As beaming couples walk down the aisle and into their married life, they probably aren’t thinking they’ll face squabbles over credit card bills and spending habits (or lack thereof). Unfortunately, for many couples, that’s the reality: A 2015 SunTrust Bank survey found that financial concerns were the top stressor in relationships.1 And a separate survey from the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts2 found that “money issues” was among the top three causes of divorce.
But it’s possible to buck the bummer statistics after you’ve walked down the aisle. The secret might be as easy as sticking to your wedding budget. Researchers at Emory University, for example, found that couples who spent between $1,000 and $5,000 on their wedding were nearly 20 percent less likely to get divorced than the average couple.3 Of course, that doesn’t mean carefully considered splurges (like that ‘90s cover band you’ve both always loved) mean doom and gloom for the bride and groom. But if shelling out for all those extras means you’re starting married life with a ton of debt, well, you may have some friction in your future.
“Couples who sit down and prioritize what they want to spend for the wedding are setting themselves up for future success,” says Shannah Compton Game, a certified financial planner and millennial money strategist. “That early communication isn’t just about the wedding. It’s about how they value money and what’s important to them.”
Lise Andreana, a certified financial planner and author of “No More Mac ‘n Cheese!: The Real-World Guide to Managing Your Money for 20-Somethings,” agrees that the earlier a couple is on the same page about a budget, for both the wedding day and their married life, the better. “There needs to be agreement, and neither party should feel that they have to cave in for a wedding that’s bigger than they feel comfortable with, especially if it’s going to mean debt,” she says, adding, “It is always a bad idea to borrow in order to fund a wedding.”
In the whirlwind of wedding details—and OMG, there will be So. Many. Details.—both experts agree keeping an eye on the bigger picture is clutch. Maybe that means saving some of the money you’re tempted to spend on Norwegian ice sculptures and sashimi appetizers for a down payment on a home or an emergency fund. Or maybe it means deciding to go for it and spend a little more to treat your guests to the best—and that’s ok!
If you and your other half have a budget and are determined to stick to it, give yourself a giant, till-death-do-us-part pat on the back. Then zero in on your wedding must-have’s and work on finding cool, cheap alternatives for the things you can live without. DJs can be replaced by a carefully curated playlist on iTunes or Spotify; flower arrangements can be seasonal and scaled back; and swapping a traditional reception for something funky like a food truck will draw appreciation from your friends and savings.
“I hired a food truck that came and made gourmet pizzas, and it was a fraction of what it would have cost us to have some boring chicken dinner,” Compton Game says. And sticking to their budget on the big day has indeed contributed to happily ever after.