Should you pay for your wedding with plastic?

By , CardRatings contributor

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Gonna get married? The average wedding these days costs more than $28,000, according to TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com's annual survey.

Between the wedding and the reception, it can add up to a big chunk of change. While moms and dads are likely to help, you still could end up paying for a good deal of your big day yourselves. You may wonder whether you should pay cash for your share of the wedding expenses or charge it to a credit card.

The answer is: It depends.

Big bills you can't afford

The answer is no if you're using a credit card because you're planning a wedding that's way more than you can afford.

"Most people have a dream wedding in mind. That's totally understandable," says Beverly Harzog, a credit card expert and consumer advocate in Atlanta. "But if you put a dream wedding on a credit card, you could be paying for that wedding 10 years from now. If that happens, your dream wedding becomes a nightmare."

When you have to pay credit card interest, you end up paying much more for the wedding than you planned for, Harzog says. "It's difficult, but try to be realistic about what you can afford."

The answer is yes if you can pay the balance in full when you're back from your honeymoon and the credit card statement is waiting for you in the mail or your inbox.

Rewards for the honeymoon

"I think it's acceptable to put a wedding on a credit card is if you know you can pay the bill before the due date," Harzog says.

Charge those items to your credit card that you can pay for in full when the bill comes, agrees Liz Weston, personal finance columnist and author of "The 10 Commandments of Money."

There are a couple of advantages to charging some wedding expenses to your credit cards, Weston says.

One is you can use the rewards you earn to help pay for your honeymoon.

That's what Jesse and Alicia Levey did when they were married in Santa Barbara in July 2011 and honeymooned in Thailand and Hong Kong.

"We used (reward) miles on United to fly there and were able to get business class seats, which we never could have done were we paying cash," Jesse says. Reward points also helped them pay for rooms at upscale hotels.

If you want to pay for your wedding with a credit card to get rewards for your honeymoon, be sure you're using a card that offers you rewards like airline miles and hotel rooms. Again, Harzog warns: don't go overboard - buying things you don't need just because it will get you more points/rewards toward your honeymoon.

Added protection on your big day

Another advantage to using your credit card to pay for your wedding services is if you have a problem. Your credit card company can help you resolve disputes. According to the Better Business Bureau, your credit card company will investigate any problems within 60 days of your receiving your statement. That's even if you already paid the bill.

A recent survey by Travelers Insurance found that the biggest complaint newlyweds had was with their wedding photographer. If you've charged your photography services to a credit card and the photographer doesn't deliver the photos or none of them are in focus, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. A caveat: some wedding photographers work alone and won't take credit cards.

"Any time you're spending a lot of money on something, it can help to have the backup of a credit card company when things go wrong," Weston says.

It's about getting married, not what you're spending

Whether you're paying for your wedding on credit or in cash, it should be more about getting married than throwing a huge party, Weston says.

One of the loveliest weddings she ever attended was a potluck, she says. "Those two are still married more than a decade later. The most elaborate wedding I ever attended had hundreds of people, a professional dance troupe as entertainment and over-the-top food. That couple later divorced."

Adds Weston: "I'm not saying there's a correlation. But I do think people should think pretty carefully about what they can really afford and the financial strain they're putting on themselves and their families when they insist on extravagant events. Spending tens of thousands of dollars you don't have is not a great way to start your life together."


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