Too Broke to Get Married?

I hear it all too often.

We’re just moving in together for right now. We don’t really have enough money to get married, but we hope to save up for that someday.”


Those are problematic words for a pastor hoping to guide people toward a great start to marriage. Sexual purity before marriage sets a pattern of healthy sexual behavior after the wedding, contributing to a lifetime of fulfillment in marriage. So when I see couples moving outside of God’s boundaries for relationships, I’m concerned.

However, I’ve grown to enjoy the conversations that follow. Over the years, I’ve discovered that young couples often feel squashed by a number of pressures. They therefore put off marrying until some perceived ideal future time.

Here are a few of my observations:

  • They’re leery of committing to marriage after watching Mom, Dad and others fail at this vital relationship. Rather than face their fears regarding commitment, and all it involves, they cite lack of funds and venture into a different living arrangement.
  • They’re putting off marriage until later in life because they’re taking longer to get started in life and career than previous generations. In their minds, moving in together is a reasonable accommodation for their scheduling difficulties.
  • They expect to “have it all” the moment they say their vows. They look at couples they admire, especially successful parents, and assume that they can’t make that leap into marriage until they can afford a nice house, two new cars, and a whole bunch of other stuff. And if they can’t have it, they’ll wait.

Unfortunately, putting off marriage indefinitely can have unintended negative consequences, especially for couples who are fit for marriage in every way except financially. I caution couples who are considering moving in together before marriage.

If you’re ready for marriage, but think you can’t afford it, consider these three truths.

Truth #1: The future of your marriage is not pre-determined by your past experiences.

If you’ve got a healthy relationship with someone you’d like to marry, but are afraid of the future because of the mess you’ve seen some make of marriage, maybe it’s time to relax. Your relationship may be effected by your parents’ divorce, but your past does not determine your future.

There are two types of learning.
1. Learning by example involves capturing and replicating the best and most desirable aspects of what we have seen and experienced. This is what helps the child from a healthy home to develop their own thriving family. They have a deep well of positive examples from which to draw.

2. Learning by exception leverages our negative experiences and observations in order to change the way we ourselves act. Have you ever seen the ugly side of a relationship and thought, “I never want to be like that when I’m married”? Of course you have. People who are exposed to negative examples are able to overcome those patterns of behavior, acquire new relational skill sets, and experience everything matrimony was intended to be.

Whatever your background, it’s possible for you to experience a healthy marriage.

Truth #2: Moving in together is not a viable alternative to marriage.

There. I said it. That’s probably one of the less popular things I believe, but there’s good reason for it. God depicts the marriage relationship as special from the first chapters of Scripture to the last. Sexual intimacy is a sacred gift from Him, meant to be enjoyed freely and protected proactively by couples who want to experience all of God’s best, rather than settle for second.

So if you’re thinking you’ve found “the one” that you’d like to spend the rest of your life with, the best thing you can do for your future health is to guard the purity of your marriage now. Not later. Today is the day to set (or reset) the boundary of sexual intimacy being exclusively for a husband and a wife, within marriage. If you sleep with your fiancee now, you’re eroding the special-ness of what sex in marriage could be later. Don’t make common what God has called special.

Truth#3: You won’t have everything your parents do when you get married. That’s ok.

I’ve married couples who were penniless, and seen them experience great success in marriage. Mind you, I’m not saying that poverty is a guarantee to success. Far from it. The reality, however, is that some poor couples are better able and willing to articulate and live out godly priorities than some who have many more financial resources.

I’d say that if the primary obstacle to getting married is lack of funds for a $25,000 wedding and reception, your priorities are out of whack.

When my wife and I got married, we had nothing. I mean nothing. My wife chose for us to have a wedding rather than a diamond ring (and lived without one for another 6 years). She wore a $75 wedding dress, and was a vision in white. Friends and family chipped in to put together a pot-luck reception. It worked. We celebrated.

15 years and 4 kids later, I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start. I’m more in love with her than I imagined I could be. I know for certain that my wife values me, yes me, for who I am. Blessed by her outlandish acceptance and love of me, I have made it my mission to provide the best life possible for this selfless, godly woman whom I treasure.

So where does all of this leave you? Still wondering if it’s time to move forward? Or are you now hesitant?

I once heard a pastor say,

You can’t wait for all the light to turn green before you go downtown.”

  • Ask and answer the question, “Is our relationship ready for marriage?”
  • Find a pastor who does pre-marital counseling, and open up the conversation.
  • Decide that, no matter what, you’re going to live like your future marriage is special in God’s sight, and yours. It is.


Joe lives in upstate, NY with his wife and four daughters. He is a pastor at New Life Ministries, the church he grew up in. After 15 years of marriage and ministry, he’s passionate about helping others navigate the challenges of life through a strong connection with God. For more information, visit Joe’s blog.

  • mzwandile vaphi

    Hello Sir, I proposed to my fiance last year and I was broke then She said
    Yes. Then we made plans to get married this year 14th of December.
    so I had the funds and we paid deposits of almost everything, but with
    Two months to go something bad happened I had an accident and I was
    Driving my brother’s car. And I was the one who was at fault and now
    I have to pay for two cars and all the wedding money is going into paying
    Those two cars I’m praying about it. What more should I do please help
    If you can.

  • JAY123

    I never made much money – pretty much the reason why I never got married. What woman wants a loser?

  • WCM

    This is also in a kind of willful ignorance of what can be real financial requirements to getting married. Working overseas? Meet some one? Want to get married? Well I hope you make and have made $30’000 a year for the last few years. So the US government literally wont even consider letting your new wife/husband move to the US with you.

  • Briana Rumley

    The exact thing that’s stopping me and my fiance. We don’t know how we can afford to live. Forget the expensive wedding, where are we going to live once we leave the courthouse as husband and wife? I’m still in school and can only work part-time, he works full-time but we’re not sure we can manage all the bills we’d have on his less than $15/hour wage. We’ve been engaged over a year, and the longer we go, the more I question whether it’s really going to happen for us. I think our relationship is definitely suffering for it. 🙁

    • ZekeMastadon

      hmm maybe think about taking time off of the relationship so you can finish school quicker? He could get into a trade, after about 3 years he’ll make a lot more money than $15/hr.

    • NicP

      I totally understand kinda in a similar spot

  • ZekeMastadon

    I think for Christians moving in before getting married is a def NO. I don’t care what your financial situation is, you don’t move in together, it is clear you are having sex and that IS a problem.

    But “can you get married” if you are broke? I’d really argue against someone even starting to date if they have no money (whether male or female). Why?

    1) If you are a woman you don’t want a guy always paying for you, particularly early on. What if you don’t like this guy and you keep stringing it along either because you are too nice and feel guilty he bought you food, or because you figure you can get a free meal?

    2) If you are a guy- it is really sad if a guy cannot pay for a woman after about 4 or 5 dates. You should be able to pay for some things. It also signals a red flag for women if a guy has zero money- is he irresponsible with their cash?

    While I know things suck for most of us under 35 right now– and yes they majorly suck- I don’t make enough to move out of my parents basement, but I do have 6 months of savings, a newer car, a steady job, and degree. I’ve switched jobs a couple of times, but always put in a lot of effort to find another one right away. People should at least start with that. That may seem dumb but put it this way:

    Can two people with housing insecurity, school loans, unstable jobs, and mountains of random debt really think about joining their lives together? They don’t have their lives sorted out in the first place! And yes, that might mean waiting to date until you are older, etc. But isn’t that better than a chaos fest and adding another person into it, and worse yet, a kid?

    If you can’t afford your own pot to pee in, don’t ever think about adding another human into your life, let alone the remote possibility of a child, which is what marriage frequently does (unless you plan on making the male-portion get snipped). Really- be real. Don’t lie to yourself and think’ well we’ll make it somehow’. If you have a child and you are broke that kid will be in poverty forever with the way our country is going. There is no “American Dream” it is dead. You might have to live with parents, or other relatives forever, and that is ok. What is not OK is thinking you will have your own home, getting into debt, and being generally stupid with your savings or thinking you can afford a baby!

    If you can’t afford a cheap wedding – like paying someone to officiate and getting a cheap cake, don’t even think about joining your finances together. It is a bad move! Don’t even date someone really if you are that broke! Being married is MORE expensive not less. Yes you get a tax break, but the bills are double. You will end up paying for stuff for the other person in perpetuity and having to take care of them if they lose their job.

Copyright © 2014 Start Marriage Right. Disclaimer