Between the towering cake, multiple courses of food, glittering venue, and extravagant floral arrangements, it's easy to see how it's possible to go into debt for your wedding. The cost of all these things adds up fast. And if you're trying to create a beautiful day — or are feeling the pressure to put on a major event for dozens of friends and family — you and your partner could wind up owing a large chunk of cash.
The average cost of a wedding is $30,000, and depending on your financial situation and how much you manage to save beforehand, you might find yourselves paying that off for years to come. In fact, a survey by LendEDU of 1,000 recently-married Americans found that 33% of couples went into debt to finance the cost of their wedding, with the average debt being $11,737.
The survey also found that 72% of wedding debtors indicated they could have had a simpler wedding ceremony that didn't require debt, which may be a sign debt is being used to finance more extravagant weddings. That said, while 37% of wedding debtors said they regretted going into debt, 62% were OK with it.
It just goes to show that, when it comes to how much you spend on your wedding, the choice is totally up to you. You can go all out — get the good DJ, and the fancy food — and work on paying it off over time. Or, you can take a few steps to avoid going into debt in the first place.
To start, you and your partner may want to pause and consider why you have certain, debt-inducing ideas for your big day. "Many people choose to go into debt to throw a spectacular wedding because they feel they must and/or they've built expectations in their own minds that the day must be perfect and no expense should be spared as a result," Riley Adams, a licensed CPA, tells Bustle.
While you'll have to pay for the basic necessities, like food and plenty of chairs for guests, do you need a make-your-own-ice cream bar? Or a horse-drawn carriage to carry guests to and fro? Maybe. But maybe not.
That's not to say, however, that you shouldn't have fun or treat yourselves. For example, "if you always admired lavish cakes at weddings, then perhaps put more of your budget into hiring a great wedding baker," Becky Beach, a money saving expert, tells Bustle. You can have nice things, if you plan ahead and budget for them.
Once you decide on the necessities, and a few other must-haves, "list all of your expenses in a spreadsheet and keep track of what you’re spending," Jeff Rose, CFP, a certified financial planner and CEO of Good Financial Cents, tells Bustle. "This is a way to keep an eye on what aspects of your wedding you plan to pay for, and the related costs. This can also help you decide later if you need to change out one thing for a less expensive alternative." (For example, maybe you'll want to give guests pretty sparklers, instead of paying for a fireworks display, etc.)
It can also help to look for deals. "By selecting cost-appropriate items for the wedding, you can avoid taking on debt to finance your wedding," Adams says. And if you need extra motivation to shop smart — or even DIY part of your wedding — consider how important those extra wedding costs will feel years down the line, when it's time to pay for other things.
"Couples taking on debt for one day of their lives should only do so when it doesn't serve to the detriment of their other financial needs like buying a house, paying off student loans, replacing cars, setting aside money for retirement, or saving for their children's college education," Adams says. If you can afford it and want to spend the money, go for it! But if you don't want to go into debt, keeping the future in mind can help keep spending in check.
If you're worried about going into debt, or feel as if you won't have the wedding of your dreams without spending a lot, bear in mind it's hardly ever about the money. "Couples can absolutely have a fun wedding without going into debt," Rose says. Your big day is more about being together, he says, and celebrating with family and friends. And you can definitely do that, and have a great time, on a budget.