Wedding woes: First comes marriage?

Last updated 10:05 04/05/2012

Here's another wedding woe sent in by a reader:

Hi Greer, 

I hope that this does not sound random just to pour my heart out and ask for advice, however your blog has inspired me to do so... 

I am stuck in a pickle; I have been with my BF for 2 years now we get along great and very much in love (blah blah) and went travelling round Europe together and all that. So things are going well. We both have enough money together to put down a deposit on a house. We have talked about this a lot and my BF and I would really like to go ahead with this. He and I talk a lot about being together and setting up a future.

However we haven't talked much about marriage. I know he doesn't want to at the moment, as we both come from divorced families so makes weddings hard but I am not sure if going into a financial commitment with someone who doesn't want a marriage commitment first. Financially I have worked very hard for this deposit (and its more of a bigger deal to me then marriage) and I trust him implicitly, but I am not sure if it is a good idea. I want a marriage not to be something you have to do down the line just because you a house and been together for years.

So I'm stuck - what do I do? Do I jump into this financially with the hope of a marriage commitment or get the ring to make sure that he is with me always, as this is my life savings... Defacto

I hope this all makes sense! We both are 26 just by the way :)

Thank you for listening I know you must get a lot of emails and if I do get a response it would be much appreciated.


As a child of divorce, I can completely empathise with the way in which a marriage separation in the family shapes the way you view marriage for yourself.

I don't, however, believe that is a negative thing and I do not believe we should steer clear of marriage altogether just because we know the very real consequences when it doesn't work out.

If anything, I believe it's made me examine my relationships more; be more wary of potential areas of concern or breakdown, examine all angles of issues, try harder and love deeper.

And it sounds like the both of you are doing that: thinking, examining, treading carefully.

Now I don't know where you live, or if you live together, however if you do, I assume you're aware of de-facto laws which may or do affect your relationship.

To me, a financial commitment together is, in a sense, marriage.

Sure, it's not the *wedding*, but it is a commitment - and one which for all intents and purposes is seen as marriage in the eyes of many laws.

The main issue, I guess, is that you believe that a ring will mean "he's with you always". I hate to trot out divorce stats - which you'd be well aware of - but to me, a commitment involving finances is just as binding, if not more, than a ring on your finger.

Let's get one thing straight: a wedding is symbolic. That's it. And it sounds like it's that symbolism that you're missing, the token, the gesture and the mushy (and it is lovely) feeling behind it. 

And that, I'm afraid, is a different issue. Then it's not about the house, or the money or any of that, but more about the feeling behind it. "Does he want to be with me forever?" and then eventually, maybe "Are we only getting married because that's the 'step' we missed in this process together?".

I don't think there's a right answer here. If you would like that symbolic commitment before you sign up to a mortgage together, you're ALLOWED to ask for that, or at least discuss it.

But if you don't talk about it, I fear the outcome may not fall in your favour later down the track.

Also keep in mind there's no 'correct' process to follow here. Just because you might buy a house first, it doesn't mean the marriage won't come - but similarly, it doesn't mean it will either. The main thing here is to talk about both your views on marriage - because if it's something you definitely want, and something he definitely doesn't, then that's where the real problems arise.

What advice do you have for this reader? Should marriage come before financial committment? 

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Post a comment
Leon   #1   10:12 am May 04 2012

After you've paid for a marriage, will you still have that house deposit in the bank?

Katie   #2   10:28 am May 04 2012

I also bought a house with my boyfriend and the desposit was completely funded by me. At the time we were 19 and 21 and didn't really discuss marriage. 4 and a half years later we are still in our home, married and talking about children. My husband has since paid a lump sum off the mortgage equal to the original deposit I put forward and we honestly couldn't be happier with our life and the decision we made to purchase when we did. Based on my experience I say go for it, buy the house and don't stress about the marriage thing. It will come. If it doesn't and things don't work out there are legal avenues that will help you sort things out with the house, just as you'd have to sort things out in case of divorce. Just make sure you get all the paperwork right when you make the purchase. Good luck!

JCC   #3   10:31 am May 04 2012

You definitely need to talk to him! You're not mentioning marriage either, so he might be thinking you aren't keen. What are your expectations of marriage? Getting a house together is a pretty big committment, how will being married (or not) change this? The only downside i can see in getting the house first, is then having to set aside money that could go towards the mortgage, to pay for the wedding! But then if you get married first, your deposit will be less (unless you get some parental input).

eszter   #4   10:36 am May 04 2012

i dont think marriage needs to come first BUT ultimately it is a huge huge decision so I think a discussion needs to be had before doing anything. What does he see for your future? Even if its not marriage ..but are you guys in it for the long term? Its important to get that clarified.

As Greer mentioned above re the laws -- once you live together as De facto for 2 years, if you then decide to break up... everyhting gets split 50/50 regardless of if you were married or not. So its a huge risk if you arent sure of your future.

My now hubby and I bought a house together when we were not even engaged yet. We'd been together for about 4.5 years by that stage..and didnt get engaged for another 2 years after that. Its definetley a huge commitment, just as big as marriage.. it ties you to eachother potentially for 25-30 years.

PollyA   #5   10:46 am May 04 2012

Your advice is spot on, Greer. Marriage is no guarantee of togetherness forever. And NZ's relationship property law provides very good protection of financial contributions in the event that a de facto relationship does not last. A legal agreement might be a good idea too in this case.

But as the symbolism of marriage is very important to this person, that needs to be discussed before anything else. If they don't agree on that, and it's important to the writer, that's an indication that the relationship might not be the right one for her.

Expensive auckland   #6   10:49 am May 04 2012

We have been together over 5 years, lived together most of that time, and are currently looking to buy our first house (not engaged). We are buying a house first as we feel like if we wait a couple more years and do wedding first etc we will never be able to afford a house in Auckland with the way prices are going! However i dont really see how we are going to be able to save up 15-20k for a wedding anytime soon once we have a mortgage. But having a place to live in is more important to us for now.

Haley   #7   10:56 am May 04 2012

I was in a similar situation myself - We were thinking about buying a house together, but I wasn't sure if he saw what that meant in terms of committment - let's face it - its probably a bigger deal than marriage. However I also knew that I wanted to get married - it's not for everyone, but it's something I wanted for myself, and that's ok.

I wasn't in a hurry for the marriage, but before I committed to someone financially, I had to make it clear that I expected that we would be headed in that direction if we were to make the house purchase together.

I suggest sitting down and having a discussion about where you both see the relationship going - let him know that you want to be married, even if not straight away, and ask if he sees that happening too. It doesn't mean getting engaged - as long as you both share the same view of the future. If his answer is a 'no' to marriage then you'll have to decide what is important to you.

The response I got was 'Yes, one day I want to be married, and I'd like it to be to you, just not yet'. That was enough for me - We've now owned our house for 5 years, and been married for one.

Godd luck :)

Lucy   #8   11:12 am May 04 2012

I think Greer hit the nail on the head with that last paragraph.

I bought a house with my partner thinking that we would do the wedding later on down the track, 6 years later I left him because I realised that he was never going to marry me, even though I had told him it was a deal breaker for me and that he had to be honest if he didn't want that too. Now that I think about it, I should have known that it was never going to happen, he was so unmotivated about taking our relationship that step further and didn't care that it was something really important for me.

My point is: Have the conversation before hand and make sure that you are both clear about your goals for the future, you can't just think/hope that it will happen one day if you tie yourself to this man now.

LP   #9   11:42 am May 04 2012

Also consider a relationship property agreement - this can protect your own assets in the event you split up (if you are contributing more to the deposit)

Anna   #10   11:43 am May 04 2012

I think that marriage is a way bigger commitment than buying a house. My boyfriend and I have been together for three years, owned the house for one, how do I know that his reason for buying the house with me wasn't because I could stump up half of the deposit? I know that he couldn't have bought that house on his own, and ultimately if the relationship turns sour it won’t be hard to sell it. Standing up in front of friends and family and declaring your love and commitment is a much bigger deal, I suggest that you chat with your boyfriend about it before you buy a property, if I could go back in time I would get my boyfriend to agree to a timeline for the engagement and marriage before I signed the S&P agreement.

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