74% of Americans are Getting Married with Debt

And these couples aren’t doing themselves any favors starting their life together saddled with debt.

Each week, Consolidated Credit searches for financial research that can help you deal with your debt and budget. This week…

The interesting study

The student loan experts at Student Loan Hero took a break from their usual research to poll 1,000 couples who are getting married in the next 12 months. They wanted to know how these couples planned to pay for their wedding.

The big result

Almost three out of four engaged couples (74%) say they will go into debt to get hitched. Most (61%) will use credit cards to finance their nuptials. But with an average wedding price tag of $33,391, according to the wedding experts at The Knot, that’s a recipe for financial disaster.

The fascinating details

The people polled by Student Loan Hero aren’t going ultra-extravagant either. Most plan to spend less than The Knot’s stated average. Of those polled, 63% plan to spend less than $30,000 and 47% said they’ll spend less than $20,000.

And an overwhelming majority are budgeting.

  • 9 out of 10 couples set a wedding budget
  • 48% have a detailed budget that breaks down costs

In addition, these couples are already tapping their savings in an attempt to avoid debt. Seventy percent of the couples are using savings. It’s also worth noting that 51% of them have already delayed the wedding for financial reasons. Many have delayed getting married by a year or more, and yet they’re still forced to rely on debt to cover the costs of the ceremony.

Perhaps the most surprising statistic out of the survey? Less than one in four (23%) say they are very stressed or even somewhat stressed about the cost. That’s true, even though 38% agreed with the statement, “I can’t afford to pay for my wedding.”

What you can do

“Many people dream of having the perfect ceremony, but a happy life together is more important,” says April Lewis-Parks, Financial Education Director for Consolidated Credit. “Financial stress is one of the leading causes of divorce. Starting your relationship with $10,000 or more in debt creates undue stress on your new marriage.”

Lewis-Parks says she understands why 63% of the couples surveyed have considered eloping. But that couples should keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It’s encouraging to her that couples seem to have a good handle on where the largest costs are in the nuptials.

“The venue and catering tend to be the most expensive parts of the ceremony, even more so than the rings,” she agrees. “So, if you can find a creative way to cut those two costs, then you can save big. Consider going to a local public park or holding it in someone’s backyard. For food, if you do a brunch or a lunch reception, the food tends to be cheaper.”

Lewis-Parks says that couples who are willing to be flexible tend to have the easiest time saving. The more you’re willing to go low-key on the arrangements, the less likely you are to face a huge price tag that winds up on credit.

“Intimate and casual can also make your nuptials more unique and special for everyone involved,” she encourages. “It’s more personal and you have more opportunities to make it unique and make it your own if you opt for something other than a traditional venue and catered dinner reception.”