For Richer or Poorer, to Our Visa Card Limit

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Author: Jennifer Bayot
Date: July 13, 2003
Publisher: The New York Times Company
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,599 words

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The mermaid-shaped gown with the $4,200 price tag was the first purchase that Cynthia Davis, of Coral Springs, Fla., charged to her Visa card.

The tiered cake, the groom's tuxedo and gifts for the bridesmaids followed, putting Ms. Davis and her fiance, David Davis, in serious debt for the first time in their lives.

Two more credit cards paid for doves to be released after their vows and for a horse-drawn carriage to take them to their reception, where 340 guests would be waiting.

When the big day was over, the balance due was $12,000 -- a debt the couple struggled with for three years, through bouts of unemployment, until they separated in 2001.

Wedding bills are weighing down couples and their parents long after the ''I do's,'' and many have been forced to seek financial counseling as a result, according to credit counseling agencies.

Young couples with modest incomes are having the most trouble repaying. Whether they celebrate lavishly or modestly, they are more likely than ever to pay for their weddings without help from their parents. And even when parents pay, what more and more people expect of nice weddings is increasingly more elaborate for both the richer and the poorer. And so, with debt do they start.

Ms. Davis, now 23 and an administrator at an employment agency, has since entered credit counseling to help her manage her wedding debt.

''I hope everyone had a good time, because I'm still paying,'' Ms. Davis said, laughing, then quietly added, ''really paying in a big way -- not only financially, but with my marriage.''

Howard S. Dvorkin, the president of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services Inc., in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said, ''Paying off these weddings is going to take a heck of a lot longer than the few hours the party lasted, maybe longer than the marriage lasts.'' He added, ''Because there's the emotional aspect, people lose sight of the finances when they're getting married.''

Springboard Non-Profit Consumer Credit Management, based in Riverside, Calif., says that in 2002 close to 240 customers -- about 2 percent of its clients -- named wedding spending the primary source of their debts, more than double the figure for 2001. Springboard said that with the exception of poor budgeting every other cause of debt that clients cited at least as frequently was unavoidable, like unemployment or illness.

Consolidated Credit, one of the country's...

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