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…

Closer (UK) - - Contents - By Anna Mathe­son

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.

OVER BUD­GET

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.”

CURB­ING EX­PEC­TA­TIONS

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.”

FAM­ILY SUP­PORT

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 ❜

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