Kirsty McLuckie: Hitch of home ownership

Which is more important –getting married, or owning your own home?

Picture: Shutterstock

A couple of generations ago, setting up home together and getting hitched happened on the same day, and an average couple were in their early 20s, rather than the more advanced age of 37 as they are now.

The average age of first-time buyers has also crept up in the last couple of decades. Now we are much more likely to be in our mid-30s before we get a foot on the property ladder.

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So it can be an expensive time of life, particularly if it coincides with starting a family.

Children may be expensive over a lifetime, but they don’t demand a wodge of cash at the start, unlike buying a property, and all but the most basic of weddings.

Research from Direct Line Life Insurance reveals that 76 per cent of its respondents think buying a home is an important life goal, while only 64 per cent view marriage this way.

The report states that paying for the average wedding and putting down a deposit for the average house in the UK would put a sizeable hole in anyone’s savings – to the tune of £80,000.

Which begs the question: how does anyone manage to do it at all? On the UK average salary of £32,700, couples would need to save 10 per cent of their earnings for almost 15 years to be able to fully fund both a wedding and a mortgage.

I’m suspicious of eye-watering wedding costs revealed in bridal magazines. In the Direct Line report, the average is quoted is £32,000, from a 2019 Hitched article. However, I seriously doubt anyone I know has had a wedding day which cost anything like £30K.

My friends and family aren’t big spenders, but splurging that kind of money on one day would be a stretch for the worst Bridezilla.

Look closely at the figures quoted and you’ll find all sorts of add-ons to the final bill – honeymoons, rings, stag and hen trips. If you also include the value of the gift list, the accommodation that guests – notjust the happy couple – have to fork out for, and the elaborate fascinators, kilt hire and uncomfortable never-to-be-worn-again shoes that the attendees are also obliged to splurge on, you may get close to the headline figure.

The cost of getting on the property ladder might also include other charges – solicitors fees, LBTT and moving costs, etc – but the main lump is the large deposit required up-front these days, an average of £48,000 across the UK.

North of the Border, it is less. Bank Of Scotland found the average deposit paid by a Scottish first-time buyer in 2020 was £35,745.

But unlike hiring a gospel choir on your wedding day, paying a deposit on a property is largely unavoidable if you want to own a home.

But a choice between blowing years of savings on a high-end bash and investing in the roof over your head is not a difficult one, as the survey suggests.

The last 18 months of scaled-back weddings with limited guests has set a trend which may continue.

My advice to any newly-engaged couples who want to become homeowners would be to get spliced at a registry office, and then treat your guests to a pub meal. Use the money saved towards a deposit instead – that’s commitment.