There was a time when the parents were fully expected to foot the bill for a wedding. But with costs steadily climbing and many couples waiting longer to marry, this long-held tradition no longer seems to apply.
“Now it’s often a combination of everyone kicking in,” said Jim Shagawat, a financial planner from Paramus, N.J., who has helped families prepare for this big day.
There’s plenty to kick in for. The average spent nationwide for a wedding this year is estimated to reach $26,029, according to the Wedding Report, a research company based in Tucson, Ariz.
“The first question you have to ask is who’s paying for what, so the couple knows what they’re on the hook for,” said Barbara O’Neill, a professor in financial resource management at Rutgers University. “You need to have this conversation with your parents.”
You will also need to establish a comfortable (and reasonable) budget and savings plan after setting a date, especially if you think you may be responsible for all or most of the bills.
And don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Instead of a fancy hall or event space, Eric Roberge, 38, and Kali Hawlk, 28, of Boston are having both ceremony and reception in June at a rented waterfront house on Cape Cod, where their families also are staying.
The couple is further trimming costs by buying their own alcohol and putting their parents in charge of the food. “We are figuring out how best to create what we want, not what society says we have to have,” said Roberge, who runs (no surprise) a financial planning business.
Wedding or bridal loans
Most financial advisers see borrowing of any sort as a last resort. But these all-dressed-up personal loans — unsecured, or without collateral — can cover all or part of the wedding and honeymoon. One big plus: The lending process is usually pretty quick.
Wedding loans come in all shapes and sizes, with fixed and variable interest rates, and with or without origination fees. The rates and terms are largely determined by credit worthiness.
Loan offers can be compared on websites like LendingTree, which matches borrowers with lenders. Personal loans for weddings are offered there, up to $35,000. Bankrate also compares rates. While personal loans are far better than carrying credit card balances indefinitely, they only work if you can comfortably afford the monthly payments.
Credit cards (Get the perks, repay quickly)
Financial advisers may especially cringe at the thought of loading up cards with wedding expenses, especially if you are in the habit of carrying monthly balances. But credit cards can be helpful if used wisely. They offer fraud protection, for one thing, and often provide perks likes bonus points or cash-back rewards.
“You have to be strategic,” said Kristina Whyte, a certified public accountant who is in an MBA program at Yale, “and be willing to do the research and be very careful in terms of budget reassessing.”
Whyte, 33, and her husband, Philippe Milord, 39, paid for most of their wedding and honeymoon in 2014 with plastic. Each used two cards offering 0 percent interest promotions for 15 to 18 months, and increased the credit limits on them so they covered most of the $50,000 total wedding costs. “We paid them off before they started accumulating interest,” said Whyte.
Home equity loans, personal loans, 401(k)s, even friends
If you (or your parents) own a home that has risen in value, you could tap into the equity to help pay wedding bills. The main risk: Default on the loan and you could lose your home. And you are tying up money that may be better used for longer-term goals.
There are advantages, though, to either a home-equity loan, which provides a fixed amount in a lump sum, or a home equity line of credit, aka HELOC, which gives you access to a revolving credit line.
Like personal loans, they have fixed terms. But because the loan is secured, interest rates are generally lower than on personal loans or credit cards. According to Bankrate, they average 5.56 percent for a home-equity loan and 5.90 percent for a HELOC.
Other potential borrowing sources may be retirement funds, like 401(k)s. But here again, be cautious: Failure to pay it back in a timely manner could result in penalties and taxes, not to mention reduced retirement income.
Some couples have successfully turned to sites like GoFundMe and Indiegogo to raise money for their weddings.
The big question, however, is how do you make requests for cash without sounding, well, tacky? “I’ve seen it done tactfully,” O’Neill said. “I’ve seen invites that say something like, ‘Our biggest financial goal right now is to save for a house. We encourage you to help us reach our dream.’ ”
Vivian Marino writes for the New York Times.