How to Plan a Wedding While Paying Off Your Student Loans

By
Ginny Bartolone
,
October 17, 2018

Planning your wedding is a time for celebration. You and your partner have worked toward this milestone with emotional dedication, and taking this next step allows you to look confidently toward your future.


It’s also a time of great change. For many, marriage signifies a turning point in your financial life together.


This shift—combined with the sticker shock of an average wedding—sparks often-difficult conversations about financial goals and managing your student debt in the healthiest way possible both during and after the wedding.


Student loan concerns around wedding planning are quite common, especially among millennials working to navigate their payments. In fact, rising student debt has actually shifted the average marriage age altogether.


Still, great progress can come from this challenge. Managing such a financial hurdle early on in the relationship encourages you to strategize and discuss your future goals with honesty. It shines a light on the benefits of refinancing your student loans or shifting your budget in order make your payoff plan more sensible.


Before leaping into the wedding planning process, these conversations can quell anxieties as you get closer to the big day.


Check Out 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.


Consumer Reports advises couples to consider all the ways their financial landscape may change after legally getting hitched. Use this time to consider each partner’s debt, current interest rates, and how marriage could affect tax breaks.


If you’ve yet to create a shared budget, this is an ideal time to lay out a system that works for you. If you have any lingering debt from other sources, such as credit cards or car payments, make a note of each one and keep these in mind when scheduling your wedding payments down the line.


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?


Understanding your loan is the first step toward conquering any concern about your financial future together. Start off on the right foot before heading into this next phase in life by considering if refinancing your loans is the smartest option for you.


Refinancing is a valuable tool for combining both federal and private loans into an easy monthly payment. Especially helpful when you have a range of loans from different stages in your education, refinancing allows you to set a single interest rate for the entire amount based on your current financial health.


By taking this approach, you may be able to renegotiate your interest rate or find a monthly payment that makes more sense for your goals. The benefits here are two-fold—you have the knowledge to build a sensible wedding budget and you come out the other side with stability.


Building Your Wedding Budget


How does this conversation translate into a wedding budget? Your celebration should represent you and your partner’s unique life together. Wedding budgetary decisions proudly take your other priorities into account, such as pursuing a well-rounded education or setting financial goals for your future.


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.  


Don’t hesitate to mention your financial wellness goals while planning the wedding. It’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of building a guest list or speaking to vendors and quickly veering off track.


Ask your friends and family to hold you accountable to this self-promise if a larger wedding price tag gets tempting down the line. This budget is your beacon back to your predetermined target.


Your Financial Wedding Plan


Setting the Date


The timeframe of your wedding greatly determines a healthy payment plan. The earlier you plan, the more time you have to ensure you can reach your financial goals in a healthy way. As you consider your available cash—both from family and your own savings and income—be sure to also consider the timing of your cash flow. This will provide a sense of stability during this exciting time.


If you’re concerned about creating more debt during the process, for example, do not hesitate to push the wedding back several months or even a year. The feeling of stability will be worth the changed date.


Create a Calendar


Create a wedding budget calendar that includes estimated deposits, scheduled payments, major purchases and a buffer amount for the wedding month. Several wedding websites, such as The Knot, help you foresee potential costs before you begin planning.


Next, add all student loan payment dates along with other bills like rent and utilities to the calendar. These are always your priority. 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.


Take a moment to see how these two calendars line up—if you spot a troublesome month that could threaten your financial footing, consider this issue before signing any contracts.


The Month of the Wedding


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.


Financial Changes  


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 immediately find ways to boost your wedding budget. With your long-term goals in mind, allocate this money to your emergency fund or by overpaying your student loan contribution that month.


Remove any Uncertainty


The purpose of creating this intricate 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 decision for your overall budget.


Finishing the calendar also allows you to both take a moment to address any challenges in scheduling wedding payments. If they stemmed from high student loan payments, it’s worth discussing the issue earlier than later. For example, if lowering your monthly student loan payments would help you reach your savings goals, refinancing at this time may be for you.  Countless other couples have faced this challenge together and pulling from their stories can get you past the hurdle of worry.


Wedding Planning Tips


There is no wrong way to celebrate your union; in the end, it’s all about two families joining together to celebrate your future. 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.


Try to remind yourselves that you chose to put your education first, which is a great privilege that continues to contribute to your future. Reframe the idea of “cutting costs” to making “the right financial choices for you.”


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 such as 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, for example, 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.
  • Check unforeseen costs before signing a contract: taxes and gratuity in the venue contract, last-minute tips for each vendor, dress and suit alterations, etc.


When you finally reach the big day, all this meticulous work will allow you to focus on what’s truly important. You can both feel a sense of pride in your responsible investment, not only for planning such an impressive event, but also by doing so without setting your financial goals aside.


Even when it feels daunting, student debt does not need to keep you from celebrating life’s milestones. Whether your best option includes refinancing or even aiming for a greater understanding of your loans, planning a wedding is a chance to start fresh, armed with all the knowledge you need to make smart choices as you head into your marriage.


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