Study: Financial Goals Take a Backseat to Wedding Planning

Couples combine finances early, but prioritize wedding costs over debt, saving

First come joint accounts, then comes marriage, according to Weddings & Money 2021: A Brides & Investopedia Study. The online survey of 1,000 U.S. adults planning their weddings found many couples are sharing accounts, making big purchases, and tackling debt burdens together before tying the knot. 

However, most couples prioritize planning and paying for their wedding over big financial goals such as paying down debt, buying a home, or saving for retirement.

Key Takeaways

  • The study found most couples (63%) who are planning their weddings regularly talk about money, and nearly half (48%) already share joint financial accounts
  • Checking, credit card, and investment accounts are the most common joint accounts among Americans planning their weddings
  • Most couples (67%) are carrying debt. Among them, 84% plan to tackle at least some of that debt together 
  • Most surveyed couples said they’ve put off at least one of their financial priorities in favor of the wedding (87%)
  • Despite how intertwined their money already is, only a third (33%) of engaged couples plan on using a prenup before getting married

Many Couples Combine Finances Before Marriage

The study found 63% of couples planning their weddings regularly talk about money, and nearly half (48%) already share joint financial accounts. 

The types of accounts vary, but among those who share financial accounts, checking (65%), credit card (47%), and investment accounts (32%) are the most common.

“The co-mingling of accounts by couples planning a wedding is a good first step towards the financial transparency that is necessary to build a relationship based on trust and partnership”, said Caleb Silver, editor-in-chief of Investopedia.”The next step is creating a financial plan that both partners believe in and can use to build a stable, successful financial future.”

Most couples planning a wedding right now are also carrying debt—either one (38%) or both (29%) partners—and plan to pay back that debt together. In fact, 84% of survey respondents in couples with debt said they would take on at least some debt together and more than half (55%) said they will take on all the debt together.

Couples younger than 30 are less likely to say at least one partner is in debt compared to those older than 30 (60% versus 70%, respectively). Men are more likely to be in debt than women (31% versus 19%), but the survey found women are more likely to be carrying student loan debt than men (26% versus 17%).

Big Financial Goals Often Delayed in Favor of Weddings

Overall, engaged couples are actively making financial decisions or changing their habits prior to getting married. For some, this means taking on large purchases like buying a car or home, but for many it means choosing to prioritize the wedding over other financial goals—including debt repayment.

An overwhelming majority of survey respondents (87%) said they’ve put off at least one of their big financial priorities in favor of planning and paying for a wedding, namely saving for a home, starting or growing a family, and saving for retirement. Perhaps most notably, while 35% of couples said they are paying off debt, 21% have put off repayments in favor of their wedding.

The Brides and Investopedia study data shows delayed goals may closely align with typical age-related milestones. For example, respondents younger than 30 are more likely to put off saving for a home than older respondents, while 30- to 40-year-olds are most likely to put off saving for childcare or a child’s education. 

Survey respondents who earn more than $150,000 annually are the most likely to put off at least one financial priority in favor of paying for a wedding. A steep 91% of surveyed individuals in that income bracket said they are delaying another financial goal, namely saving for childcare or growing a family, and saving for a home.

The survey responses of high-income individuals shows that some people have options when it comes to what financial goal they prioritize and when. That's likely indicative of wealth and privilege rather than a need to prioritize goals based on budget constraints.

Prenups Are Uncommon

Despite the prevalence of commingled finances, most engaged couples today don’t plan on using a prenup. Only 33% of surveyed couples said they plan on signing a prenuptial agreement before getting married. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, couples with higher annual income levels were much more likely to report using a prenup before getting married. Nearly half (48%) of those who make $150,000 or more per year told Brides and Investopedia they are using a prenup compared to just 13% of those who make $75,000 or less each year. Men are also a bit more likely to say they will or have considered using a prenup before marriage, too. 

Methodology

The Weddings & Money 2021: A Brides & Investopedia Study was fielded online to 1,000 U.S. adults between July 30 and September 14, 2021. Respondents are planning a wedding, have an event date within the next 24 months, and are involved in the wedding planning process. Quotas were used to ensure the survey sample represents the U.S. Census estimates for gender, race/ethnicity, and region.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. PR Newswire. "Weddings & Money 2021: A Brides & Investopedia Study Reveals How Much COVID-19 Continues To Change The Wedding Industry." Accessed Nov. 4, 2021.