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Three surprising ways paying for a wedding improved my finances

Paying for our wedding taught my husband and I some pretty important personal financial life skills that we'll keep with us long past our 50th wedding anniversary.

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    Megan Pederson laughs with her grandmother Betty Kline after a surprise impromptu wedding at her parent's house in Des Moines. The couple decided to bump up their wedding so that Megan's grandmother could be at the ceremony. (Rachel Mummey/The Des Moines Register via AP)
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I don't want to toot my own horn or anything, but I'm pretty proud of how my husband and I handled our recent wedding. First, we waited a whopping 10 years to tie the knot. I know that might not be for everyone, but we wanted to have enough money saved up that we could afford at least half of our "rough draft budget" up front in cash.

We also had a year-long engagement period where we beefed up our wedding fund and paid in cash as we booked things. And in the end, our hard work paid off! We didn't go into debt, we had the entire day paid for within a month before the wedding, and we also learned some pretty important personal financial life skills that we'll keep with us long past our 50th wedding anniversary.

I learned how to make educated credit card choices.

Disclaimer, I am not saying you should open a credit card and pay for your entire wedding with it. We opened the card specifically to rack up points and pay it off in full at the end of each month. Do not put yourself in debt (with interest!) for your wedding. Just please don't. If you are in a place to pay it off each month and use it wisely, it's something to consider.

Before you open any credit card, take time to consider which one is right for you. When deciding on a credit card you'll want to consider the following things:

Interest Rate
The national average is currently around 15 percent. If you can find a card with zero percent for the first 12-18 months and then lower than 15 percent after that, it might be a card to consider. Travel cards might be tempting for honeymoon points, but they tend to have higher interest rates, so be sure you're getting the right type of card for your needs.

Fees
Many credit cards have an annual fee. Your best options here are to find one with a $0 fee or one that will at least waive the first year's fees.

Incentives and bonuses
What are they willing to do for you? Look for cards with no interest (zero percent APR) for the first year and no annual fee if you're looking for a basic card. If a travel rewards card is what you're after, look for perks like 50,000+ bonus points for signing up. Those rewards may come with a minimum spend within the first one to three months so be sure you can meet that requirement before signing up. See our list of the Top 5 Credit Card Bonuses.

I learned how to budget like a boss.

Spreadsheets are your friend. Not just for wedding planning, for life planning. Even if the extent of your Excel knowledge was that class you had in high school, sit down and use your basic skills to create a budget. Not just for your wedding, but for your entire life. You need to know what kind of money you have coming in and going out in order to plan for what you can additionally spend.

1. Tally up your monthly necessities. This includes utility bills, rent/mortgage, gas money, groceries and anything else that you spend on regularly and cannot cut out of your budget. Compare this to your income and try to keep your necessities at around 50 percent of your monthly income. If you're way over that, start considering canceling, or at the very least negotiation lower payments on, unnecessary utilities like cable.

2. Cut down on a few things, but not all. Next, take a look at your fun spending. Going out to eat, Redbox rentals, nights out at the bar. Don't remove them completely, but give yourself a maximum spending limit for the month on entertainment, being sure that you are leaving another 20 percent or so of your monthly take-home pay to put towards your wedding or into savings.

3. Set up direct deposit to your bank. Once you've gotten your spending habits squared away and have figured out how much you will spend on necessities and how much you'll allow yourself to spend on fun, take the remaining monthly income and have it taken directly out of your paycheck and put into a savings account (or separate account than your daily spending). If you don't already have direct deposit set up with your employer, ask about it! It's easy to set up and a minimal-effort way to start saving.

Once you start paying attention to what you're spending, it will be easier than ever to say no to frivolous purchases, and this will carry over into your wedding planning. Are the vintage chairs really worth $5 more per chair, or will the plastic chairs that are included in the rental do just fine? Ultimately, that's up to you, but I can promise that you'll be more considerate when making choices that add up to hundreds of extra dollars on your final bill.

I learned that paying off current debt is ALWAYS more important!

My wedding wasn't the first thing I had to plan to pay for myself. I also put myself through college, and that debt prevented me from spending as much as I wanted to on my wedding plans. Ultimately, this was a good thing -- every month when my credit card bills and student loan payments came around, I had to fight the temptation to only pay the minimums so that I could put more towards my wedding. Resisting that temptation is probably the best thing I have ever done for myself.

When budgeting, I took into account my credit card and student loan debt, and I allocated more than the minimum amounts for these before even considering my contributing to my wedding fund. Why? Interest is not your friend. Paying the minimum $50 payment on a $2,500 balance will take you over seven years to repay this with interest.

Now, let's say you add just $15 more per month and pay $65 towards the balance. It knocks almost three years off your re-payment time, not to mention another $742 in your pocket. Add an extra $10 or $15 towards your debt every month in your budget, you'll be grateful you did in 10 years when being debt free is an actual possibility!

I know this isn't as exciting as adding Pins to your Wedding Board on Pinterest, but if you don't want to rack up a ton of debt for one night of your life (albeit probably the best night of your entire life) these are things you'll want to consider even before making your first deposit towards your wedding.

This article first appeared in Brad's Deals.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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