Are your friends’ weddings landing you in debt?
With some guests now spending over £1,000 to watch their loved ones get hitched, Closer speaks to two women who say expensive nuptials have taken their toll…
When Georgina Childs RSVPS to yet another wedding, she feels a knot in her stomach. That’s because after attending five big days a year for the past four years, the 30 year old has found herself in £2,000 worth of debt. And now she’s been forced to give up her flat in London and move in with her parents.
The PR manager, from Essex, has recently been a guest at over 20 weddings and 12 hen parties – but the cost of accommodation, gifts, outfits and travel has left her financially crippled.
She says, “I shudder when an invite arrives, but how do you tell your friends their wedding isn’t within your budget? When the invites started arriving this year, I panicked. I was already in my overdraft and had credit card debt from weddings the previous year – there was no way I could pay it all off. So I decided to move back home with my parents in Essex. It felt like a step backwards and I was sad to leave my life in London. But something had to give – I was sick of not having any money.”
Shockingly, Georgina’s situation is not unusual. Recent research shows that the average price tag for a guest is now over £1,000 – and double that for weddings abroad. The costs include hotels, wedding gifts, outfits and hen or stag dos. Given that half of UK adults attend at least one wedding a year, it’s no wonder that guests are stretched to their financial limit.
Jasmine Birtles, founder of Moneymagpie.com, says, “Companies sell us the idea that we have to have these big weddings – not to mention the hen parties and stag dos beforehand. It’s no longer a night at the pub, but a whole weekend away. Social media is partly to blame for making us think we need to look like we’re having the most perfect, exciting time. But it’s also a case of couples being selfish and forgetting what weddings are really about – celebrating their love and looking forward to a lifetime together.”
She adds, “The only way to stop this madness is for couples to curb their expectations. And perhaps, if we’re more honest about being unable to shell out money for their big plans, it might bring weddings back down to an affordable level.”
For Georgina, attending weddings started off as fun. She explains, “I went to my first friends’ wedding in 2015 and, as it was a new experience, I went all-out. I got a new outfit and had my hair, nails and make-up done. Overall, it cost me £400.
“Then, in August that year, I was asked to be a bridesmaid. It was such an honour to be chosen, but I soon realised it was even more expensive than being a guest. I’ve since been a bridesmaid seven times.
“Usually, the hen dos are in the UK, but I’ve also been to Spain twice. And you’re always expected to stay in a hotel with the bride the night before the big day.”
Overall, Georgina has spent £6,000 on weddings and another £3,000 on hen dos. After using up all her savings, she soon found herself in debt. Last year, she attended her first wedding abroad, in Italy. She says, “When I saw the location
on the invite, I felt sick. I ended up spending £800 on flights, accommodation, food and drink – plus the gift. I’ve thought about turning down invitations, but I’d hate to let my friends down. How would I choose which weddings not to go to without offending someone? And there’s so much pressure to attend hen dos. So I started to cut back costs by recycling and borrowing dresses and doing my own hair and make-up. Even so, costs mount up.”
By December 2017, Georgina began to realise she was spending more on weddings than she could afford. Worried about her mounting debt, Georgina made the drastic decision to move in with her parents last month. She says, “I hadn’t bought myself any new clothes or been on a holiday that wasn’t linked to a wedding for years. I had to do something, so I asked my parents if I could move home until my debt is cleared. Luckily, they said yes. They couldn’t understand why I would spend so much on watching my friends getting married, but they’re very laid- back and support me.”
Georgina, who has been seeing boyfriend Nicolas, 35, for a year, is now trying to cut costs as much as possible in the hope she’ll be able to save some money towards her own future. She says, “I’ve started turning down hen dos, which can be awkward although it hasn’t led to any fallouts, and booking Airbnbs instead of hotel rooms. It’s hard and feels awkward, but I can’t go on like this. Couples don’t realise how much you’re forced to spend and often forget that their wedding isn’t the only one that year. But I’ve learned that I can’t say yes to everything. It’s actually put me off having a big wedding of my own and I don’t even think I’d have a hen do. I want my guests to have fun and not worry about money.”
Turning down invites is something Kate Randall, 34, has learned the hard way. Over ten years, she spent nearly £20,000 attending 30 weddings and 20 hen dos.
Kate, a writer, says, “I’d love to afford my own flat, but I’ve spent so much money watching other people get hitched that I’m still renting with two girls in London.
“I’ve spent everything from £900 on a hen do in Ibiza to £500 to stay in a cottage in Devon. Often, a hen do will cost half a month’s wages. One year, I spent £1,500 on one wedding in Santorini and the couple split up nine months later! It felt like such a waste. Of course, I’ve had an amazing time at each wedding and I’m so happy for my friends, but sometimes I wish I could say no and use the money towards my own life.
“I’m single at the moment, but if I get married then I’ll expect everyone to come – no excuses! When you spend so much attending everyone else’s weddings, it’s no wonder brides go all-out when it comes to their own,” says Kate. “But we have gone too far. At the end of the day, weddings and hen dos should be about getting the people you love the most together – and you could just as easily do that at your local pub or town hall.”
❛COUPLES DON’T REALISE HOW MUCH YOU’RE FORCED TO SPEND AS A GUEST ❜