Unless we are born into an immense amount of wealth, I think we can all expect to accrue a little debt over the course of our lifetimes. It’s a sad and frustrating fact of life. Hardly anyone can buy an entire home outright, so mortgage debt is pretty standard and has been for many decades. Most of us can’t purchase a car without a loan either. These days, unfortunately, most of us also have some credit card debt – in fact, credit card debt has reached a record high, probably because of the fact that the cost of living has steeply increased, but folks’ salaries have not risen to meet this reality.
In addition, our generation is one of the first to be saddled with student loans that aren’t fully paid off for many years. This is something our parents didn’t have to deal with in the same way we did, probably because fewer of that generation went to college, and the cost of college back then didn’t cost as much as a full year’s salary. Sigh.
All of these are things I’ve been personally aware of for many years – as I’m sure you are too. However, if you were like me, you mostly thought of long-term investments like houses and college educations as things it would make sense to go into debt over.
Well, not so fast. Because it seems that some folks are going into debt over something I personally never considered debt-worthy: weddings. That’s right, according to The Washington Post, the number of people taking out significant loans in order to pay for their weddings has sky-rocketed over the past few years.
In fact, there’s a whole industry of loan companies geared toward people who are planning their weddings but who do not have the funds to foot the cost.
“Online lenders say they are issuing up to four times as many ‘wedding loans’ as they did a year ago, as they look to reach a fast-growing demographic: Couples who are picking up the tab for their own nuptials, either by choice or by necessity,” writes The Post. “Financial technology companies with snappy names like Prosper, Upstart and Earnest are promoting wedding-specific loans with interest rates as high as 30 percent to cash-strapped couples.”
JFC. I may be old-school over here, but who on earth thinks it would be a good idea to take out a loan – with a 30% interest rate, mind you – for their freaking wedding?
The Post says that couples are borrowing an average of $16,000 and paying it off in about 3 years. But remember, that’s an average, so some folks are spending quite a bit more and remaining in debt for longer. Remember, too, that this is in addition to any debt they already had, and debt has a funny way of multiplying (hello, interest).
NOT a fun way to start your life as a married couple, if you ask me.
Now, before you accuse me of not having one ounce of romance left in my cold, curmudgeon heart, I really do understand the appeal of having a special, memorable wedding day. My wedding day was one of the best days of my life, and I don’t regret the money I spent on it. I know that people look forward to their wedding days for their whole lives, and have very specific ideas of how things should go.
Our wedding was as simple as they come and was financed as a joint effort between my parents, my in-laws, and my husband and me. However, we made sure that our contributions were something we could afford. If we could not have afforded it – and especially if we didn’t have the privilege of parents who would chip in – we would have likely eloped rather than gone into debt over the whole thing.
Why? Because as much as our wedding day was a big and important event, it was a day – a single day of our lives – and not worth going into financial debt over. Not one bit. Now that my wedding day is far behind me, and I’m the parent of two growing children, I see that I have far more important financial obligations to tend to than my goddamn wedding day. Sheesh.
According to The Post, there are a few reasons people are going into debt over wedding costs. One is that the age-old tradition of the bride’s parents paying for the whole shebang is old news and isn’t really possible for most families these days. (And terribly sexist, I might add, so good riddance.) The other reason, of course, is that the price of weddings has gone through the roof along with everything else in this world.
These days, paying for the space and hiring a caterer and photographer isn’t enough. “These kids have photo booths and videographers,” says Mary Naklick, a mom whose daughter is getting married, in an interview with The Post. “There was none of that when I got married. I paid for my gown, flowers and the photographer and that was it.”
Besides the wedding costs that the bride, groom and their family members must contend with, wedding guests are also facing insurmountable costs. Nowadays, it’s not enough to show up for your best friend’s wedding. You might be on the hook for an expensive bridesmaid dress, along with your hair and make-up. You might have to host a bachelorette party. And don’t forget about airfare, hotels, and travel costs.
All for one day of wedding fun and merriment. ONE DAY. Again, we really need to keep that in perspective. Yes, it’s a meaningful day, but you can create that same kind of meaning without breaking the bank – and expecting everyone around you to do the same.
I think part of the problem here is that the more we all have these out-of-control, extravagant, expensive-as-all-hell weddings, the more everyone sees this as normal, expected, and an obligation.
It’s time we change the narrative around this. Love and marriage isn’t about how perfect your wedding day is. It’s about the kind of commitment you have to one another, and it’s about the months and years ahead that follow.
You can’t buy a happy marriage, and there is no way that having an expensive wedding will guarantee that. All it can guarantee is financial stress, which is no way to start your married life.
This article was originally published on