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Should I Get Married with Debt?

Money and marriage. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, except when they don’t…and become another messy sandwich on the path to divorce.

Because money is the currency of life, starcrossed lovers would be foolish not to discuss the topic before marriage. But when we talk about getting married with debt, we are really talking about two things: getting married while being in debt, and going into debt to get married.

Getting Married While in Debt

Just as I believe you shouldn’t marry someone for their money, you shouldn’t avoid marrying someone for their LACK of money.

Either you want to marry them or you don’t. Ideally you will have had some major money discussions before you pop the question (if you haven’t, you should). These conversations will tell you if your partner is a fool with money or a financial whiz.

Debt should not stand in the way of love. If it does, we have given money too much power in the relationship.

I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with delaying marriage until debts are paid off, but if the delay is so long that it calls the entire operation into question, I think you’d be better off just getting married and tackling the debt together.

If you wait until you are older and debt free to get married, you may find that the only thing you have to offer is…money. If that is your selling point, you are going to be attracting the wrong kind of mates.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather marry someone who didn’t care about my debt, than someone who was very impressed by my fat bank account.

Using Debt to Get Married

The flipside to the question is using debt to get married.

According to recent news stories, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is over $27,000. Call me old-fashioned (read: cheap), but that seems like a lot to spend on a party you are throwing for yourself.

It also seems like a bad way to start a marriage if debt is used to fund the wedding.

When my wife and I got married, we had a nice event with about 200 people. It cost around $7,500. At that time in our life, that was a lot of money. About half of it was paid for just in cash we received as gifts, but we did carry the remaining debt for a few years.

We would still be paying for it if we had spent $25,000.

So why do people spend so much on weddings? My main guess is status. People will judge you based on how lavish or cheap your ceremony is.

No matter how you slice it, to me, spending that much money is obscene. And if your parents are paying for it, even more obscene.

The Takeaway

Why are you in such a hurry to get married? Are you pregnant?

If not, what’s the hurry? If you can’t wait to save up and pay cash for your wedding, why not get married at the courthouse and just have a low-key reception?

I suspect that the answer is that you are trying to convey an image of something you are not. If that’s the case, then so be it. You just have to ask yourself is it worth trading the future ability to pay cash for a wedding for the fantasy that you can do it now?

 

4 comments… add one

  • jefferson April 16, 2012, 10:21 pm

    Wedding can be expensive.. and I have heard of folks putting themselves deep into debt just to pay for the wedding! Perhaps if you have debt, you should just scale back the wedding and maybe skip the honeymoon until you improve your financial situation. Maybe the gifts that you receive from friends and family at the wedding can help pay off the debt.

  • John @ Married (with Debt) April 17, 2012, 6:16 am

    I agree, Jefferson – accruing debt to get married doesn’t make a lot of sense, yet people do it every day. Heck, I did it too. Thanks for reading.

  • eemusings May 7, 2012, 1:25 am

    Ooh, great post!

    The fact my fiance has a bit of debt and makes less than me is definitely something I’m not thrilled about and I’d love the debt to be gone by the time we tie the knot, but it’s very unlikely.

    But it’s really not a huge deal – it’s only four figures and non interest bearing. I’m just very debt averse.

  • Josh @ Live Well Simply May 11, 2012, 7:13 am

    Marriage and debt don’t go together. Really, the only debt a couple should take on is student loans (if highly educated) and / or a home mortgage. Everything other form of debt is dangerous and unnecessary. And 27k for a wedding is insane. :) my 02 cents.

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