$15,000: The Price Tag of Attending Other People’s Weddings

“Hey – guess who got engaged today,” Peach asked.

My stomach dropped. Our combined dance card felt dangerously full already with seven weddings populating our calendars from May to November.

“Who?” I choked out.

Peach smirked, clearly messing with me.

“Not nice,” I retorted, while wishing I could cradle my travel savings account and whisper in soothing tones, “I won’t totally deplete you.”

Lately, weddings seem to dominate both conversations and my bank account. The onslaught started about four years ago when I’d just hit 23. That’s not to say I’d been wedding free for the first 23 years of my life, but I didn’t have to pick up the tab as card-carrying member of the Bank of Mom and Dad.

Planning for the inevitable

weddingSuddenly, entering my mid-twenties ushered me into a phase of life in which everyone around me seemed ready to get legally yoked to another human being. I was also a big girl with big girl paychecks – not to be confused with big paychecks -who no longer had an active account at the Bank of Mom and Dad.

After a year of five wedding invitations, and no end in sight, I decided it was time to stop trying to squeeze variable line item into my budget and instead give “Other People’s Weddings” its own savings account. It’s part of the reason I routinely joke that I’m saving for a wedding, just not my own.

Previously, the “Other People’s Weddings” fund served as my travel savings account, but considering most of my vacation had been co-opted by true love, the logic followed to just transition the account too.

The account gets funded by 25% of each freelance paycheck I earn. To clarify, that means I’m exclusively using side hustle money to pay for travel and focus my daytime job salary on other financial goals. Part of the reason I freelance is to subsidize non-essentials (in the sense of survival) like travel. I aim to have $2,000 to $4,000 available at any given time (depending on how many flights, hotels, presents and bachelorette parties I’ve recently attended).

On a few occasions, Peach and I have leveraged a wedding destination into a longer vacation. When my best friend got married in Dallas, Peach and I rented a car and road tripped with another friend to Austin the day after the wedding.

Always hitting the road and trying to be frugal

10301127_10152193203876137_4265397374233023556_nUnfortunately, no one seems to want to get married in New York City. Probably because the average cost of a wedding here is something insane like $70,000! So, that means I’m hitting the road for each of these invites and paying for accommodation.

Then I have to factor in the presents. The average present costs me about $75. To let you in on a little secret, I wait until holiday sales to shop registries because pretty much everyone registers at Macy’s. Macy’s loves to do sales for every federal holiday (President’s Day bonaPeach&Erinnza folks!). These sales often extend to registries. My biggest gift buying success thus far was $220 worth of gifts for $112 including shipping and taxes, which Peach and I split.

Let’s not forget about the outfit. A woman once said to me, “Facebook makes it so hard to re-wear outfits to weddings now.” I can safely say I do not care. A quick scroll through my photos on Facebook shows that I wear the same handful of dresses to everything, unless I’m a bridesmaid. Outfits for a wedding is an easy area to pinch some pennies. It can even be simple if you’re a bridesmaid by trying to buy the dress on consignment or via eBay, especially if it’s an on-trend selection.

The cost of coupling up

1974286_10152510929126137_6830303270171410366_oYou may be scoffing at my headline number of $15,000. I know – it sounds insane. Probably somewhere in the ballpark of what you’d want to spend on your own wedding. You alone may not tip the scales at $15,000 – but let’s consider that you’re likely to couple up either temporarily or permanently at some point during the peak of wedding invites. Your partner is going to have weddings to attend too, which means you need to fork over more money to travel and possibly for people you barely know.

You may decide to split up for wedding season – not break up, but just not go together. Peach and I have debated this on a few weddings; however, many of our weddings this year are family and mutual friends.

Here’s my thought process on cost:

These estimates are based off the personal experiences of a frugal person instead of national averages and surveys.

  • Attending the average wedding is probably going to cost you around $600 for travel + hotel + gift + miscellaneous things like needing to feed yourself.
  • You’ll probably be invited to at least 12 weddings during your mid-twenties to late-thirties due to a mix of high school friends, college friends, work friends, family and even second marriages. This gets you to $7,200.
  • Then odds are you’ll be invited to a few bridal showers and bachelorette/bachelor parties, so let’s toss in another $2,000 because you know you’ll need to travel.
  • Not to mention, you’re going to be a bridesmaid or groomsmen in probably a minimum of two weddings, especially if you have a sibling and your spouse (or future spouse) has a sibling of the same gender as you. That likely adds another $2,000 on top of the existing cost factored in earlier.
  • Now we’re at $11,200.
  • Your partner (existing or future) will be getting invited to weddings – so another $3,800 isn’t a crazy amount to anticipate in additional weddings.

Running my numbers

family wedding

Family photo: we’re actually missing a few

When I shared this $15,000 estimation with a friend of mine, she was quick to point out that I have a massive family. Both of my parents come from large Irish-Catholic families, so I have 31 first cousins before factoring in cousins by marriage. I’m towards the end of the pack in terms of birth order; so many of my cousins had tied the knot well before I became financially independent (thank, God!). Eight of the 18 weddings outlined below were (or are) family – so family doesn’t exclusively skew my estimates.

 

 

2012, age 23: Two* (approximate cost: $600)

Locations: North Carolina and Maine

2013, age 24: Two (approximate cost: $500)

Locations: Virginia and North Carolina

2014, age 25: Five invites, four attended* (approximate cost: $1,800)

Locations: Virginia, Texas, Upstate NY, Massachusetts and Maine

2015, age 26: Two* (approximate cost: $850)

Locations: Both Western New York

2016, age 27: Seven* (estimated: $3,100)

This is the first year I’m actually tracking every penny spent to get an accurate total.

Locations: Pennsylvania, Upstate NY (4), Vermont, North Carolina

Approximate Total: $6,850 — And I easily have another four to five years to go before exiting peak marrying years of my friends and remaining single cousins. 

* – include being a bridesmaid in at least one
Note: Some of these numbers are low because they were family weddings and my parents were kind enough to cover the costs of accommodations.

Just say no (sometimes) 

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 7.05.13 PMTotally horrified by the wedding apocalypse I’ve just laid before you? There’s a simple way to avoid paying the cost of a car for other people’s weddings. Just say no. Not always of course, but there will likely be some invitations to which it wouldn’t pain you to pass along some kind regrets. For the cripplingly polite, send a small present along with your well wishes.

Posted in Budgeting, Millennials, Relationships, Saving money
52 comments on “$15,000: The Price Tag of Attending Other People’s Weddings
  1. Michelle says:

    It is absolutely insane how expensive it is to attend and be in weddings. I am in my sister’s wedding and she’s keeping everything cheap, but when you don’t budget for it, it sure hits on your bank account.

    When I get married, I am hoping we can cover some of the large expenses for bridesmaids and such. I can’t believe how much people want you to spend for being part of their day. I am glad that you included the “just say no.” And have fun during your busy wedding season.

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      That’s generous of you to consider covering some of the costs for your bridesmaids. Nixing bridal showers AND a bachelorette party and either just doing one or doing them on the same weekend to reduce travel demands is a kind way to help out. I’ve really appreciated that as a bridesmaid.

  2. I have never been to a wedding. The first one I go to will probably be my sister’s in New York. When I reach the age when most of the people I know are getting married, I’ll definitely have to do some serious budgeting to attend all the weddings.
    Aliyyah @RichAndHappyBlog recently posted…The Relationship Between Personal Finance And Personal DevelopmentMy Profile

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Start that savings account early! I never expected to get slammed so so many so early. I figured 29 – 32 would be peak years, but a few friends of both mine and Peach’s surprised us. Next come the baby showers…

  3. I have six this year… five of mine and one through invite. I’m in two of the weddings which always jacks up the price. Due to my recent move I’ll have to fly to most of them. Honestly – if I really didn’t want to go to a wedding, I would decline. But these weddings are for people I like and so therefore I suck it up and attend them even though it hurts my savings goals a little. I look at it as something that will HOPEFULLY slow down now that I’m 28, but who knows. I make up for the expensive cost to attend by taking full advantage of the open bars 🙂
    Fervent Finance recently posted…The MoveMy Profile

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Yeah…that being in a wedding really slays the budget. And I’m with you on the “it’s people I like” mentality. Peach and I had a convo about perhaps splitting up for a few, but it just didn’t really make sense in the end because I’m going to one where I know no one else except the bride and maid of honor (who obviously can’t hang out with me…) so I wanted Peach as a wingman for that one. Which made me feel like I should go to one of his where I’m not really close with the couple. All the other ones are mutual friends or family members.

      I’m on a hot streak right now and have been in at least one a year for 3 years (4 over the last 5 years). Peach is also in two this year and was in one last year. I’ve been pretty fortunate that with the exception of one bride, most have kept things pretty in check cost wise.

  4. I am seriously fearful of all the weddings to come my way. Mine will be the first of my friends this summer, at age 26. Which means – they’ll all be likely happening over the next 4 years. Luckily up until this point I have only attended 4 weddings in my entire life.

    Your estimations are very accurate. I was a bridesmaid last summer and it cost me just under $3000. AND THAT’S JUST ONE WEDDING.

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      $3,000 is a rough price tag, but I can see how easy it is to get there! Good luck with all your wedding planning. Hopefully you can put some good financial karma out there for your bridesmaids, so you won’t get it bad in the future. 😛

  5. I also have a massive network of family friends which makes the number of weddings and wedding related events absurd (Now that I’m approaching 30, lots of baby showers too). Them massive family network though means that my parents, siblings and besties are at almost every wedding I attend, so I can generally share costs – transit (typically a car ride from NYC which also helps), hotel, even jewelry (we do swaps before different events).
    Stefanie OConnell recently posted…How to Stop Procrastinating Your Personal FinancesMy Profile

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Love the jewelry swap idea! I may need to initiate that with some cousins for future family weddings.

      Not living near any family means it’s just Peach along for the ride/splitting costs. But it’s still nice to have him there to reduce rental car costs when the wedding is in driving distance.

  6. I am currently in the middle of wedding-palooza. I think part of this is figuring out when to say no. For example, if you have to travel to the wedding, maybe you only send a gift (or a card) for the shower. This may not be an option if you’re standing up in the wedding, but it would work if you’re invited as a guest. I think everyone also needs to get over the “hurt feelings” fear. I was always so worried about saying no to weddings until I had my wedding. Then, I realized that most couples EXPECT nos. I think the industry tells brides to estimate that 30% of guests will decline. So, yeah. My perspective is definitely shifting now that I’m older.

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Yes, absolutely to sending along a small gift for a shower if you’re just a guest and not a bridesmaid. I’ve certainly done that before and opted out of bachelorette parties in which I wasn’t a bridesmaid.

      The fear of hurt feelings is a good point too, especially if you aren’t super close. At some point, betrothed couples are just happy to save a little money on your plate! 😛

  7. Oh man, now I feel old. I remember the stage in my life when I was attending a bunch of weddings. Now I attend a bunch of baby showers and first birthdays! Fortunately for me, most of my family and friends live in the NYC metro area and I haven’t had to travel too much for weddings but the costs can definitely add up.

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Lucky for you indeed! Even my NYC-based friends don’t actually get married here and tend to return to hometowns — so I never catch a break. But it is nice when it can be leveraged into a mini-vacation or happens to be where I have family or Peach has family.

      I’ve had a few baby showers already creep in with older cousins and a few friends that adulted earlier than the rest of us. 🙂 But I know that’s the next big step!

  8. Oh my god! The costs of attending weddings in the US seems crazy high – but I guess that’s because you have to travel so much. Everyone we know has got married locally which is great.
    My tip for outfits is buy it cheap on ebay, wear it once and sell straight away back on ebay – hopefully for profit. Then you are wearing an outfit for free!

    The absolute max anyone gifts friends is £50. Minimum being about £10 x

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Travel is for sure the big cost factor. People no longer tend to grow up and stay in the same towns anymore like was common a generation or two ago, so you’re traveling all over the place. And good tip on the outfits. I’ve bought a bridesmaids dress on eBay before (as mentioned in the post), but still had to pay another $70 to get it fitted… Floor length gowns are the death of me.

  9. That’s a lot of weddings! I only have to hit one occasionally (I probably say no to too many), but I was just the best man in a cousins wedding and realized that I dished out a lot of dough! It’s definitely not cheap. Great idea having an account exclusively for that.

    And great blog! I’m really enjoying your content.

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Being MoH or best man gets really pricey! Hope you had some good hacks to keep costs down a bit. And thanks so much for the compliment!

  10. Tawcan says:

    I’m glad that most of my friends are the frugal type and their weddings have been cheap to attend. It’s crazy how much it is to attend a “high end” wedding that’s for sure.

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Oh, it’s not even a “high-end wedding” issue for me. The cost mostly associated with travel. Not a single wedding has been in NYC, so I need to fly/rent a car/take a train and then get a hotel, which adds up fast. A few of my cousins have had very lovely, but frugal weddings. Unfortunately, it didn’t help reduce the cost for me to be there though.

  11. Yes! Attending weddings of family and friends can be very expensive. Since we moved away from where most of our family and old friends live, we always have to travel to get to their weddings too. It really adds up.
    Catherine Alford recently posted…3 Ways To Stay Calm and Happy During a Major Life UproarMy Profile

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Travel is such a killer! Not having a hometown doesn’t help me either because all my friends (and family) are spread out now.

  12. For us guys, I think the stress is less as I use what I normally wear at the office in wedding occasion. And, I must say that it is really cheaper coz we don’t have to spend hundred of dollars on dress and shoes. Just a more formal suit and tie as well as nice pair of leather shoes will do.

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Being a groomsman is now being consistently tied with price as being a bridesmaid because those rental tuxes/suits are over $200 a pop! And men also do the big getaway trips before.

  13. Wow! It’s a good thing you’re smart with money! Over the past four years, I’ve only been to three weddings. I had to take a road trip for one of them, but the other two were local. Luckily, most of my cousins are much older than I am, and they got married when I was still in elementary school.
    Jen @ Frugal Millennial recently posted…I Wore Sweatpants to Work, and No One CaredMy Profile

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      I do appreciate being on the younger end of the spectrum in my family so I didn’t have to pay for the majority of these endings, just about 20% probably. I’m jealous of your local wedding options. I won’t have a single NYC wedding to attend (unless someone shocks me!)

  14. I’m from a big Sicilian Catholic family and have 29 first cousins. I only invited aunts/uncles to our wedding and no cousins on my side and there were no hard feelings. Only a few of us invited all of the cousins, because it would be asking a lot to do that many weddings. If they are local, we attend, otherwise we have never traveled for an out of state wedding.
    Jen@FrugalSteppingStones recently posted…Frugal Step: Make A MenuMy Profile

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      I like that idea, but unfortunately for me, the precedent to invite cousins already got set a looooooong time ago. Plus, I’m close to a lot of my cousins and would want certain ones there for sure and then it would get ugly if I started playing favorites. At least a forced family reunion for right now, so we’re having regular get togethers.

  15. Tory says:

    I hate going to weddings myself, i always end up tapping out my savings.
    Tory recently posted…$176M In Wages Garnished For Unpaid Federal Student Loans In Just Three MonthsMy Profile

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      If there’s solid dancing, then I enjoy the wedding. A crummy DJ (or a mediocre live band) usually makes me regret spending the money. 😛

  16. Morgan says:

    This post gives a great insight of what to expect, money wise, when you’re invited to a wedding. It can certainly get pricey, but it’s worth the great time and being there for the special moment! It sounds like you have mastered budgeting appropriately! Great post!

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Thanks very much! Analyzing how much you’ll spending and determining if it’s appropriate for you is important. Just remember, it’s okay to say no!

  17. Carlin says:

    Weddings are ridiculously expensive. I avoided them most of my adult life – and now that I’m planning my own, my brain is ready to explode. My preference is a small and inexpensive option on a desert island with just me and my partner. Hoping that’s what she approves!

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Sounds like you’re in the “let’s just elope” stage of wedding planning! The wedding complex is just insane in America. Plus, it seems many couples end up having the wedding their parents want and not what they actually want.

  18. I think you’re dead on here with the cost of attending other people’s weddings! The part in your post about “Just Saying No” is something I learned last year sort of embarrassingly. We paid $600 plus airline miles to go to my fiance’s friends’ wedding back in the Midwest and regretted it. I didn’t know anyone at the wedding and he only knew the bride and groom but had lost touch recently. At the end of the night, we waited in line to greet the bride and groom and our two second interaction was them saying “Wow we’re shocked you guys even came! Thanks for making it!” which they didn’t mean to come off bad but I realized we were one of those “they probably won’t come but let’s invite them anyways” invites since we lived out of state and weren’t close friends. We cost them two extra dinner plates and in reverse, we dropped $600 and valuable airline miles for the trip. Sounds awful but after that experience, we vowed we’re only traveling for close friends’ weddings.
    Millennial Boss recently posted…Til Debt Do Us Part No LongerMy Profile

    • Smallviivy says:

      I think that falls under the category of “don’t let other people spend your money for you.”
      Smallviivy recently posted…A Financial Checklist for your New JobMy Profile

      • Broke Millennial® says:

        Smillvivvy – It’s a bit of a double-edged sword though. Sure, attending other people’s weddings is letting them spend your money, but in many cases it’s close friends or family that you would of course want to be with on this monumental day. Hence, the need to budget early and save regularly.

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      I think that’s an excellent rule and a vow I’ll probably take myself!

  19. I’ve been in two weddings so far. Both times they asked us to spend $200 on a Men’s Warehouse tux that we get to wear one time just because the bride’s mom wants nice pictures. I honestly want to force everyone in my wedding party to wear overalls.
    Millennial Moola recently posted…Promposing Costs Are Out of ControlMy Profile

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Hahaha, I’m sure there are pictures of overall wearers. And I wish you could always blame the bride’s mom — but Peach is in a wedding this year that also has those $200+ men’s wearhouse suits. It’s the groom’s pick! The groom is requesting they wear a $250 tux he wore in another wedding and liked…

  20. Smallviivy says:

    Well, if you avoid buying a new car, instead buying 5 year-old cars, you can easily save about $30,000 over that same period. That leaves you enough to pay for all of those wedding trips and still save enough money to pay cash for the used cars you buy. It all depends on the choices you make.

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Hmmm, interesting point. Luckily, I don’t have to buy any cars! Thank you NYC public transit.

  21. Getting wed or attending a wedding sure can cost a fortune. When my wife and I attend wedding, we typically wear the same outfit from one wedding to another. We bought more-or-less universal looking dresses to fit any wedding theme or however it’s called. We do give gifts but they tend to be something that we got for dirt cheap that the couples can use. What we also do is provide any assistance that we can give to the groom and bride so we don’t have to spend a lot of money.
    Allan Liwanag recently posted…11 Sure Ways To Increase Your Credit ScoreMy Profile

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Volunteering to help with the wedding or offering up a service (such as designing save the dates or being a photographer) is an excellent way to be a great friend and save yourself some cash.

  22. I “just said no” when I went through that wedding phase in my 20s and early 30s. I knew that I’d have no money whatsoever if I kept going back to Michigan from wherever I was to see my friends get married. I went to a couple though. All but one friend totally understood. I think it’s a personal call really. If you have the money and it brings you joy to attend, why not!
    Tonya@Budget & the Beach recently posted…Stacking the Decks in Your FavorMy Profile

    • Broke Millennial® says:

      Your last point really nailed it for me. I like having the option to go, which is part of the reason I proactively save. Sure, some will be a no — but it’s nice to have it be my choice.

  23. Hannah says:

    I got so lucky in my attendance costs! I probably spend around $75-$100 per wedding (I’ve been a bridesmaid 4 times, but every time the bride just chose a color theme, so I usually get my dress for $50 or less). Just a guess, but I think I’ve spent around $4K total over the past decade.

    I think I only have 8 more must-attend weddings until my kids get married, so I think I’ll get by and less than $10K for my 20s/30s wedding attendance, and I also have to hope that everyone stays together so I don’t have to go to round 2 in my 40s/50s.

  24. Patricia says:

    I believe strongly that spending more money doesn’t make you more married and I’ve been fortunate that most friends and family believe the same thing. My husband and I may even have started the trend among our group! We flew to our hometown and held the reception in a relative’s beautiful backyard near a river. I wanted everyone, us included, to mix and mingle and enjoy themselves instead of sitting at formally arranged tables wearing uncomfortable clothes and shoes. I also wanted to keep our guests’ and our own costs down – the focus was to be on family and friendship. Food was mostly prepped by a group of us, with the wedding cake a wonderful homemade chocolate made by my future mother-in-law, stuffed with wrapped money so that everyone shared our good fortune. The guests were asked to wear their shorts (formal wear was worn at the church), hats, crazy shirts, a nose or mask to the reception which was a very hot day. Everything was a huge success! Many of our guests brought musical instruments and performed for us. Others sang, read original poems or told beautiful, meaningful stories. We also had a great live band, dancing on the grass until the wee hours. It has been awhile since our wedding but we still get many compliments and shared warm memories about our wedding.

  25. David says:

    I hate weddings

  26. David says:

    That last time I attended a wedding I ended up spending over $1000

  27. Sam says:

    I’ve taken a pretty extreme approach. I tend to keep myself to myself and avoid having more than one close friend (who is a guy who shuns the idea of marriage). I had more friends in my early 20s, but then two weddings wiped out £2500 – my entires savings for that year! And we still ended up falling out because I didn’t have an additional 2k for a Hen Do abroad! Since then I’ve learned my lesson. I’m on the autistic spectrum, so it’s easier for me. But I can now save £4-5k a year (on minimum wage) by cutting out most of my social life. Hard but effective! I wouldn’t recommend this approach to everyone, but it was the only part of my budget where I could cut back and I don’t want to live in poverty my entire life. When I have money and a home finally then I’ll go out and meet people more!

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