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Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


Would you like to come to my wedding? No thank you!

We are entering into the thick of wedding season and it is the rare couple that will dare to buck the trend and not throw a big elaborate celebration.

Weddings are becoming more and more costly – not only for the couple, but the guests as well. As costs continue to escalate, it is not unusual for people to send their regrets because they simply can’t afford to go.

In fact, according to American Express,  the average cost to attend a wedding in 2016 hit US$703, up from US$673 in 2015 – and that is double what guests spent in 2012. The survey also found that people attend three weddings per year on average and millennials are the biggest spenders trying to find the perfect gift at US$893 per wedding.  So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that, according to Priceline, 40 per cent of wedding  guests said they skipped a wedding simply due to the cost.

When it comes to being a guest, or responding ‘yes’ to the invitation, here are a few tips to try and save some money:

1. Pick out a gift from the registry early. The less expensive items tend to go very quickly. Better yet, consider pooling resources for a gift or buy something you think might be appreciated or considered a comparable gift. Your presence is really the present so you don’t need to deplete your bank account.

2. Split costs. If hotel rooms are required, consider splitting the costs and look for alternatives, such a rentals, to potentially source out a better deal. Pool resources when it comes to transportation as well.

3. Offer up your services as an alternative to a monetary gift. My colleague in our makeup room offers to do the bride’s/mother-of-the bride's makeup rather than buying a gift. I’ve seen others help to design wedding invitations. Ask yourself: “What am I really good at, what is it I love to do and how can I make that skill translate into a gift?

4. Cash in on credit-card rewards. Okay, I will acknowledge that isn’t really saving money, but it doesn’t deplete your cash position. It might not cover the entire gift, but regardless if it is big or small, you can redeem those points for cash to use toward a wedding gift purchase.

5. Borrow or rent. If you have a number of weddings to attend – consider renting a dress or, even better, shop in a friend’s or mom’s closet. Gentlemen tend to have it a little easier here and can get away with the same solid-coloured suit, changing things up with a tie or shirt choice.

6. How well you know the bride and groom? In general, the closer the relationship, the more you should spend. “The old rules say to estimate how much the couple spent on hosting you, i.e. the price of your plate, but the new rules say to spend whatever you think is appropriate depending on your relationship with the couple,” says Constance Hoffman, the owner of etiquette and professional skills firm Social and Business Graces. 

The chart below shows much people in Bankrate’s survey spent, based on their relationships with the couple: 


 Wedding Guest Spending 

Dollar amount (in USD) Close family, friend Acquaintance, colleague, distant family
Less than $50  18%  31% 
 $50-$99 33%  37%
 $100-$149  21%  15%
 $150-199  9%  7%
 $200-299  9% 3% 
 $300 or more   8%  3%

Let’s face it, debt levels of Canadians are high enough and if saying “no” isn’t an option, sourcing out alternatives to keep the costs down might have you saying “I would love to attend.”