Let’s talk about wedding debt. I had previously written about credit card debt back in January 2005, in the Avoid The Wedding Debt Trap article and offered some alternatives to paying for your wedding.
A recent article at Yahoo Finance, “What Credit Card Companies Don’t Want You To Know”, reminded me to talk about wedding debt again because it’s not openly discussed enough.
While you’re being fed the over-the-top, bash-of-a-lifetime dream there’s a dark underbelly to the industry. And that’s debt. Deep, soul-sucking, relationship-wrecking, stress-inducing debt.
While many couples are fortunate and get abundant financial gifts from relatives, many of us pay for at least part of our weddings. With the average wedding exceeding $27,000, and the average US household income at something like $45,000, it’s likely you’ll put some of that wedding expense on your plastic pal … and then pay for it for the next several years. Yes, years. A $5k loan at 14% interest will take 30 months to pay off with $200/month payments. Miss a payment and your interest rate balloons to, say, 27% (not uncommon at all) and the payoff will take forever.
As a cautionary tale, I want to share my own wedding debt story. My then-fiance (now-husband) and I went into debt to pay for our wedding – even with generous financial help from parents – and it turned into a struggle we never could’ve imagined.
We didn’t plan on long-term debt. In fact, we had a solid plan for getting debt-free ASAP after the wedding. I was working a cushy, Silicon Valley tech job at the height of the never-ending boom. He had a stable, long-term job (still does, even though the pay is low for our area). We’d both probably be getting raises soon. I had stock options that were about to mature. Heck, we might’ve been able to buy a house in a year (not an easy thing in Silicon Valley). No problem! What could possibly go wrong? … Ha.
After early-2002, I was unemployed and underemployed for an extended amount of time, which put a burden not only on my household finances but with my marriage as well. There were no fat raises, no stock options, no house, no job. We never, ever thought such hard times could ever happen to us. And that’s precisely why they did. We didn’t plan for, prepare for, or know how to deal with financial adversity.
You know how stats say that most couples’ arguments over finances? They don’t lie. Being poor, in debt, and stressed is pure misery for both partners.
It took years for us to get out of the debt we incurred for our wedding day (and subsequent unemployment, to be fair) – something I would NOT do over if I had the chance to relive the moment. While our wedding day was beautiful and amazing and utterly awesome, it wasn’t worth the amount of pain, sacrifice, and fear we lived in while digging ourselves out of that financial hole. Today, 6 years after the wedding, we have zero credit card debt but it was a long road to get here and to be able to maintain that status.
Some of the lessons we’ve learned and want to share:
* You cannot control how the economy will affect your job or business or your ability to find a new source of employment.
* There is no such thing as job security. You can be fired, downsized, laid off, outsourced, replaced, or your job can simply disappear. It happens every single day. Plan accordingly.
* Living beyond your means – even by a little bit – is dangerous.
* Borrowing money from the ‘rents to buy food for the next week is humbling.
* Poverty sucks. A lot.
* The more you make, the more you spend. Save more and pay off debt faster instead.
* No amount of perceived wedding day goodness is worth sacrificing the well-being of the marriage/relationship.
* You can have an utterly awesome, beautiful, gorgeous wedding on a small budget. It’s not how much you spend that makes a wedding great. Repeat that every day.
* The wedding is a teeny, tiny part of the marriage. Put all of your stock in the long-term things like financial security, personal integrity, respect for each other, and healthy communication skills because those are the only things that will get you through the tough times. And start building those things now, before the wedding.
For a long time I carried a lot of shame around this part of my life. Even now, it’s a little hard to talk about, especially in an open forum such as this. Today I’m speaking up because I see a lot of you heading down that same path to misery and I’d love nothing more than to guide you away from that.
And I think wedding finances should be something that are openly discussed, without judgment or shame, to empower every couple to make the best decisions (for them) on where/how/why to spend their budget.
So, with that, I close this chapter of my story and, in turn, open up an ongoing discussion about finances and budgets here at DIY Bride.