Are your friends' weddings costing you a fortune? Here's how to cut the costs

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Planning a dream wedding can be expensive. But the happy couple might not be the only ones stretching their budgets to the breaking point. From extravagant hen parties to weddings in far-flung locations abroad, some people say they’re even getting themselves into debt to attend their friends’ weddings.

Attending a wedding costs guests £391 on average

Costs are rising for wedding guests, with those attending splashing out an average of £391 at each wedding, up by £88 from 2018 according to a survey by American Express.

David Baddeley, CEO at debt advisory service Scottish Trust Deed told us “We’ve definitely seen a rise in enquiries from clients who’ve used credit to fund friends’ weddings and pay for the requests of soon-to-be-married couples.

“Guests can knowingly but reluctantly get into debt because they’re scared of upsetting their close friends, causing confrontation or being gossiped about.

“Often, what they don’t realise is that several guests hold similar worries, which only come to light after the wedding.”

Wedding
Wedding guests splash out an average of £391 at each wedding.

People are feeling pressure to splash out on friends’ weddings

It’s something Carol Ellwood experienced last year. The marketing consultant from Liverpool, who earns about £30,000 a year, attended two hen dos and two weddings in 2018, which together set her back a total of £2,000.

One wedding took place in her hometown, with a four-day hen in Europe that cost her about £1,000. The second was a seven-day wedding in France with a one day hen do at home, which added up to about £600.

As well as taking two weeks of annual leave, Carol put more than £1,000 on her credit card to cover the costs, which she’s still repaying a year later.

“At the time, my biggest feeling was frustration. They were so close together and I felt like huge importance was placed on all the events, regardless of the price.”

She says she would have ended up spending even more if she didn’t address the costs with one of the brides.

“We got together as a group and spoke to the bride whose wedding was abroad. She originally wanted to go away for her hen do too, and it just wasn’t feasible because of the cost”

“She eventually agreed after a while, but she went very quiet in the group chat for around two weeks. We knew she was disappointed, but there wasn’t another option.

"We’re honest enough with each other that we did address the costs."
Wedding
Wedding season is getting underway.

“We’re all part of a big friendship group of 10 people so we’re quite close. And we’re honest enough with each other that we did address the costs.

“But there were small elements, like chipping in for decorations or transport, that you couldn’t really say no to. It was almost expected of our friendship group after so many years of knowing each other.”

According to Carol, couples can forget to take the full costs of their wedding into consideration when it comes to their guests. “The hidden costs can be as expensive as the accommodation, activities and travel. You have to think of food and drinks, clothes, hair, make-up, insurance, and presents for the couple. They all add up quickly and they’re usually the costs that bridal parties fail to take into consideration.”

"The hidden costs can be as expensive as the accommodation, activities and travel."

An Engagement Party

A Bridal Shower

A Bachelor(ette)Trip

A Party Bus on the way to the wedding

A rehearsal dinner

The Actual Wedding 😂

1 of 1 (@tatavicious) May 28, 2019

Despite the cost, Carol doesn’t regret attending both events. “They were important days to people I love and I would hate to have missed out on the memories.”

When Chloe Semper’s close friend chose to get married in Australia last year, it ended up costing her £4,000.

The bride, Laura, had a traditional Indian wedding, and the events lasted for five days.

Chloe, a 26-year old Londoner who works in PR and earns about £35,000 a year, travelled to Perth with three other bridesmaids, with flights costing them £700 each return. The bridesmaids also spent £540 each on sarees for the wedding. And the biggest expense was the accommodation, which cost them £260 a night each for five nights.

“We stayed in Australia for another five days to travel, and without the wedding I would have never gone. So it was a nice opportunity to see another country,” Chloe said.

"I’m still £2,000 in debt almost one year after."

“But I’m still £2,000 in debt almost one year after.

“The bride was initially meant to pay for our accommodation, but that didn’t happen. She also said we wouldn’t need to hire a car, but we ended up getting taxis everywhere because of the distance between events. Then there were all the little costs like hair spray, make-up and dinners with her family.

“I got married last year and it definitely taught me to be more considerate of my bridesmaids. The irony is Laura didn’t come to my wedding. She said flights were too expensive!”

Bridesmaids
People say they're getting into debt to fund friends' weddings.
"I got married last year and it definitely taught me to be more considerate of my bridesmaids."

Talking about money can be uncomfortable, but try to be honest

According to David from Scottish Trust, even though talking about money can be uncomfortable, guests should speak up when it comes to wedding costs.

“Sometimes the couple are spending a lot of money on their wedding. But they don’t realise their guests are also getting a big bill that’s putting them under pressure. Make it clear what you can afford and suggest thoughtful activities that align with your budget.”

Hannah Sheffield, from Manchester, says she was replaced as maid of honour at her friend’s wedding after she told her she couldn’t afford to go.

The 25-year-old, who earns about £25,000 a year as a press assistant, said the expenses were stacking up and she didn’t feel comfortable with the cost.

“The bride wanted to get married in Ibiza, but the other bridesmaids and myself had to pay to go over and were expected to stay there for a week. I started to panic because I couldn’t afford it. The trip would have cost me £800. This was on top of her one day wedding at home in Manchester that came to £300 with accommodation.”

The bride, who Hannah knew since she was 14, eventually sent her a message saying they should ‘go their separate ways.’

“I didn’t expect that from her after more than 10 years of friendship. Her husband deleted all of us from Instagram. It's ridiculous! Our friendship just wasn’t the same afterwards. Now I can laugh about it, but at the time it wasn’t easy."

Wedding
If you're uncomfortable with the cost of attending a friends' wedding, raising it isn't always easy.

How to cut costs

Tips from David Baddeley, CEO at debt advisory service Scottish Trust Deed

1. Speak up soon

Many people ‘put off’ saying no to the couple’s requests as they’re scared of confrontation. But if you’re thinking, ‘I’ll tell them tomorrow’, it’s worth acting sooner. Before you know it, you could be due to pay for products and activities that you can’t afford.

If you know that you’re going to get into serious debt by entertaining the idea of extravagant parties and excessive favours, then tell the couple as soon as possible.

If you’re being honest, there’s nothing to feel guilty about. Be transparent about your situation and suggest some alternatives. It’s likely that other guests will follow in your footsteps.

2. Make sure everyone’s on the same page

As a bridesmaid or groomsman, one of your duties will probably be organising a hen or stag do.

It can be easy to get carried away with plans. But it’s wise to remember that not everyone has the same disposable income. So set a budget before you start planning and make sure everyone is happy.

If you can, design a payment plan so guests can spread the costs, and make sure you don’t increase them later.

3. Something borrowed

According to Bridebook.co.uk, the average wedding in the UK costs £30,355. So the couple might jump at the chance to cut costs.

Often, bridesmaids offer to pay for their dress and accessories. But the cost of an outfit often exceeds that of the average wedding guest. If you simply can’t afford to buy your dress, suggest renting your outfit instead. It’s what lots of groomsmen do anyway!


We've changed people's names to keep them anonymous.

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