Splurge on a Dream Wedding ... or Pay Down Debt and Buy a House?

Is it worth having a big wedding when that money might be better directed elsewhere? For some, yes; others might want to think about it.

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3 min read

If you’re new to the wedding game or have been living under a rock, this may shock you: Weddings can cost an exorbitant amount of money. Time, too, if we’re being honest. And who hasn’t figured out in this day and age that time is money—real money.

The bigger issue might be this: Is it worth it? The average cost of a wedding is $28,000, according to a Money and Marriage survey conducted by TD Ameritrade and LearnVest. Should you drop anywhere from $16,000 to upwards of $40,000—or possibly much, much more—and weeks, if not months of time-consuming planning and decision-making for a one-day event?

Infographic: Money and Marriage - Cost of wedding and honeymoon - Who is footing the bill?

Cost of Being Queen for a Day? A King’s Ransom

Weddings have obvious costs, like the venue, food, liquor, music, and, of course, the bride’s dress, among others. But the underlying costs can be huge, too. The extras, the sales taxes, the service fees, the tips—those all add up to big bucks when all is said and done. 

Couldn’t that money and time be put to better use on, say, paying down a student loan or getting out from under credit card debt? How about socking it away for a down payment on a house or a market investment? As a couple, what are your financial goals, and will forgoing the Big Wedding get you to them quicker?

Of course, there’s not a lot of romance to be found in paying off financial obligations, but who among us doesn’t love to be debt free? How do you get there when wedding bells are in your future?

The Latest Trend? Scaling It Down

The scaled-down wedding is among the top 2017 wedding trends, according to experts, who see couples moving away from the Pinterest DIY-inspired mega-weddings of recent years to more simplified nuptials at a city hall, a public park, someone’s beautiful backyard with lawn games for entertainment, or the corner of a favorite restaurant, according to entertainment and fashion site Popsugar.com.

And it’s not just a sit-down dinner anymore. “The new trend in food is equal parts yum and fun,” according to TheKnot.com wedding blog. Many couples are choosing brunches, lunches, or cocktail parties with 50 or fewer people, and opting for local food favorites, food trucks, or set-up stations. Even dinner at a favorite restaurant is gaining ground.

One keep-the-costs-down trend that’s, well, popping up is the “pop-up wedding,” a twist on the very small wedding idea (or really, the elopement). For as little as $1,500, a couple with a marriage license in hand can pop into a wedding venue with an officiant, photographer, and bouquet at the ready for a quick “I do,” then pop out so the next couple can do the same.

Some wedding planners will offer a little more. For example, imagine a 90-minute “reception” of champagne and cake pops for 20 to 25 people at a unique venue like a museum, office building, rooftop, or loft. In other words, you can scale it down and still add some elegance.

Here Comes the Guide: The Marriage and Money Talk

Before you jump into wedding planning, think hard about whether the ceremony expenses are going to be worth the money, time, and effort. And involve your spouse-to-be in the discussion. Not sure where to begin? A recent guide to the marriage and money talk can help you get on the right path.

It all starts with goal setting—both long-term and short-term—and involves properly aligning your investments, creating a budget (and sticking with it!), and managing debt and savings. Once you’ve aligned the financial wheels and set them in motion, ask, “How does the mega-wedding fit in with our plan?”

Many brides and grooms will want to indulge in a royalty-for-a-day wedding. For others, the idea of a scaled-down wedding might offer some cheaper food for thought.

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Popsugar.com and TheKnot.com are separate from and not affiliated with TD Ameritrade, which is not responsible for their services or policies.

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