scorecardMy fiancé and I are planning our wedding, but he's unemployed, and we're in debt. We've had to get creative.
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My fiancé and I are planning our wedding, but he's unemployed, and we're in debt. We've had to get creative.

Kelsey Herbers   

My fiancé and I are planning our wedding, but he's unemployed, and we're in debt. We've had to get creative.
Finance3 min read
  • Last October, my fiancé was laid off and he has been unemployed ever since, so we are now in debt.
  • We decided to keep planning our wedding, so I've used my tax refund to pay for deposits.

When my fiancé, Collin, was unexpectedly laid off last October, he told me it would likely delay his marriage proposal. We had already picked out a ring, and he had bought the center diamond, but he was hoping to save a little more money before buying the ring itself.

The night before Thanksgiving, we were sitting on the couch when I casually said, "You know, you could always borrow one of my fashion rings until we can purchase the real one."

We agreed it felt silly to wait on a major purchase to promise our futures to one another since the ring was just a symbol anyway. I lined up all the rings I owned on the bathroom counter and let him pick one out.

It was around 11:30 p.m. when he said, "Want to go to the beach?"

What I thought would be a promise ring situation ended with him getting down on one knee in the dark on an empty South Carolina beach after midnight and asking me to be his wife. (Spoiler: I said yes.)

He slipped a sapphire ring I had bought on sale from Kohl's onto my finger to a choir of crashing waves.

To me, his proposal was more romantic than any surprise candlelit picnic where my family and friends jumped out from behind the bushes. Instead, it was just us and our shadows in the moonlight because he simply couldn't wait to make me his wife.

But planning the actual wedding while in debt has been anything but romantic.

Planning a wedding while in debt isn't easy

Fast-forward to the present day and Collin is still having trouble finding a new job despite vigorously searching and applying for 40 hours a week. His unemployment eligibility has run out, and we're barely scraping by to cover rent and other bills.

As a result, we spent months feeling on hold with any and all wedding planning efforts, including setting a date. We needed a deposit for our vendors to lock in a date, which we didn't have.

Still, we don't believe our financial situation should delay us starting this next chapter of our lives. We've continued finding creative ways to move forward despite debt.

For example, I used my tax refund money to put a deposit down with a wedding photographer, which allowed us to set a date in September. We also worked with her to negotiate a different payment schedule due to our situation. Instead of her typical deposit of $1,500, she agreed to let us put $500 down to secure the date as long as we paid the rest of the deposit by the end of June.

To help us afford engagement photos, I joined a local photography Facebook group and responded to model calls from photographers looking to add to their portfolios. We found a photographer who heavily discounted our session because he wanted to shoot a couple in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. We couldn't be happier with the photos.

We have planned our elopement for a Monday to help avoid peak fall wedding costs. This also leaves us more time to secure vendors, as many vendors maintain availability for weekday weddings since they're less popular.

Instead of booking vendors like a local hair and makeup artist in advance, I've done the research to know which salon I want to reach out to once I have the required deposit. This will help speed up the process once we have the funds.

Since we wanted a mountain wedding, we planned our elopement location around our upcoming cross-country move so that we could drive instead of needing to purchase advance plane tickets and a rental car. We secured a furnished apartment in our new city so we could sell all of our belongings to help fund our travels. This also helped us avoid spending thousands of dollars on a moving truck.

Focusing on what matters most

The most important part of this process is ensuring we don't postpone our vows because of a temporary, short-term cash flow issue. We are willing to sacrifice the material things and finer details involved in many weddings so we can make our commitment sooner.

This lack of focus on the smaller details has also helped us plan an elopement that's entirely focused on our relationship and our love for one another.

At the end of the day, if I have to choose between marrying the guy of my dreams and having the perfect wedding bouquet, the answer is pretty obvious to me.

Kelsey Herbers is a freelance marketing writer and journalist based in Charleston, South Carolina. Connect on LinkedIn.