If you’re planning a wedding, you probably already know your big day could come with a big price tag. Ideally, your savings account would cover wedding costs, but many couples and families don’t have sufficient funds saved up to pay for everything. Financing is one alternative to help pay for your big day, but it can be challenging to find an affordable loan or credit line in the current high interest rate environment.
While it might be difficult, it’s not impossible.
Here’s what to know about wedding costs, how to pay for a wedding, and what information you’ll need to apply for financing.
What it costs to have a wedding
Weddings are generally expensive affairs, but the good news is you have a lot of control over your particular costs. Your total expenses will depend on several factors, including where you live, your guest count and the vendors you hire for your big day. The timing of your wedding will also play a role. Scheduling your wedding on a Saturday or Sunday, for example, is often more expensive than having it on a Friday.
According to bridal website The Knot’s 2022 Real Weddings Survey, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is around $30,000. This cost varies widely by state, though, with New York City weddings costing approximately $60,000 on average and while weddings in Phoenix, Ariz., ring in at around $24,000.
High inflation has also increased wedding costs recently, with total expenses up around $2,000 since 2021. Given this, relying solely on savings to pay for a wedding has become increasingly unrealistic.
Financing options for weddings
You can choose from several financing options if you need help paying for your big day.
Many banks and credit unions offer wedding loans — which are really unsecured personal loans. Loan terms generally range from 12-84 months, and loan amounts can be as small as $500 or as large as $100,000.
For instance, Lightstream and SoFi personal loans go up to $100,000, while Discover’s maximum wedding loan is $40,000. If approved, you’ll generally receive your loan funds in a lump sum as soon as the same day or within a few days.
The best personal loans have lower interest rates than credit cards, making them a money-saving option if you need to repay your balance over time. Loan rates vary by lender, but according to the Federal Reserve, the average rate for a two-year personal loan was 12.17% in August 2023. To keep borrowing costs low, compare rates and choose a loan with a low or no and no prepayment penalty.
Qualifying requirements for wedding loans vary by lender, with many lenders requiring good credit or excellent credit for approval. That said, some lenders may be willing to work with you if you have fair credit, though your interest rate will likely be higher.
Credit cards can help pay for the many piecemeal expenses that come up in wedding planning, as well as big-ticket items. But remember that they come with a high regular APR — 22.77% on average, according to recent Federal Reserve data. That said, if you have good or excellent credit, you might qualify for a card with a 0% introductory rate on new purchases for a set timeframe — often a year or more.
In addition to 0% APR cards, rewards credit cards could help offset the cost of honeymoon travel or other wedding expenses. These cards generally have relatively high APRs, though, and they also typically require at least good credit for approval.
If you can afford to repay your full balance during the intro period or want to use rewards to cover some costs, a credit card may make sense. But if you can’t — remember that credit card debt is expensive when the card’s regular APR kicks in.
Getting approved for a credit card generally happens fast, but you may need to wait up to 10 business days to receive your new card in the mail.
Websites such as Hitchd, Honeyfund and Honeymoon Wishes crowdfund contributions from your family and friends to help offset your costs. While this can be a useful way to get some additional cash, you’ll need to request contributions from your guests, and transaction fees could apply.
Still, thorny factors like creditworthiness, debt-to-income ratio, and monthly payments don’t apply. You can simply sign up, and any funds contributed will likely be accessible immediately.
If a low credit score is a barrier to getting approved for a loan or credit card, a 401(k) loan may be another alternative. But in general, borrowing against your 401(k) should be considered a last resort. Taking funds out of your retirement account will negatively impact your long-term gains. Before taking money from your retirement savings, consider cutting your wedding budget or asking a family member for a no- or low-interest loan.
However, if you’re strapped for cash, a 401(k) loan won’t subject you to a credit check, and these loans generally come with a low interest rate and a five-year repayment term. Borrowing limits may apply, though. For instance, you may only be able to borrow up to $50,000 or 50% of your vested account balance.
A 401(k) loan is not a wise choice if you plan to leave your job soon. If you get a new job, you may need to pay back your full balance upon leaving your old role.
How to choose a financing option and apply
Before choosing a financing option, consider how much you’d like to borrow, loan and line of credit rates, your credit score, and borrowing requirements. Thinking about these factors will help you choose a loan option that best aligns with your situation. Borrowers with bad credit will have different considerations, for example, than those who might qualify for a rate discount with an online lender.
The application process will vary depending on the financing option you choose. For instance, signing up for a wedding or honeymoon registry will be very different from applying for a personal loan. That said, if you opt for lender financing or a credit card, many financial companies let you apply online. You’ll likely need to provide the following information as part of the application process:
Personal information: Your full name, birthdate, email, address, and Social Security number.
Financial information: Your annual income, current debts, bank account statements, and more.
As part of the approval process, your lender or card issuer will also do a hard credit check to review your credit history and determine if you qualify for financing. A credit check isn’t required for a 401(k) loan or wedding fund website, and the information you need to provide may differ.