In a burgeoning trend, Americans who marry are taking out wedding-specific personal loans to afford the hitching ceremony of their childhood dreams.
"The loans are often marketed as a way to fund extras like custom calligraphy, doughnut displays and 'Instagram-worthy' venues," The Washington Post recently reported.
The financing is also sometimes used to cover the entire cost of the wedding; the loans often go into five figures and can carry interest rates as high as 30%.
For cash-strapped young Americans, many of whom are already dealing with suffocating student debt, taking on more debt to finance a wedding is seen, perhaps mistakenly, as an easy solution, especially as the tradition of parents picking up the tab fades away with time.
With an eye on this increasingly popular trend, LendEDU conducted a survey of 1,000 recently-hitched Americans to find out just how many were taking on debt from credit cards, personal loans and other options to finance a marriage worthy of social media.
Observations and analysis
Those taking on debt to finance their wedding are spending nearly double the average cost. Not surprisingly, debt was used to finance more expensive weddings. Whether or not that more lavish ceremony was necessary is a question that will be addressed later on in this analysis.
On average, recently married respondents that went into debt to cover costs associated with their ceremony spent $7,182 more than the overall average of $10,726. With the help of debt, many respondents nearly doubled the cost of the average wedding figure that was found amongst all survey participants.
So, exactly what type of debt was used to finance these more expensive ceremonies and how much of it?
Average total wedding debt was $11,737 — most of it coming from credit cards. Exactly one-third, or 33%, of respondents indicated that they went into some form of debt to cover costs associated with their wedding, while an additional 3% opted not to say if they took on debt or not.
But segmenting the results yields some additional information. Let’s take a closer look at the results associated with using debt to finance matrimony.
Credit cards were the tool of choice. On average, those who took on debt borrowed $11,737 to finance their weddings. This makes up 66% of the total wedding budget paid by average debtors: $17,908.
But even worse was the newlyweds’ debt-inducing tool of choice: plastic (and maybe some metal). More than 4 out of 5 wedding debtors indicated that at least part of their debt came from the use of credit cards, with 86% of survey respondents carrying an average balance of $6,786 in credit card debt.
Other forms of debt were used, too. Although wedding debtors favored the use of credit cards, other financial tools were used, too. More than a third (37%) of survey participants that took on debt for their wedding used personal loans, with the average amount of wedding-induced personal loan debt being $2,874.
And finally, 27% of respondents that used debt to finance their matrimonial ceremony went into other forms of debt—using borrowing vehicles such as a HELOC—at an average amount of $2,077.
Most wedding debtors admit the extra financing was unnecessary and quite a few regret it. Younger Americans want increasingly extravagant weddings that will look great on social media, even if debt is required to make that happen.
But is all of that wedding debt really necessary? And more importantly, is it healthy?
As noted above, wedding debtors spent nearly double the overall average cost of a wedding as reported by all of our respondents. So, it is evident that weddings can be had for less.
But were indebted couples happily ever after nonetheless? Here’s what our recently married respondents had to say:
Nearly three-quarters of respondents that went into debt to pay for their wedding (72%) indicated that the debt to finance the extra costs associated with their ceremonies was not necessary, and they could have had a simpler wedding funded exclusively by cash savings. Further, more than one-third of survey respondents that went into debt to cover additional wedding costs expressed regret over taking on that additional debt (37%) while 62% did not.
However, there is another subset of wedding debtors that almost certainly regret using debt to fund their lavish marriage celebration.
All respondents that participated in this survey had been married within the last five years, and 9% of all poll participants have since been divorced from that marriage. Interestingly, 14% of those that also went into debt to finance their wedding are now divorced, indicating that a slightly higher portion of debtors struggled to hold their marriage together.
Repaying the wedding debt
With a good number of recently married survey respondents taking on a significant amount of wedding debt, we wanted to gauge how repayment is going for these couples.
The good news?
Nearly half, 42%, of survey participants have already paid off all debt that they took on from costs associated with their weddings. On top of that, an additional 49% of respondents indicated that they have met and will continue to meet required monthly payments.
However, we found that more than half of respondents that took on debt from their respective wedding ceremonies have used money received from wedding gifts to help repay that debt. While this is not the worst way to utilize monetary wedding gifts, it’s not ideal either. Financial gifts from wedding guests are great for things like buying appliances for your new house or starting a college savings fund for future children.
For all debtors that have yet to repay their wedding debt in full, the average time expected to repay all debt incurred from wedding expenses is five years. This is not a devastatingly long financial commitment, although it will continue to command funds that could have been used for other important goals to get a newly-minted marriage off the ground, like buying a house or starting a family.
Unfortunately, 7% of wedding debtors that took part in this poll answered that they have missed or anticipate missing monthly debt payments brought on by extra wedding expenses. These folks will see major dings to their credit score, in addition to experiencing a more difficult qualification process when applying for other forms of financing.
This begs the question: Was taking on that wedding debt really worth the future financial troubles?
Full survey results
(All survey results derive from an online poll of 1,000 Americans that have gotten married within the last five years. The survey was commissioned by LendEDU and conducted online by polling company Pollfish.)
(1) For the following question, please include all expenses related to venues, food & alcohol, apparel, decor, travel, photography, and other expenses related to the event itself. Please exclude expenses related to your wedding ring(s) and expenses paid for by anyone else besides you and your partner.
As an estimate, what was the total cost of your wedding out of you and your partner’s pocket? (Including debt that you used to finance the wedding)
- The average respondent spent an estimated $10,726 on their own wedding.
- Amongst only those that went into some amount of debt to cover the cost of their wedding, the average respondent spent an estimated $17,908 on their own wedding.
(2) When paying for your wedding expenses discussed above, did you enter into any type of debt to cover some or all of the costs? (i.e. credit card debt, personal loan debt, home equity debt)
- 33% of respondents answered “Yes”
- 64% of respondents answered “No”
- 3% of respondents answered “Prefer not to say”
- The average respondent that went into debt to cover wedding costs took on $11,737 in total debt.
(3) Asked only to those who answered “Yes” to Q2: As an estimate, how much credit card debt did you go into as a result of your wedding expenses discussed above?
- 86% of respondents that went into debt to cover the cost of their wedding went into credit card debt.
- Amongst those that went into credit card debt, the average respondent took on $6,786 in credit card debt.
(4) Asked only to those who answered “Yes” to Q2: As an estimate, how much personal loan debt did you go into as a result of your wedding expenses discussed above?
- 37% of respondents that went into debt to cover the cost of their wedding went into personal loan debt.
- Amongst those that went into personal loan debt, the average respondent took on $2,874 in personal loan debt.
(5) Asked only to those who answered “Yes” to Q2: As an estimate, excluding credit cards or personal loans, how much debt did you go into from your wedding expenses from other forms of financing (i.e. HELOC)?
- 27% of respondents that went into debt to cover the cost of their wedding went into another form of debt other than credit card or personal loan debt.
- Amongst those that went into another form of debt, the average respondent took on $2,077 in other forms of debt.
(6) Asked only to those answered “Yes” to Q2: Could you have had a more simple wedding that was covered by cash/savings you already had? In other words, was debt used to finance a more extravagant wedding?
- 72% of respondents answered “Yes”
- 28% of respondents answered “No”
(7) Asked only to those who answered “Yes” to Q2: Are you currently working to repay debt related to your wedding expenses by meeting monthly payments?
- 49% of respondents answered “Yes, I have met and will continue to meet monthly payments from my wedding debt.”
- 7% of respondents answered “No, I have missed or will miss monthly payments from my wedding debt.”
- 42% of respondents answered “I have already repaid all debt from my wedding.”
- 2% of respondents answered “Prefer not to say”
(8) Asked only to those who answered “Yes” to Q2 and then indicated they are still repaying their wedding debt from Q7: How long do you think it will take you (in years) to repay the debt you accumulated as a result of your wedding?
- The average respondent that went into some form of debt from their wedding indicated that it will take five years to repay the debt accumulated from their wedding.
(9) Asked only to those who answered “Yes” to Q2: Looking back, do you regret going into debt to pay for your wedding expenses?
- 37% of respondents answered “Yes”
- 62% of respondents answered “No”
- 1% of respondents answered “Prefer not to say”
(10) Asked only to those who answered “Yes” to Q2: Have you used money received from wedding gifts to help repay the debt that you incurred from wedding expenses?
- 58% of respondents answered “Yes”
- 41% of respondents answered “No”
- 1% of respondents answered “Prefer not to say”
(11) Are you currently divorced from the marriage that has been discussed in this survey?
- 9% of respondents answered “Yes,” while 14% of respondents that went into debt to cover wedding costs answered “Yes.”
- 90% of respondents answered “No,” while 85% of respondents that went into debt to cover wedding costs answered “No.”
- 1% of respondents answered “Prefer not to say,” while 1% of respondents that went into debt to cover wedding costs answered “Prefer not to say.”
*All of the data in this report derives from a survey commissioned by LendEDU and conducted online by polling company Pollfish.
In total, 1,000 adult Americans who were married within the last five years were surveyed for this particular poll. To find this specific pool of respondents, LendEDU utilized Pollfish’s age filtering feature, in addition to screening respondents to ensure they were married within the last five years.
This particular survey was conducted over a two-day span, starting on September 13, 2019 and ending on September 14, 2019. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities.*