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Monday, January 30, 2012

Appreciating the Two Month Salary Rule

Until recently I have thought the De Beers marketing campaign 2 months salary guideline for an appropriate cost of a engagement/wedding ring to be a ridiculous standard. Lately I'm beginning to appreciate a benchmark based on the groom's current salary.

Yet another set of takanot are being reported in effect. Once again they claim to "save" families thousands of dollars. My father would respond, you aren't saving when you are spending. And spend they do. Even at the reduced rates, families of the listed Chassidish sects are instructed to spend a hefty sum: gifts should not exceed $2,675. Yes, this amount is much reduced, as is are all the other myriads of expenses from shadchanus fees ($990) to flowers for Shabbos ($135) to the actually costs of the wedding.

Of interest: my past post A Study in Wedding Takanot Differences.

I believe these takanot are to help curtail the debt incurred upon engagement/marriage. Yet benchmarking the spending, even if it is far lower, does not cut debt. Those without the funds will still be without the funds. Which brings me back to a regular message, the culture of debt is the real culprit.

24 comments:

JS said...

A friend's brother is going to be popping the question soon and he went around asking his friends what was "standard" or "expected" to be spent on the engagement ring. He got responses ranging from 2 months salary to 4 months. I suppose the "months salary" depends on how much you're earning, but knowing him and his friends fairly well I'd figure the range he was told was around $7,500 to $25,000.

Orthonomics said...

My husband was told a certain dollar amount by a sibling and they weren't high earners at the time. I agreed to spending around 20% of that figure and we came in below that with some footwork.

Anonymous said...

When my mother was engaged in 1949 my father was a poor student with poor parents. He did not give my mother a ring at all! Instead my mother bought herself a wristwatch with a few small diamond chips around the face.

When her mother in law died, my mother was given her engagement ring. That was in 1965! For the first 15 years of married life, my parents had six children and no engagement ring. (My father had given my mother a modest wedding band of course.)

In the olden days, a choson bought nothing if he had no money. This custom should be revived.

Jacqueline said...

Ironically, I was reading something about this today. A different commentator, on a different website, said that the original reason for the two month salary engagement ring was so that if something happened to the groom before the wedding (this was during the US Civil War) the bride could sell it and have something to live on. Nowadays, I'm not sure how many people would actually sell the ring unless they got really desperate.

That being said, I fail to understand why most of these gifts are even necessary at all.

Mark said...

I'm not aware of any halachic requirement regarding engagement rings.

My wife is still working on choosing her ring ... and we're married almost 15 years.

Anonymous said...

One has to wonder what the Kallah and Chossen know/understand about the costs of a wedding and their parents' ability to pay. Do they have any clue that their parents' will have to go into debt and/or deplete retirement savings? Do they understand what stress that type of debt/lack of retirement savins can cause their parents? If they did, that would put a stop to the unnecessary spending pretty quickly. I know I wouldn't want my parents to go into debt for a one-day event. When will people learn that it the marriage, not the wedding that is important.

AztecQueen2000 said...

If the chasan and kallah cannot plan a wedding without breaking their parents' banks (or their own), then, IMNSHO, they ain't mature enough to get married! (And, what's wrong with a backyard wedding anyway?)

Jay said...

AztecQueen2000:
Usually it is not the chasan or the kallah - it is one (or sometimes all) of the mechutanim (parents of the bride and groom).

rivkayael said...

And some of the time, the chatan and the kallah don't want to waste money on a wedding, but the mechutanim ALL have to keep up with each other and the cohens, not to mention their next door neighbours and force the chatan and kallah to deal with all this nonsense.

Zach Kessin said...

How about two simple rules

1) There shall be no debt from weddings, you pay cash or go without
2) the couple shall pay X percent of the costs.

When I got engaged I found a pretty silver ring for about 250NIS I knew she would love it and I could afford it. Now 8 years later we are talking about upgrading it

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

When we chose our diamond, my dad suggested whom to go to. I picked out the diamond with the expectation that I would have to pay myself, and selected accordingly. Little did I know that my father had already arranged payment.

I think that is the best way to have balance. Make the couple consider the financial aspect, but then pay for it anyway (if you want to give it as a gift).

Also, rivkayael has a very good point. Lavish weddings are not for the couple, but for the parents.

ProfK said...

Takanos like those referred to play into the fiction that all Jews are created equally as regards money, what it should buy and what it can buy. What we need to get rid of is the whole idea that there are "must haves" for marriage other than a plain chupah with the required number of witnesses and a plain wedding band of some kind for the bride. After that, if you have the money to pay for things without going into debt, buy what you want/like. If you don't have the money and will be going into long term debt, there is no need to do so. What the rabbanim need to address--and don't--is the whole idea of non-Shwartzes playing keeping up with the Schwartzes and the resulting kinah when the Schwartzes can afford more.

Anonymous said...

ProfK: What the rabbanim also needs to address is that modesty means not just avoiding showing off skin, but also avoiding conspicuous consumption. Until modesty means a modest lifestyle, there will always be pressure to keep up with the schwarzes. We must learn to value a simple lifestyle that emphases the non-material over the material.

Mr. Cohen said...

http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2012/01/30/yearnings-of-the-holy-hedonists/#comments

rivkayael said...

What about self regulation? Rather, what I often hear is "we spent so much time trying to find X a shidduch, therefore we are ENTITLED to make a wedding" (when the couple wants an aufruf with the chatan's smicha class during shacharit on mon/thurs, the wedding not to cost more than 2 months of rent, a minyan, chuppah, bagels and lox) It's because some parents feel ENTITLED to show off and celebrate (and the couple doesn't enjoy it one bit) that this stupidity continues.

No need for takanot. Just common sense and realism. Most of my friends don't want the financial stress of huge weddings (and are aware that their parents are getting older). It's the parents who want to blow their life savings.

suzanne said...

Believe it or not, my husband did not buy me an engagement ring at all (I was married about 4 years ago). It just wasn't important to me. I was so grateful to Hashem that I was getting married to a wonderful person. He bought me a rose-gold wedding band I wanted. We had our wedding at a nice Bukharian place, with a live band, <100 guests, but no photographer, free gemach gown, no pro makeup, no tux/gowns for relatives, no flowers, huppah made out of craft-store decorated garden stakes and a tallit. Some guests told us sincerely that it was the best wedding they had ever been to, because- get this- everyone was HAPPY. What a concept!

Anonymous said...

I also had a simple wedding and also complimented on it. Many of the problems in the frum community stem from a new found sense of entitlement that did not exist 40 years ago. I honestly do not know where this comes from, but many families in our community have at least one Lexus or similar luxury car.

megapixel said...

the chassan HAS to give the kallah generous gifts, since he is demanding she (her parents) shell out support for the next several years. He cant look cheap and not give anything!

Orthonomics said...

But he doesn't have what to give! Looking cheap vs. being honest.

megapixel said...

yet he could still make demands... that would REALLY be unfair.

Anyway I just read the link and I can only say YAY! we should all be happy. This is for Israelis. these people come here to fundraise, after all. Hopefully that will lessen some of the shnorring...

Not_a_sheep said...

Since when do Torah Jews - or any intelligent human being for that matter - agree to standards set by greedy cartel owners?
The need for diamonds - and their real value - is something that is entirely artificial...a creation from whole cloth of canny businessmen. See this fantastic article ini
the Atlantic Monthly

Anonymous said...

My brother just took out a loan for almost $12500 to pay for a ring for his fiance. He wants to study part time at the kollel and has no money. My parents are worried sick about his future because the girl never seems to be satisfied and his very demanding. I don't know how he's going to pay this loan back, but he says that she's the one for him. I think part of the problem is that this is the first girl he ever went out with and is a hurry to get married even through he is only 22.

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