Wedding Costs Survey: 74% of Couples Will Take on Debt to Get Married

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the financial institution.

wedding cost survey
Logo

We’ve got your back! Student Loan Hero is a completely free website 100% focused on helping student loan borrowers get the answers they need. Read more

How do we make money? It’s actually pretty simple. If you choose to check out and become a customer of any of the loan providers featured on our site, we get compensated for sending you their way. This helps pay for our amazing staff of writers (many of which are paying back student loans of their own!).

Bottom line: We’re here for you. So please learn all you can, email us with any questions, and feel free to visit or not visit any of the loan providers on our site. Read less

You’ve found “the one” and you’re ready to make the ultimate commitment. But there’s one deal breaker, and it’s not your partner — it’s the cost of getting married.

A 2017 survey from The Knot found that the average wedding costs a sky-high $33,391. With such a high price tag, many couples delay their nuptials. In fact, our new survey on wedding costs found that 52% of couples have pushed back their wedding due to financial concerns.

To find out what paying for a wedding actually looks like, we surveyed over 1,000 people who are getting married in the next 12 months. The results are striking. Seventy-four percent, for example, said they’re getting into debt to pay for their wedding.

But the survey also reveals the smart strategies couples are using to get around high wedding costs. That way, they can avoid putting off their big day.

Key survey findings

  • Most couples will spend much less than $33,391 on their wedding. In fact, 63% of people getting married in the next year said they plan to keep total wedding costs under $30,000.
  • Couples are setting wedding budgets. Nine in 10 respondents said they’ve set a wedding budget. Many couples (48%) have a detailed budget with a breakdown of costs.
  • Couples are willing to make sacrifices to save money. Over one-half of engaged couples (51%) have delayed their wedding for financial reasons, some by as much as one year or longer. And 63% have considered eloping to keep wedding costs low.
  • Personal savings play a big role in paying for a wedding. Seventy percent of couples said they planned to use savings to help afford their wedding.
  • Most couples (74%) plan to take on debt to cover wedding costs. A striking 61% said they planned to use credit cards to help cover costs. A few plan to use personal loans (21%) to help cover costs.

One-half of couples plan to spend under $20,000 on wedding costs

While The Knot put the average cost of a wedding at $33,391, our survey revealed a median cost of around $20,000. About one-half of respondents (47%) expect to pay less than $20,000, while the other half (53%) project higher wedding costs.

About a quarter of couples (23%) plan to keep wedding costs even lower, under $10,000. But not all couples are so frugal. On the other end of the scale, 20% are set to spend $50,000 or more on their nuptials.

Some couples are feeling the financial pinch of a wedding. About 1 in 4 (23%) said they feel “somewhat stressed” or “very stressed” about their wedding costs. Another 38% agreed with the statement, “I can’t afford to pay for my wedding.”

A wedding can also come with social pressures that might influence how you spend. Some respondents said they feel pressure from family, friends, or even society to throw a lavish wedding.

It’s a good sign that most people getting married (53%) said they don’t feel such pressure. But for those who do, that pressure was most likely to come from family members (29%).

Interestingly, men are more likely to feel pressured to have a big wedding than women:

  • 34% of men said they feel pressured by family, versus 27% of women.
  • 24% of men said they feel pressured by friends, compared to 14% of women.

Most couples who have a handle on a wedding budget said they feel “somewhat comfortable” (29%) or “very comfortable” (36%) with their costs. Overall, a significant majority of respondents (84%) felt that their wedding would be worth the cost.

89% of those planning a wedding have a budget

A key to keeping wedding costs under control is setting a budget, said Lindsay Jones, founder and editor of Woman Getting Married.

“Figure out exactly how much you feel comfortable spending on a wedding … and stick to it no matter what,” Jones said.

Our survey found that the majority of those getting married in the coming year have set a wedding budget.

Forty-one percent of couples said they’ve decided on a total amount to spend. Even more, 48%, said they have a detailed budget that outlines specific costs, such as how much to spend on the venue, catering, and more.

Most couples started planning out the cost of their big day shortly after getting engaged. However, nearly a quarter (23%) said it took them longer than six months after their engagement to decide on a budget.

Don’t put it off too long, Jones advised. “After you’ve taken those awesome first days or weeks after getting engaged to enjoy the pure excitement of it, you’ll want to sit down with your partner and start to piece together who’s paying for what,” she said.

Venue and catering are the biggest wedding expenses

Part of a wedding budget is deciding what to spend more on and where to cut back. Here’s what couples decided were their big-ticket items:

Unsurprisingly, the venue and food are the most common big-ticket items. But 15% of couples actually said they plan to spend more on engagement rings and wedding bands than on any other cost. That move could make sense. After all, the rings are the most lasting part of the ceremony.

“Once you have a total wedding budget figured out, you’ll want to figure out what your priorities are,” Jones said. “If where you get married is more important to you than, say, your wedding invites, you’ll want to assign a higher percentage of your budget to your wedding venue.”

The written responses from couples revealed some unique factors influencing expenses. A few respondents, for example, said their cost was higher because they’d chosen a destination wedding. Others compromised to make a partner happy. “My fiancee wants a nice wedding. Enough said,” wrote one respondent.

Couples make tough choices to cut costs

Our survey revealed that couples are willing to make sacrifices to keep wedding costs affordable:

  • 63% have considered eloping to cut costs.
  • 80% said they’d be willing to choose a less-preferable wedding date, such as a less-popular day of the week or offseason month, if it would lower costs.
  • 51% delayed their wedding due to costs. This can give couples more time to save up money and make room in their budget to pay for the big day.

In addition to considering these strategies, Jones warned couples to watch out for the most common wedding budget buster: your guest list.

“The best way to lower your wedding cost is to keep your wedding guest list in check,” she said. “A more intimate wedding of 100 or fewer guests will not only open up your venue options, but you’ll save on everything from invitations to your open bar.”

Couples pay for weddings with a mix of savings and debt

Most people getting married within the next year are planning out their costs and using a wedding budget to manage them. But where do you get the funds to pay for the wedding?

We asked how respondents planned to pay for their wedding and allowed them to select all sources of funds that applied.

70% of couples will use savings

The most common form of wedding funds is savings. Seventy percent of respondents said they planned to tap savings to help cover wedding costs. A credit card was the second-most popular option (61%).

Another popular and effective way to cover wedding costs is through monthly income. Many wedding costs are spread out over the months leading up to the actual event, making it easier for couples to pay as they go. More than one-half (53%) plan to cash flow at least some wedding expenses through their monthly budgets.

Over one-half of couples are counting on help from family or friends

Another common resource couples are tapping is family and friends. More than one-half are counting on financial help from their social support network to help cover costs.

Knowing how much family or friends can pitch in can be an important part in mapping out a wedding budget.

“Have your parents shared with you that they would like to help pay?” Jones asked. “If so, you’ll want to schedule a time to talk with them.” She recommended that you first thank them for their support. Then, find out how much they’re willing to spend.

Most couples are also asking for the following forms of help from family and friends:

  • 71% registered for gifts.
  • 55% asked for money.
  • 38% set up a honeymoon fund.

74% of couples will have debt due to their wedding

Taking on debt to pay for a wedding can make it all too easy to run over budget. It also adds a new expense: interest charges. Yet two forms of debt, credit cards and personal loans, were among the most popular selections when respondents were asked how they were paying for their nuptials.

Only 27% said they plan to stay out of debt while paying for their wedding. The other 74% expect to take on some debt to help cover costs.

Fortunately, couples who are planning to borrow are making an effort to limit debt. Thirty percent vowed to keep their debt under $10,000.

But 11% are expecting to borrow $50,000 or more to cover their nuptials. For couples starting their lives together, this amount of debt can negatively impact their marriage, especially as newlyweds.

Credit cards are the second-most popular way to pay for a wedding

When it comes to the most common sources of funding, credit cards came second only to savings. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they planned to pull out the plastic to cover expenses.

Using a credit card doesn’t always mean getting into debt, however. Additional questions gave us insight into how couples plan to use their credit cards.

Nearly a quarter of couples who expect to put wedding costs on a credit card said they plan to pay off the balance right away. This is the wisest choice. If they can avoid carrying a balance, they’ll avoid credit card interest charges.

Couples can also use this strategy to take advantage of credit card perks. Use a travel or rewards credit card you already have or look for a new one with great sign-up perks.

“If you put the majority of your wedding costs on your credit card, you could end up using those points toward your honeymoon,” Jones pointed out.

Still, one-third (35%) of people getting married in the next year expect to take at least six months to pay off credit card balances. One in 10 said they’ll be paying down credit card debt for more than a year.

Personal loans can be a more affordable way to borrow for a wedding

Just 21% of respondents said they planned to use a personal loan to help fund their wedding.

For couples who don’t plan to pay off credit card balances right away, however, borrowing for their wedding with a personal loan could be the smarter move. That’s because personal loans have lower interest rates than those charged on credit cards.

According to the most recent Federal Reserve Consumer Credit report:

  • Credit card accounts on which interest was assessed charged an average 14.99% in Q4 2017.
  • Personal loans with a 24-month term had an average rate of 10.57% in the same period.

This means choosing to pay for a wedding with a personal loan rather than a credit card could be more affordable. For couples who plan to borrow a large amount or carry debt for more than a year, the interest savings are significant.

For couples already in credit card debt due to their wedding, or who plan to pay with a credit card for convenience, personal loans can help. Couples can consolidate credit card debt with a personal loan once the wedding is over. This gives them the best of both worlds: the rewards and flexibility of paying with a credit card now, and the savings of lower interest rates in repayment.

Overall, it’s a good sign that so many couples are thinking through their wedding costs, setting a budget, and following through. Unfortunately, debt will be a reality for many couples getting married.

But by using debt wisely, choosing affordable options, and limiting borrowing as much as possible, couples can make sure their big day won’t set them too far back as they start their lives together.

Survey Methodology: This survey was conducted on February 9, 2017 via SurveyMonkey, with a nationally representative sample of 1,063 adults living in the United States. “Are you getting married in the next 12 months?” was used as a screening question, with a target answer of “Yes.”

Interested in a personal loan?

Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2018!
LenderAPR RangeLoan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 6.990% APR to 14.865% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.255% APR to 12.555% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 1, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.255% APR assumes current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 4.425% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

    To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.See Consumer Licenses.
  2. Minimum Credit Score: Not all applicants who meet SoFi’s minimum credit score requirements are approved for a personal loan. In addition to meeting SoFi’s minimum eligibility criteria, applicants must also meet other credit and underwriting requirements to qualify.
  3. SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Maximum interest rate on loans for residents of AK and WY is 9.99% APR, for residents of IL with loans over $40,000 is 8.99% APR, for residents of TX is 9.99% APR on terms greater than 5 years, for residents of CO, CT, HI, VA, SC is 11.99% APR, and for residents of ME is 12.24% APR. Personal loans not available to residents of MI who already have a student loan with SoFi. Personal Loans minimum loan amount is $5,000. Residents of AZ, MA, and NH have a minimum loan amount of $10,001. Residents of KY have a minimum loan amount of $15,001. Residents of PA have a minimum loan amount of $25,001. Variable rates not available to residents of AK, TX, VA, WY, or for residents of IL for loans greater than $40,000.
  4. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.

Payoff Disclosures

  1. All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.

3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.

FreedomPlus Disclosures

  1. All loans available through FreedomPlus.com are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. All loan and rate terms are subject to eligibility restrictions, application review, credit score, loan amount, loan term, lender approval, and credit usage and history. Eligibility for a loan is not guaranteed. Loans are not available to residents of all states – please call a FreedomPlus representative for further details. The following limitations, in addition to others, shall apply: FreedomPlus does not arrange loans in: (i) Arizona under $10,500; (ii) Massachusetts under $6,500, (iii) Ohio under $5,500, and (iv) Georgia under $3,500. Repayment periods range from 24 to 60 months. The range of APRs on loans made available through FreedomPlus is 4.99% to a maximum of 29.99%. APR. The APR calculation includes all applicable fees, including the loan origination fee. For Example, a four year $20,000 loan with an interest rate of 15.49% and corresponding APR of 18.34% would have an estimated monthly payment of $561.60 and a total cost payable of $7,948.13. To qualify for a 4.99% APR loan, a borrower will need excellent credit on a loan of $15,000 with a term of 24 months, and qualify for at least two of the following discounts: (1) add a co-borrower who has sufficient income; (2) use at least fifty percent of the loan proceeds to directly pay off existing debt; or (3) show proof of having at least forty-thousand dollars in retirement savings – contact FreedomPlus for further details.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.

LendingPoint Disclosures

  • Loan approval is not guaranteed. Actual loan offers and loan amounts, terms and annual percentage rates (“APR”) may vary based upon LendingPoint’s proprietary scoring and underwriting system’s review of your credit, financial condition, other factors, and supporting documents or information you provide. Origination or other fees from 0% to 6% may apply depending upon your state of residence. Upon LendingPoint’s final underwriting approval to fund a loan, said funds are often sent via ACH the next non-holiday business day. LendingPoint makes loan offers from $2,000 to $25,000, at rates ranging from a low of 15.49% APR to a high of 34.49% APR, with terms from 24 to 48 months. The loan offer(s) shown reflect a 28 day payment cycle which is being offered as a courtesy as many of our customers are paid on a biweekly schedule and thus this may better align the loan payment dates with your actual income receipt schedule.

6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.

LendingClub Disclosures

All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.16% to 35.89%. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at time of application. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% and the average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months or longer.


7 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Earnest does not lend in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, or Rhode Island.

8 Important Disclosures for Avant.

Avant Disclosures

* The actual rate and loan amount that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination and other factors. Funds are generally deposited via ACH for delivery next business day if approved by 4:30pm CT Monday-Friday. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.

** Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33


* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

* Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification and review process. You may be asked to provide additional documents to enable us to verify your income and your identity. This rate includes an Autopay APR reduction of 0.5%. By enrolling in Autopay your payments will be automatically deducted from you bank account. Selecting Autopay is optional. Annual Percentage Rate is inclusive of a loan origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. All loans made by WebBank, member FDIC. Please refer to Upgrade’s Terms of Use and Borrower Agreement for all terms, conditions and requirements.

** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.

7.73% – 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upstart
6.26% – 14.87%1$5,000 - $100,000Visit SoFi
6.99% – 35.97%*$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upgrade
8.00% – 25.00%2$5,000 - $35,000Visit Payoff
4.99% – 29.99%3$10,000 - $35,000Visit FreedomPlus
5.99% – 18.99%4$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
15.49% – 34.49%5$2,000 - $25,000Visit LendingPoint
6.16% – 35.89%6$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
6.99% – 18.24%7$5,000 - $75,000Visit Earnest
9.95% – 35.99%8$2,000 - $35,000Visit Avant
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Published in Life & Family, Personal Finance