When little girls play fantasy games, one of the first ones they start with is some variation of “fairy princess.” Possibly spurred by that all-time classic, “Cinderella,” the make-believe fantasy combines the magic of fairies with the dress-up possibilities of a princess. Think about it: Cinderella’s life is pretty rotten, then along comes a fairy godmother who not only wands her out of her rags and into a beautiful gown but matches her with Prince Charming.
It’s a primal fantasy that never really leaves that young girl, no matter how grown up she becomes. And then when her real Prince Charming comes along, the “princess-for-a-day” image is still stuck in her head and carries over into plans for her wedding day. Couple that with all the other fantasy weddings she sees in her social media feeds, plus pressure from friends and relatives, and it’s little wonder that the average wedding today costs $35,329, according to TheKnot.com.
And the happy couple may have no intention whatsoever to attain those figures initially, but little by little it begins adding up. The ring, the dress, the makeup, the tux, the venue, the live band, the wedding cake, the photographer, the florist. . . . Throw in a honeymoon, wedding planner, and maybe a destination wedding, and the bill soars, often well out of reach of the average couple.
If your parents are able and willing to foot the cost, there’s no problem. But it seems these days, more couples are turning to wedding loans, a fancy new name for a personal loan to fund the cost of the big day.
How smart is that? For $35,000 plus the interest you’d be charged on the loan, you could buy a new, high-end car or two economy cars. For the same amount of money, you would have the required 20 percent down payment on a $200,000 house.
Here’s another consideration to throw into the equation. A recent study by the Department of Economics at Emory University found that “marriage duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony.” In other words, in couples they studied, the more couples spent on the wedding itself, the more likely they were to eventually divorce.
Then you need to take into account other debts you may have or will want to incur: student debt? car(s)? a home of your own? children? Will the wedding of your dreams take precedence over all these? Or are you financially in a position to afford it all? If not, you will have to make some choices.
You need to decide on your long-term financial goals vs. your wedding fantasies along with the family and social pressure to have the fairy-tale day. But Billshark wants to caution you that springing for a wedding you can’t afford can adversely affect the rest of your married life, not only by taking on additional debt you won’t be able to easily afford, but by adding stress to your marriage.
And we’re not alone in sounding that alarm. TheStreet.com flatly says that “taking out a wedding loan is one of the biggest financial mistakes a couple can make.”
Studies show that nearly 45% of couples experience stress in their marriages over the subject of money. One showed that arguing about money is “by far” the top predictor of divorce.
If you’re recently engaged, congratulations! Now stop and think about how to have a meaningful and memorable wedding without going thousands of dollars into debt.
Here are some suggestions.
Scale down your expectations.
Sit down with your fiancé and decide which parts of the whole wedding experience is the most important to you both. (This will provide good practice for future money discussions). Do you want a top photographer? Then 86 the engraved wedding invitations. Is a large guest list vital? Then skip the live band and go with a DJ.
Think outside the box.
Are you aware that the white wedding dress only came into vogue during Queen Victoria’s era? And that they don’t have to be designer dresses? Spend some time searching for a formal gown that you look beautiful in, and forget about whether it’s officially labeled a “wedding dress.”
We’re so used to having what we want when we want it that we’ve kind of forgotten how our great-grandparents used to make do without credit. There’s nothing wrong with long engagements, and an extra year can give you the opportunity to save up for those must-have extras. And in the meantime, turn your bills over to Billshark to let us find you hundreds of dollars in savings during that interval.
Romeo and Juliet did it, why not you? What could be more romantic? Not to mention stress-free and economical. Throw a big wedding party afterward to let all your friends and family celebrate. Or spend the money saved on a terrific honeymoon.
A wedding on a nearby beach, in a park, in a historic home near you, or an art gallery could turn out to be the venue of your dreams. Scour your town for romantic locales and see if they can accommodate the wedding you want.
Well-meaning relatives (okay, parents) may want you to have the wedding of their dreams. Unless they’re paying for it, thank them lovingly and stick to what you two want.
Who says you need Flowers By Frederick? Or Cakes By Catherine? Can friends or family step in and create various segments of the wedding that would do just as well?
Bottom line: Don’t let childhood fantasies or societal pressures force you to start off your marriage deeply in debt. A wedding is just one day. It’s the lifetime together that counts.