How to Eliminate Wedding Debt
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UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013
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Many people borrow personal loans in order to fund their dream wedding. While getting into debt may not always be desirable, for a once in a lifetime event like a wedding, and in an economy with stagnant wage growth, many couples find themselves with few other options.
Of course, getting into debt so early in a marriage can bring out problems.
“I recommend that couples start their married life with as little debt as possible. Relationships are challenging enough without adding the stress of paying off debt,” says Tracy Stewart, CPA, financial planner, and member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission.
However, just because you borrowed several thousand dollars does not mean that you are off on the wrong foot on day one of your marriage.
Similarly, just because you borrowed a personal loan for the wedding does not mean that you have to spend all of the money.
“Keep the wedding small, keep the number limited. Keeping the head count down is important,” advises Jared Pickens, Director of the Naveen Jindal School of Management Undergraduate Finance Program at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Pickens told loans.org that it is important to interview different churches or venues to get the best price, and to prepare for the reception, because that’s where the true cost of weddings really is.
He said that making the choice between an expensive wedding or living debt-free is one that should be carefully thought out.
“[Couples] can have one day that’s great or they can have 30 years that are great,” he explained.
But for those who do wind up borrowing money, here are some tips on how you can get a handle on what you owe and eventually eliminate your wedding debt.
Here’s the first thing you can do: cut down on your spending.
“If [couples] choose to borrow money for the wedding, paying it off involves the same steps as paying off vehicle debt or credit card debt,” said Stewart. “That includes cutting living expenses and spending less than your take-home income until the debt is gone.”
She continued to explain that couples could review their living expenses in detail and volunteer to reduce certain expenses while forgoing certain purchases. Each person who is invested in changing their own personal finances is more likely to follow through with a spending reduction.
When you spend less money on frivolous purchases, you end up with more money that can go towards more important priorities, such as paying off wedding debt. Any extra money from your disposable income should be put towards paying this debt off.
The more money you pay off each month, the less of a balance will remain to accrue interest. You can reduce how long you are paying back your lender by months or years if you maintain a tight budget to get out of debt sooner rather than later.
On the plus side, now that you’re married you might have twice the income coming in to help pay off your wedding debt. Of course, this also means that there is now twice the income to monitor.
Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to track your spending thanks to online banking and tons of apps on personal finances. Chances are you know of one already. Use it to see how you both spend your money and learn how to better pay off your wedding debt.
If you need some help establishing a budget, try using this free budgeting calculator to set up a monthly spending and savings plan.
Refinancing and Consolidation
The personal loan you took out to fund your dream wedding is debt just like any other. As such, you can try to refinance it.
To refinance your personal loan, you need to find a willing lender.
If you’d rather not (or cannot) refinance, you can speak with your current lender about lowering your loan’s interest rate, perhaps temporarily if not permanently. This is known as a “loan modification,” and is more commonly seen in home loan agreements. If you borrowed your personal loan from a family member or friend, then a new written agreement would have to be made to certify that the interest rate was lowered.
While you’re pondering whether to refinance or modify your debt, you should also look into whether you can consolidate your loans.
When you consolidate your loans, they get lumped together into one monthly bill. You would then have only one lender instead of several to pay off after you consolidate. This can be a great option if you are recently married and have a large amount of other debt, such as from car loans or a mortgage, on top of your wedding debt. Of course, it’s best to comparison shop and find the lending source that will give you the best rate on a consolidated loan before agreeing to any single offer.
Breaking the Piggy Bank
Do you have savings? Dipping into them is a good way to tackle debt and eliminate it sooner rather than later. As you recall, the longer you are paying off debt, the more you will have paid over time. So it may be a wise use of your savings to eliminate debt sooner rather than later.
Stewart offers some sage advice for those couples pondering whether to have a ceremony paid for by a personal loan.
“Before couples even consider borrowing money for the wedding, they should know that they can have a remarkable, loving and long-lasting relationship with a minimal cost wedding as much as with an expensive wedding. The relationship and the commitment is the key here, not the party,” she said.
Going through the trouble of tackling your wedding debt head-on is something you will thank yourself later for doing now. In fact, you’ll probably have a good laugh in the future about how you borrowed money for a great wedding and spent a few months on a tight budget to pay it off. When all is said and done, you will have eliminated a debt and hopefully landed on the right financially-conscious foot for the rest of your happily married days.