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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