Marriage can signify a turning point in your financial life together. That shift, combined with the sticker shock of an average wedding, can spark difficult conversations about your financial goals, including how you’ll manage your student loan debt both leading up to and after the wedding.
It’s also a great opportunity to confront your financial picture together with honesty and feel confident about your wedding budget. Before leaping into the wedding planning process, these conversations can quell anxieties as you get closer to the big day.
Review your financial landscape
Wedding planning aside, take a moment to check in about what’s been financially working and where you’d like to feel more comfortable. If you’ve yet to create a shared budget, this is an ideal time to lay out a system that works for you.
Consider the ways your financial landscape may change after getting hitched. Use this time to consider each partner’s debt, interest rates, payoff timelines, and how marriage could affect your tax breaks.
It is also beneficial to pause and assess your student debt. Have your monthly student loan payments made sense for your lifestyle? How will things change after you get married? If you have any lingering debt from other sources, such as credit cards or car payments, make a note of each one and keep those due dates in mind when scheduling your wedding payments down the line.
See where you can save on student loans
Refinancing your student loans can help you get a better deal on your interest rate and save thousands of dollars. With wedding expenses coming up and new shared financial goals in your future, now is an ideal time to see how much you could save with a new payment plan.
One option you have is to refinance to get a lower monthly payment, either by getting a better rate or extending the length of your loan. Keep in mind that extending your timeline could result in paying more interest overall, though. Even a .50% decrease in your rate could save you thousands.
If you decide your priority is getting debt-free sooner, you could also refinance to a shorter-term loan (like a 5-year fixed loan), which would likely come with a higher monthly payment but also a lower rate and faster payoff timeline.
Lastly, if one of you has a significantly higher credit score than the other, you may want to have a discussion about cosigning the other’s loan when you refinance in order to get a better rate.
Have a high level conversation about your wedding budget
Your celebration should represent you and your partner’s unique life together. Wedding decisions can and should proudly take your other priorities into account, such as pursuing a well-rounded education or saving for a house, down payment, or travel.
Agree to hold each other accountable with regard to your big picture financial goals while planning. It’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of building a guest list or speaking to vendors and quickly veer off track. You can also ask your friends and family to hold you accountable if you're tempted to increase your budget down the line.
Logistically, begin by double-checking who is supporting your wedding budget. Are you and your partner independently funding the event or do you have contributions from family members? If you have help, touch base with your family early on in the process and explain your intended wedding budget, the possible date of the wedding, and a tentative schedule of making these payments. You can solidify dates later once you’ve chosen your venue.
Align your date with your budget
The further out your wedding date is, the more time you have to reach your wedding budget goal in a financially healthy way. If you need more time to save up, consider pushing the wedding back several months or even a year. The feeling of stability will be worth the changed date.
One of the biggest challenges of wedding planning is seeing what lies beyond the big day. If an unexpected bonus comes from a side job or a gift, it’s easy to find ways to increase your wedding budget. With your long-term goals in mind, consider allocate any windfalls to your emergency fund or by overpaying your student loan contribution that month.
Create a calendar for your wedding budget
You don’t typically pay for all your wedding costs at once. Map out the dates of your estimated deposits, scheduled payments, major purchases, and a buffer amount for the wedding month. Several wedding websites, such as The Knot, can help you anticipate potential costs and deadlines before you begin planning.
Next, add all your student loan payment dates along with other bills like rent and utilities to the calendar. Once this money is set aside, you can see how much money is available for wedding payments after the usual monthly bills are accounted for.
Add a note to your calendar about a month before your wedding to take care of all debt payments ahead of time. It’s easy to become distracted in the final days of prep, and you’ll want to ensure you don’t accidentally miss a payment. You may also want to set up a separate bank account for all things wedding-related so you have a clearer picture of what your cashflow looks like.
The purpose of creating this detailed calendar is to decrease the number of unknown variables during the wedding planning process. As you hire more vendors and add new payments to the calendar, you and your partner can look at this big picture with confidence and make the right decisions for your overall budget.
Wedding planning tips
There is no wrong way to celebrate your union. Even though the wedding industry offers countless ways to enhance your celebration, most vendors and artisans understand that couples have a strict budget. Work with vendors that understand your financial goals from the beginning.
If you’re frustrated by how your student debt is affecting your wedding planning, try to remind yourselves that you chose to put your education first, which is a great privilege that continues to contribute to your future. If you find yourself confronting tough budget choices, reframe the idea of “cutting costs” to making “strong financial choices for our marriage.”
Consider these quick tips when looking to keep your wedding budget balanced with your financial wellness:
- Keep your guest list small: this affects the cost of other areas including catering, chair rental, and stationery.
- Break tradition: take a honeymoon a year after the wedding, skip unnecessary décor and favors, or forgo pre- and post-wedding gatherings.
- Discuss budget-friendly options with your potential vendor. Many venues offer ways to decrease costs that aren’t initially listed on their website. At the same time, respect that vendors also have a budget, and it may be best to find one in a different price point.
- Before you go the DIY route, be sure you don’t end up spending more in the process. For example, a wedding planner can help keep you on track and negotiate contracts, saving you money in the long run.
- Consider unforeseen costs before signing a contract, including taxes and gratuity in the venue contract, tips for each vendor, dress and suit alterations, and contingency plans for weather
Even when it feels daunting, student debt doesn’t need to keep you from celebrating life’s milestones. When you finally reach the big day, you can both feel a sense of pride in not only for planning such an impressive event, but also by doing so without setting your financial goals aside.