They say you can’t put a price on love, but you can put a price on celebrating it. An American Express survey says the average UK wedding guest spends £1,045. This includes accommodation, travel, childcare, gifts and outfits.
According to the survey, spending has increased by 18% since last year. This might be due to more Brits attending weddings abroad.
But it’s not just the wedding itself that’s expensive – hen and stag dos cost guests around £250. One friend spent hundreds on different themed outfits for a 3-night hen.
The high charge is probably not a surprise – we know weddings aren’t cheap. Regardless of inflation and rising costs, however, wedding expenses are still uncomfortable to discuss.
While it’s easy to turn down a kid’s birthday party or a housewarming, you can’t exactly say, ‘Hey, hope the best day of your life goes well. Unfortunately, we’re going to a festival on this day so can’t make it.’ You need a serious excuse if you’re not planning to attend and want to remain friends after.
And this is where it gets awkward – do poor finances count as a serious excuse? A Spare Room survey found 43% of people have lost a friend due to turning down a wedding invite because they couldn’t afford it.
I’m not a ‘wedding person’ – I don’t overly fantasise about a wedding and wearing a white dress. I tell my partner I’d love to elope and celebrate with people when we get back. So I wouldn’t put myself in debt to attend a wedding. If I held my nuptials abroad or picked a location miles away, I would expect some people to say no.
But unless you’re jobless or haven’t been on holiday in years due to finances, it’s another taboo to assume what you can and can’t afford. Do any of us have the heart to admit we’d rather skip a friend’s wedding to invest our money elsewhere?
Weddings, like baby showers and engagement parties are occasions we’re expected to embrace and happily pay for. Maybe with the assumption that when we hold our own event, we’ll benefit from the same gifts and money-parting friendship.
It reminds me of the iconic Sex and the City episode, ‘A Woman’s Right to Shoes’. As the episode highlights, we’re expected to celebrate and splurge on couples and parents but don’t shower individuals for non-romantic accomplishments. Would people make the same financial effort for someone’s book party launch?
How much should you spend as a wedding guest depends on how much you can afford. While a friend may have the fortune of wealthy parents who can invest in a five-star Spanish villa, it’s not unreasonable to turn down spending a grand for a weekend celebration.
Of course, you can do things to minimise costs. From renting an outfit, skipping out on the hen or stag to being less generous with your gift.
Research from Credit Karma found many Gen Z and millennials overspend with friends due to wanting to keep up with their lifestyle, not feel left out and because they don’t know how to say ‘no’. FOMO is real when everyone is going to something that you can’t afford.
If you’re struggling with costs, speak to your friend as soon as possible. Together, you could find options to make the day more affordable. If you do choose to go, be realistic with what you need to set aside. Agreeing to attend means not holding a grudge or quietly being mad that you’re spending so much.
Everyone is entitled to their dream day – you’re also entitled to say no.
What are your thoughts? How much should you spend as a wedding guest – would money ever make you decline an invitation?