Weddings are expensive no matter which side of the fence you’re on. If you’re the bride and groom, you’ll need to set a budget to have a wedding. As a guest, sure you are getting invited to an awesome party and to free food and booze, but all the rest is yours to pay and it can add up quickly. One of my cousin told me he was thinking about chartering a 200 seater plane to fly all guests 3 hours away for a sunny destination wedding. The cost of the flight would have been 200 euros, but then he said most people would spend about that much just to get to the countryside by car, and he was right! Attending weddings cost a lot of money.
I always make it a priority to attend my cousins’ weddings, even though I am on the other side of the planet. While I wouldn’t cross the ocean just to attend a wedding, I am fortunate to have 52 weeks of holidays per year, so I usually arrange for a month long stay in Europe around the wedding. Still, that means a $1,000+ flight just to get to Europe, then another flight or train ticket to get to the actual wedding location. If you are attending a wedding, I strongly suggest that you book your travel arrangements as soon as you get your save the date.
In France, booking a train ticket 90 days in advance means a 50% discount or more. The same goes for low cost airlines. Be careful though, if you book too tight a schedule, you may miss the ceremony if the plane is late. For close family members, you should try to get there on the day before, or early morning for an afternoon ceremony.
The hotel costs are a close second to the wedding budget. Again, book as early as you can, especially if the wedding takes place in a small town, and the options will fill up quickly. Don’t be too cheap and opt for the motel 20 miles away though, it is a pain to drive back at 3am, and you may have had too much to drink for that. Subscribe to the hotel chain’s newsletter and enjoy their early bird sale.
In France, weddings tend to have a Champagne toast with finger food, a seated three course dinner with wine, and an open bar for the rest of the night. You usually spend $100 per guest on a low key wedding. So I try to give at least the value of what it cost to have me.
To my sister I gave around $700 toward her honeymoon, but generally I give $100. I know cash it tacky but I want to be able to give exactly the amount I want, not round it up because no item in the list is in my budget, nor round it down and sound cheap. As an enthusiast traveller, I like to contribute to the honeymoon. Not very original but if they don’t like it at least it’s cash they can repurpose.
In Guatemala, showing up at a wedding with a dress you have already worn is a total shame. Bridesmaid go to Miami to shop for the perfect dress. Without going into those extremes, you need to look nice, and while men can usually rent a tux for $100 or so, or wear the same costume all the time, change the tie and have no one notice, us ladies need to dress up real nice.
I usually shop in the $100 range or more for dresses, and around the same for shoes. They will get worn a couple more times maybe, but the cost per use is still pretty high.
You can also add the hairdresser, the make up artist, the manicure you got before going, etc.
Spending around the wedding
If you aren’t attending a wedding in your hometown, on top of the hotel you will have to pay for a taxi from the airport, or a bus from the train station to the hotel, then to the ceremony, then back. As well as feeding yourself outside of the dinner, and if the bride and groom have scheduled another activity, like visiting a local landmark or a wine tasting, you will be expected to contribute as well.
On average, I spend $1,000 for the flight but let’s only take the $100 for local flight or round trip train ticket, plus $60 on a hotel, $100 on a gift, $40 in miscellaneous meals and bus/taxi before and after, $100 on clothing and that is $400 right there. A quick feedback from friends who got married: it all goes by very quickly in a big blur, and the bride and groom barely have time to enjoy their guests and themselves. That is why, safe for very close friends or cousins, I generally politely decline wedding invitations and try to get together with the happy couple a few months later, to really enjoy each other’s company instead. Especially for friends with whom I don’t have a lot of friends in common and would have no one to talk to and become a burden for the couple to entertain. You don’t want to be that person.
Note: On a related topic, Femme over at Femme Frugality will discuss the most wonderful time of the year to buy wedding jewelry.