No one wants to go into debt, but if the end goal is having the wedding of your dreams, taking out a loan or stretching your credit limit might not sound so shabby, right? Although it may seem like a good idea at the time, financial experts strongly advise against going into debt for your wedding, as doing so only sets you and your new husband or wife up for struggle and conflict. After all, money is the number issue married couples argue about, according to a survey by Ramsey Solutions. "Starting out your marriage with debt accrued just for your wedding day is a great way to start the stress and discord early," says Maggie Germano, financial coach based in Washington, D.C. "Yes, there is a lot of pressure when it comes to wedding planning, but your long-term financial security is more important."
Byron Ellis, certified financial planner with United Capital Financial Advisers, goes so far as to call going into debt for your wedding financial suicide. "Many newlyweds are already starting out with a disadvantage if they exited college with student debt, so combine that with a payment that can strap you for years just to have a nice weekend is insane—it'll take you over 10 years to pay off the party," he says. "What's more, if you add up the total cost of interest, you will find that newlyweds who paid $25,000 for a wedding will wind up paying a total of $44,066."
With weddings, and with life, you need to make smart money decisions—some tougher than others. That's what Brooke, a recent bride from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, did when she and her then-fiancé found themselves unable to pay for their wedding. "We knew we wanted a wedding, but we also wanted a happy, burden-free life far more," she explains. Instead of having the traditional rehearsal dinner, ceremony, and full wedding reception, they opted to say their "I dos" with only their immediate family present. "It was just our officiant, who is a good friend, my mom, dad, brother and my husband's mom and dad, since he's an only child. While we originally made it this private to save on costs, we ended up loving the intimacy!"
Another way Brooke and her husband cut costs on the average wedding is by holding their reception at their favorite bar in downtown Philly. "We know the bartenders by name and it was special because they surprised us with a signature drink—which wasn't all that surprising since it's we order Moscow Mules almost every time!" she says. "The cost of a secluded space, an open bar, and a DJ for three hours was only $45 per person. We had about 42 people show up out of 53 that were invited, so the cost was just under $2,000."
Nivea, from Brooklyn, New York, took another route to avoid going into debt for her wedding. Instead of having a traditional wedding, she and her now-wife decided to elope! "We got married at city hall and then hopped a flight to the Bahamas that very night! In the middle of January, that warm weather was the cherry on top to the absolute perfect 48 hours," she says. After a five-day, all-inclusive vacation at a romantic resort, she and her wife took their family out to a nice steak dinner to celebrate their nuptials. "We were planning on paying, since even a $1,000 dinner would be cheaper than a wedding reception, but our family split the bill instead—we were over the moon with happiness over the love we felt in that moment."
Of course, it's still possible to avoid debt even if you're planning to throw a full-on wedding. However, you may need to save up before you start booking the venue and vendors, or else planning a smaller event than you initially planned. "There is a lot of financial pressure when it comes to weddings, but if you don't have a lot of money to work with, try not to give into the status quo or expectations of others," says Germano. "Throw a party in your parents' backyard, or get married in a courthouse and throw a big party later on when you've saved up."