? At LGFL, we offer an initial 1-hour reduced fee consultation to guide a couple through the benefits an implications of marriage, pre-nups and post-nups. If they wish to proceed with a pre-nup, we’re happy to create one that suits them both.

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