Wedding Debt: 5 Do’s and Dont’s to Live By

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As a money blogger, I’ve always taken the stance that taking on debt for a wedding was a really silly concept.

… And then I became a bride. While we are (fortunately) able to avoid debt, I have to admit that I finally understand why people do it:

  • The pressure of it being that one day.
  • Wanting your nearest and dearest to have a really nice time.
  • Splashing out on things that create memories: like photos and a videographer.

And taking on debt for a wedding is a common occurrence; in a recent study by Student Loan Hero 74% of couples plan to take on debt. While 63% will spend much less than the national average on the wedding (a whopping $30k+ last year), it’s still not a great move money-wise. When you get wrapped up in the emotions of the wedding day and the vision of creating a once-in-a-lifetime event that aligns with your values, sound money decisions and financial planning go right out the window. I’ve been there.

But I always advocate for couples to take on the least amount of debt possible (whether it’s for a wedding, going back to school, or home repairs). Otherwise, you’re starting off your newly-married life on the wrong financial foot.

When you’re planning for the wedding of your dreams and you need to take on debt to fund it, there is a right and a wrong way to do it, and I’m going to break this out for you below.

5 Wedding Debt Do’s and Don’ts

1. Do Exercise Restraint

You know how in college you could take out student loans and either borrow the bare minimum to get you by or take out a little extra so you could live? Wedding debt is like that. Remember: you’re borrowing to pay for something you (ultimately) can’t afford, so use restraint. Line up your wedding budget, see what you can fund in cash, and then calculate the absolute minimum you need to borrow to fund the rest.

2. Do Go for 0% Debt First

If you have credit cards with a zero balance, you may be eligible for a 0% balance transfer offer. If you’re going to take on debt, this is what you want because you’ll only pay the small balance transfer fee and get between 12-16 months to pay off the amount. You want to look for these 0% offers first, lower interest personal loans second (between 10-14% APR), and only use the higher interest credit cards (20+% APR) as a last resort.

3. Don’t Forget Non-Traditional Options

Instead of a traditional wedding registry, many online wedding websites offer the opportunity for friends and family to contribute to the costs of the wedding. There’s also the option of picking up a small (temporary) side hustle to earn extra cash for the wedding. Thankfully, the gig economy makes it easier than ever to drum up extra cash.

4. Do Try to Negotiate (Discounts and Payment Plans)

A big trick I’ve used in planning for my own wedding is asking vendors if they offer a discount if we pay in full up front. Many will often offer a 10-15% for having access to that cash immediately for their business. While you may not have access to so much cash up front, it can help lower the total overall amount you owe if you decide to go into debt for your wedding.

Additionally, although many vendors charge the initial deposit and then money due at the wedding or a few weeks before, you can ask for a payment plan along the way to make payments small and more manageable, providing the opportunity to pay those smaller amounts off faster rather than one trying to slog one large payment later.

5. Cut Where It Counts

It’s age-old financial wisdom – to save money you have to trim the budget. While this can feel like an impossible choice when it comes to your “big day”, there are ways to save, it may take a little creativity and some strategic trade-offs.

  • The biggest way to save is to limit the number of people – the smaller the wedding the less you’ll pay in catering, which is often the biggest expense.
  • Limiting the number of bridal party members also cuts down on the cost of gifts and flowers.
  • Opting for greens instead of flowers, and beer and wine instead of a full bar can also dramatically lower costs.

Like most financial decisions in life, weddings are stressful, but they can also provide the opportunity to truly spend on what you value. You can’t value every element in the wedding, but by prioritizing what’s important, you can ensure costs don’t get too crazy and that you and your future spouse avoid as more debt in the long run.