I recently read three different articles about the unaffordability of attending or participating in people’s weddings. In that same week, my husband and I had to discuss the fact that even to attend a local wedding, we’d have to cough up around $200 for a babysitter. Cleaning out my desk, I collected all the recent invitations for weddings we couldn’t attend and calculated that, if I were to send a gift for all of them all at once, it would cost about $1,500.
In an article for xoJane.com, one woman writes of having over $4,000 in debt from being a bridesmaid in two weddings for women with whom she is no longer even friends. Staggering costs like these led another woman to decline every single out of town wedding invitation she received, as described in an article for the Washington Post.
The recent outcry over the cost of traveling to a wedding demonstrates that even if the couple getting married is trying to be thrifty, just getting there in decent clothing is not an affordable experience for their friends. A recent American Express survey found that the average cost to attend a wedding (before the traditionally-expected gift) in America is $673, up more than ten percent from the previous year’s average.
And it’s often not just the wedding. There is typically a wedding shower and a bachelor or bachelorette party. Baby showers often occur soon thereafter. For people in their twenties and thirties, this can make friendship incredibly expensive. The cost of these important life events is without a doubt a first world problem. But it’s a first world problem worth doing something about, because friendships are essential, and being present for one of the most significant events in a friend’s life is important.
How can we do this while maintaining our financial equilibrium? Thrift, after all, is an important virtue, and it can’t just fly out of the window every time another friend gets married. Here are a few ways couples getting married can ease the financial burden on their guests:
- Let bridesmaids choose their own dresses and let grooms wear their own tuxedos or suits. Obviously you can give parameters: things like color or cummerbund. But rental tuxedos are often cheap-looking, ill-fitting, and incredibly expensive, whereas many adult men have purchased a tuxedo that is tailored and perfectly elegant looking; if they haven’t, let the men wear suits. Likewise, the average bridesmaid dress costs $150 before alterations, and a dress that is flattering on one woman’s figure might be not so flattering on another. I let my bridesmaids choose their dresses, and they all looked and felt great in a dress they liked at a price point they could afford. One bridesmaid found hers on sale at Target for $15, and she looked just as smart as my sisters in J. Crew.
- Pick a non-holiday weekend if you are asking folks to travel. Everything is more expensive when traveling on holiday weekends. Often the cheapest time to fly is immediately before or after a holiday, which can make the difference between an airline ticket being affordable or out of the question for guests.
- Consider offering childcare for guests with kids. For couples already struggling to afford to pay for everything for their wedding this might seem like an unnecessary added expense. But paying a few nice college kids to watch the younger children of your guests for a few hours would save your guests, collectively, thousands of dollars. And it might be the thing that allows parents with small children to be able to afford to come to your wedding at all.
- If your wedding is out of town, also plan a local event for friends who can’t afford to travel. This doesn’t need to be another big expense, maybe a backyard barbecue or a brunch. But if the point is inviting your friends to celebrate your milestone, this will allow the friends who can’t afford to attend your wedding a chance to celebrate with you.
- Don’t do an out-of-country wedding if you don’t have to. Unless you plan to charter a jet to take everyone there on your dime: Just don’t do it!
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