Be careful something borrowed doesn’t make you blue

By Sally Conway, Head of Marketing, Consumer at Shawbrook Bank

Wedding Vows

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. This traditional wedding rhyme describes what a bride should have with her on her wedding day to bring good luck. But with the cost of the average wedding reaching an all-time high this year, married couples are increasingly finding that what they need to borrow most is extra money.

The average cost of getting married reached £31,974 in 20191 which is a large amount of money for most people to generate. Our research shows that nearly two-thirds (65%) of married couples who tied the knot in the last five years underestimated the cost of their wedding and the majority had to borrow extra funds to cover the unplanned over spend.2

Seven in ten (70%) married couples, whose wedding cost more than they had budgeted for, borrowed extra money; with parents (26%), credit cards (17%) and personal loans (14%) the most common sources.

Although many people only went narrowly over budget, others found the cost of getting married often far exceeded their expectations. Nearly a quarter (23%) of people surveyed said they overspent by more than £20,000 and one in eight (12%) couples blew their budget by more than £50,000.

So, it comes as no surprise that with the average cost of getting married on the rise, the number of people choosing to tie the knot has been falling in recent years. In 1972 there were 426,000 marriages in England and Wales according to official data3 but this number has been in steady decline ever since. The most recent data recorded shows that just 243,000 marriages took place in 2016.

But savvy couples are finding ways to cut costs by breaking with tradition and prioritising their spending. As you might expect, deciding to get married on a Saturday in August can come with a premium price tag. Official data shows that between 1996 and 2016 the most popular day to get married was 30 August, with an average of 1,609 weddings taking place.

A smart way to save money could be to consider a mid-week day earlier or later in the year. Understandably, Saturday remains the most popular day of the year but since 2014 there has been a 40% increase in the number of marriages taking place on a Thursday.

According to London-based wedding planner, Rianna Elizabeth, elopements are also on the rise with more and more couples choosing to marry abroad to avoid the ‘big budget wedding’.

This view chimes with our own research which found that nearly a third (30%) of married couples who said they got married overseas did so because the cost was cheaper.

Encouragingly, the signs are that many married couples are taking steps to manage their finances. However, it is worrying, that 44% of the married couples we surveyed said they felt pressure from other people to spend more than they had planned to or felt comfortable with.

Nearly a quarter (23%) said this came from their family members, while 12% said friends or neighbours and 11% said their fiancée. Bowing to this pressure and overstretching your finances can cause unnecessary headaches leading up to your big day.

The key is to avoid rushing into any big financial decisions and if you choose to borrow money think about what your limits are and how much you can afford to repay. There are plenty of responsible sources of finance to help with the costs of getting married but it’s important to choose the right one for you and your partner. Making smart, informed decisions about your finances will ensure that whatever you do choose to borrow doesn’t leave you feeling blue.

[1] 2019 National Wedding Survey,

[2] Survey of 500 people who got married in the past five years. Conducted by 3GEM Research & Insights between the 1st of November and 18th November 2019.

[3] Marriages in England and Wales: 2016, ONS – Released 28 March 2019