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How to balance your dream wedding with student loan payoff

Kate Dore

August 15, 2019

Getting engaged is a milestone for any couple. As you celebrate the news, it's only natural to begin dreaming of your big day. Pinterest makes planning a wedding look easy, but trendy venues, fine dining, lavish florals, and chic decor add up. Before you know it, your intimate evening could balloon into a major soiree, with a huge price tag to match.

Paying for a wedding is never easy and pulling it off while juggling student loan payments is even harder. Some millennials delay marriage altogether, but that doesn't mean you have to. Here's how to pay for your dream wedding without putting off your other financial goals.

Craft a realistic wedding budget

Your wedding may be your biggest joint expense to date. It’s a decision that may impact your finances for months, or even years, to come. The best way to avoid future problems is by sitting down together and reviewing every detail of your budget. 

Scrutinize your finances

Once you are able to see your complete income and expenses — including student loans — you’ll know how much you can comfortably afford to spend on the wedding. It may be less than you expect. If adding wedding expenses to your monthly budget is too much, you're not alone. According to The Knot, only 41 percent of couples foot the bill on their own. 

Chat with your families 

It's not the most comfortable topic, but once you have a grip on your finances, it's a good time to talk to your families. Most parents do pay for at least some of the wedding — with the majority coming from the wife’s family.

Even if your families don't have a lot of discretionary income, they may still want to contribute. It's possible they have even earmarked some money for the occasion. Even if they can't chip in financially, they may be eager to volunteer their time and talents.

Find your magic number

Most couples don't have a background in event planning — making it harder to craft a realistic wedding budget. Luckily, it's possible to throw a memorable event at any price. 

If you have close friends who recently got married, don’t be afraid to ask them about their experience. You can also rely on tools like The Knot's Wedding Budget Calculator. It’s important to pick a number you both feel comfortable with.

Sticking to your wedding budget

Setting a wedding budget is the easy part. But sticking with it? Not so much. As you begin price shopping, you may notice how expensive everything is. You may even suspect a wedding surcharge on the must-haves of your event.

While the markups do exist, Consumer Reports found many vendors are willing to negotiate. By asking good questions and reading every word of your contracts, you may avoid paying more than you expect. Here are some other proven tactics for staying under budget.

  • Limit your guest list. Trimming your list of attendees is the easiest way to save. Inviting every family member and childhood friend may be tempting, but it adds up fast. Keep in mind that every attendee is another meal, chair, more space, decor, and drinks.
  • Pick a less popular day of the week. Your wedding venue may be one of the biggest expenses. By picking a day other than Saturday — the most popular day of the week to get married — you may be able to slash your rental cost. 
  • Choose a less popular season. The same rule applies for wedding season. You may score a deal by having your wedding in the winter vs. the summer. It’s easier to negotiate when you aren’t competing with so many other couples.  
  • Reel in your catering bill. You may love passed appetizers or late-night snacks, but they may not be worth the added expense. Chances are, your guests won’t miss them. A simple, delicious dinner may be just as memorable.
  • Cut back on alcohol. Everyone loves an open bar, but unlimited drinks makes it easy for the tab to get out of control. A more affordable option may be sticking to beer, wine, and one signature drink. To save even more, you may opt to skip spirits completely.
  • Ditch expensive floral arrangements. There are plenty of ways to decorate. If flowers are less important to you, skip costly arrangements. Your florist may have several creative ideas to keep your budget intact. 

Focus on what really matters

When you are ready to tie the knot, student loans don’t have to be a roadblock. It's never easy to balance monthly payments with wedding expenses, but plenty of couples have done it successfully. The most important step is creating a realistic budget. From there, negotiating and staying organized will keep you on track.

Remember, your loved ones will be there to celebrate your marriage, not how much you spent on the event. Starting a life together is already challenging enough. By keeping the wedding budget within your means, you will receive the best gift of all — less debt (and stress!) to tackle later on.

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