The cost of being a wedding guest

We are all aware of the whopping costs of a wedding. Recent averages, including engagement rings and honeymoons, tipped the scale at more than $31,000. But it’s your special day, with your special someone, and some couples are able to justify the expense for a once-in-a-lifetime wedding experience.

But what about the people standing to the left and right of the wedding couple? Wedding party members – those honoured, friends-for-life of the bride and groom, are not in for a cheap ride either.

Between the dressing up, gifts, bachelor(ette) parties, flights and accommodation for out-of-towners, and dining out, American Express says the average wedding guest can plan to spend $670, and members of the wedding party are usually on the hook for more.

Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, worries that many Canadians are risking their financial health to avoid saying “I don’t” to their friends.

“It’s like a perfect storm of true friendship and true splurging,” says Schwartz. “Everyone feels honoured to be involved in a wedding party, and many people are willing to swallow the expenses regardless of the cost.”

With so many Canadians at an all time level of indebtedness, and very few able to build their savings, Schwartz worries that bridesmaids and groomsmen will have to rely on credit cards to help them cover their costs.

“You might encounter a couple of weddings per season,” says Schwartz. “Whether you’re in the wedding party or just a guest, your credit card balance could go up by one or two thousand dollars.”

Schwartz offers the following tips to help minimize the financial burden so that you can have your wedding cake and eat it too:

  • Be open – Honesty is the best policy when you are asked to join a wedding party. You were chosen because you are important to the wedding couple, which means that they care about your well-being. If you think your expenses are going to cause financial hardship, discuss it with the bride or groom and try to find some options that work for both of you.
  • Budget – Couples often announce their weddings a year or more in advance. Work a “wedding savings” section into your budget. Squeezing $50 out of your budget each month will sting a lot less than paying all at once, and it will help you avoid credit card debt.
  • Consider renting – Even if the bride may have avoided the stereotypical “ugly bridesmaid dress,” chances are still slim that you will get much extra wear out of your dress, and the same goes for the tux. See what rental or second-hand options are available.
  • Use your talents – Give the gift of your gifts. If you have a flair for photography or a talent for floral arrangements, offer your services on the wedding day in lieu of a gift. You will save some money, and you probably save the bride and groom a lot more — which they will certainly appreciate.
  • Travel smart – If you are travelling for the wedding, consider booking red-eye flights and try to limit your baggage to avoid the now-ubiquitous fees that airlines charge. Instead of staying at the fancy hotel that the couple booked, try discount online services like Hotwire or AirBnB. If your friends live locally, see if anyone has a guest room in their house!
  • Say no – If you tried every option to cut costs and you are still risking financial hardship, you might need to graciously bow out. If part of your problem is due to deepening debt that you can’t seem to stop, it might be time to seek help from a financial advisor or a trained credit counsellor.



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