How To Budget for a Wedding While Paying Off Student Loans

Rearview shot of a young couple arriving hand in hand at their wedding reception.
Hiraman / Getty Images

If you’re planning for a wedding and juggling student loan payments, there are several ways you can cut back on wedding expenses without sacrificing any of your dreams for the big day.

Here’s what you need to know about budgeting for a wedding while simultaneously working to pay off student loan debt.

Prioritize What You Want

One of the first steps to planning a wedding is prioritizing what you want and sticking to the budget. Brittney Castro, financial expert and Mint’s in-house certified financial planner, recommends following these steps to make sure you don’t get carried away or overwhelmed by wedding expenses. 

  • Start by establishing how much you’re willing to spend on the big day. Castro said you should also be able to account whether the money is coming from family, your savings or other avenues.
  • Assess what you want to prioritize. Think of the areas you’re willing to splurge more on and that matter to you on your big day.
  • Make a list of all major expenses. This list will include venue, attire, food and photography, to name a few. Then, estimate how much you’d be willing to spend in each area. 

Put More Money Toward Paying Off Your Loan 

Charles Moll is a wedding photographer at Charles Moll Photography. Moll has worked with a wide range of couples and a wide range of wedding budgets. He recommends putting more money toward paying off your student debt than into your wedding.

Why should you focus on paying student debt and not spend more money on your wedding day? Moll said it’s important to remember that a wedding is not the high point of your marriage. Rather, a wedding is the start of your marriage. 

“It is much wiser to invest in your future by lowering your debt,” said Moll. “This will give you a huge amount of financial freedom in the future.”

Make Your Money Work for You

If you are gifted any money for the wedding, Moll recommends talking to the person who gifted it. See if they are open to you using the money in other ways besides just for your wedding. If they are willing, put as much of the money gifted to you on your wedding day toward paying off student debt.

DIY Your Wedding Day

Cut corners by getting crafty when it comes to paying for wedding expenses. Castro recommends putting your creative cap on and making your own flower arrangements, creating a free wedding website to send all your save-the-date invitations via email, and dividing up wedding tasks among friends and family (if they are able to pitch in and help out) instead of hiring a wedding planner.

Amy McCord Jones, owner of Flower Moxie, said there are several ways to save money on weddings and the decision boils down to the couple’s priorities. As a seasoned wedding planner, McCord Jones said couples can easily cut down their budget by DIY-ing their wedding flowers and invitations, hiring a solid photographer for a few hours rather than the entire day, going easy on the food and having an afternoon wedding with cake, champagne and punch before meeting up with friends that night.

“I have learned that it’s not the couture dress, getaway car, or open bar that makes a wedding spectacular, but planning a wedding that fits the couple’s budget, lifestyle and personality,” said McCord Jones.

Make Your Money Work for You

Look Into Untraditional Wedding Options

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the norms of traditional weddings have been upended. Wedding days don’t need to be over-the-top or incredibly expensive. Many couples make the decision to get married at a courthouse, elope or host “minimonies” that are smaller, more intimate wedding ceremonies. Those paying off their student debt might consider heading the untraditional wedding route to stay within their budget and keep the focus on their love for each other.

“If you’re working under a tight budget, consider downsizing your wedding and opting for a smaller, and more affordable, ceremony. Scaling back a bit can feel more intimate and special knowing only your closest loved ones are in attendance,” said Castro. 

Factor in Post-Wedding Considerations

As you budget for your upcoming wedding and work to pay down student debt, Castro said it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind. 

Remember to look ahead to your other long-term goals as a married couple — such as buying a house together — and make sure you’re allocating enough money toward achieving your post-wedding financial goals. Your wedding may happen in one day, but you have the rest of your lives to spend together.

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