As someone who’s been a flower girl in more weddings than I can count, I’ve been excited about reaching the bridesmaid age. Between cousins, hometown gals and college friends, I like to think I have a solid group of humans whom I’d be honored to stand alongside and support on their wedding day.
Until it actually started happening.
Let me be clear: I have yet to be in a wedding party since those white dress, petal-throwing days. But the save-the-dates are piling up, significant others are becoming more significant and I’m simply at that age. Not to mention the plus-ones. Once you become a fair constant in someone’s life, their wedding invitations become your wedding invitations. And what’s becoming more and more problematic is that their expenses become your expenses.
Expenses that are climbing -- exponentially.
It’s an increase across the board, at least. The 2018 American Wedding Study by Brides found that the average cost of a wedding went up from $27,000 to more than $44,000 in just one year, and according to a similar survey by The Knot, the national average wedding cost was just about $34,000. What couples want to do with their money is on them -- unless they still expect their parents to completely pick it up, which c’mon, contribute -- but what’s being asked of guests and wedding party members is escalating as well.
As a result, 33 percent of people have reported skipping weddings altogether just because they couldn’t afford the associated expenses, according to NerdWallet.
First, there’s the bachelor/bachelorette parties. It’s no longer a night out on the town wearing a tiara and throwing lollipops shaped like male genitalia around. Nor is it five men sharing a hotel suite and inviting a low-budget exotic dancer over. Now, anyone who’s invited to the stag night or hen do (the guest list of which is also increasing) is asked to plan an entire trip. It may be anywhere from a long weekend to the beach to a week-long stay at Disney World, but if you can’t foot the (usually exorbitant) bill, tough sh*t -- you’re not going.
There are bridal showers. Whether thrown by the wedding party or not, you probably need a new outfit. There are wedding showers, which are somehow different. Expect a cash bar.
Then there’s the wedding gift. While there’s not necessarily a “correct” amount to give as a wedding guest, the days of the registry are dwindling. Rather, couples are asking for the gifts to act as donations toward a larger purchase, like a dream honeymoon or down payment on a house. In that case, you’re almost pressured to loosen that wallet, not wanting to be the person that keeps a friend from Fiji or their suburban picket fence.
OK, so you made it to the actual wedding. If you’ve been touched by an angel, the wedding you’re attending is in your city or town within reasonable driving distance and on a Saturday afternoon. More likely these days, though, you’re expected at a destination wedding (it’s cheaper -- for them) that requires a full (work)day of travel, airfare, accommodations and, oh, there’s that cash bar again.
Even if the couple isn’t going abroad for their nuptials, chances are you’re going to have to travel. Think about it: Couples nowadays meet while they're away at college or during their post-grad years in a new city after moving away from home. That’s now the norm! So, more often than not, they plan their wedding closer to home and their family -- which usually means their other guests are traveling to some degree.
If you’re in the wedding party itself, your expenses just go up from there. Dresses (plus alterations!), tuxedos or suits, appropriate shoes, hair and/or makeup and accommodations for pre-ceremony preparations (showers, rehearsal dinners, etc.) -- you name it. Half the time, you don’t even know what your money is going toward -- it gets thrown under a “wedding” umbrella and poof, it’s gone.
Why are we going into debt over a single-day event? Yes, it’s the rest of these people’s lives, and weddings have been overtly celebrated for as long as time itself, but hear me when I say I’m re-wearing the same dress to every wedding I’m invited to this summer.