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Wedding Loans: Find Better Options with Lower Rates

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Frugal Wedding

Updated November 03, 2017
Did you know that the average cost of a wedding in the United States is around $31,200? That’s the number uncovered in a 2014 survey conducted by The Knot, a top resource for wedding planning. A figure that doesn’t even include the honeymoon.

If you’re planning a wedding, you’re probably well aware that your big day isn’t likely to be cheap, especially if you have a guest list that exceeds 100.

So what can you do if you can’t afford your dream wedding and aren’t willing (or ready) to compromise on cost? You may have already come across wedding loans, but it’s important to know a few things before you sign for one.

This guide is intended to walk you through the pros and cons of a wedding loan, what to look out for with lenders, other methods you can use to affordably finance your wedding, and finally, what alternatives are available if you realize that a loan isn’t the right option for you.

Wedding Loans Are Personal Loans in Disguise

When searching Google for “wedding loans,” you’ll find plenty of lenders offering them. However, you should know that a wedding loan is really just a personal loan that anyone can get. They’re not specifically meant for weddings. In fact, if you fill out an application for a personal loan and have to choose the purpose of the loan, you’ll likely have a few options to choose from.

Lenders are aware that people are searching for “wedding loans” just like they’re searching for “home renovation loans” and “vacation loans.” They create these specific pages you find for those keywords (so they get more search engine traffic), when they actually offer more than just wedding loans.

What this means is that you should broaden your search to all personal loan lenders. You don’t have to specifically search for wedding loans as, in most cases, you can use a personal loan for a wedding (or anything, for that matter). The good news is that there are plenty of personal loan lenders out there for you to shop around with.

What to Watch Out For

As with any loan, you want to get the lowest APR possible. Unfortunately, because lenders have these “wedding loan” pages, you may not be aware that other types of loans are offered at a lower APR. If you find yourself on such a page, try going to the lender’s homepage to see how the rates compare.

promo-personalloan-halfFor example, upon searching “wedding loans,” Karrot’s wedding loan came up in the results. The landing page says it offers APRs as low as 8.99%, but if you visit the main page, you’ll see that personal loans are available with APRs starting at 6.44%. For the most part, the APR you’re eligible for won’t depend on the purpose of the loan; it will depend on your credit history. It’s worth digging deeper so you’re not caught paying more than you have to.

As you go through search results, you may also find that there are sites specifically for wedding loans that are a bit misleading. For example, MyWeddingLoans.com looks like a legitimate site, but when you click “apply,” it leads to LendingClub’s website.

The URL of the application also contains a “partner ID,” which means it’s an affiliate of LendingClub and receives a commission every time someone applies through that link. MyWeddingLoan discloses this in the fine print on its “Terms of Use” page. It’s important to know that MyWeddingLoans isn’t the actual lender or the company you’ll be dealing with if you obtain financing.

Other “wedding specific” lenders, such as Promise Financial, claim there are no hidden fees and prepayment penalties. While its fees aren’t necessarily “hidden,” there are fees to watch out for, such as an origination fee. You need to make sure you read the fine print for any loan you’re considering; otherwise it may cost you more.

[Four Times You Shouldn’t Use a Personal Loan]

What Will a Wedding Loan Cost You?

Do you think weddings are expensive? Then you should know how costly personal loans are. You’re going to pay interest on your loan, which means you’ll end up paying more than what you borrow. Let’s look at an example.

Say you want to finance $20,000 of your wedding as you’ve already saved $10,000. $20,000 on a 3-year term at a fixed APR of 7.246% results in a monthly payment of $619.79. You’ll pay a total of $22,312.44. If you choose a 4-year term at a fixed rate of 8.247%, your monthly payment will be $490.58, for a total amount of $23,547.84.

Both of these are actual examples, and in each case, you end up paying a few thousand dollars in interest. The APR you’re eligible for is largely based on your credit score. Having a higher credit score and a longer credit history will make lower APRs available to you.

If you’re absolutely set on borrowing money for your wedding, then it literally pays to increase your credit score prior to applying for a personal loan. Do yourself a favor and check your score using a free tool like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame, and download your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. Is your score below 700? Then have a look at 6 ways you can improve your credit score before you shop for a loan.

As you’ll see below, some lenders have APRs with a large range. To get on the lower end of that range, you should have a score close to 700. Having a score below 600 will put you on the high end of the range, which will make the loan less affordable.

Least Expensive Wedding Loan Options – Good Credit Required

These lenders are your best bet if you must take out a personal loan to afford your wedding. They have the lowest APRs, lowest fees, and the most flexibility. These are all online lenders for a reason – traditional banks tend to have pricier personal loans.

We recommend shopping around to all the lenders that make the most sense for your situation. Similar inquiries to your credit made within a 30-day period will only count as one inquiry, so your credit score won’t take too much of a hit.

SoFi: One of the leading online lenders in almost all categories, SoFi offers borrowers excellent terms. There’s no origination fee to worry about, and fixed APRs range from 5.49% to 14.24% if enrolled in autopay. Variable rates range from 5.29% – 11.44% with a cap of 14.95%. You can borrow a maximum of $100,000 (hopefully you don’t need that much for your wedding) on terms of up to 7 years. There’s no minimum credit score required, although your accounts should be in good standing.

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Earnest: Another good choice for personal loans, Earnest offers borrowers up to $50,000 on a 3-year term with no origination fee. You need a minimum credit score of 720 to be approved.

LightStream: You can borrow up to $100,000 on terms ranging from 2 to 7 years. APRs range from 5.99% to 15.69%, and there’s no origination fee. The minimum credit score needed to apply is 680. LightStream’s maximum APR is slightly higher than SoFi’s and Earnest’s, and it’s the only lender out of these choices that requires a hard credit pull.

Upstart: We recommend looking at SoFi and Earnest first, only because of the lack of an origination fee. However, if your credit isn’t the best, lenders such as Upstart can help. You can borrow up to $50,000 on a 3 or 5-year term with APRs ranging from 9.56% to 29.99%. Origination fees range from 3.655% to 8% depending on the terms of your loan, and a minimum credit score of 640 is required.

Prosper: This is a peer-to-peer marketplace where people can invest in your loan. As a result, requirements are a bit leaner, but you’ll pay for it with higher APRs and an origination fee. APRs range from 5.99% to 36.00%, origination fees range from 1% to 5%, and the maximum amount you can borrow is $35,000. You can borrow on 3 or 5-year terms, and need a minimum credit score of 640 to qualify.

LendingClub: Another great option is LendingClub, which has a minimum credit score requirement of 600. It works in much the same way as Prosper as it’s also a peer-to-peer marketplace lender. Again, you can borrow up to $40,000 for up to 5 years, and APRs range from 5.99% to 35.89%, with origination fees ranging from 1% to 6%. LendingClub is not available in Iowa or West Virginia.

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PenFed: Pentagon Federal Credit Union offers personal loans starting with a fixed interest rate of 9.99%APR for 36 months. You do need to be a member of the credit union, but anyone can become. You pay a one time dues to Voices for America’s Troops for $14 or National Military Family Association for $15 in order to become eligible for a PenFed membership.

As you can see, Upstart, Prosper, and LendingClub all have high APR caps. If your credit isn’t in the best shape, you’ll likely be approved for a rate on the higher end.

Also note that aside from LightStream and PenFed, all of these lenders allow you to apply for a pre-approval without a hard credit pull. That means you can see your potential terms before committing, and your credit score won’t be harmed in the process. Just remember that these rates and terms are estimated; those rates and terms may change after a hard credit pull.

[How to Create a Frugal Wedding]

Credit Card Options for Those With Good Credit

We wouldn’t normally recommend that you finance your wedding on a credit card, as purchase APRs are typically much higher than APRs on personal loans. However, if you have the means to pay off the debt quickly, then you might want to consider these 0% APR offers. This gives you a way to avoid paying interest on your debt for a short period of time.

Please keep in mind when using this method that you should be absolutely certain you could pay off the amount you finance within the 0% APR introductory period. If you don’t, you’ll be subject to very high interest rates after it expires, negating the entire point of this strategy.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to know how much you’re planning to finance beforehand. You can use that number to calculate how much you’ll have to pay per month to get your balance paid off. Make sure it’s realistic for your situation.

Citi Simplicity: This card has a 21-month 0% introductory APR. That means you have just shy of two years to pay off your balance before the regular purchase APR kicks in. The Citi Simplicity card also has no late fees, no annual fee, and no penalty APR if you’re late in making a payment. These benefits make it a great everyday use card after you’re done paying off your wedding charges.

Chase Slate®: With this card, you can save with no transfer fee and get a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers made within the first 60 days. This is one of our favorite balance transfer offers.

If you don’t qualify for any of these offers, you can try checking around local credit unions and community banks for low interest credit cards. Many of our top recommendations have APRs ranging from 6.25% to 9%. While these aren’t ideal, they may be more affordable than a personal loan, depending on your credit.

Because credit cards are revolving debt, if you go this route, do not be fooled into making just the minimum payments. Do your best to pay extra and get the balance paid off within 3 years or less.

We also want to mention the possibility of using a 0% APR balance transfer offer. This should only be considered if you have strong credit (otherwise you might not be approved for one). If you must charge wedding expenses to your card and can’t pay them off right away, or you plan on using your credit card to finance most of your wedding, then you can still avoid paying interest with this option.

[Find the Best 0% APR Balance Transfer Offers Here.]

Top Wedding Loans for Those With Bad / Poor Credit

There are a few solutions available for couples with bad or poor credit that don’t qualify for any of the above offers, but they come with a hefty price tag. We’re hesitant to recommend going this route in the first place, but if your wedding can’t wait and you don’t have time to improve your credit score, these options might be worth looking at.

Avant: With no prepayment fee and APRs ranging from 9.95% to 35.99%, Avant could be a good option. You could borrow $2,000 to $35,000 and need a credit score of 580 to apply. Through Avant, you could get your money as soon as the next business day. Loans through Avant are available in all states except Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia, and Vermont.

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Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.

OneMain Financial: This company is known for making loans to those with less than stellar credit, and its rates reflect that reality. You can only borrow a maximum of $10,000 on terms of 3 or 5 years. While there’s no origination fee, the APRs range from 17.59% to 35.99%, and you need a minimum credit score of 600 to apply.

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FreedomPlus: With APRs ranging from 4.99% to 29.99%, this loan is similar to Avant in that you’re probably looking at an APR closer to 29.90%. There’s also an origination fee ranging from 1.38% to 5% that you need to watch out for. You can borrow up to $35,000on a term of up to 5 years, and need a minimum score of 600 to qualify.

Note that with the exception of Avant, all of these lenders use a hard credit pull when you check your rate. (Avant does not use a hard pull to check your rate, but will complete a hard pull if you decide to take out the loan).

Consider Creative Alternatives to Borrowing

As you can tell, financing all or part of your wedding may cost a lot more than you anticipated. If it’s at all possible, we suggest using one of the alternatives below as opposed to going into debt for your big day.

While it’s undoubtedly a day you want to remember forever, starting out married life with a bunch of debt (especially if you already have consumer debt or student loans to deal with) doesn’t feel great. It also doesn’t bode well for your relationship, considering arguments about money are a top reason for divorce.

Instead of taking chances with debt and your sanity, try these alternatives instead.

Hold off on the wedding: According to another survey conducted by The Knot in 2014, the average length of an engagement is 14 months. That’s not a long time to save up $10,000, let alone $30,000 (the estimated average cost of a wedding). That would take a monthly savings of $714 and $2,142 respectively. Instead of rushing to the altar, try lengthening your engagement to lessen the financial burden. Giving yourself more time to save is a wise idea; what’s the rush?

“Crowdfund” your honeymoon: We don’t literally mean asking strangers on the internet to fund your honeymoon, but you could ask your family and friends to “crowdfund” your honeymoon by using sites like Honeyfund. It’s a honeymoon registry that allows you to ask for cash from your wedding guests in a classier way, and hopefully, they feel more comfortable giving it. Remember, that $31,000 figure didn’t take the honeymoon into account. Now isn’t the time to go further into debt for your dream vacation.

Side hustle for extra money: If you’re really hurting for money, you need to find a way to earn more of it. Side hustling can be a great option if you have marketable skills that are in demand, especially online. These extra jobs should also be flexible – what’s better than working from home? You can also try picking up extra shifts at your job, working overtime, or getting a part-time job temporarily to cover costs. This doesn’t have to be forever; you just need enough stashed away in your wedding savings fund to cover your needs.

Reevaluate your wedding budget: Speaking of needs, are you going over your original wedding budget? Something might have to give. It’s time to take another look at it. For example, maybe you need to narrow your guest list down. Perhaps you need to reconsider your dream venue if it’s costing you an arm and a leg. Can you have DIY decorations and invitations? Postage often costs couples much more than they thought; classy invitations from Paperless Post can help offset that cost. The Knot has a list of common wedding expenses and what percentage of your budget can be expected to go toward each here if you need a comparison.

Know how to deal with deposits: Many items, such as the venue, food, and photography, will require a deposit. That means you don’t need to pay an overwhelming amount in one lump sum, but it does mean that you need to come up with something to reserve these things. If you have anything saved for your wedding, you should earmark it for deposits first to ensure you can pay the upfront cost.

You can pay for deposits with cash or check, but some advice says to pay via credit card to cover you in case something happens. As most deposits are non-refundable, if you’re unhappy with the services provided, or if services aren’t provided, you can contact your credit card company and dispute the charge as long as you do so within 60 days of the event. Some vendors and merchants might do wrong by you, and miscommunication can occur. Using your credit card gives you a better chance of recovering your money.

Of course, you should only charge expenses that you have the cash to cover. Putting your wedding expenses on a credit card and then not paying it off in full can be extremely expensive – the average credit card APR is 15%!

Remember to keep in mind that the deposit is only one portion of what you have to pay. You’ll need to come up with the rest of the funds prior to your wedding. Do your best to save up before then. If it helps, create a separate “wedding expenses” savings account so you won’t be tempted to raid it for another reason.

[How to Effectively Combine Income and Debts After Marriage]

Be Realistic and Create a Plan

You now have all the information you need to create a plan to fund your wedding. You might find that it’s not as easy as you thought it would be, but don’t let that dampen your spirits. If your wedding means that much to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Whether you take on side jobs to earn more, slash everyday expenses (such as cutting cable and brown-bagging lunch), or work toward improving your credit score, you can make room in your regular budget for your wedding.

Just stay realistic on costs and include your future spouse in all discussions pertaining to your finances. Now is the time to work as a team, not to surprise each other by going into debt to afford certain aspects of your wedding. Talk it through –your future spouse may have a great idea on how to lessen the financial burden of your wedding

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Erin Millard
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Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erinm@magnifymoney.com

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How Much Should I Spend on a Wedding Gift?

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When Alston Waldrip was in law school and money was tight, she thought creatively about how to buy wedding presents. For one couple, she bought a cast iron skillet for $15 and hand-decorated a sign with their last name. For another, she and several female friends each contributed $20-$25 for a bedding set.

Waldrip, now an attorney in Gainesville, Ga., kept all that in mind when she picked items with a range of prices for her November 2017 wedding registry. The lowest starts at just $16, for a bottle opener from Anthropologie.

“I would feel so guilty if someone were to pay out of their means for me,” Waldrip says. “I try to be really respectful of that.”

But how much money should you spend on a wedding present for someone? And how do you balance that cost with the other financial investments associated with attending a wedding?

Spending Guidelines: Replacing Something Old with Something New

One old gift-buying rule you can ignore is to spend as much as the cost of your plate at the reception, plus the cost of your guest’s meal, if you bring one. Nancy Mitchell, founder of The Etiquette Advocate, an etiquette training and consulting firm in Washington, D.C., says she thinks using this guideline is a mistake.

“How in the world would you know how much someone is spending on the reception and the per-person cost for the reception?” she says.

The Knot, a wedding-planning website, conducted a survey of 15,000 brides and suggested people spend $50 to $75 for co-workers and distant friends and family, $75 to $100 on friends and relatives, and $100 to $150 on close friends and relatives.

A 2016 survey by FiveThirtyEight.com polled over 1,000 people and found that, on average, people spent $50 on friends, $82 on close friends, $71 on extended family, and $147 on close family.

Mitchell says these numbers are reasonable, but emphasizes that outlining exactly how much to spend is difficult since each person’s income and resources will differ.

“I probably range from $30 if I don’t know them very well, to $50 to $75 if I know them a little better, at this point in my life,” Waldrip says.

If you’re invited to the wedding of someone with a much higher income — your boss, for example — don’t think about how much that person could afford to spend on a gift for you. Follow the general rule to spend within your means, Mitchell says.

Create a Gift Budget

Many millennials are at a point in their lives when it seems everyone they know is getting engaged, getting married, or getting pregnant. Dominique Broadway, a financial planner in Washington, D.C., who works with millennials, says setting up a monthly gift budget can prevent you from overspending.

“You need to figure out what works for you and don’t try to force yourself to walk in with the biggest, grandest gift,” she says. “You need to figure out what you can actually afford.”

Broadway says to sit down and figure out exactly what your expenses are every month and determine how much of your leftover income should be allocated to gifts for weddings, as well as baby showers and birthdays. The gift amount could be anywhere from $25 to $100 a month, depending on your financial situation.

“Buy your gift in advance if you are going to buy a gift,” Broadway added. “I think a lot of times the reason people overspend is because they’re literally picking something up on the way to the wedding.”

Kate Zepernick and her husband, Trey, attended 12 weddings last year. Zepernick, founder of TheBrideBoss.com, a website that helps brides set up wedding budgets, says she has a monthly gift budget. She purchases gifts ahead of time so she’s actually using that money each month.

“Even if a wedding is in July, I may not have a wedding in April and I may go ahead and purchase a gift for that July wedding in April so I drain that portion of my budget,” Zepernick says.

Allocate Travel Funds Early

In addition to buying the present, wedding guests may have to spend more on hotels and travel, such as airfare or gas, if the wedding is out of town.

A 2016 American Express survey of 1,800 people found that, on average, Americans attend three weddings a year and spend about $703 on each. Millennials, as a cohort, spent about $893 per wedding. And millennials who were in a wedding spent closer to $928.

Broadway says if you know you’re going to have to travel for a wedding, start researching the costs and setting aside money as soon as you get the save-the-date. She recently worked with a client who was going to travel to a wedding in September, another in October, and another in November. They worked together to figure out a ballpark figure of what each wedding would cost so the client could start saving right away for not just the travel but also the gifts.

Zepernick, who lives in Atlanta, says she starts planning even earlier by keeping an eye on social media.

“I keep a mental note when I see someone get engaged and I think I’ll be invited,” she says. “I try to keep a mental note: ‘You’re from Atlanta, that’s not going to be travel for me. OK, you’re from Ohio, that will be travel.’”

Calculate Wedding Party Costs

If you’re in the wedding party, costs like the bridesmaid’s dress, tuxedo rental, and travel to the bachelor or bachelorette party can add up even further. Don’t forget about potentially spending on pre-wedding gifts.

A 2015 American express survey found on average Americans treated their closest friends and family members well by spending $77 for bridal shower gifts, $86 for bachelorette/bachelor party gifts, and $89 for engagement party gifts.

Mitchell says proper etiquette does call for bringing a separate gift to the wedding. But if you’re buying additional gifts for the couple throughout their engagement, it’s OK to spend a little bit less on the actual wedding present.

“It just does not have to be the most expensive thing on the wedding registry,” Mitchell says.

Contributing to a group gift from the wedding party can also help you save money while making sure the couple receives a big-ticket item from their registry.

Zepernick, who is a maid of honor in a friend’s upcoming wedding, says she’s been “showering her with gifts throughout her entire engagement period.”

“It’s more important to me to be kind of consistently doing that than to kind of blow it all on a big gift at the end,” she says.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Jeanette Kazmierczak
Jeanette Kazmierczak |

Jeanette Kazmierczak is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jeanette here

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