Being a Wedding Guest Could Cost You Thousands

(Bloomberg) -- With wedding season approaching, it’s time to start saving your pennies. Attending nuptials for friends or family this year will put you out hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars. 

A nationally representative survey of more than 2,000 people by website Bankrate.com found that members of the wedding party spend an average of $728 on gifts, travel, attire and everything else associated with someone else’s happiness. Attendees in the Northeast spend even more: an average of $1,070 for the shower, the bachelor or bachelorette party and, finally, the main event. 

“It is a big expense,” said Robert Barba, an analyst at Bankrate. “It is something that people do have to plan for, or risk going into debt.”

Weddings these days require much more of guests, which can lead to higher costs, said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, the editor-in-chief of the Knot. The wedding website’s 2016 survey found that the average guest in a wedding party should budget around $1,150 per event. “Wedding attendees are spending more and more money,” she said. “The bachelorette party is no longer just a night out on the town—it’s a weekend in Nashville or New Orleans. We’ve also seen an increase in destination weddings that are happening domestically.”

Costs vary, depending on how far the guest has to travel and the relationship with the couple. Those attending events for more distant friends or family members report spending, on average, $372, BankRate’s survey found, with from $63 to $153 of that on gifts alone. Add the cost of a ride-hailing service to the venue, a new outfit and an Airbnb for out-of-towners, and the costs start to add up. 

And that’s just for one wedding. An entire season of knot-tying can far exceed the $1,000 mark. “A lot of people are attending a handful a year,” said Barba. In 2011, he attended three weddings over the course of the summer. “I was in two of them, and I had to travel for all them,” he said. He spent $700 just for a plane ticket to one bachelor party.

“If you’re not planning ahead, it’s a quick way to find yourself in some significant debt,” he said.

And while people do get invited to fewer weddings these days, Barba nevertheless suggests planning early, and maybe even setting up a separate bank account. “Should you start looking to come up with a strategy when you see the engagement post on Instagram?” he asked. “Maybe.”

To contact the author of this story: Rebecca Greenfield in New York at rgreenfield@bloomberg.net.

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