The Biggest Mistake of My Life: Our $35k Wedding Debt
Considering taking on debt to pay for your wedding? Learn why one couple says their wedding debt was the biggest mistake of their lives.
I remember it like yesterday.
“Babe… we can’t pay our bills…” I quietly said to my wife.
“What?” she replied. “What do you mean!?”
“Well, I updated the budget, and we can’t afford to pay the bills next month.”
Where Did It All Start?
It all started after I asked my beautiful girlfriend for her hand in marriage. To my delight, she
cried said, “Yes!” (Phew, close one).
After the engagement celebration ended, my fiance and I raced home and started wedding planning immediately. We were so excited. Where did we want to get married? How many people should we invite? And, oh yes, where would we go on our honeymoon!?
I swiftly logged on to my computer, pulled up the
dusty trusty budget sheet I’d been working on, and started to update it.
Well, that may be a problem. Ummm…
A Shimmer of Hope in a Dark Desperate Time
As I’m sitting there agonizing over how to start paying for this wedding, a link is visible to me on my banking account page.
“Increase Credit Limit,” it says, enticing me ever so slightly.
Hmmm. Well, we make a pretty good amount of money. Let’s try it:
Current Limit: $10,000
Wait a second. Wait. A. Second!
I hastily pulled up my second credit card account, and there it is: “Request Credit Increase.”
Current Limit: $5,000
As I started drooling over the wedding of our dreams, I wasn’t quite finished
ruining our finances asking for more.
One card promo after another promo leads to another $5,000 increase in credit limit, leaving a total of $35,000 of usable credit to fund our wedding.
I ran to my
boss fiancée and excitedly told her she was getting the wedding of her dreams.
“Oh, I have my ways…!”
She starts crying as we start pulling up destinations, hotels, caterers, venues, and more.
Oh, what a wonderful wedding it was! We had a beach ceremony, a fantastic reception, and a heavenly honeymoon that transcended time and space (at least that’s what it felt like!).
We bought whatever we wanted when we wanted it.
“Hun, look how cute!”
“Let’s get it!” Charge it to a credit card.
“Want to stay an extra night?” Charge it to a card.
And on that last night, as we settled down for the last time, we tried to order a movie.
“Card Denied. See Front Desk.”
Anxiety started immediately, and we were out the next day heading home.
It was a long drive home. We realized we ran up our cards to the max.
$35,000 charged and maxed out.
“Don’t worry; we can pay it off in a year,” I said, barely believing my own words. I did the calculations, the math, and the budgeting. I concluded that we would be able to afford it. After all, why take out all that debt unless you were sure you would be able to pay it off?
“We can do this,” I murmured. “We can do this.”
The Interest Came In Like A Wrecking Ball
Long story short: we couldn’t do it.
A year came, the cards still weren’t paid down. We were only able to knock down about $5,000 or so. Now the APRs started to kick in.
The interest started to take us down.
Our minimum payments were adding up, and the majority of it was now interest payments.
I remember paying $2,500 one month, and the interest was $700 of the total. That’s close to the amount the average American pays in interest per year!
How Did We Survive?
We tried to stop paying a card here or there. But the companies we had credit under were some giant corporations. The ones that if you missed one payment, they shut down your card and then serve you with a lawsuit. And lawsuits can lead to the garnishing of your wages. Which means they would be legally able to take money out of your paychecks. Big no-no!
Eventually, after trying everything, we had to file for bankruptcy. It wasn’t our proudest moment, but we had to do it. Between gathering paperwork, listing debts, and hiring a lawyer, overwhelm crept in.
We had to get out, and this was our only option.
Advice to Couples Considering Debt For Their Wedding
Debt can be good in some circumstances. Sometimes you need debt to buy a house. Sometimes you need debt to build credit (to qualify for a mortgage for that house you want to buy). And sometimes, just sometimes, it can ruin your whole wedding experience in the aftermath that follows.
To be honest, I’m not going to tell you not to take out debt for a wedding. But I hope this story serves as a strong argument against it.
In my opinion, the only reason you would take out credit card debt to pay for a wedding is:
- You can’t wait and want the wedding as soon as possible.
- A money source suddenly vanished right before an essential wedding purchase.
So how do we deal with these two scenarios presented?
- Understand and realize that the wedding of your dreams will always be possible. Just like your favorite wedding website Budget Savvy Bride, it will always be there. Browse the gallery of weddings by budget, and get inspired by what other couples were able to pull off with less. The venues, bands, florists, videographers, photographers, DJs, etc., are all there for you waiting. It’s just a matter of controlling yourself to think, “Not right now. I know we need to wait and save for it when we’re ready.” Take a deep breath, relax, and say you got this (because you do!)
- If a source of money you depended on suddenly dries up, there are ways around it. I’m sure if you put your heads together you can figure something out to work around it. Heck, maybe you’ll even start a Side Hustle to save some extra cash to fund that surprise wedding expense. Remember, the two of you are the only ones who see the potential of your wedding. No one else is in your head envisioning your wedding (and if they are, they might be aliens!)
I shared with you the frantic and crazy ride of getting into and maxing out $35,000 of credit card debt to pay for my wedding. A decision that my wife and I soon regretted. Ultimately, it led to us having to file for bankruptcy.
Do I condemn those who take out credit card debt to pay for something for their huge, amazing, most special day ever? No, definitely not.
All I can share with you is my story and what happened.
We thought we could do it and beat the system. But we, unfortunately, could not. Hopefully sharing this with you can prevent you from a world of trouble associated with one of the best days of your life.
Fortunately, after it was all said and done, my wife and I are now in a much better place. So much so that we want to help the younger people to succeed with their money, to not fall victim to the traps we fell into. That’s why I created my blog Adulting Made Easy because life can be hard when you least expect it.