How to Pay for a Wedding
One of life’s great moments is when two love birds announce their wedding plans. It’s a beautiful time to pop the cork and dream about a future life together. But long before anyone says “I do,” figuring out how to pay for a wedding is an essential rite of passage on the way to marital bliss.
Fortunately, resources are available to help create a wedding budget and identify ways to save for and responsibly finance the big day. Did you know you can explore your options for paying for a wedding at your local credit union? You will generally find lower credit union loan rates and higher savings rates at your community credit union than at other financial institutions.
Start the Wedding Payment Conversation Early
To reduce the inherent stress in wedding planning, it helps to get everyone who intends to be financially involved in the event on the same page as early as possible. It’s a rule of thumb that good wedding planning begins as much as 12 months ahead of time.
Begin with these two key questions:
1. Who is paying for the wedding?
Establishing a wedding budget is difficult until it’s clear who is throwing money into the pot. For example, couples with steady incomes may decide to shoulder the wedding expenses themselves. Alternatively, parents, relatives, or friends from either side of the aisle may intend to partially or fully fund the event. Either way, the number of people contributing will impact the wedding budget.
2. How much is each party contributing?
To develop an accurate budget, it’s important to know how much each party is contributing to the wedding fund as early and as specifically as possible. It’s also essential to understand upfront whether or not contributions will have any strings attached. For example, does Grandpa want to pay for flowers but would rather not fund a DJ? If Mom covers the wedding attire, will she expect to have a say in its appearance?
Create a List of Wedding Must-Haves
Once you have an idea of who intends to be involved in financing the wedding, it’s time to itemize needed goods and services. A great starting point is to know what the couple considers as must-have essentials versus wish-list items. A celebrity DJ spinning at the reception might make for a memorable night, but perhaps not at the expense of a decent venue or lifetime-worthy rings.
Here is a list of common wedding expenses to consider when determining how to afford a wedding, presented roughly in order from most expensive to least:
- Wedding rings
- Couples attire
- Wedding planning
- Lighting décor
- Guest entertainment
Determine a Budget for the Wedding
Next, you can begin to craft a wedding budget that works for everyone involved. The average wedding budget in 2023 is expected to fall between $20,000 and $40,000. It’s possible, of course, to throw the wedding of one’s dreams for much less or to spend far more.
Doing some research can help determine how to afford a wedding that works within budget. For instance, the cost of wedding goods and services varies by region. Venue rentals in large cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, run higher than, say, venues in Bloomington, Indiana. Specialty websites like The Knot or WeddingWire can estimate various expenses based on location.
Interview wedding vendors
Research also helps to uncover the best bang for everyone’s buck. It’s worth sitting down with a variety of venue and catering managers in particular, as these typically represent the two most expensive items.
Even a barefoot beach wedding may involve potentially costly logistics. Visiting spaces and reviewing menu options is a great way to learn what things cost, what your budget buys, and what you can realistically afford. Plus, a face-to-face meeting with a vendor is a golden opportunity to negotiate the best deal and learn about discounts for bundled services, such as using a hotel’s in-house caterer.
Here are a few more things to keep in mind as you draft and revise the wedding budget:
- Location-based expenses. Where the wedding takes place can have an impact on more than just venue cost. For example, putting lobster on the menu in New England is likely to be less expensive than adding it to plates in Missouri.
- Contingencies. Be sure to set aside some money for contingencies, such as last-minute substitutions (flowers, food, centerpieces, etc.), accounting for an unexpected guest or two, as well as tipping vendors and service staff.
- Party size. The more people, the more expensive the event. The average wedding includes roughly 100 guests, but if the couple getting married wants a larger celebration, it may require cutting costs in some areas. Conversely, a more intimate affair could mean the ability to spend more on decor, food, location, or other elements important to the couple.
- Inflation. A financial cushion is virtually a necessity in an era of inflation, as baseline costs on many essentials continue to rise. This is especially true if wedding planning occurs months or years ahead of the big day.
Choose How You Will Pay for the Wedding
There are many ways to pay for a wedding. Financing a dream wedding requires cash, credit cards, personal loans, or a combination of all three. There are strategic advantages and disadvantages to each form of payment.
Pros and cons of paying for a wedding with cash
Paying for a wedding entirely with discretionary savings means you will not incur debt. That’s a big plus! However, it’s worth asking if financing a wedding is the best use of cash, especially if the couple is paying. For example, what if those funds were instead put toward a home down payment — typically a much bigger financial milestone than a wedding. Relying heavily on cash (as opposed to credit) also precludes opportunities to build a credit score or accumulate rewards.
Pros and cons of paying for a wedding with a credit card.
Using a credit card to finance a portion of wedding expenses allows the borrower to set up a payment plan that fits within a household budget while building credit history. In addition, if the credit card includes a reward element, those points can go toward everything from honeymoon travel to stocking the newlyweds’ house. That’s like having your (wedding) cake and eating it, too. Check out your local credit union for various credit union credit cards that will work for many borrowers.
The downside of taking on credit card debt is that if you don’t make payments on time or in full, the cost of interest (15% to 20% or more!) can dramatically increase overall wedding expenses. Additionally, it may limit your borrowing for other big-ticket items, such as a car. Therefore, it’s essential to consider all purchasing priorities and household cash flow before financing a wedding with a credit card.
Pros and cons of paying for a wedding with a loan
A personal loan is a flexible, predictable option to help finance a portion of a wedding. Unlike a car or mortgage loan, the money isn’t tied to a specific purchase. And the interest rate is usually fixed and remains the same for the life of the loan. Additionally, borrowers with good credit can obtain an unsecured personal loan, meaning they don’t have to put up any collateral.
Credit union loans are versatile. Another option for new borrowers is a credit-builder loan, which helps establish credit while encouraging savings. Many credit unions offer personal counseling on choosing the right loan — and their rates are lower than most banks.
The downside of a loan is that it may require the borrower to share personal and financial information and agree to a hard credit pull, which can have a small, temporary negative effect on credit scores. You will also need to pay interest on the loan.
Further Resources on How to Pay for a Wedding
For help with figuring out how much wedding you can afford, check out these sites:
- Track everything electronically. Automatic wedding budget calculators and planners, like this one from The Knot, help keep everything organized and in one place.
- Get creative with your savings techniques. Brides.com offers more than 50 ways to cut expenses without skimping on style and substance.
- Benchmark expenses. Nasdaq lists the average cost for each element of a typical wedding.
An Affordable Dream Wedding is Within Reach
With patient planning, open communication, and a realistic grasp on finances, it’s possible to determine how to afford a wedding that everyone will remember for years to come. Begin the journey by learning all the ways a credit union can become a long-term financial ally. Use our Credit Union Locator Tool to find the credit union nearest you.