How to pay for a wedding: Managing wedding debt.

Couple getting married and saying their vows

Your wedding day is one of the most important and special days of your life. However, paying for a wedding can also make it one of the most expensive. While it’s natural to want to spend more than a little extra to celebrate the occasion, many couples find themselves overwhelmed with wedding debt. If you find yourself in that boat, these tips can help you get your financial trajectory back on course. 

There are common pieces of advice that loved ones give before a wedding: Never go to bed angry. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Selective hearing is the key to a long marriage. The list goes on. But chances are nobody took you aside to talk to you about how to afford a wedding. 

Unfortunately, the fiscal burden of getting married is something most couples deal with. According to Zola, the average cost of a wedding in 2023 is expected to be $29,000.1 It helps to know that wedding debt is not a rare phenomenon, and with a little help, planning, and guidance, you can start your life together on a strong financial path.

Many of us spend so much on our wedding day because it’s one of life’s key moments. It’s also one of the few occasions that is truly worthy of financial commitment. But with a little planning, you can make sure the cost of your wedding isn’t its most lasting memory.

1. Start talking about finances.

The first step to recovering from wedding costs is acknowledging them, along with the other costs you’re bringing into your partnership. Between the two of you, there may also be education loans, credit card debt, and other financial commitments.  

Put it all out there. Sit down with your spouse to get aligned on all the bills you need to tackle and decide who’s responsible for what. You can even do it on a date night over pizza and wine. (Maybe opt for a not-too-expensive bottle.) For tips on discussing finances with your partner, see “How to Budget and Manage Family Finances.” 


2. Come up with a wedding payment plan.

No matter how much the wedding costs, it's crucial that you take the time to develop a debt pay-down strategy that works for you. While there are many approaches, here are some common ones that you can consider:

Debt snowball method:

In this method, you focus on paying off your smallest debt first while paying the minimum amount due on the others. By applying the bulk of your money to the smallest debt, you can pay it down more quickly. You’ll get a morale boost when it is paid off, and you can then roll the amount you had been paying toward retiring that debt into the same payment process on the next largest debt. Continue this process until all your debts have been paid.

Debt avalanche method:

In this method, you are paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first, while paying the minimum amount due on the others. The idea behind this method is that you will spend less money on interest. It may take a little longer to see the “wins,” but this method could save you more money over the course of your debt payoff.

Debt consolidation method:

By combining multiple debts into a single new debt with a lower interest rate, you can make payments more manageable, and you will end up paying less because of the lower interest rate.

This method works best if you have a lot of credit cards with high interest rates. Shop around for a balance transfer card that offers an introductory 0% APR, allowing you to pay more toward the principal while the introductory rate is in effect. However, it’s important to note that many of these card companies require good credit to get approval, and there may be an upfront transfer fee. So do your homework before committing. 

You could also take out a personal loan to pay off multiple debts. This method is useful if you don’t want to go the balance transfer card route. You will not get 0% APR, but if you have good credit you can usually secure a loan with a lower interest rate than you would be paying on the credit card after the introductory 0% APR period ends. Once again, there may be upfront fees, so do your homework.


3. Find ways to save.

Find practical ways that you and your spouse can save. Maybe that means a few more meals at home and less time in restaurants. Making your own coffee instead of opting for the takeaway latte from your local barista is a simple example. (Spending $3 or $4 on coffee each morning adds up to $100 every month, per person.)  

Small things like using the carpooling mode on a shared ride service can make a difference. Also, for some expenses, you can now take advantage of those coveted family plans: health and auto insurance policies, cell phone accounts, even movie and music streaming services. These are all opportunities to cut costs by combining forces.


4. Use your monetary gifts wisely.

Sure, that 18-piece cookware set from Aunt Ethel is great, but you can’t use it to pay for your wedding. Monetary gifts, on the other hand, can go a long way. Instead of investing your wedding day dough in unnecessary household goods or excursions, set the bulk of it aside to help pay off your wedding debt. 


5. Don’t let debt hold up your dreams for later.

Just because you're cutting costs now doesn’t mean you can’t think about future financial commitments. When you sit down to talk with your spouse, use that time to set long-term financial goals and discuss what’s most important. Is it buying a home? Starting a family? Launching your own business? Talk openly and make a joint plan that feels right for both of you. It’s important to balance investing for the future and tackling costs now.  

One of the most important moves you can make as a newly married couple is to seek help from a financial professional. The professional can give you recommendations and guidance not only for paying down your wedding debt, but for getting on track to reach all of your goals and milestones, whether it’s paying for college, protecting your family’s financial future, or saving for retirement. Having someone there to help you understand your options ensures that the strategy you take is the one that will work best for you. 


Want to learn more about financially preparing for the future?

A New York Life financial professional can help determine what’s right for you.

1The Zola Team, “What’s the Average Cost of a Wedding in 2023?”