You’re months away from the big day, but you’re already thinking about all the things you need to do. There’s the venue, the caterer, the photographer, the flowers and—of course—the dress. The more you plan, the bigger your to-do list grows. Pretty soon, the details (and the price tag) start to add up, and you’re wondering how you’re going to be able to afford everything.
Hey, I get it. Planning a wedding can feel super overwhelming. You might be tempted to take out a wedding loan to make sure all your dreams come true for the big day. But you can still have a meaningful wedding (and marriage) without going into debt!
I’m diving into the truth about wedding loans and what they really cost you. Plus, I’ve got some ways to help you tie the knot and stick to your budget—no matter how you choose to celebrate.
What Is a Wedding Loan?
Fun fact: There’s really no such thing as a “wedding loan.” A wedding loan is just a personal loan that people use to pay for a wedding. It’s a lump sum of money that can go toward anything from paying the caterer and the DJ to renting tables and chairs for the reception. Wedding loans can even cover engagement rings.
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But like all personal loans, there’s a price to pay for borrowing money for your wedding. Not only do you have to pay back a wedding loan after you say, “I do,” but you also get charged interest. And depending on how much you borrow, the interest could end up being a huge extra cost. Going into debt for your wedding also causes a whole set of other problems (which I’ll get into in a minute).
Why Do People Take Out Wedding Loans?
So, why do we feel the need to spend big bucks on a wedding? Well, a lot of it has to do with comparison. Yep, comparison. It’s that sneaky little monster that shows up when you’re scrolling through Instagram.
It used to be that we only saw the weddings we actually attended. But now, thanks to social media, we get a front-row seat to thousands of weddings. Extravagant venues, over-the-top cakes, Pinterest-perfect centerpieces, and choreographed dance numbers. It’s easy to feel like you have to be on the same level as everyone else for your own wedding.
But your wedding is just that—your wedding. There’s always going to be someone with a prettier dress, a cooler venue or a bigger cake. But a more expensive wedding doesn’t mean a better marriage.
And while you may see a glowing highlight reel online, what you don’t see are the stressful behind-the-scenes moments, the meltdowns and the money fights. Bottom line: Comparison is never a good reason to bust your budget or go into debt—even for a wedding.
Why Wedding Loans Are a Bad Idea
You start your marriage in debt.
Picture this: You get back from your honeymoon, sun-kissed and relaxed from an amazing week at the beach. But then you remember your wedding loan. Ugh. Now, instead of starting your newly married life thinking about your future together, you and your spouse have to worry about paying for the past.
Wedding loans (and debt in general) cause unnecessary stress in a marriage. In fact, our research found that money is the number one thing married couples fight about, and it’s the second leading cause of divorce, just after infidelity.
Debt can even keep some couples from buying a house or having kids. And if your family took out a wedding loan for you—well, let’s just say holidays are real awkward when your father-in-law keeps hanging that over your head. Trust me, it’s better to start off your marriage debt-free with all the possibilities ahead of you.
It’s a lot of money for one day.
A wedding may be one of the most important moments of your life, but that doesn’t mean you need to drop a ton of money on an event that only lasts a couple of hours. Right now, you may think you have to get those monogramed napkins or favors that match your bouquet. But those details won’t be what you remember years from now. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you’re married and surrounded by loved ones.
Sit down with your fiancé and dream together. How far could your money go if you didn’t spend it all on a wedding? Honestly, that sounds a lot more fun than blowing $28,000 all in one night.
A wedding is not the same as a marriage.
I know there can be a lot of emotion wrapped up in a wedding—especially if you’ve been dreaming about this day for a long time. But that also makes it easy to justify spending more money than you have.
And while there’s nothing wrong with celebrating (you totally should!), a wedding is more than flower arrangements and seating charts. It’s about the commitment you and your fiancé are making together. A wedding is only one, very small part of your actual marriage—and you don’t need to go into debt to marry the person you love.
Plus, chances are, not everything will go according to plan. The flower girl may throw a tantrum. The four-tiered cake may get stuck in traffic. And even though you double-checked the forecast, it may still rain during your outdoor ceremony. But the less pressure you put on your wedding day, the more you’ll be able to roll with the punches and still be grateful for what you have—just like in your marriage.
How to Pay for a Wedding Without a Loan
Okay, so we’ve covered the reasons why you don’t need a wedding loan. But how do you pay for a wedding without borrowing money? I’ve got a detailed list of how to plan your wedding on a budget (including sample budgets for different types of weddings), but here are some of the main things everyone should do when planning a wedding.
Decide what kind of wedding you want.
I’m not talking about color schemes or dinner menus (though those things are important too). I’m talking about how you want to feel on your wedding day. What matters the most to you and your fiancé?
Do you want a more formal church ceremony with everyone you know? Or would you prefer a more laid-back event in your parents’ backyard with a small group of loved ones? Do you want a relaxing reception mingling and eating, or are you excited to dance the night away?
Talk with each other and come up with your top three nonnegotiables as a couple. What three things are the most important and will help you create the wedding vibe you both want?
Get clear on the big things first and figure out the details from there. That way, if you start bumping up against your budget, you’ll know what to keep and what to cut.
Make a wedding budget.
Having a budget is key—not just for your wedding, but for your life. When you’ve got a game plan for your money ahead of time, you’re less likely to stress when it’s time to spend. First, talk with your fiancé and your family (if they’re pitching in) about what you can reasonably spend—without borrowing money. Then break that amount down into categories (venue, food, flowers, etc.). Start with those nonnegotiables and go from there.
Almost 60% of engaged couples increase their initial wedding budget because they find things along the way that they feel they “need to have.”2 First of all, some of those “need to have” items aren’t really important. But they’ll seem that way in the moment if you don’t have—and stick to—your budget.
Secondly, when you’ve already thought through your options on the front end, you’ll be less likely to panic buy those silk chair covers or that thousand-foot strand of twinkle lights.
And listen, your budget doesn’t have to be perfect, but you should at least have a good estimate (and some wiggle room) to steer you in the right direction and keep you from overspending or getting tempted to take out a wedding loan. If things get tight, get creative! Find ways to save on those wedding costs!
Need some help getting started? Use this handy wedding budget worksheet!
Set boundaries with your family.
A wedding doesn’t just mean the joining of two people. It also means the blending of two families. And when relatives are giving their opinion, you might feel pressure to adjust your wedding to everyone else. But trying to please everyone will only make you more stressed and more likely to spend money on things you don’t want or need. That’s why it’s important to set some healthy boundaries.
Yeah, your mother may want you to invite 50 more people you’ve never met, and your Uncle Jim might complain about you not having an open bar for the reception. But at the end of the day, you’re the one getting married—not your mom, not your uncle, and not your cousin who splurged on a string orchestra for her wedding last year.
Focus on what works for you, your fiancé and your budget. Your married self will thank you.
Get on the same page with your fiancé.
Paying for the wedding is only the first step of dealing with finances as a married couple. After you walk down the aisle and the two of you combine your bank accounts, it’s no longer his money or her money. It’s our money.
That’s why it’s important for you both to be on the same page with your finances. Starting now. In fact, our research found that couples who say they have a “great” marriage are more likely to talk about money daily or weekly compared to couples who say their marriage is “okay” or “in crisis.”
If you want to start your marriage off strong, learn how to work on your finances together. Financial Peace University (FPU) will show you how to take control of your money as a couple. This course has helped millions of couples learn how to budget, pay off debt, and crush their money goals—as a team.
Don’t wait until you’re married to talk about money. You and your fiancé can start watching FPU right now.
Trust me. When you’re not worrying or fighting about money, you’re free to go after your dreams like the power couple you are!