Wedding or Down Payment on House: Which Comes First?

wedding cakeA wedding is often referred to as the happiest day of someone’s life. But young couples are increasingly willing to put that day off until they’ve bought a home together, according to a Coldwell Banker survey reported on by Haya el Nasser in USA TODAY. In 2012, nearly one fourth of homeowners between the ages of 18 and 34 purchased a house together before they were married, along with smaller percentages in the upper age brackets.

The article explains this trend in terms of timing and financial savvy. Home prices are low, as are interest rates — and both might rise in the very near future. For committed couples, taking time and money out to plan a wedding might risk delaying or derailing their homebuying plans. One commentator even posited, “It’s almost like buying a home is the new engagement ring.”

What the article doesn’t mention is the starkness of the choice. The average opposite-sex wedding in the U.S. cost $28,427 in 2012, with same-sex couples spending even more. The median price of a home in the U.S. is $184,300. In order to make the standard 20% down payment on that median-priced U.S. house, a couple would have to come up with $36,860. And there are plenty of areas in the U.S. where that median price won’t buy you a garage. One good wedding could easily munch up most or all of your intended down payment.

But here’s an idea for bringing your homebuying and wedding plans together: The biggest cost when holding a wedding is the venue, whose average cost in 2012 was nearly $13,000. If you take that money and spend it on a house with a larger yard, you could hold your wedding right there. And you’d get to enjoy the space for longer than the few hours before the hotel tells you to grab your stuff, wake up Uncle Fred, and go home, please.