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Confused... reduce credit cards or save for wedding?

March 20th, 2008 at 09:21 am

Okay, so I am at a crossroads with my financial plan for this year. I just started a new job, where I make $11,000 more in salary a year (plus overtime) than the job I was going to take right out of college, but the cost of living is also more here.

If any of you have looked at income and then the expenses I have, then you'll know that I don't have alot of money to spare these days. Now there is one more complicating factor.

I expect to be engaged within the next 2 months (it's an odd situation, I've been dating him for 4 years, I know he has been saving for a ring, and he's planning to move in with me in a month). I never thought I would actually see the engagement coming, but that's the way it has worked out!

So this brings to mind the question of how we are going to pay for a wedding/honeymoon. I am fiercely independent (have been since I started working at 16), so I refuse to go the traditional route and expect my parents to pay for the wedding. Honestly, my parents couldn't do that anyway, and I would rather know that I paid for it myself. My boyfriend's family will probably offer to pay for our honeymoon, since they paid for his two older sisters' weddings, but I don't think it's fair to let them pay for the honeymoon if my parents aren't paying for the wedding.

However, I know they (especially my mom because I'm her only daughter) will insist on helping some way. If it unfolds the way I think it will, we will probably let my parents pay for the limo & my brothers tuxes, while his parents can pay for part of the catering, etc.

We are not really hard to please, but I have no experience with wedding costs. I would think that we can have the wedding & reception for about $15k-$20k, and the honeymoon for probably $2k. I really have no idea, so theses are estimates!

I don't want to have a riduculously expensive wedding, but I also don't want to look back later and wish that we had splurged a little more, since it is only once in a lifetime (or it had better be, wink wink), and you can't have a re-do later when we have more money!

Okay, that went a little longer than I had planned, but the question I have been getting to is this: Should we be focused on paying as much of our debt off as possible, or should we be paying enough to stay current until the wedding is over, using the rest to save towards the wedding costs?

If it helps, here is a breakdown of our income & debt right now:

*Me*
Credit Card Debt: $12,000
Personal Loan: $850

*Him*
Student Loans: $4,000
Car Loan: $6,000
Credit Card Debt: $300

I would estimate that once our finances are combined, we will have about $300 a month to use for either paying off more debt or saving. This does not include what I have automatically taken out for my 401K.

Should I pay off as much as I can, and then get a fixed personal loan for the wedding expenses, or start saving for the wedding and wait until afterwards to start really working on the debt?

ANY HELP WOULD BE APPRECIATED! Sorry for such a long, rambling post Smile

20 Responses to “Confused... reduce credit cards or save for wedding?”

  1. DeniseNTexas Says:

    I wish I'd known when I got married what I know now. If I had, I'd have made sure we were both debt free before marrying.

    Personally, I'd focus on paying off the debt. But then I'm not into big weddings and receptions and having a small ceremony and reception works for me.

    This is a priority issue though and only you can decide what's best. If you could only do one - start debt free or have the wedding you mentioned - which would you do? There's your answer. I would not take a loan to pay for the wedding, though. I'd pay cash and if that means its a small affair so be it. But that's my two cents.

  2. Caoineag Says:

    You really need to get rid of the credit cards. There is also no reason to spend $15-20k especially if you have the groom's family pay for part of the catering (usually the biggest expense).

    I realize not everyone shares my frugality when it comes to weddings ($10 for the license, $800 for the huge informal outdoor/park BBQ reception) but something to keep in mind is that starting a marriage with a lot of debt is a quick way to make sure it isn't your last.

    I used to do divorce work and 90% were due to finances.

    Is there any reason why you can't have a long engagement?

  3. merch Says:

    First of all, Iím a guy. So, basically you can take my advice with a grain a salt. I also agree that itís a question of whatís more important to you.

    So I am going to answer your question as if I were you. First of all, I donít believe in mixing finances if you arenít married. I would pay of the credit cards, car, and the personal loan (probably the personal loan first). This should free up some cash flow that you can now save up for the wedding and pay for it in cash.

    Sure, the engagement might be a little longer. Personally I would want to enter my married life on a firmer financial footing. Honestly, whatís a couple of years when youíll be married to him for 60-70 years.

  4. creditcardfree Says:

    I would only have a wedding that I could pay cash for. Therefore, I would put the debt payoff on hold. You'll be paying for things along the way...the dress, the ring for your DH, deposits. There are ways to save on weddings...start researching now. Think about weddings you've been to and what you could do without and what you really want. We had the best time at our wedding and and it wasn't because of the stuff...it was just fun to be celebrating our wedding with friends and family. No regrets on that!

  5. princessperky Says:

    I would say "yes" pay of CC and save for the wedding.

    Because one is fun one is work, both aught to happen.

    But as to how much you need, my wedding was somewhere in the 2-3K range..and it was wonderful...I see no reason to spend 13K for a wedding.

    I wouldn't delay marriage for the perfect wedding...marriage is to someone you cannot live without, a wedding is just a ceremony telling the rest of the world what you two already know. And starting off your married life with an extravagant wedding is setting yourselves up for money issues IMO...

    So pay off debt and set aside a little bit for fun..when he pops the question you will already have a bit, and you can research what you really want to spend it on. (that list will depend on you, for me it would be church & minister, reception place, dress, and food..not expensive food, just food)

    As to others paying for it, let em if they want to Smile (husbands family paid for the drinks, mine paid for the rest) Though don't take that as free right to spend a fortune!

  6. DeniseNTexas Says:

    When I got married the first time, we went to a local JP. Two friends attended and witnessed. My family held a small reception afterwards. We got a few nice gifts, had a great cake and punch and just generally had a good time. My dress cost $115 and my family spent maybe $100 on the reception. The JPs fee was $25. So, for less than $275 we had a great time. Marriage is one thing - weddings are another. Don't be caught in the trappings and give your long term life together some serious consideration. Pay the credit card bills and pay cash for the wedding.

  7. sillyoleme Says:

    Thank you all for your advice so far. I appreciate it, and here are a few comments in response:

    The personal loan is actually not a cash flow expense for me, because it's actually my brother's loan. He was too young to get the loan so I put it in my name, and I only list it because if he couldn't come up with the payment, then I would pay it myself before it was late.

    As for the engagement, I would say that if we get engaged in April or May, I'd like to plan for the wedding either next summer or early Fall. We can't do it any earlier than that anyway, because I'll be moving at least one more time for my job, and it's hard to plan a wedding in one state when you're two states away!

    The only problem I still am not sure about is, even if we pay all the extra we have on the debts, they will still not be paid off before the wedding (unless there are some unexpected cash inflows). Also, even if we pay the minimums and save everything for the wedding, I would estimate we'd still only have about $5,000 for the wedding. Personally, I like to see that I'm making progress on the credit cards, and I'm afraid if I only pay the minimums and plan to save, that I'll end up using the money for everyday stuff and not saving it for the big picture.

    As for the combined finances... I am really okay with it. He is very financially conservative as far as debt goes, and we already have a joint savings and checking account. I think we both accept that there are going to be times when we have to rely on each other in the future. When he moves here, he'll probably only be able to get a part-time job for the 6 months until we move again. At that point, I'll be paying most of the bills. But right now, he is depositing extra money into our joint checking for me while he is working full-time and hasn't moved. I think you definitely have to be careful who you include in your financial affairs, but I trust "us" completely.

    Thank you again for all the help, keep it coming! Smile

  8. gruntina Says:

    I am a newlywed myself. We were only engaged for 6 months because we really wanted to be married. Also we did not want to be caught up with the heavily wedding industries and advertisements and buy into the trends. We paid everything in cash for the beautiful wedding we had and had quite a few wonderful surprises from family and friends. We both set up a budget for the wedding and saved up for it together. We actually ended up paying under our estimated budget because we worked hard trying to find the best price and also eliminated stuff that would neither make or break the wedding celebration. (does anyone really remember the sayings on those napkins from any of the weddings you may have attended?Ē

    What really struck me is it seems you have not discussed with your future fiancť on what would be the best way to handle the debts and wedding savings and is asking us first. Engagement is really the best time to talk about finances together, team work on how to organize and save for finances and wedding and exposing all those inner flaws that may pop out due to stress and different opinions out of each other. It's good beginner level practice of the marriage to come. I would focus more on preparing what is really important for you both in a marriage and the wedding plan will follow suite to making the deciding factor on how much to spend on a wedding with the whole picture. How you handle the wedding planning and expenses will give you an insight how you two will handle marriage issues. Your debts will become his and likewise. Keep in mind on how you handle your future finance is one of the many ways reflects how much you care for your fiancťís well being and lifestyle together and the same of him to you.

    I have a simple ring that was inexpensive because I rather save money for us to experience trying new stuff or trips together in our life together than to be looking at my ring all the time. Everyone priorities and finances are different as their options so there is not a once case fits all.

  9. sillyoleme Says:

    Just a little note - my boyfriend and I have talked about the issues before, and while we are both young (22), we have experienced alot in our four years together. We've talked through the financial part, but are still undecided as to which plan would be better for us. So I thought I'd ask you guys for your expertise!

  10. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Gosh, my opinion would probably be one of the more extreme. You see, if it were me, I would start by asking BF not to buy any engagement ring. Personally, I find the symbolism of jewelry is more about wealth and beauty than commitment or love of the person it is given to. I'd keep the wedding, the reception, and the honeymoon simple. I wouldn't take out a loan to get married. But then, I am not much of an "event" person.

  11. mom-from-missouri Says:

    I'd pay off the cc. DH and I were debt free except for mortgages. (2nd marriage for both with 5 kids). We had a simple $500 ish wedding (plus the price of our rings).
    That 20K could be a down payment for a house.

  12. princessperky Says:

    planning a wedding from several states away is doable...I was married in PA while living in NC.

  13. frugalhousewife Says:

    I am probably in the minority on saying plan a smaller, simpler wedding and pay on the debts. My wedding cost $2000 for 275 guests. For that I also paid for the bridemaids' outfits and had a custom made dress. There are so many ways to do a nice wedding on a budget. That was almost 11 years ago and I have no regrets. If anything, I would probably choose a simpler wedding.

    Think about what you want for your marriage rather than just about the wedding day. Would the two of you be happier with a less lavish wedding and a lower debt total? Is the lavish wedding ceremony more important than dropping the debt?

  14. homebody Says:

    I paid for a small wedding for my then almost 19 year old daughter (who is now pregnant with my first grandchild). There were about 90 guests. We had a brunch after the wedding at a local venue who also did the cake, flowers, etc. We just showed up with our clothes, oh and the alcohol. YD's dress came off the rack as did bridesmaid's dresses and my outfit from David's Bridal. We paid for their wedding night at a local hotel where they watched fireworks from the hot tub (they married on July 4th, my SIL is a Marine). It was lovely, food was yummy total cost just under $8000.00.

    This is where it was:
    http://www.arringtonapples.com/

  15. scfr Says:

    I'm not a guy, but I agree with Merch. I'd get the credit card debt (and maybe the car loan) paid off, then start saving for the wedding. Once you have enough saved up to pay for an acceptable wedding in cash, then go ahead and get married.
    The reason I say this is because it could become a source of friction if one of you went in the marriage bringing debt from before the marriage.

    I also agree that you could let your BF know you'd be happy to not have an engagement ring but instead have the money go towards the car loan. [I told my husband that I did not want or need an engagement ring in all sincerity ... Unfortunately he caved to pressure from his mom, sister & society and bought me one ... I absolutely love it, but hardly ever wear it.]

    Finally, speaking as a woman who had a marvelous wedding and has been married almost 15 years, when I look back on my wedding I have such happy memories ... I remember feeling enveloped by love from friends and family, and I did not feel any strain on my finances even tho I paid for my own wedding ... We had a family BBQ for the rehersal dinner, my uncle performed the ceremony that was held at a public park (we rented a building from the county very inexpensively), my cousin did the flowers, the whole family cooked the food, a family acquaintance who was a school cook baked a cake and catered, and a dear friend took the photos. My dress was also off the rack ... and if you want a hint of where your dress might end up some day (and why it doesn't make a lot of sense to spend a lot), my little niece now has it in her dress-up chest!

  16. NJDebbie Says:

    I would pay the credit cards and save for the wedding. Starting your life together cc debt-free will make a heck of a difference in your marriage. On another note--let your in-laws pay for your honeymoon, if offered. You can't compare the expense of paying for a wedding and paying for your honeymoon.

  17. homebody Says:

    May I just also add I didn't get my "engagement ring" until we were married about 6 years. I have a tiny little gold band that cost about $30.00 (of course that was 1978 and gold was probably $50.00 an ounce or something..)

    Also when planning YD's wedding July 2006, we could have done it way cheaper, but we only had 13 days! So I asked my husband if he wanted the cheaper stressful wedding (local park, we do the food/cake, etc) or the more expensive less stressful wedding. He said the more expensive, less stress. It was worth it and we paid cash, of course charging David's Bridal purchases helped to spread it over another month (paid in full when bill came)!

    So since you have lots of time, you probably could have a lovely wedding with much less cash.

  18. pjmama Says:

    As a girl who is more or less planning to get married in the next few years herself, and your age (us babies have to stick together!) I'd say pay off the CC. There's no reason you should take out a loan to pay for the wedding. Honestly, the more I talk to married couples, the more they wish they didn't blow thier money on unnecessary wedding costs. Really, an inexpensive wedding is so simple to do, it just takes a little creativity and some planning (and mabye a friend or two that are relatively crafty). I wouldn't spend too much on a dress. Sure, us girls want to feel like a "princess," but my best friend got a gorgeous dress she ordered online for less than $100. You're only going to wear it once!

    Personally, I want a very small wedding, with a bigger reception, and I want to get married in a garden, or a park or something. I dont want to worry about getting seating for 100 people when I actually tie the knot. It seems so much simpler that way. Look into connections you may have. Best friend had a horse-drawn carriage at her wedding because her aunt knew someone who did that kind of thing! Her wedding couldn't have been more than a few thousand. And it was beautiful. Paying 15K for a wedding is ludicrous and unneccesary. Pay off that debt!

    On the subject of engagement rings, I'm asking BF to NOT get me anything with a diamond. It's more of a political statement (people are losing thier lives all through africa for diamonds. It's really quite depressing). And I'm more than content with a plain band (perhaps with engraving on it?), I cant stand yellow gold, and I wouldn't care if it was silver. haha. I think of all of the other things I could do with money that would be spent on something like a ring. There are trips to take (as someone already mentioned), or debt to pay. In the long-run, it's so much nicer to be debt free. And much less stress on your marriage.

    By the way, congrats on BF moving in! I'll be moving in with mine in his state here at the beginning of May too Smile And I cant wait!

  19. Ima saver Says:

    My wedding was at home and friends brought the food and took the pictures! We supplied the liquor and had a little party after the ceremony. We spent about $100 (I wore a dress I already had) and are still in love (and a lot richer) after 31 years!! Save your money and just enjoy your day!

  20. baselle Says:

    Remember that your wedding is for a day, but your marriage is for longer than a day. Unless you're Brittany Spears, in which case, you wouldn't be posting here. Big Grin Your marriage should be "clean" from your wedding. Whatever plans, fiscal or otherwise, for your wedding should be paid for by that day. Too many of my friends who were still paying for the wedding during the first couple of years really showed strains and began to resent the fiscal burden. They even began to resent their memories, especially if after paying tens of thousands for the wedding that it rained or the pictures were crappy or dog ate the food or the best man got into a bar fight.

    You get idea. Like everyone else here: payoff the CC, save for the wedding.

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