Ask Team Practical: Wedding Planning While in Debt

It’s Friday, which means Ask Team Practical with Alyssa! Wheee! Today we’re talking about budgets and weddings. Back at the beginning, the APW tagline was “Creative. Thrifty. Sane.” And we spent a whole lot of time talking about wedding budgets. But these days, we talk more about emotion, and less about the emotion of wanting to gouge your eyes out while paying for your wedding. So, I’m thrilled to dive back into budget talk today, after a week of talking about low key weddings, and surviving unemployment. Plus, Alyssa is dishing on surviving her wedding planning with a lot of debt, which is a story she’s never told before.

For someone who’s not *quite* engaged yet, I’ve been doing a lot of wedding planning these days.  Without a ring on my finger, my Bearded Giant and I have already chosen a date, venue and our attendants. We’re looking forward to putting together a DIY wedding for around $7000.  Thankfully, my parents are going to help chip in.

In the same vein of budgeting and money, I’m going into this marriage with quite a bit of credit card debt.  (My 20s were not kind to me. Living in a big city, working for a nonprofit, and making nothing kicked my butt. I also played really hard…and accrued debt.)

Do people pay for weddings when they still have credit card debt?  Am I the only one?  Is it ridiculous of me to put money toward something other than my debt?  I’m feeling conflicted and embarrassed by my debt, which is nothing new, but I need some help sorting this out in my head.

Considering Aborting Singlehood, Help

{Picture via the excellent Indexed. We used this on a post way back here….}

CASH, honey, you are not alone.  Many, many people plan weddings while still in debt.  I’d even venture to say that most people who are planning a wedding have a debt of some kind already.  But whether you should plan a wedding while in debt?  That’s a horse of a different color.

I have to mention this, even though I’m not sure it applies to your situation.  Your partner knows about your debt, right??  Both you and your partner deserve to enter your marriage with your eyes wide open and that means disclosing all the not so fun stuff.  Hiding debt makes it so much worse and will ruin a relationship. Okay?  Okay. (For more on marriage and finances, read this post and this post.)

What you should do is what’s best for you, your partner and your family.  (As always.)  Can you plan a wedding while still maintaining your current financial situation AND continuing to pay off your debt?  If paying for all the things that come with a wedding will cause you to cut costs to a point that is uncomfortable, you might want to consider other options. Because let me be clear: here at APW, we think that anyone with any amount of money can get married. But if planning a wedding now will cause you to do without some important element to your ceremony or reception that breaks your heart a little, you might want to consider waiting.  If you are considering planning a wedding and using the money you’re paying towards your debt (or opening another credit line) then we will be in a serious fight.

I’m gonna say it again – You should NOT go into debt just for your wedding. Nor should you go into further debt.  It is bad news bears in so many ways, I can’t even tell you…  You might have a stunning wedding, but when your credit score keeps you from being able to secure an important loan, that perfect wedding is going to look mighty bad in hindsight.  Don’t do that to your wedding, it’s not nice.

However, a debt-free wedding is part of how things will work when I am czarina of the world, along with mandatory 2pm Twizzler breaks and the banning of jeggings. But in the real world, I know people use credit to secure deposits and make large purchases that they pay off later.  The trick is to do it in the best way possible.  Plan out those purchases.  Make double payments on your card whenever possible.  Anytime you spend less on something that you budgeted for, put that extra money towards your balance and not something else pretty for the wedding. And yes, consider the all cash method of wedding planning. Keep reading blogs and websites about being smart with the money that you do have.  Don’t let your emotions sway you into fiscal irresponsibility.  It never ends well, no matter how gorgeous those letter-press invites are.

And honey, I know.  I’ve been there.  Due to a contractor job that had some sketchy dealings and hospital stay with no insurance, I started dating my husband with major credit card debt, large hospital bills and a massive debt to Uncle Sam.  It SUCKED.  I was living paycheck to paycheck and making little headway on my bills.  I was SO ashamed of what I owed, even though only about a third of it was my fault, the rest was circumstance and shady employers.  Only thing worse than major debt is major debt that you didn’t even have fun accruing.

But we planned a wedding under $10,000 during it, with help from our parents. We were going to wait until my debt was paid, but we just couldn’t. We wanted to be married. A prettier, or more lavish wedding wouldn’t change that. So I got into a debt management plan with a non-profit that helped me manage the interest rates and get on a doable payment schedule. We did use credit cards, but they were acquired by my husband and were low interest rate. We kept our spending to a minimum whenever possible and didn’t always succeed, but we tried. That’s the important part; doing the best you can.

The thing you have to consider is whether or not you should plan a wedding while in your debt.  People do it all the time, with good and bad results.  Hell, I did it and I think my wedding was awesome thankyouverymuch. But if you think that it’s best for you and your sanity to wait, then wait. If you think you can swing it without causing mental anguish or problems in your relationship (because money fights are NO FUN) then think about going for it.  Don’t just go for it, plan it out.  Don’t sacrifice your debt for your wedding, but don’t sacrifice your life because of your debt.  Find the best balance you can and then come back here and tell us all how you did it and became an awesome financially savvy bride.

And just one last hint: have you ever read the APW posts from the very beginning? Meg’s been writing about this stuff since she started APW in 2008, and as always she’s got some opinions.

Team Practical, whether you were thrifty, spendy or somewhere between, how did you (do you) plan your wedding while managing your debt?  Any dos and don’ts?

*If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa a askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted.  Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh).  Just don’t be rude with them.  (Bitterly Alone, Loving Luke Secretly, I’m looking at you….)

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  • Daly

    “However, a debt-free wedding is part of how things will work when I am czarina of the world, along with mandatory 2pm Twizzler breaks and the banning of jeggings. ”

    Oh Alyssa, I love Fridays because of you. And I nominate you for czarina. You would be fabulous!

    • Daly

      Sorry, I forgot to add I am planning my wedding for October 22 this year and it looks like my partner and I are going to spend less than $5,000. We are renting a lodge in a county park for the reception, my aunt is catering and my mom is making the cakes and cookies. I have student loan debt that is currently in deferment and we are paying cash for everything from our savings. It’s been said many times before, but ask your family and friends for help! Family help is saving us a lot of money.

      • Shawna

        Good luck! I got married last September for $4,000, all payed in cash, and it was fabulous! And, meanwhile, I too have student loans. You can do it! (And I agree… family help saved us a TON of money).

        • Ris

          A jeggings ban – yes please!

  • CASH, we were in a similar situation! Except it was my partner who came into the relationship with the debt, but either way it was there. We talked about it and decided that having a wedding celebration with our important people was more important to us than, say, getting married with just witnesses. Our parents helped, but not much. We opened a savings account and put at least $200/month each into it every month leading up to the wedding. Anything we needed that could go on the credit cards did, and we paid off as much as we could on the cards every month. Once the wedding rolled around, we paid everyone we needed to in the cash that we had saved, had enough left to cover our honeymoon, and came out of the whole thing feeling like we were in slightly less debt than before. Certainly putting $8k towards our credit card debt would have made a big difference, but our wedding day made a big difference, too. And now we’re married and still paying down the other debt – which is what would have happened if we’d had that other imaginary wedding.

    Maybe that was more detail than you were looking for, but the point is: we talked about it, tried to figure out what our priorities were (having our important people there was number one), and found a way to make it work. Good luck with your journey!

    • The Bearded Giant and I have talked about the debt, and we’re both working toward paying it off. It’s been very hard for me to wrap my head around planning a wedding, having my parents help pay for the wedding and still paying down my credit card debt.

      The detail is great. Thanks for the thoughts. Very helpful.

      • suzanna

        Bird and Sarah: me too! It’s my sweetie with the debt, and fer sure he was so embarassed by it for a while that it immobilized him. Taking action on it sooner than later is best.

        Getting him into a debt management program was kind of the beginning of our wedding planning, actually (getting married next year). It was like, “It’s go time! Let’s do this thing, and have a great beginning to our life together!”

        Like Bird, we opened a savings account for the wedding, and add to it regularly. So far we’ve paid for everything in cash. We figured out how much we can save in the next year, and boom, there’s our wedding budget. That’s what we have to work with, period. Personally, I would only use credit cards if there was some kind of points or mileage benefit to it; otherwise, steer clear.

        Those online budgets that give you an idea of how much you can spend on each part of the wedding, given your budget? SUPER HELPFUL. I made an excel spreadsheet with those numbers, and look at it all the time to make sure we’re within bounds (we’ve moved things around–spending more on catering than allotted, but less on clothing and flowers, etc.).

        May I suggest making your own spreadsheet, and including your credit card bills and your parents’ contribution? Then you can see it all in front of you, and be better able to wrap your head around it. Good luck!

  • A-L

    I can’t really speak to the experience of being in debt while planning a wedding, but I can attest to the fact that it’s very possible to have a fun, wonderful wedding without breaking the bank. $7500 covered our 60-person wedding, including the attire of bride & groom, the rehearsal dinner for all 60 guests, the photo album after the wedding, and all other incidentals. And we loved our wedding.

    Also, if your fiance has good credit, then you might find some good balance transfers in the mail. Citicards has recently come out with a card that will give you 21 months interest fee (with a 3% balance transfer fee). Discover card will also let you do 0% interest but with a 4% transfer fee. If you know you can pay off your debt within the time frame that a cc will give you 0% interest, that’s another option to consider. We actually did this with my husband’s car who had a 9.9%!! interest loan for it. We knew we’d pay it off well before the 21 months were out, and by doing so we’ll be saving a lot of money.

    Anyway, good luck and have fun as you plan your wedding.

    • Beth

      Using the 0% interest cards can be absolutely awesome. We “financed” our home renovation (~$6,000) with Home Depot’s no interest for 12 month offers and a 1 yr. no interest Capital One card.
      P.S. Thrifty APW women working on a home for your baby family: HD always offers 6 months no interest on purchases over $299 (I think that’s the threshold…). If you spend a lot more than that (some amount more like $800 or over) you can ask the sales representative (go to the customer service desk or the contractor desk to check out) to call in your purchase and have it set up as 12 months no interest. :-)

  • I don’t mean to be Debbie (debtie?) downer here, but credit card debt strikes a huge chord for me, because my mom accumulated a lot of it in her 20s, and I grew up in the shadow of it (as a single parent, it was particularly difficult for her to pay off). As a result, I’m incapable of looking at debt as a low priority. My partner and I both have student debt, but we’re on track to pay off $90k in 2.5 years – and our student debt is about 20% lower interest than credit cards.

    I’m sure this is not new to you, but google a credit card interest rate calculator. Making the minimum payments on $100 can cost you almost $1000 at the end of the day. I obviously don’t know the details of your situation, but if lengthening the time that you’re in debt and potentially struggling because of it is going to colour the beginning of your marriage, I’d strongly consider waiting.

    Anyways, again, I really don’t mean to be negative, but I’ve lived through the aftermath of credit card debt, and it really sucks, and you don’t need a wedding to get married.

    • meg

      “You don’t need a wedding to get married.” Excellent point in general!

  • While planning a wedding on a budget, especially a strict one, I think it’s important to maintain some perspective… By that I mean, don’t look at your bottom line and then wonder how to cover all the typical WIC elements with it. Don’t worry about DIY for all those things you can’t pay for. Start backwards. You have yourself and your fiancé, and you know you’ll be saying vows on a particular day. Build around that in order of importance, and question each addition. You might think you want 100+ people at your wedding, but have you ever really considered how important that is to you and your fiancé personally? You might be surprised to realize you can be happy with a lot less, and that goes for all the other wedding details. When you identify the critical, I mean absolutely essential elements of your wedding, think about how your family and friends can help pull it together. Figure out how much it costs to cover the things you or your loved ones can’t or would rather not tackle, and at that point, see if you want to include any other details with the money you have left, if there is any. It’s absolutely possible to have a wonderful, meaningful wedding on a strict budget, but you need to question the aspects that you’ve been taught are must have’s… There’s a LOT that can be done away with. You might need to adjust the image you have of a wedding, but what’s wrong with that? Shop smart, enlist help from family and friends whenever possible. You can do it :-)

    • Or you can work the other way. Say that you want all 150 family and friends there, and figure out what you need to cut to make it work. We eliminated dinner and decoration and stuck to desserts and booze, because having our loved ones was more important than having a “nice” event. We enlisted family/friend help like crazy, and it worked. Prioritize!

  • I have big debt. I had my dad’s voice in one ear saying “this is all a big waste of money” and my mum’s in my other ear saying “you’ll always be overdrawn – have some fun!”.

    And it was ok. It wasn’t a pared down, cheap-as-chips sorta thing at all, but it was lovely. And yes, the debt is still there. Because the thing is that whatever you decide to do has to be completely above board with your almost-fiancé.

    Lack of money sucks but lies suck worse.

    • Just to be clear, I really super don’t think that CASH wasn’t sharing with her fiance. But I had to put that bit in there just in case, and for all the other people reading it who might be keeping debt from their partners. But that’s a whole other post….

      But YES. Lord, yes, you are right. Besides, sharing the details of your debt and having your partner say, “Okay, we’ll work through it,” is amazing and freeing and weight lifting. Because it’s just another way of them saying, “I love you.”

      • “Besides, sharing the details of your debt and having your partner say, “Okay, we’ll work through it,” is amazing and freeing and weight lifting. Because it’s just another way of them saying, “I love you.””

        This. Exactly.

        My fiancee is actively paying off his debt and we are in the throws of wedding planning…it’s hard because I feel like “I’m” paying for everything, but I remind myself often that he’s paying, too. Just in a different way. And I fully support his goal of being debt free before our wedding, because the goal of entering into our married life together without other debts following us is far more important to me than him footing the bill for the party (as if I would ever expect him to do that) and bringing more debt into our marriage.

        The determination he has to achieve this debt free goal is one of the million reasons why I love him.

  • Abby C.

    I’m in the reverse situation – it’s my fiance who has a large burden of credit card debt. To his credit, he has always been honest with me about the fact that he had it, and most of it was accrued via a combination of a family overseas health emergency and the accompanying last-minute international travel, and returning home to find his car needed an overhaul to the tune of four digits, ouch.

    My parents are graciously helping with the wedding, for which I’m very glad, but we’re contributing as much of our own money as we can, without sacrificing paying down debt. We’re slowing down the *rate* at which we pay it down, but we’re still paying above the minimum payment. Yes, it will take us a little longer to pay the total amount of debt down, but it’s the right time for us and our families to be married, and getting married later would likely make our wedding more expensive for other family members to attend. (We’re planning our date around some already-planned, alread-saving-for family trips coinciding with the wedding.)

    The bottom line for us is that it’s the right time for us to be married, and we’re picking timing to minimise financial stress on our family as a whole. It was really important to us that we didn’t STOP paying down debt for sake of the wedding – we’re still working on paying it down, just a little more slowly for the next six months. We’re absolutely dead-set against taking on additional debt for the wedding and we’re going to use the first year of our marriage to absolutely smash the remainder of our credit card debt before we have to travel overseas again for future brother-in-law’s wedding.

    • Abby C.

      Oh, and PS, CASH honey, stop talking about yourself as if you’re not engaged only because you don’t have a ring. (We’ve talked about this on APW before.) You’re planning a wedding, you’re engaged. I didn’t have a ring for the first 9 months of our engagement either.

      And if it’s the money issue that’s stopping you from a ring, try ebay. :-) Worked for us!

      • meg

        Abby! You’re like another Alyssa. I seriously was like, ‘Oh, it’s an APW editor commenting. No wait, APW readers are just AWESOME….”

  • Zan

    I lurve APW with squishy hearts and glitter and flowers and …. a lot okay? But I did want to point out that the fabuloso Dana of Broke Ass Bride has some very good resources for doing weddings in a $ kind of way instead of a $$$ kind of way.

  • Lauren

    This was an excellent post and I can really relate to it because I am in this situation right now. My fiance and I both have student loan debt and credit card debt but, we really wanted to be married and that is what mattered most to the both of us. We decided to go the all cash route, which at the time, I didn’t think was possible because I don’t make much and neither does he. The best thing that we did was sit down together and see where all of our money was going and how much “extra” we had at the end of the month after paying our bills. We also called around and got estimates from vendors to figure out how much things were going to cost. We spent countless hours looking for vendors that were both reputable and affordable, which paid off big time in that we were able to book a restauant for our ceremony and reception that I would have never thought in a million years would be affordable (in downtown Chicago!!). We made a budget and timeline together and our wedding is coming together. What is also important is figuring out what you don’t need. We crossed out limos, a bridal party, traditional wedding cake, and a makeup artist. We hired an ametur DJ and photographer and turned to online vendors for our paper products. All in all, our 160 guest wedding is happening in 2 weeks and it was all paid for in cash!

  • Aaahahahaha, Bearded Giant!! I have one of those!! (Well, from Christmas to St. Patrick’s Day, anyway.) Okay, going to read the rest of the post now.

  • My now husband and I were in a similar boat. Fortunately, we had our wedding around tax time and had family members help contribute, and worked only with what we could afford by paying CASH. And first things first, we made sure we were 100% current with all of our bills before putting a dime down on anything.

    We did not put our selves more into debt because of the wedding, nor did we delay our debt. We sat down with a budget and said “ok. this will work.”

    And yeah, it would have been nice to take all that cash we put towards the wedding and make some of the credit cards go away, but we had a magical, wonderful time that will be forever encapsulated into our memories AND we were able to do it without hurting ourselves financially.

    Make a budget (not just wedding – full finance) and say “we can do THIS.” And do it. And it’ll still be awesome. EVEN MORE AWESOME knowing you paid cash :)

    • Stephasaurus

      “Exactly” to this! That’s our plan too (paying everything in cash, or at least as much of it as we can) because I don’t want to be paying off credit card bills from the wedding AFTER the wedding, if we can avoid it! Which we totally can.

    • Just wanted to “exactly!” this again – we are doing just about the same thing. Most of our wedding budget came from a very nice tax return (paying student loans + paying tuition… thanks uncle sam!) with a little bit of help from my parents. We’re pulling off a catered, backyard wedding for 85 for about $6,000. We’ve paid for everything so far in cash (like my $250 wedding dress I got on ebay).

      Would it have been great to put $6,000 towards our debt? Of course. But the closer we get to the wedding (3 weeks!) the more and more I realize just how glad I am that we’re doing this and how honored I am that so many of our family and friends want to share this day with us. It’s pretty powerful stuff.

    • suzanna

      Another exactly to the exactlies! That’s what my dude and I are doing too. Talking about money and the limitations it can put on your dreams can be really tough, but when you make decisions together as a team, and work toward a goal together, it feels GREAT.

  • Stephasaurus

    My fiance has a big chunk of credit card debt (also from his early-mid 20’s), and I knew this from the very beginning of our relationship. He’s smart about it though — he rarely puts purchases his credit card, and he makes a good payment (always higher than the minimum payment) on it every month.

    And, I’m not sure if this counts in reference to the discussion, but I consider my school loans a form of “debt” too, in the sense that a good portion of my paychecks go towads them every month and those payments are never going to go away until the loans are paid off (which seems sooooooo far away).

    BUT, despite all that, I’m a firm believer in this quote from Alyssa’s post:
    “…we think that anyone with any amount of money can get married.”

    And that’s what I remind myself of every time I start stressing about money and wedding planning. It’s ALWAYS possible, and no matter what, we’re going to make it happen.

    • Preeeecisely! We made cuts to things we were spending frivolously in order pay for things. And I’ll be totally honest – we paid for two of our vendors (the band & our photographer) with some of the cash we got at the wedding. We have enough stuff in our home, so we did a honeymoon registry. Kept our honeymoon low key. Extra money went to paying things off or helping pay for the wedding so we could keep the extra cash in our savings/put into bills.

      Waiting to get married when you are “financially secure” is like waiting to have a baby when you are “financially secure” – you’ll always find a reason to say “we aren’t there yet.”

      • Stephasaurus

        We’re thinking of doing a honeymoon registry too! I think it’s such a great idea and there are so many web sites out there for it, I don’t know why more people don’t do this!

        And, it’s funny you mention that you paid some of the vendors with cash that you got at the wedding. That idea literally just occurred to us last week after we visited a potential reception venue. The “hey wait a minute, we’re inevitably going to get money as a gift from many people, let’s use THAT to help pay for stuff!” realization was a great light bulb moment. :)

        • Stephasaurus

          I should clarify — we’re doing a honeymoon registry along with a “regular” registry, since most couples have two registries anyway. Love love love this idea and would highly recommend it to everyone!

    • Danielle

      Student loans — ugh!
      Does anyone in our generation NOT have them?

  • Ten years after the fact, I found out that one of my cousins was already married (at city hall) for over a year before we all attended her wedding reception. If you and yours are open to this option, I think it’s a fantastic way to buy time and accumulate funds. Best wishes.

  • ElfPuddle

    We’re still figuring out how to manage our grad school/20s debts, but I had to say that I’ve been there and done that with the shame of it accruing without any fun. Hugs to all of you/us still carrying the burden.

    And, pew!, if it wasn’t your fault, there shouldn’t be shame. Pew!

  • I am in your situation as well and first wanted to say that I understand your embarrassment about your debt; I become flushed and feel ill when I think about the money I owe but I want to be married, so the FH and I are getting married, smartly.

    Our plan is for a budget between 2000 and 2500. We are having a guest list of about 60 people and are planning a wedding in a city park. We are eliminating a number of WIC requirements both because we want to and because we don’t want to spend money on things we don’t care about. This is a tight budget, tighter even than many that I’ve seen, but I know we can do it. Our plan originally was to save a specific amount each month but with deposits and other required payments we’ve come up with a little different plan. Our plan is to budget out 200/month from now until our 9/2012 wedding and to open a credit card specifically for wedding planning. This card is not for ANYTHING ELSE, and that is the important part. Each month we will put our budgetted 200 either in a savings account or on the card.

    So much stress of this is helped by the fact that we really reigned in our budget to something that we could do. Neither one of us is looking for a large celebration and our families understand this. We are planning the wedding that we want, when we want, on our terms. Decide what is important to you and plan from that.

    • meg

      OF COURSE you can do it!!!!

  • Darcy

    However you approach it, keep some money aside in an emergency fund. Not a “I need this pretty thing” emergency fund but a “get downsized 4 weeks after the wedding and then decide to move across the country” emergency fund.

    Unfortunately the world doesn’t stop throwing you life curve balls just because you are getting married. Actually, it might throw you more.

    • meg

      Very, very, very good point. You should be building up your emergency fund while you’re paying down debt, even if it makes you pay down the debt a little slower. It can save your ass, and at the very least gives you peace of mind that you didn’t even know was missing.

      I’d marry my emergency fund if I could.

    • Danielle

      This IS a good point, though I have been tempted to put more $ towards paying off my student loans at this point. Their interest rates are much higher than rates on any savings account…

  • Chantelle

    Wowza, this is big stuff. CASH, I hear your quandry hunny. We recently made the desicion to go ahead with our wedding, despite debt and unemployment. We’ve actually moved back in with his folks so that we could eliminate debt (and they are the bestest for letting us do that, we are so incredibly lucky to have supportive parents like them) but now with boy losing his job, we’re realizing we couldn’t do both; eliminate debt and still have our wedding next summer. Boy wanted to wait another year.
    We’ve had a loooong engagemnet (3 yeaars so far) and I just don’t want to push it back anymore. I just want to do this and move on with our lives.I’m making selfish decsions here, and although we will be paying off the card, realistically that “space” will be used to pay off wedding expenses. It means that we will continue to trespass on the generosity of his rents a little longer to get where we need to be before moving out again. It was a really tough weekend as I struggled with looking at our budget, and me and the boy had a talk with his mom, and she continued to offer her support to us, and even commited to contributing a generous amount to the wedding costs. My stomach was in knots the whole time and it made me feel like such a failure as an adult….BUT we are going ahead with our wedding and have a loving family behind us.

    To make us sound even more crazy, we’re not doing a budget friendly wedding in a park somewhere, we’re planning a wedding in Italy (with boy’s family, but still) so we look like little greedy debt covered pigs. I’m hoping for a budget wedding in Italy, really simple, but still, it seems lavish when I tell people about it.
    Sorry for the essay, this hit me too, I’m there, I hear ya. My (possibly bad) advice, go for it and do the best you can and try to end up ahead of your debts and not further in them. Will let you know how that goes :P

    • I think this falls firmly into Alyssa’s advice of “Don’t sacrifice your debt for your wedding, but don’t sacrifice your life because of your debt.” Three years is a long time to wait, and I completely understand not wanting to wait anymore. Of course there are sacrifices to be made (moving in with future in-laws? Sacrifice!), but at least you guys are accepting help from those willing to contribute in whatever way they can, and that’s great.

      • Chantelle

        Thanks for the support Kimberly. :)

    • Abby C.

      I totally get you on the “Destination wedding = FRIVOLOUS OMG” cultural idea that’s floating around out there, especially with the recession going on.

      Our wedding is going to be in Dubai, and we’re also trying to make it as budget friendly as possible. It sounds crazy, but it’s for the same reasons as you – so that the groom’s family can be at the wedding. His parents live in Dubai and his mother’s not able to travel, but my parents are, so Dubai it is.

      We looked at Italy as a compromise location for awhile, too! Please be a wedding grad, I want to see pictures of Practical weddings in Italy!!!

  • When my husband and I got married we also had a bit of debt built up and my husband had been going through on and off unemployment (he’s through a staffing agency still looking for permanent work) so we knew we couldn’t go further into debt for our wedding. We managed to have a wedding for 75 people at around $5500, though (we live the suburbs near Minneapolis), and our parents paid for half. So, it’s totally possible to have a budget wedding that is still really nice. It might take more work, but it’s well worth it if you’re avoiding debt and your parents can’t contribute much either. A friend of ours asked us last night if we had paid off our wedding yet and we laughed. “Paid it off? We had it paid off the day it took place!” There was no way we were going to go further into debt for a lavish wedding!

  • Suzanne

    I think the fact the question is being asked shows a certain level of being cautious, which is a great trait when it comes to financial matters–regardless of having all the money in the world or not.

    My husband and I ended up taking out a no-interest credit card to help us get through the unexpected costs associated with our wedding that weren’t in a budget (meaning: parents weren’t going to pay). We got married the beginning of the fall, and just finished paying it off in April. We both wish we didn’t have to do that–and often talk about what else we could have used that money for; however, knowing we were able to pay it off together is also a nice thing for us to know we can do together.

    I have student loans from grad school (in a non-profit field–so will be paying that baby off in 30 years) and the week of our wedding, I got in a car accident–in my husband’s car–and we found out the Monday after our wedding, it was a total loss and we went on our honeymoon knowing we would now have a car payment (which we didn’t have before) in addition to paying off the credit card.

    Sure, I wish we didn’t have the credit card or that I didn’t get in the car accident and we now have a car loan (albeit small, it’s still money we could be saving). At the same time, we’re working through it and adjusting our timeline for babies and a house. It stinks and gets me down sometimes, but I keep reminding myself it will all work out and in the meantime I need to do what is going to make me feel the most comfortable. So, for me, that means being frugal and delaying gratification–with occasional splurges, I save for.

    Back to your wedding. I say be smart and don’t feed into all the things you think you need to have to make your wedding day the most wonderful and memorable day to date. It is already special and memorable because it involves, you, your fiancee, your family and friends. And, if you’re thinking (like I did) well how are the pictures going to be pretty if I don’t have the most glamorous bouquet or dress? Well, a fabulous smile needs little accessory and there is an uncanny beauty in simplicity–and I think, when it comes to weddings–it is much easier to go overboard than it is to scale back–but the simplicity is always the most beautiful—and anyway, then the focus is just on you and your husband–nothing to detract attention :)

  • Danielle

    Debt sucks! A few months before we got engaged, me and the fiance took a look at what we owed and cried. And then we resolved to fix it. So we used this handy spreadsheet fiance found online to strategize about which cards to deal with first and and all of that. And we committed to putting a really terrifying chunk of our paychecks toward that debt reduction. And… then we got engaged. We still have all that debt (although, because we bounce it around and break it up into smaller pieces on cards with 0% balance transfer offers, we’re making headway, for the first time ever), and it was hard to decide to put any extra cash that came in towards a wedding, instead of towards that debt. But that’s the compromise: we didn’t bail out on our debt reduction program, but we’re still having a (moderately budget-friendly) wedding. Splitting the difference means sacrificing a little bit on both ends, but for us it works. So yeah, we’re getting married AND we’re in debt, and it’s OK.

  • CASH:

    “For someone who’s not *quite* engaged yet, I’ve been doing a lot of wedding planning these days. Without a ring on my finger, my Bearded Giant and I have already chosen a date, venue and our attendants”

    I LOVE YOU!! This is exactly what my fiance and I were like before we were officially engaged. We’d picked everything!! I’m so glad I’m not alone. That fact alone made this post perfect for me!

    Also, I’m planning a wedding with some serious student loan debt (both my fiance and I have it). So we’re doing our best to stay within budget (my parents are helping, his aren’t). Good luck to you, and all you other financially burdened brides out there! We can do it (and have great weddings, thankyouverymuch =P)

  • Thank heavens for this post. I just wrote a post last week about the stress of budgeting for a wedding, and I didn’t even mention the rather serious law school debt that I’m in. It’s so good to remember that a budget wedding is doable and that I’m not the only person out there with debt (and that doesn’t want to wait another 10 years to get married!). Thanks Alyssa!

  • My fiance and I both have a lot of debt (a graduate degree and consumer debt for me, law school for him), but we’re getting married this summer. We booked our wedding in February of this year and didn’t have a lot of savings, so I am basically putting every last extra cent from every paycheck towards the wedding.

    It’s frustrating, especially when I think about how much I could be paying down my credit cards, but hey, my student loan payments kick in 4 days after we get married and then I’ll be putting all my extra money towards them, so it was kind of a do-or-die moment. And we’ll use the money people give us at the wedding to pay off any wedding-related expenses that we didn’t pay cash for, bolster our savings, and pay down some of my credit cards. It’s not an ideal situation, but we talked a lot about it and realized it never would be. Given our intended professions (yeah, he’s in law school, but he wants to a civil rights lawyer), we will probably never have a lot of expendable income, and that’s okay. We are staying current on all of our bills and planning a simple, but meaningful wedding with about 80 of our family and friends. So, we might end up with a tiny bit more debt when this is all said and done, but in the grand scheme of things, it’ll be okay.

    • meg

      Ha! I misread that as “graduate degree in consumer debt” and thought you were the funniest girl on the planet. Achem. AND.

      And you know what, public interest lawyers make pretty ok money, says someone who worked in theatre for years. You guys are going to be just fine.

      • It’s essentially that, ha! Earned between my BA and my MA ;)

        And yeah, we’ll be fine, but “fine” is relative when you’re surrounded by people taking jobs in the 160’s! Part of why I am excited for my dude to get out of the law school bubble and put his awesome skills to work even more than he already does :)

  • Can I also get on my soapbox for a second and say that a LOT of us didn’t learn about finances until it was too late? Women especially aren’t taught the basic ideas of “Here’s how a credit card works. And here’s how they get you. Also, here’s how it can blow up in your face if you’re not careful.” I signed up for my first credit card in order to get a t-shirt on my college campus, (which I wanted more than the card,) and I think I’d had it for 6 months before I truly knew what APR stood for.

    There’s lots of ways and blogs and articles out there for us to fix what damage we did, but let’s make a pact to teach our children and nieces and nephews and little brothers and sisters about debt, okay? Even just the basics, so they’ll think before they skip a credit card payment or use those fun little checks that VISA was so nice to send them in the mail… It might not help, but then again it might and that would make it totally worth it….

    Okay. Getting off soapbox. Continue on….

    • Absolutely. Many of us already have credit cards, etc. by the time we learn about responsible spending, so couple that with student loans, and we’re already starting out deep in a hole. Money (and I mean personal finance) is such a touchy subject for so many people, but that’s part of the problem. We should be taught and discussing this stuff early on, before we’re actually out on our own.

    • Chantelle

      You tell ’em lady! They changed the Canadian credit card laws and made them much more consumer freindly (no more automatic credit increases, interest changes etc) and had this feature that had to be included in all your bills which shows how long it would take you to pay off your debt if you only kept paying the minimum balance: when I read 143 years I think I almost died right there :)
      I know a few girlfriends who are in the same place, spend money like nothing in your early 20’s and then be crippled with debt later and learn the hard way. We definitely need to educate people about finances (and women especially). It’s all these simple things but its sometimes hard to see when you’re overwhelmed and just have never understood exactly what you signed up for with that pretty piece of plastic.
      And my seriously angy face happens when I think about how CC companies target students, who usually have no idea how deep the water can get. grrrr..

    • Meredith

      ummm YES.

      I think every HS and college should offer a personal finance/ life skills class (and HS should include a section about student loans). As in, this is how insurance works (health, dental, renters, home owners, etc), here is info about taxes, here is info about investing, let’s talk about loans and budgeting etc etc. I learned spending habits (frugality) from my parents, and they have lots of knowledge about insurance and investing, but that knowledge was never passed on to me as I never needed it when I lived with them. But when I entered the working world about 18 months ago, I was/ still am slightly bamboozled by my health insurance options (“deductible? premium? in-network, preventative care, HMO, PPO, wth is all this?”) and my 401k. A little background would have been nice.

      • KA

        Ok now I’m getting on the soapbox…

        YES, to all of this.

        Because um, seriously this is a HUGE issue for me. It *needs* to be changed, kids need to be educated when they’re teenagers. They can take it, I know, I was one. And then I was an orphaned 20 year old who had about 60 seconds to figure out how credit cards, student loans, health insurance, life insurance, Medicare/caid, property and income taxes, and on worked. Now, *thank god*, this is not how most people wind up learning. But most people do wind up learning the hard way, one way or the other. And there’s no reason it should be that way. Parents shouldn’t keep this stuff a secret from their kids, and there should be classes/programs for it as well.

        Because I’m sorry, but I STILL don’t know what calculus is, but I use my knowledge of personal finance and general LIFE stuff every single day!!!

    • alice

      For a good basic primer, I just wanted to recommend Beth Kobliner’s book, “Get a Financial Life: A Guide to Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties.” It’s an excellent, practical, easy to follow primer on the basics of things like managing/getting out of debt, saving for retirement, insurance, renting vs. buying, etc. I highly recommend it. Get it for yourself and for any recent high scool/college grads you may know!

    • As a child who DID get this knowledge, can I strongly encourage everyone else to do the same for their kids? I was very lucky, I know, but the luck translated in to being decent with money and able to do things like buy a house young and only have mortgage debt and only use credit cards when I can pay them off in full every month. (I use it because I like the cash back.)

      Growing up, we talked about money around the dinner table, and I knew early about one set of family who could never live in their means and what the effect of that was. Growing up with that as part of the conversation was so, so helpful. And when times were tight, we weren’t told – kids don’t need that. But they do need to know how to invest and how not to use a credit card.

    • yes, definitely teach your kids! My mom actually did teach me about credit cards. I got one when I was 16 (along with the car keys). We’d go over the statement, and I would have to pay her for any “non-approved” purchase. It was pretty darn awesome. I don’t carry CC debt, and my first student loans are from my second grad degree. And, yes, I thank my mother regularly.

      I am currently living at the poverty level, so we’re having our own wedding planning challenges. Like others here, we are allocating money carefully and choosing what we do and don’t want to include. And we’re firmly committed to doing the wedding without debt.

  • My fiance has some school debt and I am in the fortunate situation of not having any debt and as a result I would like to help him pay his school debt off more quickly. He is uncomfortable with this idea because he thinks his debt is personal and he should be the only one responsible for it. I think his education is making our life better now so I don’t mind shouldering half the load.

    Does anyone else have experience in this situation? I think when we are married it becomes my debt too. Any advice on how to graciously say “you are taking my money and letting me share your burden”

    • Rebecca

      We had the reverse situation. I had school debt, he did not. He offered to help. I felt weird about it. But I said OK. It was partly out of necessity (recession grad) and partly because it just made sense. Someday the recession would end and I would get a full-time job. Someday having that masters would make both our lives better. But here is the most concrete and practical reason and the one that really got me: paying down the balance faster means less interest paid over the life of the loan. And that means more money for both of you. If he still feels bad about it, calculate the interest saved, and tell him to buy you something nice with it. Or to save it for something for your life together, a down-payment on a house for example.

    • I’m in the exact situation. Except I made it clear to my husband when we first started talking about getting married that we would be, together, making his debt OUR first priority. He finally came around to the idea, my parents unfortunately were less than thrilled about the arrangement. I look at it like this: yes but it definitely effects me. It effects OUR credit score and our ability to take on good debt, like buying a house. Just like the income that we both make is pooled together to pay our bills and everything else (whether you have joint checking accounts or not I think the foundation of a partnership like marriage has to see everything that comes into the household and out as “ours”) paying back student loans takes away a portion of OUR money each month. Even if it is him writing the check each month from “his” money, that’s less money that he can use toward other things. I was not ok with having his debt hang over OUR heads for years to come. I would rather work extremely hard and pay it off quickly and move on with our life than force him to pay it off slowly. Just think about the interest that you save if both of you help pay it off. That’s money that would be lost from the BOTH of you if you don’t pay it back quickly. So he may think about it as his problem but when it comes down to it, that amount of money is going to have to come out of the “household” budget each month whether he likes to think about it like that or not. What if, if he’s insistent about paying it out of his check, you work out an arrangement where he puts A LOT of his money to debt repayment and you pick up the slack on other things, like rent and utilities. That way, both of you are helping but he’s the one that’s paying for the debt.

      • This is so true! We accumulated our respective student debts independently, but they’re a joint concern now. We pay my partners’ first because it has a higher interest rate than mine. Does that mean that technically I’m paying down HIS loans? Yes. But if we only concerned ourselves with what’s under our names, we’d be worse off as a household.

      • This. It is no longer his and hers credit scores. It is both of us, together, trying to buy a car/house/small business loan. I found out about my husband’s maxed out ($500 limit, thank god) credit card two months into our relationship. He had stopped paying on it completely, and accrued all sorts of penalty fees. As soon as I realized that this was going to be a forever thing, I payed that sucker off completely in one fell swoop, because I had the cash flow to do that at the time. And I never regretted it or thought of him as indebted to me for that, because I knew that by the time we got married, he’d have a better credit score, and therefore we’d have a better credit score.

    • meg

      Y’all. Your debt it your debt. If he tries to pay it off “by himself” that’s money that you guys are not saving for retirement, or a house, or a vacation, or whatever. So as far as I’m concerned, this “who is paying it off” argument is nonsense. If you’re tying yourselves together for the rest of your lives, for good times and bad, it’s your debt. You guys need to pay it off so you can move on to the next thing.

      We’re paying off David’s law school debt, and it’s not even a discussion. It’s one of our financial obligations, and effects all the others: retirement, saving for a house, saving for future kids education. I mean, what? If “he pays it off” that’s less of his income going to the other goals, which STILL means we’re paying it off.

      So embrace being a team. That is what marriage is all about.

      • Class of 1980


        Don’t most people intend to benefit from their spouses’ earnings?

        Why the divide between student debt versus the salary it brings?

  • Kristen

    I planned a wedding while I was paying down my credit card debit. (As in I would save $500 each month for the wedding fund and put $500 a month toward credit card debt.) And I made sure not to accumulate any more credit debt in the process. Our wedding wasn’t inexpensive, but we paid for it outright with all the cash we’d saved plus some help from our parents. The result? I ended up carrying a balance on my credit card about a year or so longer than I would have if I had super aggressively paid it off, but the $200 or so in interest was worth it to me.

  • I think the key to your situation is the fact that you’re “secretly” engaged (really engaged, but not showing it yet). So to me, you’ve got the best situation to pay cash for a wedding. While you’re in this blissful state of planning your wedding without everyone asking about the details, you can be saving up a lot of money or paying for things as you go along. So if you’ve got a little money saved up, hire the caterer or make the florist deposit. Save up a little more and book something else. We planned a wedding while in debt, with help for our parents and the best thing we did was decide things like, when we want to go out to eat, should we spend this money or put $40 in our savings for the wedding. If we wanted to go to a movie again, should we go or put $30 in our savings for the wedding. It adds up fast (key being actually transfer that money to savings) and sure, sometimes we said, no we want to see that movie and that’s great. You should let the wedding rule your life but this allowed us to still pay down our debt while planning the wedding. It also got us into the habit of being more creative when it came to date night. We got pretty good at finding cool things to do for free.

    Of course you can do this when everyone knows you’re engaged but the brilliant thing about doing it now is that you’ll already have those choices made when everyone starts asking questions. So if you tell someone that your’e not going to have a DJ, just an iPod at your reception and they start giving you flack, well you’ve already bought the songs that you wanted so that decision is made, no worries. If someone thinks it’s tacky that you’re not having “cocktail hour” well, too bad you’ve already booked the caterer and signed the contract so they’re just going to have to drink their cocktail with their meal.

  • you said you already have a date, so this may or may not work, depending on your timeframe – but i highly recommend saving up for the wedding in advance. basically, that makes sure you’re not going into more debt (or stopping work on paying off your debt) for the wedding. we tried to do it and failed, because it was too close to the wedding when we started. but i really, really like the idea of putting $xx aside each paycheck into a savings account just for the wedding, so that you aren’t paying interest (and maybe even *make* a little interest). i started ours on SmartyPig, and i really liked using it (plus, cutest logo on earth).

    p.s. with regard to handling/getting out of debt (which you may already be doing a really good job of working on, but in case you need some direction) i really like the info on Get Rich Slowly. some of it is overwhelmingly advanced for me, but he covers the basics really well, too, and it started off as a getting out of debt blog.

    • Rowany

      I thought I had read all the comments before I posted my long review, but missed your shout-out to Smartypig! Sorry! Glad we think alike though.

  • My boyfriend and I are broke. We’re also young. And in love.
    We have a bazzilion $$$ of student loans and I have one credit card which is slowly but surely nearing a $0 balance. We have a pitiful amount of savings, I’m jumping off into a new career and he’s moving half-way across the country for grad school.
    We won’t be able to afford the magical wedding I’ve thought up in the last 20 years for probably another 20 years and I really really don’t want to wait that long.
    So I’ve found a new love: backyard weddings. With homemade pies and cookies. And my mom’s wedding dress. And a honeymoon to my Guatemala where my parents have a house. And it will be lovely.

  • Raqui

    Yes! I’m glad you’re talking about this here. I love your answer, Alyssa and totally vote for you for czarina.

    CASH – I hope the answers here make you feel less alone! For the past 5 years I have been militantly paying down my credit card debt while going back to school part time and taking on a bit of student loan debt at the same time. Such is life. Now I’m planning a $6000 wedding which we’re paying for ourselves with some help from my folks. I still have around 3K of the credit card debt.

    The education is an investment and is going to contribute to my earning power. Same with a good, honest marriage (I read it in For Better y’all!) And getting married with a spiritual ceremony, throwing a modest party for loved ones and friends might be really important to starting said marriage auspiciously.

    At the beginning of my debt crisis I felt an incredible amount of shame and that I didn’t deserve to have a nice life until all debt was gone. Please be kinder to yourself than I was to myself! What did help me a lot were personal finance books and blogs. In fact, I found APW through a guest post by Meg at There are also great books out there – though not many of them will speak to the connundrum we are facing here. That’s why APW is awesome.

    It takes balance, but I do believe we are put on this planet to live and love our lives – not to worry incessently about finances.

    • Stephasaurus

      “It takes balance, but I do believe we are put on this planet to live and love our lives – not to worry incessently about finances.”

      Yes. I remind myself of this fact constantly. Life is beautiful even if I can’t afford certain material things. :)

  • Rowany

    Another pre-engaged, here. I totally agree with Darcy about saving up for ALL aspects of your life, not just the wedding. That way when $#!t hits the fan, you have money saved up that doesn’t come out of your wedding budget or add to your debt. What my guy and I did was open Smartypig savings accounts. It’s an on-line bank like ING but what I really love (besides its higher interest rate) is that you set up your savings into separate “goals.” Right now I have separate goals for Wedding, Kitty emergencies, Engagement ring, Dental/Car repair (basically an emergency fund), Christmas presents, House Downpayment, Vacation, and a new Camera. I have automatic payments set up for different dates and different amounts depending on their importance and urgency (so, I only put $10 a month for a new camera but once I meet my goal it won’t feel like a splurge). I like that it is easy to set up but difficult to close a goal: you have to take out all the money in a goal at once, or transfer a portion to another goal. What seems like an inconvenience is actually a way to double-check yourself–should I take out this money now when I haven’t met my goal or wait until we can afford it?
    Right now we just cash out the money back to our bank accounts and use it toward our credit card bill. My guy bought into the “cash only” mantra for years, which meant that his credit history was non-existent. I’m of the credit-in-moderation camp; I NEED to keep track of my purchases and cash tends to flow out of my wallet like water; the cashback doesn’t hurt either. For those who worry about credit debt, Smartypig has a cool alternative to the temptations of points and cashback. Instead of cashing directly back to your bank, you can cash out your goal into a retail debit card or a retailer gift card (or a combo of the three). The retailer gift card limits you to the retailers you choose, obviously, if you know where you’re going to spend your money (like, we do most of our shopping at Amazon), it’s fine. The debit card gives you a % cash back depending on the participating stores. As of now they just removed the processing fee for the Gift card (which was my one barrier to using it) but there’s still an “activation fee” for the debit card, so personally I’ll try the gift card and wait for them to remove the activation fee for the debit card. It might work for some of you however.
    Anyway, I don’t work for them and don’t benefit from this long (sorry) review, but last year I was FREAKING OUT about the cost of housing, the cost of weddings, having to pay quarterly taxes, AND my guy’s empty savings account, so I totally sympathize with worrying about going under (or further under) while paying for a wedding. After signing up for Smartypig, I’m a lot more confident that we can save up for everything we need and some of what want, and that a wedding is just one of many important expenses to think about. My guy is much more savings-conscious as well. Hopefully it will help some of you too. However you do it, keeping separate savings for different big expenses can help with your sanity in the long run.

    • Wow, thanks for the Smartypig suggestion. Seems like a great way to start – and share – a savings goal (my big one is a down payment for a house). Will really need to look into using this in lieu of a registry for the wedding!

      And yay, congrats on getting a hold of your finances!! Can totally relate – I feel like I’m drowning so often, it’s a good feeling when you’re finally in control of your resources (however limited or vast they may be!)

      • Rowany

        If you want to use it for a registry, it’d be best if you can convince people to join as well; it’s free for them to add money from their accounts, but there’s a 2.9% processing fee if they use a credit card. Lame, but on the other hand, you can get a referral bonus of $10 for each person! My guy and I don’t share any accounts, but we can see how much the other has saved (in the non-‘secret engagement’ goals anyway) and contribute to each other’s goals. It’s a nice way to make it a team effort, and I can see how sharing your goals with family that way could help.

  • CAMinSD

    When we first started seriously talking wedding, I told my boyfriend I had some “Rules of Engagement” — including that one of our first vendors had to be a financial planner. Not the least of the anticipated benefits is of that trading in some of that debt shame (I am so with you on that one) for a sense of power that comes from being informed and proactive.

    I’m the one with debt (writers pay for school, scientists don’t, who knew?) *and* I’m the one more prone to spending in general. I’ve been sent to collections. I’ve taken a second job to pay off credit cards. And I know what it’s like to subsist on peanut butter sandwiches and whatever’s growing on my friends’ parents’ trees. (Writers with college degrees make $10 an hour, who knew?) Thanks be for the long California growing season!

    My fiance is debt free and a good saver — but he’s also ridiculously optimistic. I feel that the latter, especially when we’re talking about how we’re supposed to support ourselves until death and through everything until then– has the potential to be just as problematic as spendthriftery. He does not plan for things going wrong, because…they won’t? And really, things are different for us (me and mine) then they were for our parents. Our original families are smaller, they’re far away, they couldn’t support us financially if they wanted to; we don’t have pensions and we don’t plan on having a gaggle — not a single goggle, even — of kids to care for us when we’re decrepit.

    So. Financial planner. I want one. And am taking referrals for the San Diego area!

    (Also, we’re going all cash for the wedding. We started an ING account last month that we call The Cat’s College Fund. We both will contribute $277/month for the next 18 months, so that we can save without climbing the neighbor’s fruit trees for dinner.)

    • Class of 1980

      Financial planners are not always effective and many of them only have rudimentary ideas of how economies function. My mother and step-father had a financial planner at Fidelity arrange everything for them at retirement. Everything was supposedly explained to them. They thought they were set.

      And it bit them in the ass. And they are too old to ever recover.

      I advise making it a priority to learn about finance and investments on your own. Don’t invest in anything or set up any accounts you don’t personally understand 100%.

      • Sarabeth

        If you want good, impartial financial advice you need to look for a fee-based financial planner who is not working for your bank or investment company. Because those folks are basically getting their salary paid by encouraging you to buy products that the company sells, while an independent planner is getting paid by you, to do what is in your best interests. That doesn’t mean that they’ll never screw up, but at least they have the right incentives.

  • Stephanie

    Please, please, please go to the bank, get a personal loan or line of credit and use it to pay off your credit card. Then pay off that loan, it should be at a much lower interest rate (less than half). I can’t make this point seem important enough – do not carry debt on a credit card, its just too expensive!! Look at the numbers: If you have $5000 of debt on an 18% interest credit card and pay $125 per month it will take you 62 months to pay off and you will pay almost $2700 in interest. If you have the same $5000 of debt as a loan at 8% interest and you pay the same $125 per month it will only take 47 months to pay off and you will only pay $835 in interest.

    On a happier note, you can and should absolutely still get married and have a wedding you feel you can afford while still paying off your debt.

  • Lindsay

    My fiance and I will have been engaged for 2 years by the time we get married this fall. Our grad school schedules are the reason for that, and a long engagement isn’t for everyone, but it has helped us be able to pay cash for the kind of wedding we want. We had time to do lots of research on vendors and found options in all price ranges. We put down 50% deposits on our venue and photographer one year and three months before the wedding – AND got the 2010 prices of both for the 2011 wedding because we were so early. We have continued paying our credit cards and student loans the same as we had before, but cut back on frivolous purchases to free up extra wedding cash. So by spreading out the wedding expenses we won’t end up with any extra debt from the wedding and haven’t fallen behind on paying off our current debt.

    • Stephasaurus

      My fiance and I will have been engaged two years and three months when we get married in October of 2012, and I completely agree here — the long engagement has been, and will continue to be, a HUGE help in saving up and makes it a bit less stressful.

  • Amy

    I´m currently planning my wedding while my future husband has credit card debt. Up until our Jan 2012 wedding, he will make the minimum monthly payment and we will save X amount of money monthly for the wedding. We cut our cell phone bill, reduced our internet/cable package, and minimized other monthly costs to free up as much money as possible for saving. After the wedding, we will continue with the same savings plan, but redirect what was once the wedding money to the debt, and pay it off asap. Good luck!

  • Pingback: Ask Team Practical: Wedding Planning While in Debt « A Practical … | Wedding Planning Guide()

  • This is a tough, tough question. I’ll preface my response by saying that I view student loan debt and credit card debt very differently, because one ostensibly serves a good purpose, while the other (usually) doesn’t. Planning and paying for a wedding before student loan debt is paid off? No problem. Doing the same before credit card debt is paid off? Unthinkable – for me.

    I just don’t think I could have planned a wedding if either of us had any amount of credit card debt – or if our plans would require us to GO into credit card debt. But I’m the kind of person who really, really, really HATES credit card debt and never, ever wants to be in it again if it is at all avoidable. Been there, done that, learned my lesson.

    Personally, I would feel massively irresponsible if I spent money that COULD be used to pay off my credit card debt on something that wasn’t a basic necessity or very minor indulgence. I mean, I don’t advocate that people who are trying to get out of credit card debt live like paupers and direct each and every penny they earn to paying it off, because that kind of deprivation can be a recipe for disaster and ultimately undermine your efforts. If one is earning money, they deserve to enjoy a small indulgence on occasion even if they’re in debt. BUT, notice that I said SMALL indulgences – a night out with their honey here or a new bottle of nail polish there.

    But a wedding that involves multiple new purchases, vendor contracts, and picking up the tab for all their favorite loved ones to eat, drink and be merry? Way too indulgent and way too generous given the circumstances.

    All that said, as was mentioned much earlier, one need not have “a wedding” in order to get married, and if being married right now is something that is very important to you and your guy, then you should by all means get married. But I’m not so sure you should have “a wedding.”

    *I put “a wedding” in quotes because obviously, if you get married, you’re going to have a wedding, even if it’s just you and your honey in your jeans at the JOP. A wedding is simply the means by which a couple gets married. But “a wedding,” is the more commonly understood ceremony and reception attended by friends and family, complete with new clothes, flowers, photographers and food.

    • I’m going to be marrying before my credit card is paid off… but we will NOT go into credit card debt for our wedding. Grr!! :)

      I too have had bad experiences with credit cards. Luckily I will have mine paid off in less than two years with the current track I’m on. And I will never, ever, ever get a credit card again… unless maybe someone was in peril (like my guy needed a life saving surgery and it was the only answer… who cares if you have to pay it off for the rest of your life if the alternative was no life?) But hopefully we’re never in a situation like that.

      But I wouldn’t delay my wedding just because I have credit card debt. I will keep my wedding inexpensive and modest, but without being so small I look back with regrets. I want to cherish my wedding forever. We could elope, and I’ve thought about it, but the idea of marrying without my family and friends there makes me sick to my stomach. And the idea of asking them to travel and not being a wonderful hostess to them and feeding them seems horrible to me. And what’s a wedding without dancing?

      My credit card debt has limited my life enough. It will not deprive me of months of marital bliss I’d get otherwise. :) I’d rather keep paying my wedding debt off with my husband than without him.

  • KA

    “Don’t sacrifice your debt for your wedding, but don’t sacrifice your life because of your debt.”

    I want a book of Alyssa’s one sentence Rules to Live By.

    Because seriously.

    (And also this one: “Only thing worse than major debt is major debt that you didn’t even have fun accruing.” Because oh hell yes.)

    I’ve sacrificed my life because of my debt for about… 5 years. It’s all paid off (other than the student loans) now, and we’ve even taken some nice vacations and checked other things off the list: new bathroom! dental surgery!

    The paying off of the debt and the saving up to have a wedding has caused us to have a long (almost 3 yr) engagement, and while it has been frustrating at times, (People I know have MET AND MARRIED their partners while we’ve been engaged!) it’s not a race and we’re not planning on going anywhere, so we will get married when we get married. But everyone is different, so only you can decide what is the best pace for your relationship. Wedding now, wedding later, marriage now but wedding later.

    For me, though, having the debt paid off has made me *terrified* to overspend again. Even if it’s putting a large purchase on a card that I know will be paid off in a few months… I just… ick. So while we have enough saved for the wedding, the honeymoon is still up in the air with the boy saying let’s go for it, we can pay if off in a few month, and me being like “Nooo, card is bad, card is bad…”

    So all that is to say, your relationship and your relationship with your finances will always be a constantly evolving one, with new decisions around every corner. :)

    • I’m super late to the party on this post, but I just wanted to register my HELL YES to this comment. We are also doing the long-engagement-because-of-debt thing and it’s really getting old (totally feel you on friends meeting, getting engaged, and getting married while we have been engaged!). BUT, I completely agree that this is not a race, we’re not going anywhere, and we will get married whenever we get married. I think I’m going to make that my mantra! :)

  • Hoppy Bunny

    As someone currently in debt, and growing my debt thanks to continued education, I have to agree with the sentiment that it feels weird to plan a wedding. But I want one—it is the only party I am likely to ever throw. So I am keeping the budget as low as possible, trying to talk potential vendors into slashing their fees, figuring out which DIT projects will save money and which will just drive me crazy, and slowly slowly paying off my debt while I try to generate a savings account that will let me pay cash up front for everything. It is hard.

    My goal is $5000 for food, rings, and everything else but the honeymoon. I feel like drawing a line in the sand is helping me keep my priorities straight: we’re making a wedding our loved ones will remember, but not digging ourselves deeper into the hole to do it.

    So far I’ve managed to find a caterer who wants to help me stay in my budget instead of encouraging me to have an extra special, extra expensive day, and I love that. And I am lucky enough to have a sister-in-law-to-be that’s a photo major, so our free wedding photography is her wedding gift to us (woot!). And my sister volunteered to DJ with my ipod, so not DJ fees (again I must woot). I feel lucky that my family (which includes his family) is excited for our wedding AND knows our situation. They offer to help, and I am not afraid to ask for non-financial assistance. His parents even let us move in with them to help hasten our ability to save (but livin with the future-in-laws is a whole nother bag of worms and doesn’t need discussion right now). Suffice it to say I’m having fun exercising my creativity but also trying to stay realistic, and sometimes the tiny bride inside me feels torn in five different directions trying to meet all of the different requirements I have to make this thing practical.

  • april

    I hemmed and hawed about typing a response, only because after reading all of the other replies, got the sense that many are willing to forge ahead with the wedding anyway, however best they can, even with debt over their heads. Which – truthfully – is a hard concept for me to grasp. To each, their own… of course.

    Financial advice is always a sticky wicket, and since what works for one doesn’t work for all, I’ll just share my own personal experience. My husband and I were engaged for more than three years while we paid down the debt we accrued after a major cross-country move, and also after I’d been thru two bouts of unemployment. Personally, for us, it was inconceivable and irresponsible to host the wedding we wanted (guests, food, music, photographer, fancy venue, etc.) with literally thousands of dollars of debt hanging over our heads. And we were looking at footing the entire bill for our wedding with no outside help from family.

    We had many tough discussions, some with tears (mine) about: Do we throw the wedding anyway? Do we elope? Do we go to city hall and have reception two years from now? Do we just have a simple cake / punch wedding? It was intensely stressful… but what was even MORE stressful was the damn Visa bill each month. So we chose to pay debt first, and THEN marry.

    Yes, it was hard. Yes, it was frustrating. Yes, I got *SICK* of people constantly asking “Are you two EVER gonna get married?” Not that we were on anyone else’s timeline but our own, but it’s tough to have pressure from others in addition to the pressure we place on ourselves.

    Fortunately, it all worked out. We paid the debt, planned the wedding our hearts’ desired, and came through it with bank account and our sanity intact. Looking back, I’d say it all worked out, though there were definitely times when we were in the middle of it, that I had my doubts about waiting.

    As always, it’s all about balance – and finding what will work for you and your partner. Best wishes!

  • Jessica

    Full disclosure: I didn’t read all the comments so if I go over what someone has commented before, sorry.

    We’re planning (or have pretty much finished planning) a wedding for 100-150 people with major credit card/ student loan debt hanging over our heads. We were lucky enough that my parents are paying for the vast majority of our wedding, but in the end, my fiance and I will have contributed about $3000 out of pocket to our wedding. And we have done it completely in cash. When my fiance has spent 8 months out of our 20 month engagement unemployed. It’s not fun, and it’s not romantic, and it’s most certainly not easy, but it can happen. Our biggest (and really, ONLY) fights are about the spending of money.

    As Alyssa said, you have think about whether you can do it without sacrificing your quality of living or debt repayment process, and whether you’ll be comfortable doing so. For us, we have a pretty workable schedule, every paycheck is accounted for- credit card payments, student loan payments, rent, groceries, etc. It’s not a hard and fast budget, but it works for us. My salary is weird in that it is kept a bit lower than it should be, but we get bonuses throughout the year. So my fiance and I have learned to live on my salary alone, and the bonuses are just that, bonuses. They went straight into our wedding fund, as did our tax returns. We have everything put aside for everything we need to pay for, which is a great feeling. But that’s what worked for us. Ultimately, you have to do what works for you.

    (I do have to say, I’m glad someone finally mentioned credit card debt- I was beginning to feel like I was the only person to ever try and plan a wedding with it hanging over my head).

  • I’ve been having trouble keeping up w/ my RSS feed, so I didn’t read all of the comments. My attention span is waning. Forgive me.

    ANYWAY, this may have been discussed, but a good thing to do would be to run your credit score. Just because you have debt doesn’t mean you have bad credit (conversely, just because you have no debt doesn’t mean you have GOOD credit, either). I have a credit score of over 800 and more credit card debt than I care to admit. (I have a payment plan. Hush. That’s why my credit score is high). Debt sucks, but it’s a sucky economy. If you’re smart about what you’re doing and honest with your partner (and if you’re asking these questions on the front end, you probably are), then you can get through it.

    So, two things:
    1. We know you have credit card debt, but do you have good credit? If you pay all of your bills on time and you make more than the minimums on your credit card, chances are you have good credit. Does this give you carte blanche to take out more debt? Of course not. But it may give you some peace of mind.
    2. To piggyback off of Alyssa’s point on not incurring more debt, staying the status quo is not necessarily bad. Financial planners will tell you that to get your finances in order, it’s better to build up savings first and THEN pay down debt in larger lump sums once you have a solid savings. Say you’re making $500 payments on the credit card now. If you transfer it to a lower interest card, and then make $300 payments, are you still over the minimum payment? Are you over it at $200? I like to minimally pay double the minimum, if I can’t pay the whole thing off that month (I have one I like to pay off each month or as soon as possible; and one with a higher limit/lower interest that carries the higher balance I’m chipping away at), and if I can’t at least be about $100 over the minimum. Take the extra and put it toward the wedding. When you get your tax return, put that in your wedding account instead of on your credit card balance. Etc.
    3. This can’t be said enough, but make your priority list. C and I wanted good food and craft/boutique booze, but were ambivalent about flowers, so we just didn’t do flowers. There are a lot of things you can slash and burn in your budget, and no one will notice or care. The only people who matter if they notice or care are you and your fiance. If it’s important to you, it’s worth it to make it work. If it isn’t, just cross it off the list. Crossing off things we didn’t care about saved us way more money than “cutting back” on things that were important to us.

    Good luck. :)

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  • Due to my Series of Unfortunate Events, I had to plan two weddings- the original one and the Plan B. My 5000 budget didn’t expand. I’m 20k or so in debt between student loans and car payments. Hit me up (I feel like SUCH a cool kid by using that phrase) if you need tips or want someone to scream at. Also, I have a dress that I won’t be using…

  • KatKopy

    One thing I would remind you of (as a recent budget wedding party member) is to please, please, please ask your friends and family for help!

    I’m not married or engaged yet (I’m in a long-term, long-distance relationship where the wedding discussion is still about 3 years away), but I just watched my oldest childhood friend put entirely too much stress on herself to make her dream wedding happen on a budget because her future-husband had a lot of debt.

    Although my friend’s beautiful wedding barely exceeded her ideal limits, the night we came down for her bachelorette/lingerie shower (which another bridesmaid and I planned/catered/paid for) she couldn’t even let herself have fun. There was too much left to do at the last minute.

    Instead of having our last single girls’ night out, we tied ribbons on bells and bubbles – just to watch the bride become so stressed that she was sick entire rehearsal day. While we could have taken care of everything ahead of time if we knew (instead of having to take her to the doctor _and_ run all of her errands at the last second), none of us had any idea how much was left to be done.

    While part of the problem was that the groom’s family and portion of the wedding party (his childhood friends and family) weren’t particularly helpful, the other half was that the bride was too afraid to ask us for help early on.

    Although I knew my friend was getting married on a budget, I live out of town and trusted she’d call me if she needed anything at all. If your bridesmaids are your friends – or even if you have friends that aren’t in the wedding – they mean it when they say they are happy to help! If they’re truly your friends, they won’t feel put upon if your requests are reasonable and given out a little bit ahead of time (Would you mind helping me put my favors together this weekend? Do you mind helping me put my decorations together next week? Could you come down in the morning, instead of the evening to help us decorate the church?).

    We had no idea the bride was having trouble accomplishing everything. We would never have been disappointed in or disapproving of one of our best friends if we knew about the issues she was dealing with! We would have just made sure to come give our help instead of assuming that she would ask us if she needed it. I offered to make cookies for the party ahead of time, but, again, had no idea how much more there was to do.

    Honestly, it made feel sad – and like a bad friend – for not anticipating how much the bride kept to herself and for not being able to do more because of the timeframe we had to work in.

    I know for a fact other friends felt the same way – one person would have gladly made the cake as a wedding gift, but had no idea that the bride was having trouble making her budget. When my parents got married, my grandmother and her friends made the bridesmaid dresses as a wedding present (and no one would have ever guessed). I work for an advertising agency and could have easily designed and printed all of this bride’s invitations and programs for the cost of materials.

    As you’re planning your wedding, consider who you know. There’s not much of a limit to what can be borrowed! If we had known ahead of time, many of the items my friend bought for her wedding – candle holders, a goblet for communion, etc. – could have been borrowed from other friends who had gotten married recently, from our homes, or from our families.

    If you feel bad about asking talented or generous friends and family members for help, tell them that their assistance will be their wedding gift to you.

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  • Josie

    I am so HAPPY I found this site!!!
    I have been engaged since November 2011..I know…a long time ago, and let me add we have been together since 2005 and so far I have no wedding plans :(
    After getting engaged I graduated in December and was applying for jobs all over (so a relocation was on site). It seemed a bit crazy to plan a wedding during that crazy time but I am starting to realize that I am just scared of the whole process.
    I wanted to get the job, move, get out of debt before starting to plan. Now February 2013 I have done all that and the last thing to do is to get a second car before I start serious planing so that doesn’t come out of my budget.
    I gave myself an April deadline to just dive and go for it. We are looking at a venue this month and finding this sites give me hopes that I can do it. I hope I can…I am so scared! At times I don’t think I can pull it off :S
    I hope to be sharing my story here in no more than a year

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  • KathyinSC

    Totally agree with your advise – “You should NOT go into debt just for your wedding” there are just too many other great things to look forward to in your married life. Great post! Thanks