The American wedding cost an average of $28,000 in 2021. This price tag might not seem that high to some, but to others, it’s quite a tall order for a few hours on a SINGLE day. Personally, I find $28,000 to be healthy seed money for a number of other return-on-investment opportunities – but that’s just me. With the national average consumer debt hovering around $90,000 per adult, it’s unsurprising that about 20% of Americans go into debt to plan or attend a wedding.
The real question is: Is the fuss truly necessary?
My answer is a resounding NO.
The Happy Couple
Suffice it to say that money can complicate relationships. Whether you’re both covering your own shindig or others are pitching in, you must set boundaries and define expectations. Oftentimes, there are strings attached when accepting money from other parties. That is, unless, you discuss and outline all intentions beforehand.
Brian and I have witnessed our fair share of messy situations from other people’s weddings. From guest list control and wedding attire to venue selection and pre-wedding festivities, there are so many people who insist they have a say when contributions are on the table. We actually opted to pay for our own wedding and still had to navigate a few tricky comments and requests.
Truly, it is YOUR day. If financial contributions are going to create additional headaches, then as a couple, you must decide whether they are worth it.
- Identify priorities
- Create and stick to a budget
- Discuss intentions
- Streamline wants versus needs
- Create a pros and cons list
- Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate!
Lastly, don’t be jerks. Seriously. You might be able to afford and accommodate certain expenses, but don’t expect your guests or wedding party to also absorb similar costs. It’s important to know and understand that some may decline to participate in your wedding and/or the events leading up to it.
The Wedding Party
Sure, you’re happy for the future newlyweds, but how does your bank account feel? The cost of participating in a wedding party has dramatically increased over the last 20 years. According to a LendingTree survey of more than 2,100 consumers, 50% of Americans incurred debt as a result of being in a wedding party. Nearly 40% of these members actually regretted how much they spent. With wedding party costs averaging around $820 per person, the feeling of regret is understandable.
It can be challenging to be a part of a wedding. You absolutely want to express your support, but at what cost? Not everyone has the same budget or lifestyle to accommodate the bride’s or groom’s wishes. Unfortunately, the pressure to ‘join in on the fun’ can create tension among party members and possibly put you in debt.
Brian and I have separately declined to be part of weddings in the past. It wasn’t an easy or fun decision to make, but it was the right one for both of us at the time. We have also passed on attending different pre-wedding festivities. Again, these were necessary, albeit difficult decisions and conversations that we had. Honesty is the best policy…
First, congratulate and thank the happy couple. Then:
- Discuss expectations
- Disclose your budget
- Work with the other party members to keep expenses in check
- Offset costs through different means (reward programs, points, etc.)
If the bride or groom is truly a good friend or family member, they will understand your position.
The Wedding Guest
The cost of attending a wedding greatly varies as it is dependent on a number of factors. Travel arrangements, attire, and gift-giving add to the overall expense. Pre-pandemic values list the average cost anywhere from $185-$430 per attendee. Of course, these averages have since increased (as most expenses have!) due to inflation and the pandemic.
With so many itching to travel now that the world has re-opened, wedding invitees are making vacations out of weddings now more than ever. A March 2022 online survey from Affirm estimates that the average wedding guest will spend nearly $3,000 to attend a wedding this year!
What folks want to do with their OWN money is their OWN business. I, however, will not be attending weddings that cost me that much. As a wedding guest, you have the ability and right to decide if you would like to attend. You can also call the shots for how much you would like to spend. Consider your time off, keep your budget in mind, and determine the benefits of attending.
- Be honest with yourself – Do you actually want to go?
- Consider extra costs if the wedding is out of town
- Start budgeting early if you decide to attend
- Offset costs (reward programs, borrow/rent attire, buy in on a group gift, etc.)
- Don’t feel pressured to give monetary or expensive gifts, especially if you decline
- If you are unable to afford to go, a well-written card or letter is a much-appreciated gift
People can be dramatic in the midst of wedding planning. You might encounter a few grumbles if you decline pre-wedding invitations or the wedding itself, but the decision is ultimately yours. Brian and I have chosen to decline invitations to weddings that we didn’t want to include in our budget and time off or were too close in date to other commitments. My advice remains the same: Be honest. If you can and want to swing it, go for it. If not, then own it.
It’s Okay to Say No
Weddings can be a huge financial ask for those involved. There is so much money being funneled into the average wedding that stress and strain arise naturally. Try not to let obligation and guilt drive your decision-making. It is okay to say no.
Say no to kids at the wedding, extra invites, or bullying requests. Forgo multiple pre-wedding events, sky-high expenses, and unnecessary debt. You are welcome to commit to whatever you want and however you want it, but understand it’s unreasonable to expect the same from others.
There may be some disappointed or hurt feelings if and when you speak up. Create an open dialogue with yourself and others. It’s okay to say no, and it’s best accompanied with honesty and kindness. The ones who love you will understand.
Weddings are about support, celebration, and love. Move forward with a kind spirit and confidence in your decision. If hurt feelings are going to break a friendship or bond, you have to ask yourself how much of a bond was truly there in the first place.