Guests Scramble to Afford the Cost of Attending Weddings

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

Lots of people get choke up at weddings, but this year, people might be crying over more than just the sight of the happy couple.

The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker found that this year, the average American will attend three weddings and spend an average of $703 per event. That’s a 5% jump over last year, when the average outlay per wedding was $673. Young people spend the most on weddings, with an average cost of $893 to attend their friends’ big day. In contrast, the general population spends 27% less per wedding.

Why so expensive? One big factor is whether you’re in the wedding party or not. If you’re a bridesmaid or groomsman, you can expect to shell out an average of $743—up from $701 in 2015. Millennials in the wedding party are spending an average of $928, the highest of any demographic.

Besides that, there’s airfare to get to the wedding (an average cost of $205), a snazzy new outfit to wear ($166), childcare or pet sitting ($69), and a gift ($127 for a relative, $99 for a friend).

Gifts add up

When buying a gift, 37% of guests choose something off the wedding registry. Thirty-one percent give the couple cash, perhaps for a honeymoon or a down payment on a home, and 13% give a gift card. When buying for a relative, they spend an average of $28 more than for a friend. That represents a shrinking in the gap between spending on a friend and spending on family; last year the gulf was wider, at 58% vs. 28% difference in 2015.

Who pays for what, and how they cut costs

The days of dad paying for the whole wedding are mostly in the past; 53% of folks fund their own weddings these days, either with cash, or credit and debit cards. Just over one-third of couples (35%) get help from their parents—the bride or groom’s family.

To save money, couples are doing the following:

• Having a courthouse wedding, or keeping the ceremony and reception very small
• Not hiring a wedding planner
• Choosing a cheaper wedding venue
• Doing a DIY project, such as a wedding album, centerpiece, or guest favors

The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker was conducted online and included responses from 1800 adults in the United States, including an affluent demographic with a minimum household income of $100,000. Interviews were done in February 2015.

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