How to Have Your Dream Wedding While Paying Down Student Loans

planning a wedding on a budget

I was never the type to play “wedding” when I was younger. I simply wasn’t interested in big, white gowns or lavish celebrations. That is, until I met my husband.

After we got engaged, one of our first discussions was planning a wedding on a budget that would also allow us to keep up on our student loan payments. We weren’t going to let student loans get in the way of our dream wedding, but we didn’t want to compromise paying off our debt, either.

So after 18 months of diligent planning and saving, we managed to have our dream $30,000 wedding. We also paid off an additional $5,000 towards our student loan debt.

If you’re looking to afford your own dream wedding while paying off your loans, here are some tips to help you through.

Planning a wedding on a budget

The average cost of an American wedding today is $26,444 – and that doesn’t include the honeymoon. In large urban areas like New York and Chicago, it can cost an additional $10,000 or more (in many cases, much more).

The first step when planning your wedding is to sit down with your partner and discuss your financial situation. Determine how much money you have left over after paying your monthly bills (including student loans). The conversation should end with both of you agreeing on how much you can spend – and are comfortable spending – on your wedding.

Making a comprehensive budget personalized to your dreams requires a lot of research. That means investigating many vendors and finding alternatives to pricey services. Armed with sufficient information, you can build a budget that reflects the true cost of your dream wedding but also fits your bottom line.

Of course, finishing your wedding budget doesn’t mean you can forget about your student loans. Missing even a single month of payments can lead to significant consequences, such as late fees and a hit to your credit score. The truth is, paying off student loans early can help you build your new family’s financial foundation and save you big bucks on interest.

How to manage getting married with student loans

1. Create two payoff goals

Saving enough for your wedding is a great financial goal. But you should also determine how much extra you can contribute to your loan payments each month, in addition to minimum monthly payments.

My husband and I budgeted $30,000 for our wedding, which meant we’d need to save about $1,700 per month for 18 months. After looking over our finances, we also determined that we could comfortably put an additional $255 towards our student loans every month, provided we cut out a few things, like meals out. We found those goals would be attainable by setting up automatic transfers from our paychecks.

2. Separate wedding expenses from loan expenses

As you line up vendors, you may be tempted to pay your wedding expenses from the same general fund as your other bills (like rent and electricity). However, when you see that money in a single account, you may lead yourself to think you can splurge on something like upgrading your DJ by tapping into your student loan money.

Instead, set up separate accounts for your student loans and your wedding expenses. This can help you visualize your goal as you save one dollar at a time, as well as better allocate any extra income. In addition, a separate account for your loans allows you to set up automatic payments, which can allow you to stay on track when your schedule – and wedding planning – gets hectic.

3. Consider refinancing

If you have multiple loans you’re struggling to manage or interest rates that are much higher than average student loan rates today, consider refinancing your loans. Refinancing can reduce many payments into one, as well as lower your interest rate and help you save money over time (check out our favorite banks to refinance with).

After refinancing, you can continue paying the same amount of money towards your loans as you were previously or use the extra cash to pay down a wedding bill.

4. Prioritize your loans first

Weddings are way more fun and exciting than student loans. But the truth is that weddings are short-term, once-in-a-lifetime events. Going big for your wedding can seem like great fun, but doing so at the expense of a student loan repayment goal can end up hurting your finances in the long run.

To reduce costs, consider going with less expensive services: hire college students or friends to take photos, DJ, or design floral arrangements. You can also go sans alcohol, or simply cut down to a couple of signature drinks over a full bar. And remember that things like flowers, favors, and super-special invitations are not required to have a marriage. Cutting back – or cutting out – any of these elements can save you thousands of dollars that can be applied to your next loan payment.

5. Plan for the unexpected

Whether you are paying down student loans or paying off a wedding (or both at the same time), it is important to remember that the unexpected can happen at any time.

For my husband and me, that meant a job loss in the middle of planning. If it weren’t for an emergency savings equal to a few months of expenses, we would have not only jeopardized our wedding and student loan payment goals, but also risked a major financial setback.

Before you pay a single vendor or apply an extra $5 to your payment goal, check that your bank account can handle an emergency such as illness, job loss, or a car breakdown. Financial peace of mind can go a long way in giving you the confidence to sign off on a dream wedding.

Having a wedding while paying off student loans shouldn’t be forbidden or out of reach. With solid goal setting, prioritization, and an emergency fund, you can have the gown, the girl, and the kiss without sacrificing on your financial future.

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