Don't Let Your Wedding Get You Started in the Poorhouse

Weddings are expensive. But many spend beyond their means in order to have a fairy tale event. Don't let this happen to you or your family.

I received a letter recently from a reader of my book thanking me for helping him get out of credit card debt. He got married in 1994, and had charged both his wedding expenses and his honeymoon to Visa -- raising his balance to more than $9,000.

If you are planning a wedding, please do not spend more money than you have. And that applies to the parents as well as the bride and groom.

More weddings occur in May and June than any other time of the year, so it's appropriate to cover this topic now. And let's face it -- weddings are expensive. According to some experts, the average cost for a wedding in the United States is $15,000. In the Washington, D.C. area, according to Washingtonian magazine, the average is more than $27,000.

But you don't have to let a wedding send the newlyweds or their parents into financial ruin. All you need to do, quite simply, is scale down. Easier said than done, for sure. After all, all the parents of the bride are thinking, "This is my baby girl. I want her to have as beautiful a wedding as my best friend's daughter did. In fact, ours will be even grander." And the bride herself is envisioning all the fairy tales she grew up reading, and she wants a wedding that even Cinderella would envy -- a gorgeous white gown, a full orchestra, with flowers overflowing the church.
I'm not saying you should forget about all of that and head off Las Vegas or the local Justice of the Peace. Rather, I am merely cautioning you not to spend more than you can afford.

Let's put this into perspective. Say you invite 200 guests at $50 per person (if you think that cost is too high, you haven't shopped for banquet prices lately!) -- that's $10,000 just for the reception. Add the costs for the wedding dress and veil ($1,000), band ($2,000), photographer ($2,500), limo ($250), invitations ($600), rehearsal dinner ($1,500), clergy fee and licenses ($250) and more, (not to mention accommodations for out-of-town relatives) and it's easy to see how the bills can add up to $20,000, $30,000, or even $40,0000 -- all for an event that will last just four hours!

If you cannot afford this expense but incur it anyway, forcing yourself to take out a home equity loan, borrow against your company retirement plan, or charge the wedding against your credit cards, you are being financially irresponsible. And if you are demanding that your parents do this for you, then you are being just plain rude. Are the 240 minutes of fun worth the destruction of someone's financial future?

Being in debt is no way for a bride and groom to start their marriage. Keep in mind that money is the biggest cause of divorce in our country. Why create such stress on your marriage for no good reason? It occurs to me that many of the people who overspend on their wedding are more concerned with getting married than with being married.

I'm not trying to destroy The Big Day. I just want everyone involved to take a deep breath and put the wedding into perspective. It should be a beautiful event, one that you, your family and friends will remember forever -- but that doesn't mean that need to be paying it off forever.

Financial advisor and educator Ric Edelman is the best-selling author of five books, including Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth, The Truth About Money, Discover the Wealth Within You, The New Rules of Money and Financial Security in Troubled Times. His firm, Edelman Financial Services Inc., is one of the largest independent financial planning firms in the nation with nearly $2 billion in client assets under management. He also hosts weekly radio and TV shows in Washington, D.C. and is the founder of the Edelman Center for Personal Finance Education. Visit Ric online at

By Hannah Goodman 01/14/2016 09:52:00

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