According to Brides American Wedding Study, the average cost of a wedding in 2016 was $26,522 — a huge sum for an average bride and groom to afford. Even if your budget is nowhere near that, you may be having a hard time coming up with the dough.
What to do? Plan a wedding you can afford or push back the date and give yourselves more time to save. While taking out a personal loan or using credit cards are viable options, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone — family, friend, stranger — who’d advocate getting into debt before you’ve even said I do.
“Taking out a loan or maxing out a credit card to pay for your wedding is a bad idea if you don’t have a solid plan to pay off the debt within three to six months max,” says Shannah Compton Game, a Certified Financial Planner board ambassador.
Loans and credit cards can charge hefty interest rates, making the amount you owe much larger than anticipated. “Starting out a new marriage with large debt can also cause you to forgo milestones like buying a house or starting a family,” adds Game.
However, if you’re considering a loan or credit card financing for your big day, here’s what you need to know.
- It’s all about the interest rate
Obviously, you’ll want to choose the loan or credit card with the lowest rate and best terms.“The interest rate will determine how much your wedding will actually cost by the time you pay it off,” says Game. “If you can get a credit card with an interest rate under seven percent, you may be better off with the credit card.”Think about using a rewards credit card as well that offers either cash back or points you can use to fund your wedding or honeymoon.
- Make a payment plan
If you don’t pay the balance by the end of the term, typically 12 to 18 months, you’ll be charged a high interest rate. Game suggests coming up with a payoff plan.“Dive into your numbers before you get married and figure out what type of payment you can reasonably afford to pay down your wedding debt quickly.”
- Your credit score makes a big difference
The interest rate on a loan is largely tied to your credit score, which tells if you’ve been paying off your credit cards on time. The higher your score, the lower the risk and thus the lower the interest rate you’ll pay. Find out yours for free at credit bureaus like Equifax and TransUnion.
- Consider a peer-to-peer loan
This type of personal loan, funded by an individual or group of investors, can be used to pay for a wedding, unlike some traditional personal loans.“With a good credit score, you may get a more attractive interest rate than your credit card,” says Game. “I suggest a fixed rate loan to ensure that your payment will stay level and work within your budget.”
Reputable companies include SoFi, Prosper and Lending Club.
- Credit unions offer low interest rates to its members
The downside is they’re traditionally not tech savvy, which could make it harder to keep track of your loan. However, notes Game, many are now trying to persuade millennials over to credit unions by offering mobile apps and other technology.