How We Turned Our Wedding Expenses Into Over $4,000 in Credit Card Points

My wife and I spent $18,000 on our wedding, but we were able to turn that into over 240,000 credit card points to use for travel.
Last updated July 29, 2022 | By Brett Holzhauer
I Paid for My Entire Wedding on Credit Cards

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I wish I had a more romantic story of how my wife and I met. But we’re millennials, and we used the power of the internet to meet through Tinder. About three years later, we decided it was time to be tied together in times of sickness and health — and in times of flying first class and basic economy. It was time to get married.

By using credit cards strategically to pay for our wedding, we were able to not only earn valuable points and miles for a honeymoon or other travel, but also start having financial conversations and building our credit history as a new couple. We found this financial planning to be enjoyable, exciting, and a great project to work on together. And yes, this was very much worth it in the end.

In this article, I’ll talk about the costs of our wedding, plus how we were able to turn our wedding day into a large amount of points and start our lives together on a great note.

In this article

How I paid for my entire wedding on credit cards

With my looming student debt, going into further debt for a wedding was absolutely not an option for us. Even putting the student loans aside, we couldn’t justify making such a financial splurge on a single day.

My father-in-law was gracious enough to give us a $25,000 check. Whatever we didn’t spend was ours to keep. He even told us we could elope and keep the money. We thought pretty hard for a while about that tempting option, but we ultimately decided to have a wedding.

Of course, we were incredibly grateful for his financial assistance, but come to find out, that amount of money doesn’t go very far when it comes to a wedding. Our families are both from Los Angeles, so getting married there made sense. But this, unfortunately, added an even higher price tag. So we had to get really creative — but creativity is what made our day so special.

As venues are the most expensive part of a wedding, we did our fair share of investigating. Not surprisingly, nothing was even remotely justifiable. After much thinking, we decided to ask my father-in-law if we could have a backyard wedding at his home to save money. He agreed, and a large weight was lifted off our shoulders. After this, we began strategizing our plans by looking for the best rewards credit cards to get the most bang for our buck.

We planned our wedding budget and stuck to it

We also made the decision to not drain the entire $25,000 check; we put $7,000 away in savings. Since we didn’t have to pay for a venue, we decided to spend a bit more on other things. Knowing we were going to incur roughly $18,000 in overall costs, we started to strategize for the cards we wanted to earn points on. Since our wedding expenses were in all sorts of different categories, we mainly focused on completing a number of welcome bonuses rather than spending heavily on one card.

We also mapped out a timeline of when each expense would be incurred. That allowed us to plan for not only which cards we wanted to use, but when we would apply for them. We didn’t apply for all of our new cards at once but did so one by one as the wedding day got closer.

Additionally, since we knew we had $18,000 from my father-in-law in the bank to pay off our credit card debt, we had the luxury of not having to worry about interest charges. If you are planning a wedding and want to earn points and miles, I highly recommend still saving up for your wedding first. The reason being, if you aren’t able to pay off your credit card balances immediately, the interest you’ll accrue will negate much of the value of the points and miles you earn.

The credit cards we used to pay for our wedding

Over the course of nine months leading up to the wedding day, we applied for the following credit cards. We were playing in “two-player mode,” so my wife and I each separately applied for these cards and were approved. Here are the current welcome bonuses and rewards rates on these card. They differed somewhat when we applied for them in preparation for our wedding.

Card name Welcome bonus Reward rate Annual Fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases $695 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply)
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, hotels and cars booked via Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked via Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining; and 1X points on everything else $550

While this strategy seems very simple, we specifically wanted to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. This is because they can be transferred to a big list of airline or hotels, and putting ourselves in a pigeonhole of one rewards program wasn’t ideal for us.

The Platinum Card® from American Express — a luxury travel rewards card — was our No. 1 choice because of its long list of perks. As my wife and I are now traveling full time, we use these benefits regularly. It has a $695 annual fee, but the benefits can easily offset this. 

Benefits include a large welcome offer, $200 in Uber credits each year, fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, access to the Amex Global Lounge Collection, complimentary status in the Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy rewards programs, car rental coverage, and more. This card is arguably one of the best travel rewards cards because of its robust features. Do note that select benefits require enrollment.

After spending $10,000 between two American Express Platinum Cards, we were able to earn about 130,000 American Express Membership Rewards. These rewards are generally valued at two cents per piece, giving us $2,600 in points value. After paying the annual fees for our cards, we were still $1,500 ahead.

Next, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® was selected specifically because of our catering costs. Catering for weddings can also become incredibly expensive, and that was not going to work with our budget. Also, I’ve heard from people that wedding food typically isn’t that great.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you earn 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, hotels and cars booked via Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on air travel booked via Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining; and 1X points on everything else. So we decided to do what every Californian dreams about — get an In-N-Out Burger truck at our wedding! The cost of the In-N-Out truck ended up at roughly $1,600. With just about 150 people eating, that averaged out to about $10 a person, and everyone loved it.

I Paid for My Entire Wedding on Credit Cards

In the end, we were able to earn about 111,200 Chase Ultimate Rewards on our Chase Sapphire Reserve cards. What’s even better is that these points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase travel portal, which gives them a value of $1,668. After paying the annual fees for our cards, we were still ahead by $768.

And the perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve are great for all travelers. These include a $300 travel credit; a great sign-up bonus; valuable spending categories; travel insurance, such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance; no foreign transaction fees; a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit; Priority Pass Select access; and more.

How I strategized using these cards to get the most rewards

Card name Wedding budget spend Return in rewards (welcome bonus + spending)
American Express Platinum Card (No. 1) $5,000 65,000 American Express Membership Rewards
American Express Platinum Card (No. 2) $5,000 65,000 American Express Membership Rewards
Chase Sapphire Reserve (No. 1) $4,000 57,200 Chase Ultimate Rewards

This card had the In-N-Out Burger catering charge. We earned 3X on this purchase.

Chase Sapphire Reserve (No. 2) $4,000 54,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards

Grand total

241,200 points

*Note: The total includes points from any welcome bonus as well as our spending.

Unfortunately, nearly all of our wedding costs were outside of any lucrative points-earning categories other than dining. Paying for the wedding dress, flowers, decorations, and all the other small costs was all “general spending” that earned the minimum rewards rate. We were happy to score the extra dining bonus points on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but all other expenses were simply put on whichever card needed spending to hit the welcome bonus.

The earnings from using our credit card strategy for our wedding was about 130,000 American Express Membership Rewards and 111,200 Chase Ultimate Rewards — for a grand total of 241,200 points. If you go by the generally accepted value of American Express Membership Rewards at two cents per piece and Chase Ultimate Rewards at 1.5 cents per piece, that comes out to $4,268 in value earned.

That doesn’t take into account the annual fees we paid. But even then, we were able to earn a great chunk of our wedding expenses back in valuable travel rewards.

I Paid for My Entire Wedding on Credit Cards

The bottom line on using credit cards to pay for your wedding

Just because we used these two particular cards doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the two best credit cards for wedding spending. Since everyone will plan a different wedding and have various priorities, it’s best if you sit down and analyze your spending ahead of time and pick the credit cards that will get you the most return. For us, we wanted to earn points to travel for our honeymoon, and then travel even more afterward. And we were able to accomplish that!

If you’re planning your wedding day, I suggest you start by opening a wedding-specific savings account and also implementing a credit card strategy. A wedding is meant to be a day of joy and celebration. However, this can quickly be eaten up by stress and anxiety if you end up spending your special day wondering how you’re going to pay off your wedding loan.

Take the time to strategize, and you and your partner could be starting out your married life with a ton of points and miles to travel with from your wedding costs. And that way, you can eat all of the food at your wedding, have that extra glass of champagne, dance on a table, and enjoy your wedding day to its fullest!

Best Luxury Travel Benefits

Intro Offer

Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months

Annual Fee

$695

Rewards Rate

5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months
  • Select your metal card design: classic Platinum Card, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu
  • 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and prepaid hotels booked on Amextravel.com
  • $200 hotel credit (minimum two-night stay required), $240 digital entertainment credit, $200 in Uber Cash, $300 Equinox credit, $200 airline fee credit
  • Access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Select benefits require enrollment.
  • $695 annual fee. Terms apply.

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months
  • 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • Terms apply

Author Details

Brett Holzhauer Brett Holzhauer is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. He writes about using points & miles for travel, travel industry news, utilizing credit cards as financial leverage, and investing for the future. He has been featured in publications such as The Points Guy, Million Mile Secrets, The Money Manual, Recruiter, Travel Pulse, and Bald Thoughts. He is a full-time digital nomad with his wife, Kiersten.