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Don't spend "happily ever after" in debt

by Barbara Marquand

Long before you start discussing the invitation list, bridesmaid dress colors and possible honeymoon destinations, you and your spouse-to-be should have a heart-to-heart talk about something much more mundane -- the wedding budget. In planning their dream weddings, too many couples set themselves up for rude financial awakenings. When their honeymoons are over, they start married life saddled with credit card debt.

A recent Visa Inc. survey showed that 88 percent of married couples think they spent too much money on some aspect of their weddings. The most frequent budget-buster was food and drink. Fully 18 percent of the newlyweds surveyed admitted that they went over budget on the cake, food and drinks. About 14 percent of married couples agreed that they spent too much on the honeymoon and hotel; 12 percent said they should have trimmed reception expenses; and 11 percent think they went overboard on clothing.

The average couple spent $8,721 on their wedding and honeymoon, with more than one in four couples spending more than $10,000, according to the Visa survey.

Don't let your wedding bells set off financial alarms. Here are some tips:

Build a Solid Financial Foundation

For many couples, the wedding is their first financial adventure together and it sets the tone for how they deal with money when they are married. Discuss how much you want to spend, which parts of the wedding are most important to both of you, and set a budget together. Talk about the financial goals you have after the wedding, too, so you don't spend everything on one day with little left over for fun when the honeymoon is over.

Avoid Years of Credit Card Debt

If you're picking up all or part of the tab, plan how to pay off the wedding, particularly if you need to carry balances on your credit cards. With average credit card rates in the double digits, you could still be paying off your wedding after your 10-year anniversary if you pay only the minimum due each month -- and that's without charging a penny when you're married.

Track Credit Card Use

Check credit card statements online frequently to keep track of expenses compared to the budget you set, and bring expenses back in line with your goals if spending starts to get out of control.

Finally, keep in mind that just because something is less expensive doesn't make it less special. Simple weddings are often less stressful and more joyful than big bashes designed to impress others. Scour the Web for money-saving wedding tips, and get your marriage off to a sound financial start.

Published 08/06/12


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