The Surprising Cost of Attending a Wedding

By: Kaydee Ambas · May 26, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Invitation or Invoice?

Everyone knows throwing a wedding is a pricey affair. It costs an average of $20,300 for the happy couple — even more depending on your state and appetite for decadence. But these days it’s surprisingly expensive to simply sit in the audience and sip free champagne.

With today’s high inflation, wedding guests spend just over $600 on average to watch their friends and family walk down the aisle. And the cost of being in a wedding is even higher: bridesmaids can spend from $1,200 to $1,800 for the honor of participating in a friend’s wedding. When considering expenses like accommodations, gifts, and attire, a wedding invitation can start to look suspiciously similar to an invoice.

Open Bar, Open Wallet

Aside from the standard costs of going to a wedding, there’s also added pressure to splurge once you’re there. After all, for one or more of your loved ones, it’s the proverbial best day of their life. Wedding guests tend to spend freely on food, drinks, or lavish gifts to celebrate.

According to a survey by Bankrate, about 21% of guests feel pressured to spend more than they can afford at weddings. Evidently, most people cave to the added spending pressure. 40% of wedding attendees go into debt to cover the cost of celebrating, according to LendingTree (TREE).

For members of the wedding party, this stat jumps even higher. Almost 2 in 3 bridesmaids and groomsmen spend outside their budgets to party with the bride and groom.

Nuptial Budget

To avoid leaving the wedding with a financial hangover, wedding experts recommend setting a clear boundary for spending before the wedding. It might also be sensible to save specifically for the occasion, and to book and pay for big-ticket items like gifts, travel, and accommodations well in advance of the event. Book now, pay later travel allows you to lock in good deals when you find them, and pay for them after a few months of saving. But always read the fine print and make sure you’re paying low or no interest, or this option could end up costing you more than paying up front.

Additionally, it’s worth remembering that graciously declining an invitation is always an option. You can RSVP no and then explain to your friends that you’re thrilled for them and honored to be invited but that it isn’t in the financial cards right now. It might also be possible to attend the ceremony itself without throwing down for related events like the bachelor or bachelorette party.

If you truly can’t swing the cost of the wedding, a heartfelt card is always well-received. True friends will be far happier to receive a heartfelt note than to have you suffer financially on account of their wedding.

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