We all know weddings are about celebrating the love you and your honey have for each other, but let’s face it—they still cost a $!#&@-load. Whether your budget is $2000 or $20,000, your big day might be the most expensive one of your life. And unless you’re one of the lucky ones who are given an unlimited budget (thanks Mom and Dad!), you’re going to have to come up with some cash to celebrate how you want to. Whether it’s a backyard wedding with DIY decor and close friends and family, or a more lavish affair in a chic hotel ballroom with 250 guests, explore these ten ways to finance your wedding.
#1: Charge it up.
You probably already have several credit cards lined up in your wallet, just waiting to be put into action to pay the site fee, the gown, and the caterers. Before you deploy the troops, though, make sure you know the interest rates on each of them, and have a clear plan on how you’re going to pay them off after the birdseed has been thrown. Use a cost-of-debt calculator to see just how much interest you’re going to pay on that $3,000 florist bill. Chances are, taking out a personal loan (see below) might offer a better rate. If you do whip out the plastic, choose a card that offers rewards points like airfare or hotel stay. Those could come in handy for the honeymoon, or for a trip to celebrate your first anniversary. Also use credit cards for purchases you may return, like necklaces for bridesmaids that you’re not quite sure of (store return are typically less hassle with a credit card).
#2: Apply for a personal loan.
Applying for a loan for your wedding is a lot like applying for any other loan. You should first decide with your significant other how much you both feel comfortable borrowing, and make sure to shop around for good rates. You can approach traditional banks or other lenders (which will offer a variety of secured and unsecured loans) or go to a place like(which offers unsecured loans specifically to engaged couples). After talking with BridalLoans.com, I found out that their interest rates range from 5.9% to 22.5%. You’ll need a credit score of at least 600 to qualify, but a 680 or above will get you the best rates. They send you a check, and you pay them back a fixed amount each month. This could be a cheaper alternative to credit cards, plus, taking out a loan together is the perfect opportunity for you and your honey to get to know the details of each other’s financial position (a must before saying “I do”).
#3: Apply for peer-to-peer financing.
Also called social or P2P lending, peer-to-peer financing is increasing in popularity and can be a great way to get a loan for special occasions. Peer-to-peer is the practice of individuals lending to and borrowing from each other (without a bank’s involvement). This can help cut application fees and interest rates, and may give those with less-than-stellar credit the opportunity to borrow. Social lending websites likepartner up willing lenders with needy borrowers. Other websites, like , formalize loans between friends and family members, turning verbal agreements into written contracts.
#4: Take out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit.
If you already own a home, taking out a loan against your mortgage can be another way to finance your wedding. Of course, in today’s market, your home may not have much equity left to borrow against, or you may be worried about further dwindling its equity. If you do decide to borrow against your home equity, you need a good credit rating. The upside to these loans is that the interest rate is typically less than that of a credit card. But ask yourself, if home prices fall even more, is your wedding day worth an?
#5: Get a sponsor.
Theestimates that 1% of weddings these days are “sponsored.” Corporately sponsored weddings mean that, in exchange for getting your dress, food, invitations, or flowers at a discount (or even for free), you allow the dress shop, caterers, paper company, or florist to advertise at your wedding. This advertising could take several forms, from simple signs on the buffet table that say “Food Provided by” to printed ads in the wedding program or a list of sponsors tucked into the invitation. Many feel that wedding sponsorships bring a commercial (read: tacky) element to an otherwise elegant and special event, and negotiating sponsorships can add a whole other layer of stress to the wedding planning process. Carley Roney of advises “having hamburgers and hot dogs before you have a sponsored wedding.” It could be worth it, though, if you need to save some dough and don’t mind selling ad space on your big day.
#6: Solicit funds from close family.
You know your parents can’t foot the entire bill, but is there any amount they can contribute? The figure they’re able to offer might be drastically lower than what it would have been a couple years ago, before the economy wiped out half of their retirement funds. So don’t put any pressure on them, but instead get a clear number that you can depend on. Have a face-to-face conversation with each set of parents as you start to plan to get a clear picture of financial expectations.
#7: Ask for cash from guests.
If you can believe it, some wedding invitations in Spain actually include the couple’s bank account information so that guests can deposit cash (as opposed to buying a gift). And it’s a tradition during Chinese weddings to present the couple with a red envelope filled with money. The Greeks have the money dance, in which guests pin dollars to the bride’s dress. While you may think these practices cross the line between appropriate and tacky, it’s perfectly acceptable to spread the word that gifts of cash are welcome. I was recently invited to a wedding in which the couple was asking for money for their honeymoon. It made me happy to write them a check knowing they would use it to enjoy more time together on the beach, sipping strawberry daiquiris and watching the sun set.
#8: Save, save, save.
Unless you’ve been socking funds away for your “someday wedding” well before you were engaged, chances are you don’t have any significant cash saved for your big day. While I’m not advising you to have a four-year engagement until you can save up enough cash, do start diverting some of your income into a special fund each month. Put any and all windfalls that come your way into it, such as a big tax refund or a work bonus. If you haven’t moved in with your partner yet, consider moving back in with your parents until the big day. Remember, anything you save ahead of time will be that much less to pay off once you’re newlyweds.
#9: Sell stuff.
Getting rid of stuff you don’t need or want anymore to earn extra cash is one of life’s great pleasures. Selling off junk and assets can be a great way to clear the clutter from your past, so you and your honey can start fresh together. Have a garage sale, consign furniture you don’t or won’t need, post an ancient baseball card collection on eBay…you get the idea. If you don’t already live together, paring down your belongings from two households to one is a great first step for engaged couples and newlyweds.
#10: Cut costs.
While not technically a “financing” method, cutting costs means you have that much less to finance! The more dollars you can shave off your wedding budget, the less debt you have to worry about paying off. The average wedding in 2009 costs $30,000. That’s a lot of debt to assume when you and your partner are just married. That figure could be an annual salary for someone, the cost of a new car, or a down payment on a home. I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty, but have you asked yourself if you wouldn’t rather spend that kind of cash on something other than your big day? The truth is, your wedding is going to be special no matter where it is, how many people are invited, or what kind of hors d’oeuvres you serve (or, gasp, if you don’t serve hors d’oeuvres at all!). I’m not saying to completely cheap out, but there are a million charming, frugal wedding ideas out there. By choosing less expensive alternatives, you’ll still have a fabulous day, and perhaps money leftover to help you start your new life together.