Wedding season isn’t an invitation to go into debt
I accept more out-of-town wedding invitations than I turn down. If I can make it work with my schedule and my bank account, I like to celebrate my friends. I’ll tack vacations or family visits on to the main event; I’m happy to split hotel rooms with friends or guests I’ve just met. And I have no shame about wearing the same dress again and again.
But sometimes it’s just too much. Whenan invitation arrived for a November wedding in Turks and Caicos, I had to say no. I would have loved to be there, but I can’t afford it. I told the bride, she understood, and I’ll happily attend her wedding shower in Baltimore without being stressed about finances.
Financial planners see people go into debt to attend weddings. It’s what you might call an “irregular expense,” says Dayana Yochim, a consumer finance columnist for the Motley Fool. “Most of us don’t budget for friends’ weddings.”
But we should. A recent study from American Express found that 79 million Americans will attend a wedding in 2015, and they plan to spend an average of $673 on each one. That includes $225 for airfare, $170 for a hotel room, $116 for dining out and $95 for dressing up. Once you factor in a gift or multiple gifts — and a bachelor or bachelorette party — the cost can skyrocket.
A 33-year-old Washingtonian I spoke to has found an effective way to cut down on the costs: She says no to nearly all out-of-town weddings. “If you don’t live in D.C. and I never see you, I’ll go to your wedding,” she says. But if the couple live in D.C. and they’re having a wedding elsewhere, she’s not going.
She spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to offend the couples whose weddings she has missed. Her policy hasn’t ruined any friendships, she adds. “I always take them out to dinner to find out all about the wedding,” she says. She’ll even buy a gift. But she won’t travel.
She made her out-of-town policy in her late 20s, when she was invited to seven weddings within four months that would require travel. She went to two of the seven— one was a cousin and one was a childhood friend who lives outside Washington.
For the rest? “I didn’t want to offend anyone,” she says. “I thought the best way, rather than have a miserable spring,” was to say no to all the local couples with destination weddings. “Then I made that rule and it stuck.”
Yochim is a fan of this rule. “Every expense should be dictated by your financial situation, not the bride and groom’s budget,” Yochim says.
If you want to celebrate with the couple when your finances are stronger, Jason Hamilton, a principal at KIS Fee-Only Financial Planning, suggests saving for a trip to visit the newlyweds in nine or 12 months. “Then you can appreciate being there and not sit there thinking about how you’re going to pay for it,” Hamilton says.
Both Yochim and Hamilton stressed thinking about the future. Don’t travel out of town for a wedding if you have credit card debt, they said. That $673 — invested and earning you compounded interest — might be worth a lot more in the bank than a lost weekend at an acquaintance’s wedding.