Published: May 14, 2023 | Fortune Recommends
Weddings are notoriously expensive for couples who choose to say “I do” in a big way. But it isn’t just the couple who often shells out thousands to host a wedding—guests can expect to spend quite a bit to witness the nuptials.
A recent Bankrate study found that the average wedding guest plans to spend an average of $611 per wedding this year. With costs of everyday goods on the rise, this added expense can become difficult to manage for many Americans.
How much wedding guests plan to spend on the big day
The amount guests plan to spend to attend a friend or family’s wedding varies by generation. This figure was significantly higher among Gen Zers and millennials. Gen Zers plan to spend the most overall this year on attending weddings ($1,211), followed by millennials ($1,191), Gen X ($974), and baby boomers ($667). Gen Zers plan to spend the most per wedding on average, at $646 per wedding, compared to $542 per wedding for baby boomers.
For guests who are determined to attend, they may become tempted to take risky measures to cover the costs—18% of those surveyed noted that they would take on credit card debt to be able to attend.
“Like just about everything else, inflation and higher interest rates are taking a toll on wedding attendees. It’s great to be able to celebrate with friends and family, but I’d caution against taking on credit card debt in the process,” says Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate. “The average credit card charges more than 20 percent.”
What are guests spending on?
The amount you spend to attend a wedding and what you spend on will ultimately be up to you, where the event is being hosted, who is hosting the wedding, and more. A few common spending categories include:
- Travel and accommodations: If you’re traveling outside of your town or city to attend a wedding, you’ll have to account for added costs like plane tickets and lodging. On average, wedding guests plan to spend around $456 in this category, although you could end up spending significantly more if you’re covering travel costs for yourself and other family members, or if the wedding involves long-distance travel. You could also end up paying more for accommodations if the wedding is taking place in a metropolitan area.
- Attire and grooming: You might want to splurge on a more formal outfit as a wedding guest, as well as some pampering or grooming before the event so that you look your best. On average, guests are expecting to spend $274 to cover these costs.
- Wedding gifts: Your loved one may not expect a wedding gift, but you might opt to get them a gift anyway. The survey found that guests expected to spend $321 on wedding gifts, but experts say that there is no “right” amount. It’s completely up to you and your budget. “Sometimes people will consider the formality of the occasion or the length of friendship, but we believe there is no hard and fast rule on what’s appropriate,” says Neillie Butler, president and owner of Mariée Ami, a woman-owned-and-operated wedding design, planning, and production firm. “Bottom line: It should be comfortable for you to do so and never overextend beyond your means. It’s the thoughtful details that count. Think about creative ways to show up for your couple, however is most meaningful to them.”
The budget-friendly way to get through wedding season
If you expect to attend a wedding this year, or at some point in the near future, it’s never too early to start planning ahead or look for creative ways to save. The moment you receive a “save the date” in the mail, you should add a new line item into your budget in preparation for the event if you don’t already have savings set aside for gifts and other discretionary expenses. A few tips to make this added cost easier to manage:
- Calculate your expenses and factor your wedding guest costs into your monthly budget. Say you’ve been invited to a wedding in a year: Start saving up in advance by setting aside some money in your savings account each month so that when the event gets closer, you’re able to cover the costs without it throwing off your budget for that month. Aim to crunch the numbers early to determine how much you expect to spend on travel, accommodations, attire, grooming, gifts, and any other expenses. If you have a rewards credit card, you might also want to see if you can use any rewards you’ve already earned to save on those costs. This could significantly cut down on hotel, travel, rental car costs and the like.
- Don’t feel pressured to overspend. Your loved ones invite you to witness their big day because what matters most is your presence, not the new dress you put on your credit card or the extra $200 you spent on a wedding gift. Find creative ways to cut costs by wearing something that’s already in your closet, or renting a formal outfit as opposed to purchasing a new one.
- Don’t be afraid to “regretfully decline.” If attending a loved one’s wedding is going to put a massive strain on your wallet, it’s okay to politely decline the invitation and look for a more affordable way to express your love and support. “No matter the reason why you can’t attend, have an honest conversation with the couple,” says Butler. “Express your gratitude for the invitation, your genuine excitement for them, and instead offer to send a handwritten note or small token in lieu of your absence. No true friendship should be ruined by making a financially responsible choice in today’s world.”
Being invited to partake in someone’s special day is a nice gesture, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of your financial well-being. If you agree to attend a wedding, you should anticipate that it will come with added costs and try to plan accordingly. If it becomes too much of a financial undertaking, know that it’s okay to support your loved ones from afar.