The average cost of weddings in the United States is $19,000 — pretty steep, considering that the cost of a honeymoon is not even factored in yet. Not to mention the expenses you will incur as a couple all the days thereafter. If you were the one who proposed to your partner, you have probably already incurred a pretty hefty amount to cover the cost of an engagement ring.

In planning a wedding — and preparing for marriage — sorting out your finances early on is probably the best advice you can take. And pre-wedding is also the best time to talk about the D-word: debt. 

Paying off debts can definitely influence your decision to get married. Some may find a wedding unaffordable considering their debt situation. There are also some who hesitate to bring in personal debt to their marriage, and would rather pay it off first before getting hitched. 

There are a lot of couples who choose to delay tying the knot because they are still paying off their debts — specifically student loans for 21% of the respondents in a study conducted by the American Student Assistance. A lot of millennials are choosing to put off milestones so that they can enjoy a debt-free marriage later on. However, if you do not see yourself delaying getting married any further, there are ways to plan a wedding even when you are currently paying off your debts.

Sit down and talk about your financial situation

When you tie the knot, you and your partner become one — so do your finances. So, it is very important to lay it all on the table before even talking about how much money you’d set aside for the wedding, how many guests, where you’re holding it, and so on. You have to be, first and foremost, on the same page when it comes to your debts. How much do you owe? For how long are you paying the debts? Remember that you are not just planning a wedding. You are planning a marriage, which includes paying off all your debts at some point. 

Have a serious budget talk

Now that you know how much you owe and for how long you’ll be paying them, it’s time to set the budget. This does not only mean setting the amount you’re going to spend for the wedding in general. Planning your budget should entail figuring out the percentage to allot for each area — reception, ceremony, wedding planner, photography, and so on. 

There are areas that you may want to forego, so make sure that you also discuss which ones are non-negotiable. What are your must-haves for your big day? Figure them out and discuss them, and work around your budget.

Plot your budget on your calendar

You’re not paying for everything in one go, so map out your major purchases, anticipated deposits, and scheduled payments along with your debt payment schedules and utility bill due dates. This way, you will not get lost or carried away when talking with vendors and accidentally miss important debt and bill payments. 

You may also consider setting up a separate bank account for your wedding budget to make sure that you don’t use up money intended for utility and debt bills for wedding expenses. 

Make your guest list small

This is obviously a good way to cut costs, especially in areas such as stationary, catering, and chair rental. It can be very tempting to invite a lot of guests, but keep in mind that every single guest is an expense — may be a little harsh, but all so true. 

Having an intimate wedding will also let you enjoy your day with people close to you and who know you both personally to really celebrate your union. 

Ask for help

You may have relatives and friends who are willing to help out in any way they can. You may have a photographer friend who’d be willing to cover the event for free, or at a discounted price. A cousin who bakes can make your wedding cake, or maybe an aunt has a huge garden you can use for your ceremony or reception. As long as you are not imposing, it wouldn’t hurt to ask for a helping hand.

You can also ask your vendors for budget-friendly options, and be honest with them about your budget. Keep in mind, though, that vendors have their own budget, too. So, it is best to look for vendors at a price point more aligned with your budget. 

Final thoughts

Planning a wedding while dealing with personal debts may seem like an impossible task, but it is definitely doable. It may take cutting corners here and there, but with careful planning, you can still have a wedding that you can be proud of without compromising your financial goals. 

The important thing is to have healthy conversations about your finances through and through. Hold yourselves accountable when it comes to your finances, and make plans and decisions as a couple.

Author Sophia Young