How to Pay for a Wedding, According to a Wealth Management Advisor


After getting engaged, couples will eventually come down from the highs of their proposal bliss. That’s when there’s one important reality they’ll have to face: having a frank conversation about the wedding budget. Although this might sound unpleasant to some, figuring out the details of who is paying for your wedding (and how) doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.

In fact, going into the planning stage with your partner on the same page won’t just make the often overwhelming process easier but it will also help set you up for success in the long run. It doesn’t matter if you are the ones funding your entire wedding or are only footing a small portion of the bill, it’s essential to figure out exactly how you’re going to pay for it before jumping into guest lists and venue availability.

Keep in mind that paying for a wedding looks different for every couple and there’s no right or wrong way to do it, prefaces wealth management advisor Maria Roloff. Ahead, Roloff shares her insight and tips for tackling your wedding finances.

Meet the Expert

Maria Roloff has been a wealth management advisor at Northwestern Mutual since 2009. Since beginning her career at Northwestern Mutual, she has won awards for being a female leader in production with the company. 

How to Get Started

Some couples may have family members that contribute a set amount or offer to pay for part of the wedding like the rehearsal dinner while other couples might be responsible for paying for everything themselves. The most important part about figuring out your wedding finances is starting the conversation early.

“Whether you’re splitting costs with your partner or receiving support from family members, it’s essential to have the money talk right away,” Roloff says. “You’ll want to know how much money you need to have set aside – and what your strategies for saving will be – before starting to plan and book items for your big day.”

Once you have an explicit idea of who is paying for the wedding and how much is available, you’ll have a clear picture of what portion (or all of it) is falling on you and your partner’s shoulders. From there, it comes down to which makes the most financial sense for your lifestyle, wedding vision, long-term financial goals, and priorities.

If you believe a family member is going to help out or contribute towards your wedding as a gift, you have two options:

  1. Get upfront clarity ahead of time or make arrangements that don’t depend on those funds. Making plans based on uncertain finances or a sum of money that you aren’t entirely sure of only leads to more stress and awkwardness later.
  2. If you aren’t comfortable having the “money talk” ahead of time then plan as if you don’t have it and any gift you are given will be that much sweeter of a bonus instead of the uncertain clutch that your wedding was entirely depending on.

Wedding Payment Options

Having the conversation early can give you the opportunity and time to budget, get clarity where needed, and start saving ahead. Your wedding payment options include:

  • Personal savings
  • Credit cards, keeping high-interest rates in mind that can lead to extra debt
  • Wedding loans, which are also subject to interest and repayment timeframes
  • Your retirement account however you can be subject to early withdrawal penalties
  • Loan or gift from a family member
  • A combination of the above

“If money is tight and dipping into savings isn’t an option, you can consider taking out a wedding loan,” Roloff explains. “However, I recommend looking into other options first, due to potential high-interest rates and the added debt.” That’s because the decisions you make as far as going into debt in order to pay for the wedding can negatively impact your credit score and ability to buy bigger purchases like a house after the festivities are over.

Wedding Budgeting and Money Management Tips

Planning a wedding may feel overwhelming, but a financial advisor can be a valuable resource with long-term effects. “An advisor can help you and your partner evaluate your full financial plan and strategize to accommodate your wedding wants and needs without breaking the bank or straying too far from any long-term financial goals,” Roloff explains. “Then, you can focus on what’s important–enjoying your celebration.” In addition to speaking with a financial advisor early in the process, Roloff also recommends the following tips to newly engaged couples:

Be realistic from the start.

“I recommend having an honest conversation to set a realistic wedding budget right from the start, taking into account you and your partner’s monthly budgets as well as your short- and long-term financial goals.”

Start with the venue.

Although every couple’s priorities look different, “a good rule of thumb is to allow about 50 percent of your budget to go toward the venue and catering,” Roloff says. “This will likely be your largest cost, and limiting your spending at this benchmark can help to avoid eclipsing other areas of your budget.”

Use a budget calculator.

An online budget calculator can help to keep your spending organized by breaking down obvious wedding costs, like the dress and venue. But it can also help call out those you might not have thought of, like a cake-cutting fee.

Look at the big picture.

As you start to finalize the details, take a look at the extras you could potentially go without. “Consider downsizing centerpieces or the value of wedding party gifts,” Roloff says. Making small adjustments and stepping back from time to time in order to scale back, instead of letting yourself get carried away, will pay off.

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