How much wedding guests are spending as inflation, interest rates are ‘taking a toll,’ expert says

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Weddings are expensive, and not just for the bride and groom.

As more couples choose to go all out on their nuptials, the average guest will spend $611 on travel and accommodations, gifts and special-occasion attire and preparation this year, according to a recent report by Wedding gifts alone average $180.

“Like just about everything else, inflation and higher interest rates are taking a toll on wedding attendees,” said Ted Rossman, Bankrate’s senior industry analyst.

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At a time when many households are already stretched thin, every “yes” RSVP poses a potential financial strain.

About 21% of wedding guests feel pressured to spend more than they comfortably are able to, and 18% must lean on credit cards just to attend, Bankrate found.

According to a separate survey by LendingTree, 40% of those who attended a wedding in the past five years have taken on debt to cover the cost.

For members of the wedding party, it’s even costlier: Nearly two-thirds, or 62%, have spent more than they could afford to celebrate with the bride and groom, and 32% went at least $500 in the red, LendingTree found.

How to say ‘I don’t’ to spending too much

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There is no rule of thumb for how much you have to spend on someone else’s wedding, according to Esther Lee, deputy editor and wedding expert at The Knot.

The amount you give should have less to do with what kind of wedding you are attending, and more to do with your own budget and feelings about the couple, she said.

“Determining how generous you choose to be often correlates to your closeness with the couple,” she said. If you’re lifelong best friends, you may want to give a big gift; alternatively, make a contribution to their honeymoon fund, which will be meaningful, Lee advised.

“These are life moments and decision-making factors that no calculator can solve,” she said. 

In any case, determine how much you’re willing to spend and set boundaries to preserve your financial goals. Here are Lee’s top tips for any wedding guest on a budget:

  1. Start a savings fund well in advance. “The more time everyone has to prepare, the better the outcome.”
  2. Track travel prices. Starting early also applies to booking hotels and airfare for destination weddings and bachelorette or bachelor parties. If the group is slow to get organized, “offer to pick up the responsibilities by monitoring accommodation options and flights.”
  3. Remember: Sometimes, you have to say no. If the math just doesn’t add up, there are gracious ways to thank the couple and decline. “Consider throwing the bride-to-be or your friend a celebratory brunch to relay your support.”

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