Weddings Get Too Costly – For Guests

43% say they have declined invitations because of the expense


August 5, 2013 – By Quentin Fottrell

Throwing a wedding costs a fortune. Going to one isn’t a bargain either. As guests struggle to afford to attend, the bride and the groom both could end up left at the altar, a new survey suggests.

As the cost of attending weddings increases, so does the volume of RSVPs marked “Declines with regret.” Some 43% of Americans say they’ve declined to attend a wedding for financial reasons, according to a new poll by American Consumer Credit Counseling. The average cost of attending a wedding — including expenses like hotel stays, bachelor and bachelorette parties, child care, and party attire — reached roughly $539 this year, up 60% from 2012, according to an American Expresssurvey. Of course, that pales in comparison to the cost of hosting a wedding: $28,400 on average last year, according to wedding website

Even so, the pressure to attend the wedding of a close friend or family member can be so strong that guests will go into debt to be there: 36% of people say they’ve gone into debt to attend a friend’s wedding, according to the American Consumer Credit Counseling, a non-profit financial advisory in Auburndale, Mass.

Regrets (and acceptances, for that matter) should be sent as soon as possible, experts say, to allow the bride and groom time to plan accordingly and possibly even send invites to friends they thought they didn’t have room for.

Etiquette experts are divided over whether an invitee who sends regrets still needs to give a gift. “Although it used to be considered obligatory to send a wedding gift, it’s not necessary now to do so if you are not good friends or close relatives to the bride and groom — especially if you live far away from where the wedding is taking place,” says Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder and director of The Etiquette School of New York. Others say that’s a no-no. “If you don’t plan to attend, you should still give a gift,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach, Fla.

There can be significant consequences, whether you decide to go or not. Mary Kate O Flanagan, a screenwriter who splits her time between Dublin and Los Angeles, turned down an invitation in Italy because of the $1,000 cost of airfare and accommodations. The friend didn’t speak to her for years, she says. On the other hand, Christopher Taylor-Edwards, a digital strategies manager at a New York-based non-profit, once decided to attend an out-of-state wedding because he was in the wedding party. The couple appreciated it. His former employer? Not so much. “It got me fired from my job,” he says.

For those who do go, the cost of the wedding gift is no longer determined by how much the couple is spending per guest. You can think creatively, and you don’t have to choose from the registry, says Vicky Oliver, author of “The Millionaire’s Handbook: How to Look and Act Like a Millionaire.” Wedding guests will spend $108 per gift this year, up 15% from 2012, according to American Express. One money-saving strategy: re-gifting, as long as the crystal goblet doesn’t have “Winner of 2011 Golf Tournament” engraved on the glass. Other ideas: Offer to become a videographer for the day, Oliver says, or share the cost of a registry item with another guest.