Personal Finance: Rhee and Johnson tell their wedding guests to stay home

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Michelle Singletary
Thursday, August 26, 2010; 9:54 AM

I've often told future brides and grooms who were having second thoughts about their nuptials - mostly because of financial differences - to take the financial hit and cancel the wedding if they can't find a way to handle the issues. Better to suffer the financial loss of a canceled wedding now rather than enter into a marriage with major money woes that will far exceed a forfeited down payment on a reception or cost of a wedding dress.

In such a situation, I hope invited guests would understand that the wedding needed to be called off. I also hope guests would't grouse about any financial losses they incurred from canceled airline reservations or hotel stays. (Speaking on which, have you noticed an increase in the number of hotels that make you pay one-night's stay in advance and you don't get that money back if you cancel too close to your reservation?)

But what if the engaged couple just want to change their wedding arrangements because they didn't plan well? Should guests be reimbursed for their losses? Should uninvited guests still feel obligated to send a wedding present?

These are questions I had after reading Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts' recent Reliable Source column which said that Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, and D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee downsized their wedding two weeks before the scheduled nuptials. The couple went from a large California wedding to something much smaller with just family and close friends. All others were disinvited.

As Argetsinger and Roberts report, Johnson told guests in an e-mail (Really, an e-mail? I would hope they also made personal calls to every one they told to stay home) that the initial plans were "not what we had intended." Johnson and Rhee further said the larger wedding "ended up not being what we wanted." They may have made the decision because a prominent developer was hosting the reception and that wouldn't have been good for Johnson's political career.

One word comes to mind: Capricious.

Johnson and Rhee are no spring chickens. One would expect they would plan a wedding from the start that reflected what they wanted, one that wouldn't inconvenience invited guests.

I'm not sure what Miss Manners would say about this situation. But I do know that I sure the heck would be steaming if I had purchased an airline ticket to fly to California or made a no refund, no change, non-transferable rental car reservation.

So, you know I have to ask what you think. The Color of Money Question of the Week: What unreasonable expenses have you ever had to bear because of a crazy wedding situation?" Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. In the subject line, put "Wedding Money Blues."

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