Should You Go Into Debt for Your Wedding?

Bride and groom with glasses of champagne

There's nothing wrong with wanting a special and memorable wedding day that you can share with friends and loved ones. But with many young couples dealing with limited income and personal expenses such as student loans and housing, a dream wedding can be out of reach financially. If you're deciding whether to take on debt to cover your wedding costs, first make sure you fully understand what you'd be getting yourselves into as a couple.

Wedding expenses can add up quickly if couples aren't careful. You'll need to plan out how you'll pay for things like your wedding venue, photographer, food and anything else that may pop up. Wedding website The Knot reported that the average wedding cost $19,000 in 2020—a significant drop from the 2019 average of $28,000, which was the result of pandemic-related impacts on events.

As wedding costs add up, couples may find themselves wondering if it's even possible to host a beautiful debt-free wedding. If you're worried your current wedding plans have the potential to negatively impact your long-term financial plan, take a step back and reassess. Here's how.

How Will Your Wedding Impact Future Financial Goals?

Couples may need to work through what their combined financial goals are for the future and how paying for their wedding could affect those goals, especially if it involves taking on debt. For some couples, taking out a personal loan to pay for their wedding at a more manageable pace may be a better financial choice than totally draining all their savings and depleting their emergency fund.

Leveraging credit cards as a way to earn cash back, points or miles for future travel could also be a strategy for some couples. However, the annual percentage rate (APR) on your credit card is likely much higher than what you could get with a loan, so you may want to consider paying for your expenses another way unless you can quickly pay off your balance. A card that has a 0% APR introductory period could be a viable option as long as you carefully manage your debt and pay it off before the card's higher ongoing APR kicks in.

Ultimately, you and your partner may decide that it's best to avoid taking on debt and plan a debt-free wedding. We've included some ideas with that in mind.

How to Cut Your Wedding Expenses

Couples have a ton of choices that can help lower the cost of their wedding day. Here are a few quick budget items that could be reconsidered:

  • Consider a venue change. Instead of using a traditional wedding venue, rethink your wedding space. Some couples are now opting to do elopements, such as hiking with a tiny number of guests and an officiant to a spot on their favorite mountain. There are many ways to elope, so it might be time to start thinking creatively! Did you originally dream of a destination wedding? Instead, host your wedding at a venue that embodies an aspect of the destination you originally planned to visit. Don't be afraid to look online for wedding inspiration, or reach out to newlywed couples in your life for ideas and planning advice.
  • Resolve outside pressures. Communicate your financial boundaries with friends and family who may be pressuring you to host a wedding that's beyond your means. Many couples underestimate how family expectations may influence what they decide to spend and the impact it has on their household budget as newlyweds.
  • Host a micro-wedding. In fact, it shouldn't surprise you that 2020 saw a number of these beautiful weddings due to the impact of the COVID crisis and the need for smaller gatherings. Micro-weddings typically have a maximum of 50 guests but are often smaller. These weddings are ideal for couples who would like to keep their expenses low or would like to pay cash for their event.
  • Do it yourself. Making your own table numbers, welcome signs and even flower arrangements can save you a lot of money over getting them through a vendor.
  • Communicate with your partner. Have a conversation with your future spouse about the aspects of your wedding that you're both comfortable changing. Then discuss the non-negotiable parts of the wedding day experience that you deeply care about and would prefer not to downsize or economize.
  • Simplify everything. Instead of giving all of your guests party favors, provide gifts just for the wedding party. Or skip the formal, mailed invitations and opt for an online version instead.
  • Skip certain wedding expenses. Do your guests really need a beer mug commemorating your wedding day? Professional photographers are often worth the expense, but if you have a couple of friends who are great at photography, you might task them with taking your wedding pictures.
  • Shift the season. Hold your wedding off-season, which will significantly cut down on your venue price and may give you more room to negotiate than during the wedding season.

Whatever you decide to do, taking the time to think outside the box and be innovative with your planning can save you from having to go into debt for your big day.

How to Prepare Financially for Your Wedding

After spending some time fleshing out your wedding plans, sit down with your significant other and review your budget. Once you have a set budget in mind, open a dedicated bank account that will be used only for wedding related expenses and purchases. Your wedding budget will be an ongoing conversation until the final invoices for your special day have been paid.

If you're comfortable using your credit cards as a way to finance your expenses, consider speaking with your issuer for an explanation of the different rewards programs that they may have. Also, continuing to monitor the health of your credit is an integral step of this process.

If you'd like to avoid taking on debt, you and your future spouse may also consider increasing your income by working overtime or taking on side gigs and allocating that income towards your wedding budget. Wedding funds gifted to you by family members can also be placed in this account. Don't assume that your wedding guests will give you enough cash to fully cover the cost of your wedding day, however.

The Bottom Line

It's absolutely possible for your wedding day to be a memorable occasion without impacting your finances for years to come. Plan accordingly, be proactive and set financial boundaries that empower you to make the right decisions for your wallet.