Weddings Are Super Expensive to Attend, It Turns Out

When my close friend from college called to ask me to be a bridesmaid in her destination wedding in Colombia, I said “yes” immediately. South America! With my best friends! In a magenta dress!

Over the next year, I spent more than $1,500 on wedding-related expenses. Travel, lodging, dress, hair, make-up, food, gifts—the costs kept adding up. And I could have spent more: I borrowed the shoes to go with my bridesmaid dress, skipped the bridal shower (but chipped in for a gift) and opted not to buy a wedding present, because at that point, I simply couldn’t afford it.

Spending outside my means on the wedding was my own fault; I signed-on before I took the time to calculate what it would cost me. It seemed like a good idea to charge the flights and figure out how to pay the rest along the way. But as the year went on and the costs added up, I slowly realized what I’d gotten myself into. As I continue to pay off my bills, I wondered: Do all weddings cost this much? I surveyed some friends to find out.

I asked 20 20-somethings to give me itemized lists of how much they’d spent in recent years as wedding guests and wedding party members. This is by no means a scientific study, but I polled a cross-section of people across the country, many of whom had attended multiple weddings. The median totals I heard per person, per wedding were:

Wedding guest: $540
Groomsman: $815
Bridesmaid: $900

Many people had never calculated how much they’d spent on each wedding, and those folks all underestimated their expenditures by about $100 to $200. (“Depressing” was the most commonly used adjective to describe this exercise.) Several of my friends said they were in credit card debt largely because of weddings they’d attended. “Dear married people, you can buy me a credit score when I get married,” joked one of my single friends who estimates she’s spent $4,150 in the last two years at weddings.

I propose that we all agree that it’s okay to decline being in someone’s wedding for financial reasons. Or to skip some of the traditional events we’ve been taught to attend and gifts we’re expected to give. I also wish we felt better about being upfront with the married-couple-to-be about our limitations. Maybe they’ll say that the only important thing is that you’re there on the day. Or maybe they’ll say, “We are secretly rich and will buy your plane ticket” (you never know). It can be awkward to talk about money with your friends and family, but it’s way better than resenting them for your debt.

We’re perpetuating a silly cycle: Spend x on your friend’s wedding and he or she will probably spend something similar to x when you get married. The wedding industry has us following a twisted revenge philosophy: “I’d elope, but these assholes totally owe me,” as one of my friends put it.

Here are some of the cost breakdowns among my 20 correspondents. You don’t have to join the cycle! Leave the gift-giving to the folks with money (parents ahem). And couples—if you know all of your friends are underemployed, maybe a destination wedding isn’t the best idea?

Engagement party: The engagement party gift was least frequently mentioned among the expenditures I went over. The few who did buy them spent a range of $10 to $100. I think it’s totally okay to skip the engagement present. There are plenty of opportunities for gift-giving later on.

Bridal shower:
I heard a range of $16 to $100 on bridal shower gifts, the median being $65. Again, I think it’s okay to skip the present, or chip in for one nice gift or giftcard with a bunch of friends. If you can’t afford to travel, don’t.

Bachelorette party: I heard a range from $30 to $300 depending on whether travel was required. The median was about $180. This is one of the most difficult wedding-related events to budget for in advance, because incidentals are always involved. (Lingerie for the bride, manis and pedis, spa treatments, so many drinks!) If you’re worried about your budget, I think this is a good event to skip.

Bachelor party: The range I heard was from $150 to $500, with the median cost being about $300. Things people mentioned throwing down for: travel, dinner, (lots of) drinks, table service, limo, strippers, cigars. Guys, you can skip this, but you probably don’t want to.

The wedding:
Flight: If you’re attending a destination wedding, this is the first cost you should calculate. If you can’t pay for the flight out-of-pocket, it’s a sign you probably shouldn’t go.

Hotel: I heard ranges from $50 to $400, which of course depends on where you’re staying and for how long. Median cost was $180. If you’re looking to save money, split a room with someone else attending the wedding, stay with a friend in town or ask the bride and groom to chip in for your lodging. If you’re out-of-country, stay in a hostel, not a hotel.

Local transportation: Don’t forget to budget for cabs or a rental car. Pre-plan with other guests or ask about hotel shuttles.

Ladies’ attire: Bridesmaids I talked to spent a range of $110 to $300 on shoes and a dress, with the median being about $245. Female wedding guests spent a median of $95 (some wore shoes and dresses they already owned, some sprung for a new outfit).

Bridesmaids can also expect to spend about $100 on hair and make-up if the bride expects you to get it done professionally. If you can’t afford this, talk to the bride. If you’re on a budget, wear your own jewelry, bring your own purse and tell the bride you’ll do your own nails. If she doesn’t understand, she is a Bridezilla.

Men’s attire: The men I spoke to said tux rentals averaged about $150 (if you’re clumsy, don’t forget to add on the damage waiver). Men can usually wear their own dress shoes to weddings and might have to spring for a haircut.

Gift: How much you spend on the gift will probably depend on how much you like the person getting married, whether you’re attending with a guest and your budget. I heard a range of $0 to $250 a person for wedding gifts, with $150 being the median. If you’re attending as a couple, $200 total was a popular figure.

Food for out-of-town weddings: If you’re traveling to the wedding, budget at least $30 a day for food and another $20 to $30 for alcohol and tips. If the wedding has a cash bar, you’ll need to budget for that, too. But then again, if it’s a cash bar, why are you even going?

 

Kalyn Belsha is a freelance writer living in Chicago. If she ever gets married, she promises to have an open bar and homemade cheesecake.

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63 Comments / Post A Comment

bgprincipessa (#699)

The amount that I have spent being a twice-over MOH in the last 8 months gives me agita.

Quinn A@twitter (#1,008)

Oh, my God. I considered what round-trip Newfoundland to Ontario plane tickets would cost my loved ones, but I didn’t even think about hotels and transportation and drinking. I don’t think any of my friends or siblings will be able to afford the trip.

My wedding will include NO ONE I LOVE. Well, except for my fiancee, obviously. Wow. That’s depressing.

aubergines (#1,437)

I’m a Bridesmaid for friends here in the US in a few months. I totally put my foot in it out shopping for dresses when I asked how much the bride wanted to spend on the dresses. Turns out American bridesmaids pay for their own dress!
As a Brit, this was somewhat of a surprise. Bridal party members don’t pay for anything in the UK – hotel, outfits, hair, make up, shoes, you name it. Only travel to the wedding is not covered.

Megano! (#124)

@aubergines Wait, what? HOW DO YOU AFFORD A WEDDING AT ALL?

I declined being a BM for one of my closest friends because I couldn’t pay the cost out of pocket. Happy with my decision, and she has been great about it. Other friends have been judgier (ie “I will go to your wedding no matter what, bc you are my best friend.”) Bank account does not understand bestieness.

lalaland (#437)

@halfheartedyoga I just don’t understand the judging…I’ve enjoyed all the weddings I’ve attended, but something about the whole thing irks me – I am essentially paying at least $100 (for the gift, if nothing else) for YOUR day. Who are any of us to demand that x amount of people pay $y for what is essentially a chance to play dress-up and pretend to be a princess?

It’s like, how about, I am your best friend and I understand that even if you HAVE the money in your account to attend my wedding, maybe it’s okay that you don’t want to blow it on a big party to celebrate me.

I don’t know, I also don’t really ‘celebrate’ my birthday or plan to have a wedding. Meow!

cmcm (#267)

@lalaland I’m totally with you… if/when I ever get married, I’ll be like “it would be fun if you could attend!” But frankly the expectation that people will go into debt for your stupid party is just selfish.

I was supposed to be a bridesmaid a few years ago for a friend from school (who frankly I had completely grown apart from anyway) and I had to say I couldn’t afford it and we don’t talk anymore. I was living on student loans, in the UK, and she seriously expected me to magic up the $1,000++ that it would have cost to go to upstate NY in the middle of summer?? Yeah, obviously we just aren’t supposed to be friends.

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

I had to send my regrets for *all* of a friend’s wedding-related celebrations in part because of finances. The wedding would have cost over $700-800, as flights/hotel alone would have cost at least $500. I feel like a horrible friend for missing all of this. Thankfully, said friend is awesome.

Forgive me for seeming like a cranky forever alone cat lady, but the whole wedding and pre-wedding event gift traditions seem a bit much, esp. compared to other life milestones. Even with kids, there’s only the baby shower.

HarperK (#1,388)

I’ve inadvertently solved this problem by being friends mainly with people who a.) were already married when I met them, or b.) are oh-so-single (some who are loving it, some who are not). As a result, I’m 32 and have attended 6 weddings in my entire life.

I’ve unashamedly LOVED the weddings I went to, though. Maybe I’d love weddings less if I had to go to more of them. As it is, I get a little jealous of my friends and acquaintances who block out May – July as “wedding season.”

wallrock (#1,003)

When my sister was married she did what she could to minimize the costs involved, having the ceremony in my parents’ backyard and keeping the reception close by. Even still I ended up spending close to $500 as a groomsman.

Last weekend I traveled down to Illinois for my cousin’s wedding. I kept costs within reason by staying with my grandparents instead of a hotel and driving down with my parents. Horrifyingly enough it was also a dry wedding, but we were lucky enough to find the clubhouse bar elsewhere on the golf course where the reception was held. The money spent there was well worth it.

One of my best friends is getting married later this summer and I’m beginning to suspect this is going to be a pricey one. The bachelor party is supposed to be a three-day weekend in Minocqua ($$$) and I’m supposed to get my tux next week.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@wallrock dry weddings are the worst. bars of all kinds (I understand that open bars are a leeetle bit pricey) are so. much. better. seriously, you spend so much and then you can’t even drown your sorrows? not fair.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

I’m going to a friend’s reception in Pittsburgh this summer. Fortunately I can roll this into a family visit as well (though I still need a hotel), and I am astounded at how much it is going to cost me, even splitting the hotel with other guests and taking the train rather than flying.

That said: this is literally the only wedding I’ve been asked to attend in the last decade, and I don’t anticipate having any others to go to in the future (I don’t care about very many people that much), so I consider this a one-time deal.

Poppy (#1,438)

“..ask the bride and groom to chip in for your lodging.”

Are you kidding?

When I got married, ~20 people couldn’t make it because of costs (many of my friends live in different countries). I was sad, but I understood.

I wouldn’t have understood if someone had asked me to pitch in for their accommodation costs, though – who would be rude enough to do such a thing?!

@Poppy someone that you care very much about who doesn’t have a lot of money. When you’re shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for a wedding, I’m surprised that a $100 increase would offend you such.

Poppy (#1,438)

@Jake Reinhardt There are better ways. Like not asking – just letting the couple know that you can’t make it work financially. If it’s really important to them that you are there, they may offer (as my husband and I did when faced with this very situation). Or maybe they won’t, because maybe they don’t have the money themselves (not everybody spends tens of thousands of dollars) or maybe you’re not all that important (ouch, but it happens). My point is, asking for somebody to pay your way, at a time when they’ve probably got quite a few other costs weighing on their minds, is rude. Telling someone you can’t afford it (and maybe silently hoping they’ll offer) is not. I know what situation I’d react better to, and I’m not even all that easy to offend, believe it or not!

@Poppy We had to drive across state (~300 miles) for a very dear friend’s wedding, which we would never want to have missed. Plane/train would have been cheaper, but with local transportation/car rental factored in, it was cheaper to but 650 miles’ worth of gas. We could barely afford to do it, even though the hotel was relatively cheap.

I couldn’t even work up the courage to ask the bride if she knew anyone whose place we could crash at, even though that could have potentially saved us a ton of money. In retrospect, we should have asked.

Anyways, my point is, I think asking for general assistance is fine, or sort of hinting like “well, unless I get a fairy godmother soon, I’m not going to be able to afford it.” But I do agree that outright asking puts the couple in a very uncomfortable position/possibly strains the relationship between the friend and the couple.

kellyography (#250)

I am actually going to my very first wedding as an adult this weekend. It’s a “destination” wedding in that it’s being held in Atlanta, but most of the guests/family will be coming from either SF or NYC.

I’m traveling with a friend, so that will help, but these are the costs I plan to incur:

$300 plane ticket
$113 hotel room for Friday night (will split with friend)
$50 5-day car rental (amazing deal, will split 60/40 with friend who is staying longer)
$120 hotel room for Saturday night (will split with friend)
$40 mani-pedi (including tip, plenty worth it, and not something I do often)
$28 for an ice cream scoop (wedding present. to be fair, it was on the registry for like $18 and then shipping was ridiculous)
$25 train rides to/from the airport (trying not to take cabs when I don’t have a big suitcase)

As for the rest, I know eating and shopping (thrift stores in the South! I can’t wait!) will take up another chunk, but we’re staying at a friend’s house on Sunday, I’m wearing a dress and shoes I already own to the ceremony, and am pretty low-maintenance money-wise, so hopefully the trip will function as a fun mini-vacation and be totally worth it.

Weddings are ridiculous, apparently. One of my best friends did it the best way:

1. Get married in a resort town in the off-season. RATES. Palm Springs architecture without the Palm Springs price. Downfall? Heat.
2. Have a small wedding. Like 20 people plus bride and groom small
3. Rent out three adjacent houses with a courtyard in the middle for your guests to stay in. Two pools!
4. Realize that you probably have many of the things you might get as presents. This works if you, as my friend and her husband do, have a very nice income. Politely decline gifts, and note that attendance is the only gift you want from your friends/family.
5. Don’t have bridesmaids/groomsmen. Because what’s the point? Your friends are all there already.
6. Buy a bunch of food from Costco, and a bunch of ceviche from the Mexican place down the street, and have the guests (did I mention they paid for us to stay for a WEEKEND??) help out with the cooking/preparing, which they will gladly do, because they are your friends!
8. Copious alcohol, possibly also from Costco.
7. Everyone party. For three days (labor day!). With a wedding in there somewhere. PERFECT!

@Jake Reinhardt This is all good. Costco is basically sponsoring my upcoming wedding.

@Jake Reinhardt Friends of mine did something similar and they didn’t even have a substantial income. A bunch of us chipped in to rent a giant beach house, they got married in front of the house and had the reception underneath. They paid for the wedding party’s attire & stocked the house with food and alcohol for the long weekend. All we paid for was travel & splitting the beach house, and it was FUN.

charmcity (#1,091)

I feel really awkward accepting expensive stuff from people, even when they are joyously trashing my life/budget by getting married. My friend offered to buy me a $700 plane ticket to a bachelorette weekend, because I hinted that it would be tough for me to swing it, but that make me feel like sad Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids. So I’m driving like 14 hours to Ohio. I know I could have taken her up on the ticket — she meant it, makes a ton of money, is a generous person — it just makes me feel so uncomfortable!

guenna77 (#856)

seriously. i had my own “year of weddings” a while back, but my brother is suffering through it this year. he’d only had one friend get married before this, but now the poor guy is in the homestretch for 6 different weddings, for which he was the best man at one, and in the wedding party of 2 or 3 others. every single one included a bachelor party, and 3 of those were “destination” (which is RIDICULOUS). And and least 4 of the weddings are out of town, if not destination. he was going broke on just the plane tickets.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@guenna77 The destination wedding needs to die. Seriously. Watching two people get married (and placing bets on when they’ll get divorced) is not actually interesting enough to spend huge amounts of money and waste vacation time from work on.

@MuffyStJohn This is something my SO and I worry about. She is from Paris and has a lot of family in the West Indies, I am from Florida and live in DC. So if we get hitched, wherever we do it it’s going to (essentially if not technically) be a “destination wedding” for a lot of people.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@stuffisthings There is a huuuuuge difference between “we have family scattered around the world” and “everyone come to Argentina for our wedding even though we live in Hoboken.” One is just the way life is; the other one is self indulgent to the nth degree.

@MuffyStJohn Oh definitely. I just meant from the standpoint of practicalities for our mostly not-rich friends and family, not being perceived as entitled dicks.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@stuffisthings I think as long as you’re understanding when some guests can’t come for financial reasons (and you don’t hold the ceremony in Pago Pago), you will not come off as entitled dicks. You can’t help where folks live!

sony_b (#225)

@stuffisthings We don’t have that kind of distance, but BF and I live in the SF Bay area, my parents live in northern WA, my sister lives in Pensacola, FL and Santa Barbara, CA (bi-coastalish!) his parents live in TN, his grandmother lives in SC, and his mother lives in Uganda. And his sister, hubby, and 3 kids live in TX. Also, his mom’s family and his dad’s family HATE each other.

We’re not engaged yet, but we’ve talked about a plan where we have a small wedding in a park for just close friends and family (all of our parents except his mom could afford to come to San Francisco for it, and my sister certainly has the frequent flier miles). We’ll work out a way to help his sister and family to come if they can’t afford it. Then we’ll have two casual receptions – one for his dad’s side of the family at their home in TN, and one at for his mom’s side at the family farm in SC. Whenever we do this, it’s going to be insane, but I think it’ll be reasonable for everybody who wants to see us and celebrate.

@sony_b That’s probably what we’ll do, too. Family thing maybe in the West Indies (because who doesn’t want to get married on a tropical island?) and friends’ reception back in DC.

Megoon (#328)

@MuffyStJohn I kind of like destination weddings, because I have NO problem declining them, and the couple seems to expect that a lot of people will. But if the choice is between flying to Nebraska to go to their hometown wedding or Jamaica for their destination shindig, I’d rather go to Jamaica.

@Megoon Yeah, I actually thought in most cases that was kind of the point of destination weddings? To limit the number of attendees? Isn’t it?

City_Dater (#565)

“Engagement gift”?! Oh, hell no. Two adults (who have probably been living together for years) should not expect, or ask, for anything over and above an actual wedding present. And in this age when almost no one has to “set up a household” after marriage, we should probably even start rethinking that.

Charlsie (#442)

I can honestly say it was a pleasure and an honor to be a part of every single wedding. I can also say, I am rarely able to give wedding presents. If I attend a shower, I will give a present. If I can afford it, I will give a present. However, if it comes down to me traveling to attend an engagement party and buying you a present, I’m going to be at your engagement party. I like to believe that any of my friends who care enough about me to include me in their special day understand the fiscal constraints of wedding presents. I also understand that not being able to afford all the weddings in your life is a rather ridiculous problem. I try to consider weddings something of a “hobby,” and not worry too much about how expensive it is. Because, dang it, my friends are worth it! I just wish wedding travel was tax deductable. And I hate etiquette books that chastise me for expecting a plus one and for not always giving a gift. Here is why –

I am not exaggerating when I say I’ve been invited to between 75-100 weddings in the past ten years. I remember the summer after my first year of law school, 2004, I studied abroad and I missed six weddings. In 2007, I was invited to 24 weddings. I attended 13 of them. After that, I stopped keeping track, mostly because I literally couldn’t keep them straight. But I’m pretty sure 2008 had similar numbers as 2007. I’ve thought about sitting down and actually writing down every wedding I’ve ever been invited to, and I’m not sure I’m capable of that task. I’m not sure I could even tell you all the weddings I’ve attended. I would attribute all of my consumer debt to going to, and being in, weddings. I was a bridesmaid in four weddings over the span of six weeks in 2009. The weddings were from the last weekend in April til the middle of June, and I had to purchase the bridesmaid dresses six months prior, which meant, December. So, December 2008, I spent close to $1000 on bridesmaid dresses. Merry Christmas! I’ve been a bridesmaid 12 times, and I have been a reader five times. (I believe these numbers to be accurate, but I feel like I’m leaving someone out) That means I’ve been to 17 actual rehearsals and bridesmaid luncheons. I’ve been one of 13 bridesmaids at least three times. I’ve been a MOH twice. Two of the weddings were in my parent’s backyard. I’ve traveled to Colorado (twice), New Orleans (twice), Louisville, Dallas, Memphis, Birmingham, Williamsburg, Atlanta (lost count on that one), Charleston (before I lived here), St. Simons, Beaufort, Conway, Columbus, Macon, Athens, Savannah, Greenville, and lord knows where else.

Ahh, so many memories. I like to believe it was all worth it. But don’t take away my plus one, because it hurts my feelings. And I’m too old to not at least have the option to bring a date if I want.

Charlsie (#442)

@Charlsie BTW – I’ve only been invited to seven weddings so far in 2012, so maybe the pace is starting to slacken.

@Charlsie Word. My dad told my cousin (who is horrible) that I was in El Salvador for her wedding because I wasn’t allowed to bring my +1 boyfriend of 2 years-possibly longer than the bride and groom had been dating. Technically, I was in El Salvador that summer-just a month earlier. Thanks, Dad. (I just realized that my billfold-name is a dude’s name, and I am actually a girl. In case anyone was thinking this was a case of homophobia or something-it wasn’t, but the bride was that level of awful)

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Charlsie I’m nauseated reading this…. but I’m so glad you’re able to pull it off and have a great time.

Charlsie (#442)

@Jake Reinhardt Also, if you ever get married, you won’t be able to just invite your horrible cousin. You will also have to invite her husband. When you get married, you are asking everyone in your life to forever invite you and a plus one. So how is it even remotely acceptable to not extend the same courtesy to the guests of your wedding? (the rare exception – the small intimate wedding where you are friends with the bride and the groom and there are less than 100 guests).

@Charlsie Oh man! Totally coincidentally I was laying in bed last night unable to fall asleep and started to count up the weddings I’d attended since 2006 (the summer I attended my first round of “adult” weddings – 2 years after graduating college). I’ve been to at least 19 weddings since then, and I’m certain I’m forgetting some. Last year, I was invited to 9 and went to 8. This year, invited to 6 and will be going to 5 (so by the end of 2012 I will have been to at least 23 weddings in 6 1/2 years). I’m hoping it slows down after this year.
But I’m delighted somebody else is nutty enough to decide to attend so many. Yes, I’ve spent a small fortune on them, but I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with friends at really fun parties in some really cool places that I probably wouldn’t have thought to go to otherwise. I understand the opposite point of view, really, but if I had it to do all over again, I’d probably still go to nearly all of them.

@HeyThatsMyBike Oh, and I should note that I’d been a graduate student for 5 of the years between 2006 and today, so it’s not like I’m coming from a position where I’m swimming in cash. Lots of sacrificed “real” vacations, etc.

Heidi (#1,455)

@Charlsie I think there are MANY situations where +1s are not appropriate! Oh my god, I have so many strong feelings about this. Basically I think you invite people who live together /are married / the equivalent and give those who will literally not know anyone else a +1. If you are having a laid back / informal wedding, sure, the more the merrier. But in other scenarios? I can’t emphasize enough how rude it is when people assume they are entitled to bring any random +1 (which is not to say your boyfriend of 2 years is in that category!)

But people also get burned by poor seating. The best weddings I’ve been to BY FAR had assigned tables and mixed the groups a little. This forces you to talk to other guests and get to know people better. It’s the only way to make friends at a wedding. Open seating is a disaster and grouping friends with friends often backfires.

Of course, the “living together” litmus is slightly arbitrary and there are always reasonable exceptions. But I have no patience with people who whine that their +1 didn’t get invited unless it’s an obvious slight. I could go on about this for many paragraphs, but that’s probably not appropriate at this point.

Charlsie (#442)

@Heidi I mean, I totally disagree, for my above stated reasons. I don’t take dates to weddings just for a warm body. I like meeting people, as evidenced by the amount of weddings I’ve been invited to. But I’m offended when I’m not given the option. I always find it to be a slight. If I’m not important enough to get a +1, take me off the list. Seriously, I’m not being dramatic, and I’m not whining. I’m just saying.

Mirch (#228)

HOTEL: I have friends from Germany who came to Los Angeles and spent $50 dollars a night using AirBNB.com. The awesome part is they stayed in the Hollywood Hills, just underneath the Hollywood sign. I was shocked at the deal they got, but they are German and smart, and booked it ahead of time when it was available.

The endless cycle of wedding-related expenditures is a feature of every human society that has ever existed.

I recently wiped myself out on a wedding — I probably spent at least $500 on it, and I was trying to be cheap. I did buy a more expensive gift than I had intended, but once I saw that bar set on the registry I knew I couldn’t get them anything else.

@stuffisthings Actually, now that I think about it, where did that $500 even GO? The plane ticket was like $380, but other than that I pretty much just got a $12 haircut, a six pack for the afterparty, and maybe a hotel breakfast.

Freckles (#1,444)

Best way to save on a wedding (both for bride/groom and guests) – elope! That’s what my husband and I did. No engagement party, no bridal shower, no bachelor(ette) parties. Just a very nice dinner party/reception 3 months after we got married. Saved sooooo much money for everyone involved! And enjoyed everything so much more!

notetoself (#1,291)

I had no idea you were expected to give a gift at both the bridal shower and the wedding. And the engagement gift? Gah. I’m really glad all my friends/family are all progressive weirdos with no interest in marriage.

Damn, I just attended a wedding 2000 miles away (not really a destination for them, but definitely a vacation for me) and adding it all up it’s evident that I spent well over $800 between airfare/hotel (split with three friends!)/rental car (ditto)/dress/donation to my friends’ favorite cause because their registry was boring and I couldn’t convince myself that my presence was a present, whoops. Not calculated: loss of two days’ pay. The toll on my ever-fragile mental health wasn’t a breeze, either. But what the fuck! I got to leave the state for the first time in three years and I think after being unemployed for most of that time I began to feel that *getting to spend money* was some kind of reward all its own. Thanks, capitalism.

selenana (#673)

$100 wedding gift for a friend? Maybe you have fancy friends… I’ve been to a lot of weddings, and usually spring for a mid-high level registry gift, but it’s still not usually more than about $50-60. My friends are all gutter punks?

sony_b (#225)

@selenana I’ve gone up to $200 for my sister. $50 for close family or friends. $20 for everybody else. I do some fancy needlework as a hobby, so my gift for very close girlfriends is usually a handkerchief with a fancy design with their new monogram in blue. Cost – $10 for materials and maybe 10-20 hours of work while I watch TV in the evenings. They seem to appreciate it (one even framed the thing), and it knocks out the “something new, something blue” tradition if they’re doing that.

selenana (#673)

@sony_b Yeah, for immediate family you’re more likely to go big, but I don’t think any of my friends expected an expensive gift from everyone, and in fact picked a variety of price points on the registry so people could get like a $20 gift if that’s what they wanted/needed to do.

peanutbutterpie (#1,450)

I was a bridesmaid in two semi-problematic weddings last year. The first I was thrilled to be in and it was in Vegas, and I was really happy to go there since I had never been before. The problem was the couple decided to move the date up by 6-8 months putting it right in the middle of an insanely expensive time in my life when I had a lot of other things going on. However, if I had it to do over again I would definitely still go because it was worth adding a little debt to be there for my friends and to have a crazy fun time in Vegas.

The second wedding…I really should have declined the invitation to be a bridesmaid because I felt like I didn’t know the girl well enough. But I felt guilty because I knew if she was asking me she didn’t have many friends and considered me to be a close friend. I also didn’t think it could really be all THAT expensive. This ended up being the most expensive wedding I have ever been in in my life. Every other wedding I have participated in (or even heard about!) the bride’s family has contributed to the shower expenses if not covered them completely. This bride’s family basically refused and I was forced to split it with the other two bridesmaids (venue, food, decorations, and drinks for about 25 people). Then I had to travel to and pay for the bachelorette as well. The bridesmaids dresses were $300, plus plane tickets and hotel for me and my husband to attend the actual wedding. It was a disaster and I completely regret it!

sony_b (#225)

@peanutbutterpie Maybe that’s why she doesn’t have that many close friends? So sorry you had to go through that. The things we do for guilt are kind of crazy. (BEEN THERE, DONE THAT.)

peanutbutterpie (#1,450)

@sony_b ugh yes. I learned a big lesson from it at least? Even if I didn’t decline I should have spoken up during the process and said I couldn’t afford some of the things. I couldn’t help thinking (since I had also been married in the not so distant past) that as a bride if I had seen my bridesmaids taking on all these expenses I would have stepped in and put a stop to it one way or another.

crane your neck (#1,448)

The destination wedding I attended last winter was a blast, but I couldn’t have done it without:

(1) checking prices of flights against my budget before agreeing to be my friend’s date (signing up for airlines’ promotional emails can pay off in sales, especially during winter months);

(2) researching the average prices of meals and drinks in our destination city;

(3) splitting a cab from the airport with another wedding guest (if you can communicate with the bride or groom about others on your flight, it might be worth traveling to the hotel together, even if they’re strangers–we arrived at 4 AM, and it was safer to travel in pairs);

(4) splitting a hotel room with a friend;

(5) making a deal with myself that I could budget for the travel as long as I didn’t buy new clothes, makeup, jewelry, etc. Whatever was in my closet would have to work. When I was packing, I wished I had a lipstick exactly the same shade as the dress or heels that weren’t plain black, but once I was on the beach with the wedding party, it was the last thing on my mind.

If you’re just a guest, let the wedding party worry about what the photos will look like and just go to have a good time.

VintageGirl29 (#723)

It makes me sad people have become so cynical about weddings. Guys, it’s one of the only traditions left we have in this culture to bring people together in that way to celebrate love and family.I got married and it cost about $5000-$6000- I had bridemaids and everybody wore what they wanted to and looked amazing, everybody was happy to help and pitch in, and if they weren’t it was totally fine. I do agree travel expenses can be substanial, but it’s also an amazing experience to get together with people like that. We also made sure to get people gifts who helped out, which felt really really good and were deeply appreciated.

navigateher (#555)

@VintageGirl29 But that’s the thing, right? For so many people it’s not about a “tradition to bring people together and celebrate love”, but an excuse to have insane expectations for everyone except yourself and make this huge show of your “wealth” and “originality” under the guise of “love”.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you want to keep a tradition and bring people together, you can do it also without expecting people to fly to Argentina for it. Personally I love weddings, just not the ones that require for me to buy airplane tickets to exotic destinations.

Heidi (#1,455)

I had thought I was too old for the multi-wedding summer, but this year we have 6, a new high after the epic 8 wedding summer of 2008 (since I got married in ’07, I went to all but one of those weddings out of reciprocal guilt).
I am now an expert on almost all aspects of weddings, from several different perspectives. Here are Thoughts!
-having the wedding in the city you grew up in, or somewhere else important to you/pretty, and then a casual party in the city where you actually live is a great way to manage the cost for guests. We got relatives, friends of family, and the people who love us most at the wedding. The large group of friends and coworkers came to the casual party in town – no travel and an open bar = less $$ guilt. Plus, less formal expectation of a gift (not that I assumed we’d get gifts from all guests, I didn’t get married to collect loot!). Plus, the actual wedding was smaller (175 instead of the original 225 we’d been budgeting for) which was a savings for us.
-I paid for bridesmaid dresses for my 2 non-relative bridesmaids. Sure, this added about $300 to my bill, but that was a small fraction of my wedding cost and made a big difference to them.
-Save the Dates! These are either evil or amazing. Amazing because they give you lots of lead time to book an airplane or hotel room at a discount. Evil because they presume attendance. My mother was HORRIFIED by the idea of sending save the dates. “If we tell everyone the date nine months in advance, how will anyone politely decline?” Her point basically being that save the dates hold the invitee hostage. We compromised: once we had a date set, I emailed people who knew we were engaged and told them we weren’t doing save the dates, but they were going to be invited and they should email me if they wanted advance info about hotels and transportation. But since we had blocked off rooms at a special rate, those who only found out the date when the invite arrived were not screwed. I know this is controversial, but I now feel resentful whenever I get a save the date. How will I politely decline if I’ve known the date for months? Send me an invite 6 weeks out. If I can make it work, I’ll be there. If I can’t, I won’t and we never need to talk about why.

Finally, if you want to have a million people you love at your wedding, get married somewhere close to where you live or grew up. If you want to get married in a beautiful remote place, please recognize that only your wealthy friends will be there.

cmcm (#267)

A friend of mine moved to Australia and got married earlier this year and was all disappointed that so many of his friends from home couldn’t come to the wedding. DUDE. YOU GOT MARRIED IN AUSTRALIA. I don’t even know why he wasted the money on an invitation for me, he knows I’m broke. Question though: do I have to get them a gift? Because like… no, I really am still poor.

dotcommie (#662)

there’s such a thing as engagement and bridal shower gifts? wtf. marriage is on my mind, and none of my other friends have gotten married yet, so i have no idea how these things work. i feel ashamed asking someone to be my bridesmaid if it involves them spending so much money on me! and the rings, jesus!! everything is $1000+.

sox (#246)

@dotcommie The engagement gift does not seem all that common, and I guess it depends on whether there is an engagement party and what the couple are like. But generally it’s not necessary.

The bridal shower, however, is definitely typically a gift giving event – often it’s lingerie or something small and special for the bride, or something off their registry. Many bridal showers I’ve been to have had a theme, like the game where you bring a pair of panties wrapped without your name on them and she has to open them all and guess who they’re from (which umm, TJ Maxx all the way, seriously). Luckily my friends and I are on the same page where such a gift can be a tiny token of best wishes and could even be something you already had or a love poem nicely written out and the gesture/meaning hold the value.

Harriet Welch (#127)

@dotcommie
I know I am crazy late to this. I just feel strongly about this.
IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THAT WAY!!!

We had two bridesmen, a bridesmaid and then three groomsmen. We paid for tuxes and my bridesmaid’s mom paid for her dress (we offered to pay, but she insisted) which was $30 and she will be able to wear again since it was basic and brown.
I did my entire wedding, food, booze, venue, gifts and assorted things for $3k with limited help from my family (my mom paid for my dress so that’s not included). It is 100% possible. Check out offbeat bride and there are loads of answers to questions like this and ideas of ways to make things cheaper.
Just consider the cost of travel and stuff and figure out how much it would cost your friends. To us, the costumes were important. We knew that these friends would have come as guests anyway, so we didn’t pay for their travel, but they wouldn’t have worn a tux. So we opted to budget for the tuxes and not the travel. It would have been different if people had to fly or if our area was particularly expensive.
Don’t get discouraged!!

ItsMe (#2,591)

So my best friend asked me to be maid of honor for her wedding, of course i said yes, but now i am totally regreting it…….i don’t know how to tell her its too expensive and i can’t afford it…..Firstly, she’s having a destination wedding due to the fact her fiance and her are from different places so the wedding will be in his home country, when she told me this i expected that since he’s from there he would have worked sumn out for us not to spend money on lodging, boy was i wrong…..they must have booked the most expensive hotel cause that alone is coming up to US$740.55 the flight will be US$461.19 and of course food, spending money, transportation and all this isn’t included in the budget as yet….I’m a single mom that obviously have quite a few expenses…..how am i going to manage such an expense……I really do not wanna put myself in so much debt for someone else’s wedding………HELPPPPPPPP someone pls tell me how do I tell her i simply cannot afford it…..sigh

Keck (#2,466)

When my two sisters and I went to my cousin’s wedding, we got her a joint gift that was a check for $100. Now, keep in mind, we were all in college or grad school at the time (= poor!) and had to travel to Pennsylvania from Oklahoma, Chicago and San Diego to attend (plane tix! hotel reserv!) a wedding at a hotel chain in the Pittsburg suburbs. Two years later, when my sister got married, this cousin gave her a check for $33.33. I’m requesting no gifts at my wedding but if my cousin gives me a check for $33.33, I’m giving it back.

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