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Debt-free, budgeted weddings are best start for marriage

Published: March 27, 2017   
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Elizabeth Reha, director of the diocesan Family Life Office, said the top questions she hears from engaged couples are about finances. Some of the questions are how to blend their money together and also concerns about debt.

“I have heard on a couple of occasions that the person wasn’t sure if they were ready to marry because the other person had $40-50,000 in debt, which is a lot of money,” Reha said. “But if you love the person, you’re going to figure it out. But they’ll say, ‘Well, we’re not going to get married because I want that person to pay off their debt.’ Somehow that misses some of the core pieces there.”

Because weddings can get expensive in a hurry, Christian finance expert Dave Ramsey offers advice to couples on budgeting for a wedding. 

 

How do you have a wedding without debt? (Lynn)

Dear Lynn,
Wow, where do I start on this one? I guess the best way is to tell the truth. Honey, that question kind of makes you sound like a little princess.

How do you have a wedding without debt? It’s really simple. You have a wedding with the money you have. There’s nothing wrong with small, inexpensive weddings. And once you accept that and start thinking about things from a mature, adult point of view, you’ll start realizing you can scrimp and save and have a really nice, small wedding.

Lots of people have beautiful, memorable ceremonies and even small receptions for less than $1,000. Sure, you can run out, go into debt and wear an $8,000 wedding dress for a few hours on one day of your life. Or, you can find one that’s much cheaper — even something that’s been worn one time — for a couple hundred dollars. Think that’s tacky? Well, let me tell you what’s even more tacky and dumb — going $15,000 to $20,000 in debt for one day.

To have a wedding without debt you have to be creative and think within your budget. That means growing up and not throwing a temper tantrum just because you can’t have every little thing you want. Most people don’t have lavish, expensive weddings, and guess what? Years down the road they’re still married, madly in love and laughing and hugging when they remember the best day of their lives.

Please, don’t turn what’s supposed to be a happy occasion into a financial mess that will take years to clean up.

 

In your opinion, what is the limit you can responsibly spend for a wedding if the people involved have debt? (Paul)

Dear Paul,
The cost of the average wedding in America rose to $32,641 last year. But when it comes to what you can reasonably afford, I think it becomes relative to exactly how much debt you have and what kind of income we’re talking about.

If you have $5,000 in debt but you make $150,000 a year, stop worrying, pay off your debt, and save up for a great wedding. If you make $28,000 a year but you have $30,000 in debt, then you need to have a really minimal wedding. Anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 would be reasonable in that kind of situation — and even then it’s going to be tight.

The more debt you have in relation to your income, the smaller your wedding expenses should be. A $32,000 wedding would be ridiculous for someone with a $28,000 income. But $28,000 is a below-average income, so you shouldn’t reasonably expect an average wedding in terms of cost. It really all boils down to ratios.

Just remember, Paul, the amount of money spent on the ceremony, reception and all that stuff isn’t what’s important. It’s the love that two people have for each other that makes the ceremony special and the marriage one that will last a lifetime.


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