“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
Suddenly, 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
Unfortunately, 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 bonanza 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
You 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
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)
Totally 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.