Couples can't have it all: so what goes?

Kate Middleton's dressPA

It's getting hard to remember a time when we felt we could have whatever we wanted in life. Over-the top wedding? Yes please. Huge family? Why not? And a home to match? It would be rude not to.

Now we are having to make some hard decisions and sacrifices, so what are we giving up?

Research from Churchill Home Insurance has found that we can no longer afford to stretch to all the expensive things in life. Couples are meeting the questions of whether they buy a home together, get married or have children, and 28% of them are realising they cannot afford all of them.

Ditch the wedding

By far the majority are choosing to ditch the wedding. The traditional family unit is taking a back seat, as 43% choose to have kids first, 33% opt to buy a property and just 22% decide the big wedding is first on their list of priorities.

For some this is purely a postponement, and once they have saved for a deposit, or taken their children through the expensive pre-school years, they will be back in the market for a meringue and a marquee. However, 8% say the economic situation has shifted their priorities, and they won't be wasting money on a wedding at all. It perhaps goes some way to explain why government figures show the number of marriages in the UK is currently at an all-time low of around 266,950 marriages a year, compared with 313,551 five years ago.

Delay the family

It's not only weddings which are biting the dust, many couples are also putting off the expensive business of child-rearing. Over one in five (21%) of those aged 18-34 have chosen to delay having children in order to wait for a more financially-secure environment to raise a child.

It seems like some hard choices are being made, but are they the right ones?

Just an excuse?

It's hard to know whether postponing or doing away with marriage really is a financial decision, or just a really good excuse. There are plenty of people who would be glad to get away from the pressure of marriage, and being able to say 'not until the economy improves dear' is a really handy way of dodging the issue.

If it really is the reason why people aren't getting married, then it's a fairly uncreative approach. There's nothing to stop them getting married in a local church or registry office without the pomp and the guests and then throwing a house party with a BYOB policy. There are all sorts of solutions that cost less than an annual holiday - which is surely a better sacrifice if you really have your heart set on marriage,

As for putting off having children, there's every argument for waiting until you're on a better financial footing. The trouble is that no-one can ever afford children. When is going to be a good time for one of you to take at least six months off work, and then fork out a small fortune for childcare? When will you have the cash to feed, clothe and nurture another person or two?

None of us ever have that sort of cash handy. If you're waiting for the perfect moment to afford kids, you may just be waiting until your 50s. Being a parent is a constant challenge to make ends meet, but if you're cunning, have few material demands for a few years and are willing to compromise, then almost anyone can get through in one piece financially.

Of course, if you're looking for an excuse, then it's a great one 'we just can't afford to have kids at the moment' is a far better response than 'I really can't bear to give up my freedom just yet.'

But what do you think? Are these the right decisions? Let me know in the comments.
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