Starting a marriage with significant debt is not a good idea, but that is very common today.

In 2014, according to a wedding website in a survey of nearly 20,000 brides, the average wedding costs $29,658.

Does that surprise you?

My guess is that it does, and that many of our readers can recall their weddings and the cost was much less.

The figures include $13,000 on the venue, which includes food, more than $5,000 for an engagement ring and $2,400 for the photographer. It does not include the costs of a honeymoon.

When we discuss financial goals with our clients, we often ask about weddings. Most parents intend to help with daughters and some will contribute for their sons. Rarely do we hear about a figure anywhere near $30,000.

If money is not set aside for this cost, we often see much of the cost funded by credit card debt. Some will even take out a second mortgage on their homes to pay for a daughter’s perfect day.

Wedding venues are changing too. The days of the site being the local church with the family pastor officiating are often gone. Today, couples are using more exotic locations like Hawaii, the Carribean or Europe.

Not only does this put pressure on newlywed’s budget, but may also be a major burden on family members and other guests.

According to a report by American Express, the average costs for guests is just shy of $600. Most spend an average of $100 on a wedding gift.

Of course, many guests are opting out of attendance for financial reasons, according to a study done by Pew Research Center. I know of one set of California-based parents who did not attend their daughter’s “fairytale wedding” in Italy. It just wasn’t affordable.

I found another study by two economics professors from Emory University that stated that those who spend more than $20,000 for a wedding are more likely (46 percent) to get a divorce than couples who spend from $1,000 to $5,000 (18 percent).

The professors, Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, found that those who spend a large sum on their wedding resulted in more debt, which created stress in their marriage. Being “stressed out” is usually not a good way to start a lifetime of harmony.

Francis and Mialon stated that “the combination of a lavish wedding and low income appear to be particularly toxic.”


I picture my college classmate Steve Martin’s role in the movie “Father of the Bride.”

For parents, this painfully funny movie depicted the agony of a big wedding. One dad said to me, I would rather give them a cash gift that could be used for a down payment for a home than fund a massively expensive wedding.

Tom and John Mills are registered investment advisers and certified financial planners. Reach them at 254-0155, Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Strategic Wealth Advisors Group (SWAG), a registered investment adviser.