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Online, mobile payments take sting out of wedding charges

Kelly Dilworth

Budgeting for a wedding can be stressful, but actually having to pay for it, check by check, over the course of several months, is often downright painful. There are typically so many vendors to pay — from caterers to florists to wedding photographers and beyond — that couples can become quickly overwhelmed.

In my case, I became so tired of cutting checks and handing over wads of cash to various vendors, I started delegating payments to my fiance so I wouldn’t have to think about the money we were spending on an event that was only scheduled to last half a day.

The wedding website, TheKnot.com, calls this wedding-specific phenomenon, “check fatigue.” According to a recent poll co-sponsored by TheKnot.com and PayPal, nearly 60 percent of brides feel like they’re constantly writing checks before the wedding.

“Planning a wedding requires paying multiple vendors multiple payments over a long period of time,” said PayPal’s Amanda Miller in a news release. As the payments mount, many couples become stressed over how much money they’re spending and get tired of being constantly reminded of how much money they still owe.

Now, some couples are looking to mobile and online payments to help take the sting out of paying multiple vendors. According to joint survey, 44 percent of couples wished they could pay for all their expenses through their mobile phones, while 70 percent agree that automated payments would be “helpful.” Meanwhile, 89 percent of couples appreciate the ease of electronic payments. Forty-two percent are puzzled that so few vendors accept them.

In an interview with PayPal writer Jim Gold, wedding planner Caitlin Frauton noted that digital payments often speed things up so couples aren’t slowed down by the nitty-gritty act of actually having to write checks. “Online payments make everything quicker,” said Frauton in the interview. “You want to purchase and pay for the things you need to and then keep moving on.”

In addition, Frauton said, digital payments make it easier to plan a wedding on the go. “Couples are planning as they’re commuting or as they have a few minutes here and there, so mobile devices can make it easier, “ said Frauton interview. “This is particularly true for when it comes to purchasing décor online.”

Digital payments may also be safer — particularly if you run across unscrupulous vendors. If you use an app linked to a credit card, your payments will be covered under the Fair Credit Billing Act, which allows cardholders to dispute a faulty product or service. If you’re upset about a shoddy service, your issuer may also step in on your behalf and issue a chargeback to the merchant.

However, the ease of paying online or through your mobile phone can also set you up for overspending — especially if you don’t pay close attention to what you’re buying. Already, credit cards are frequently blamed for taking the sting out of payments by making it easier to separate yourself from the money that you’re spending.

Previous research has shown that paying for something expensive, such as catering for a wedding, can literally be painful for people — and that may sometimes be a good thing. For example, researchers at Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Stanford found that parts of the brain associated with pain may activate when people view high prices.

Credit cards can help mitigate that pain by decoupling the act of paying for something from the money that you’re spending, say researchers. “Credit cards effectively anesthetize the pain of paying,” said Carnegie Mellon professor George Loewenstein in a news release about the study. “You swipe the card and it doesn’t feel like you’re giving anything up to make the purchase.” As a result, you could wind up paying more when you use credit because it hurts less to do so.

Spending money online or through your mobile phone could work the same way – especially if vendors make the payment process relatively seamless.

If you’re in the process of planning a wedding and find a vendor that accepts online or mobile payments, be sure to take a moment to think about your purchases before you pay for them. Speeding up the payment process could make wedding planning less painful, but it could also make the hangover you experience after the wedding a whole lot worse.

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