Whether you’d like a large, extravagant wedding or a small, casual affair, you may find yourself short on cash as you get deeper into planning out all of the miscellaneous details. This is where a wedding loan could be helpful in making your big day a dream come true.

Wedding loans make sense for some scenarios, but not all. Weigh the alternatives before jumping to a loan to ensure you’re starting your life with your new spouse on the right financial foot.

What a wedding loan is

A wedding loan is a type of personal loan marketed toward engaged couples who are planning weddings. Some couples may use a wedding loan to finance certain parts of their big day, such as upgrading catering options, while others will use financing to pay for the whole event.

These loans are easy and quick to apply for; many lenders will even approve you online in a few minutes. The interest rate you’ll receive varies and is typically based on the loan term and your creditworthiness. Some are lower than credit cards, making them more attractive to couples, but others may be as high as 30 percent.

While some loans are marketed specifically as wedding loans, you’re generally free to use any type of personal loan to cover wedding costs, including home equity loans. Personal loan providers typically let you use the loan amount for any legal expense; however, some do have specific restrictions on what you can spend the funds on.

Therefore, if you’re looking for options, don’t limit your search to only lenders advertising wedding loans specifically and make sure the lender meets all of your financing needs.

When a wedding loan makes sense

It’s easy to get carried away planning the wedding of your dreams, especially with the constant influence of social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. But it’s not advised that you take out a wedding loan unless it’s necessary.

When deciding whether to take out a loan, think about how crucial a larger budget really is. If you’re able to reduce costs in any way to better fit your available funds, then a wedding loan may not be necessary and you just saved yourself thousands of dollars.

Since wedding loans are unsecured, you don’t need to put anything up for collateral. While this reduces your personal risk, it increases the lender’s risk — meaning it is harder to get approved and get a competitive interest rate without a good credit score. But if you have excellent credit, you may be able to get a large loan at a low rate.

Pros and cons of wedding loans

Consider these benefits and drawbacks of taking out a wedding loan.

Pros of wedding loans

  • Soft credit checks: Lenders that offer wedding loans often allow you to prequalify so you can see the loan offers at your disposal without hurting your credit.
  • Potentially lower interest rates: Compared to credit cards, interest rates for wedding loans are usually lower and can save you thousands of dollars.
  • Longer repayment terms: Most wedding loans offer repayment terms of three to five years, so you can take your time paying your wedding off.
  • They’re unsecured loans: Since wedding loans are unsecured, you don’t risk losing your house, your car or any other asset you own if you’re unable to repay them.

Cons of wedding loans

  • Involve taking on debt: Wedding loans can steer you into a serious cycle of debt, especially if you already have other debt.
  • Interest rates can be high: If you don’t have a good credit score, you may have to settle for a high interest rate that can increase the overall cost of your loan.
  • Can lead to unnecessary spending: Wedding loans may lead you to spend on upgrades and extras you wouldn’t consider if you paid for your wedding with the cash you have on hand.

How to apply for wedding loans

To apply for wedding loans, follow these five steps:

  1. Check your credit: Figure out where your credit stands by checking your credit score. If you don’t have the best credit, you may want to take steps to improve it before you apply for a loan.
  2. Shop for lenders: There is no shortage of wedding loan lenders — from banks to credit unions. Check each lender’s credit requirements, funding times, loan rates and terms so you can determine which ones are a good fit.
  3. Get prequalified: Many lenders offer a prequalification process that won’t impact your credit score and can give you an idea of the loans available to you. To prequalify, you’ll need to fill out a short form with your personal details.
  4. Compare offers: Closely compare the wedding loan offers you receive. Consider interest rates, terms and fees. Choose the most favorable option that will save you the most money.
  5. Apply: Once you decide on a wedding loan, complete the formal application. Most lenders offer quick approval for qualified applicants and typically deposit funds within a few business days or even 24 hours.

Alternative wedding financing options

If a personal loan isn’t in your wedding plan or you don’t think it’s the best fit for your situation, there are financing alternatives that may fit more comfortably into your financial portfolio.

Credit cards

Some credit cards offer an introductory 0 percent APR for a set amount of time — typically between 12 and 24 months — after you open the account. This means you have time to pay off the balance without being charged interest.

A 0 percent APR credit card can be a great way to pay for vendor deposits and other immediate costs you can’t cover right away but can pay off in the next few months. Just make sure you can pay off the amount before the promotional period ends.

Personal savings

Try saving for a few years before a wedding. Dipping into a wedding-specific savings account you and your betrothed have will be better in the long run, since you won’t have to pay interest on loans or credit cards used to finance a wedding.

Help from family members

Some family members may be willing to help you pay for a wedding. If a family member wants to help foot the bill for the big day, this is a good way to finance a wedding without having to get a wedding loan, use a credit card or dip into your own savings.

Ways to save for your wedding

Here are some ways you can save for your wedding.

  • Create a budget: Look at your monthly income and expenses. Then, come up with a budget that works for your lifestyle needs and allows you to save for a wedding.
  • Take advantage of credit card perks: Many credit cards offer rewards such as cash back and points that you can redeem for free or discounted things such as airfare, lodging or gift cards.
  • Automate savings: Arrange for some of your paychecks to automatically go into your wedding savings account. This can allow you to save without much thought or effort.

Ideas to help save on wedding costs

If you find yourself turning to wedding loans to finance a large portion of your wedding, stop to think about whether there’s any way you can trim costs without sacrificing the important parts of your big day.

Here are a few ways to bring the price down without putting yourself into debt:

  • Pick an off-peak day of the week.
  • Thrift your decorations and look to online marketplaces to find deals.
  • Limit open-bar offerings to wine and beer or offer a cash-only bar.
  • Design and print your own invitations.
  • Host the ceremony and reception in the same location.
  • Choose a minimalist or homemade wedding cake.
  • Replace flowers with candles.
  • Limit professional photography to a few hours.
  • Use standard place settings and linens.
  • Serve a buffet-style dinner.
  • Check with your venue to see if you can provide the refreshments.

The bottom line

With the cost of an average wedding steadily climbing, fewer people are able to finance their big day out of pocket. Wedding loans are becoming more widely available due to demand and may offer more favorable interest rates than credit cards and other financing options.

But before you put yourself into debt, consider whether you need to finance wedding costs or if you can reduce the total price by making a few small sacrifices that won’t affect your experience.