The Average Cost of Attending a Wedding Has Doubled in 3 Years

April 11th 2015

We all know weddings are pricey, particularly for debt-ridden, underpaid, and underemployed young people, but the bride and groom aren't the only ones shelling out money for their special days. According to the latest American Express Spending & Tracker Survey, wedding guests spend an average of $673 per wedding, a 14 percent increase from last year and nearly twice as much as the 2012 average. 

Where does all that money go?

Flights are expensive, and the average wedding goer forks over $225 in airfare costs alone. Then they spend another $170 for hotel reservations, $116 in dining costs, and nearly $100 in dressing for the event. There's also the expectation to buy the couple a gift, and the average guest spends roughly $106 on that. Nearly 75 percent of respondents described destination weddings as too expensive, but a quarter of brides and grooms choose to have destination weddings anyway. Many couples go this route to keep attendance to a minimum and cut down on ceremony costs. According to The Knot, about half the people invited to destination weddings actually show up. 

Is it OK to skip weddings based on cost?

In 2013, American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) found nearly 45 percent of Americans had declined a wedding invitation based on costs. But because weddings are touted as the most important day of the couples' lives, there's a lot of pressure to spend the money anyway and partake in the event. Thirty-six percent of respondents even admitted they would go into debt to attend a wedding. 

As we've reported before, the U.S. is the only developed nation that doesn't promise paid vacation to workers, so this is another burden that falls on the shoulders of guests. Although the majority of employers give full-time staffers some sort of paid vacation package, the generosity of compensated time-off is up to the managers. According to 2013 data from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the average American private sector worker receives 10 days of paid vacation annually. This forces many people to choose between taking vacations for themselves and putting their funds and limited time off towards someone else's special day. 

Why the wedding party is especially impacted.

It's an honor to be a bridesmaid or groomsman, but that will cost you more time and money. The American Express Spending & Tracker Survey found the average wedding party member will spend $701. The aforementioned 2013 ACCC report found that nearly a quarter of those invited to be in wedding parties turn down the offer due to financial reasons, and that was when average wedding party costs averaged $577, nearly $100 less than 2015's average. 

“Weddings are expensive for everyone involved and not just the wedding party,” said Steve Trumble, ACCC's CEO. “However most weddings, bridesmaid, and groomsman commitments you know far enough in advance that you have time to budget and plan without compromising your finances.”

While there's usually time to plan ahead, this doesn't change the fact that there are tons of costs associated with being in a wedding. According to bridesmaid dress manufacturer The Dessy Group, the average bridesmaid dress is $200. The average groomsman attire is $146, according to a 2010 Real Wedding Survey by The Knot. The wedding party also tends to be responsible for bachelorette and bachelor party costs. According to financial management site, the average bridesmaid throws down $400 for the bash, which can require extra airline fees if the celebration isn't the same week as the ceremony, hotel costs, and going-out expenses. If bridesmaids get their hair and/or makeup professionally done on the big day, that's another cost as well. 

Last year, Faran Krentcil wrote an Elle magazine article making the case for banning bridesmaids, citing the costs involved and long-term time commitment, among other things, "I believe our friendship is bigger than a weekend in Vegas and a West Elm wish list ... I'm so honored that you want to enlist me in your life-changing day—and if it were just that one day, or one weekend, I would say 'yes' in two seconds."

Share your opinion

Have you ever declined a wedding invitation for financial reasons?

No 38%Yes 62%