8/08/2013

Weddings are Costly - For the Guests!

by Laura Heffner

More and more wedding guests are declining invitations due to financial reasons which is 43% according to a recent poll.  Guests on average spend over $500 for an out of town wedding which is up 60% since 2012.  With an average of $108 being spent on the wedding gift.  

I used to love weddings.  Well, I should, being married three times.  Anymore though I can understand the thinking about financial obligations.  Though if I do not attend, I still try to pitch in on a collaborative gift or send a card with a monetary gift or gift card, I really don't get too excited about weddings these days.  Though I am happy for the couple, I am probably a bit jaded after two divorces.  I limit my wedding attendance to close family and very close friends.  

Weddings are usually all the same.  The ceremony is in a church with a reception featuring sometimes delicious but usually what was reasonable food at at a dark hall.  I've been to very extravagant weddings and weddings where the budget required that the church ladies deep fry the gizzards and hearts of the chicken they fried to round out the slim menu items.  I've seen bands that were great, DJ's who had poor equipment and personality.  I've BYOB'd, bellied up to the cash bar or been treated to fine champagne for the first toast of the night.   I've seen the guests dance on the tables while stripping their clothes off, get into fist fights, sit in boredom waiting for the night to be over or dance elegantly  to a swing band.  I've seen a bride in a couture dress or a hand-me down prom dress made to look as if it's a wedding gown.  

Regardless, it's always expensive to attend.  If you attend a lot of weddings that season, you need a new outfit if you are like me.  Then the travel, the overnight, the gift, the card, the meals out, etc. etc. etc.  When I was younger, a lot of the weddings were local so it was mainly just the new dress and the gift.  Except now when I attend, I wonder if they will be part of the fifty percent that will divorce.  Looking back over weddings I've attended in the past, I see the split down the middle.  Some are still together and some are not.  

My first marriage we eloped.  My second marriage we had a small wedding at a chapel in Gatlinburg with a luncheon at a local restaurant.  My third marriage, he and I went to a B&B in Lexington, KY, and was married by the inn's owner.  My favorite was my last wedding.  I think it cost us all of $1500 total for the long weekend.  I recycled my wedding dress from my second marriage (I know - taboo huh?) and we had the best time.  We ate at wonderful restaurant that night in Gratz Park under a full moon on All Saints Day.  We did not throw a big party when we came back.  I know a lot of couples do this and it seems to be preferable by the guests.  A casual fun party where no one has to dress up.

Maybe attending weddings are starting to become pass√©.  The big lavish affairs costing well over $30,000 are seeming to diminish as people start thinking about what is really important in this economy.  Or just in general.  How many couples started their new lives in debt from their wedding?  I often wondered about that.  Was it really worth the large loan payment each month for one day?  I never went into debt for any of my weddings so I can't really comment.  I hope my daughters decide to follow suit and think about their financial bottom line against a big party.  Sure it's fun, but I don't know many parents these days that have the funds to pay for their child's wedding.  I would rather funnel that money into their education or help them get a down payment on their first home.

I think as life becomes more complicated, time becomes more scarce as we struggle to make ends meet, keep up with our family obligations and just have a few moments to ourselves, attending a distant cousin's wedding has taken less priority.  We weigh the cost of not only attending and the gift, but the time we lose with our children or family.  

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