GCUA: The Implications of Wedding Debt on Marriages
Wednesday, June 13th, 2018
Financial stress in a marriage can begin with the wedding.
According to costofwedding.com, couples, on average, spend between $19,323 and $32,205 on their big day. That’s about the average cost of an out-of-state student to attend a public university for a semester during the 2017-2018 school year ( about $25,620, according to collegedata.com).
But all that spending doesn’t necessarily lead to marital bliss. In fact, researchers Andrew Francis-Tan and Hugo M. Mialon found in their study, “’A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship Between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration,” that couples who spent more than $20,000 on their weddings were 46 percent more likely to get divorced in the future than couples who spent between $5,000 and $10,000.
The researchers suggested wedding expenses could lead to debt that puts strain on the marriage. That strain can be compounded by a lack of communication between the newlyweds on financial matters.
According to a Georgia Credit Union Affiliates’ 2017 End of Year Consumer Survey, about 51 percent of respondents who were married or engaged said they didn’t take time to discuss a financial plan with their future spouse before saying “I do.”
Georgians line up with national trends. In a study from Experian, 59 percent of divorcees said finances played a role in their marriages’ failures. Of the divorced respondents, 47 percent said they didn’t know their spouses’ credit scores until marriage and 37 percent only discovered their partners’ long-term financial goals after the wedding.
Rod Griffin, the director of public education for Experian, told Debt.com that, “a large percentage of the respondents said the only thing they knew about their future spouse [before getting married] was their annual income.”
That means most respondents likely didn’t know how their partners would handle wedding debt to start out the marriage.
Tips for limiting wedding debt stress:
Make sure you’re on the same financial page as your partner. Since the wedding is the first big financial move you’ll make together, it’s important to check in with your fiance regularly during the planing process. Make sure you’re both comfortable with ow much the wedding costs and what that could do to your finances after the big day. You should both have a clear understanding about how much you’ll spend on big ticket items, including the cake and the dress. Check in frequently as expenses could shift throughout the process.
Be realistic about how much you can spend. Before wedding planning begins, have a conversation with your significant other about how much you can each afford to spend on the wedding without going into unmanageable debt. Be realistic and don’t plan on financial help from family members unless it has already been promised. Draw out a wedding budget with your partner and make sure you’re both working to stay within that budget.
Set your wedding priorities. Weddings are traditionally made up of dozens of parts, each carrying their own expenses. There’s the venue, the dress, the photography, the food, the music and the flowers. But not everybody places the same importance on each of these categories. Make a list of the traditional pieces of a wedding and arrange them according to their importance to you and your partner. If attire ranks toward the top of your list and flowers rank toward the bottom, consider investing top dollar in a dress while shopping bargains for floral arrangements.
Lean on friends and family members where possible. Loved ones would likely feel honored to play a role in your big day, so lean on them whenever you can. For instance, if you have a friend with photography skills, consider letting them take the wedding pictures rather than hiring an expensive photographer. Friends will likely perform services at discounted prices, if they ask for pay at all. Also seek out loved ones who have been married recently. They may have kept odds and ends from their weddings and could be willing to donate small items like bubbles, flower girl baskets and ring bearer pillows.
Keep it fun and personal. Weddings are a chance for your loved ones to celebrate the new bond between you and your partner. The celebration should be viewed as a fun and personal experience. Try to avoid competing with friends’ weddings or the images found in wedding magazines. Trying too hard to keep up with trends often leads to costly purchases that don’t add to the true meaning of the day. Instead, focus on what you’ll need to enjoy and appreciate your wedding
Mark Littleton, president and CEO at Kinetic Credit Union in Columbus, said he understands coordinating finances can become challenging for couples.
“It’s difficult enough for a single person to keep on top of budgeting, spending and paying bills,” Littleton said. “Finances become that much more challenging for married couples. How are we going to spend our paychecks? Who is going to be responsible for paying what bills? How do we budget together?”
Littleton suggested couples set aside time to talk about money before tying the knot.
“Bills and spending might not seem like romantic topics,” he said. “But if you’re heading toward a life-long commitment, finances will become a part of your relationship whether you talk about them or not. You’ll need to pay the bill for the electricity you shared. And furnishing the home you own together will cost money. It’s important to get on the same page about how you’ll treat finances as a couple.”
Littleton said couples shouldn’t feel ashamed if splitting finances causes arguments from time to time.
“There are a lot of moving parts and emotions involved in making money work in any two peoples’ lives, so it’s natural for couples to disagree about how their finances should look sometimes,” he said. “As long as you and your partner keep talking through your finances, you’re on the right path.”
He said couples should consider visiting a credit union if they’re feeling unsure about their combined financial future.
“Credit unions place a high value on member education,” he said. “If you and your spouse have any money problems – big or small – try stopping by a local branch. Don’t feel like you have to figure it all out on your own.”