After attending 14 weddings in just four years, Georgina Childs found herself in debt – and was forced to move back in with her parents as a result.
Whenever I’ve attended one, I’ve enjoyed myself. A lot. After all, once you’ve gotten through the emotional ‘I do’ bit, it’s basically a big party, with good food, good friends, good (read: cheesy) music and waiters floating around with flutes of champagne and trays of impossibly tiny snacks.
However, there are plenty of elements to the big white wedding that grate on me – particularly when it comes to the money side of things.
A recent report by Provident revealed bridesmaids have to pay around £1,058 for the pleasure of waiting on their BFF hand and foot. If you’re a best man or maid of honour, this figure climbs to £1,211 and if you’re the mother of the bride, it can go up to £1,450.
But it’s not just the wedding party who are impacted by these unreasonable costs: the average spend for a mere wedding guest is £1,015. And that’s only if you’re lucky enough to be attending a wedding in the UK: if the happy couple decide to embrace their inner nomad and tie the knot in some far-flung destination (complete with sea, sand and the obligatory ‘silhouetted kiss against the sunset’ photos), that figure climbs to £2,050.
It’s no wonder, then, that Georgina Childs – who recently appeared on ITV’s This Morning – found herself in debt after attending a whopping 14 weddings in four years.
Speaking to Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield on the show, Childs explained: “At the beginning of last year, the invites started coming through thick and fast and when you get the invite you want to book the accommodation.
“But you haven’t budgeted for an accommodation bill for that month or that year, so it’s easy to find yourself thinking ‘oh, I’ll put that on a credit card’.”
However, the cost of accommodation, gifts and hen dos soon began to stack up – and it wasn’t long before Childs had dropped £13,000 on her pals’ nuptials.
“I was living away from home and I got to a point where I thought, ‘if I want to keep going to these weddings, and seeing my friends walk down the aisle, then something has to give,’” she said.
“That was the thing that made me decide to [sell my flat and] move back to my parent’s house.”
While there are plenty who have suggested that Childs just start turning down wedding invites, she pointed out that to do so is considered a massive social faux pas – and that friendships have been destroyed for far less.
“It’s easy to say that [I should turn them down],” she said, “but it’s not as easy to turn down an invite.”
It’s definitely a tricky issue – and, as a serial bridesmaid, I feel Childs’ pain. In fact, I was fired from a formerly good pal’s wedding party several years back, solely because I was too embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t afford the flights and accommodation required for her destination wedding (let alone my bridesmaid dress, hair, makeup, shoes and all the other costs that come with going abroad).
So what’s the right way to talk about money with your soon-to-be wedded pals?
Well, in a recent episode of her So Money podcast, host and financial expert Farnoosh Torabi spoke with Erin Lowry, a blogger and author of the new book Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together about the best way to decline wedding invitation if you simply can’t afford to go.
Lowry’s advice was overwhelmingly simple: just be honest – and make sure you take the time to send a personal message, or at least give them a call like it’s 1998.
“I think part of it is you have to be honest and it can be as simple as [saying], ‘My boyfriend and I had seven weddings that we got invited to last year, and every single one involved travel. We couldn’t do them all,’” she said.
“Then, I send a little gift. Nothing major, but something to show that I’m thinking of them and I’m appreciative.”
To soften the blow, and to make sure your friends know that your absence has nothing to do with how much you want to be there and celebrate their union, set up an alternate celebration that you can afford. Maybe it’s a special dinner the next time you’re in their town, or an all-out party when they come to visit you, but whatever it is, make sure you follow through on the plans if you offer them.
If you really don’t think you can decline, though, don’t use an invite as an excuse to throw your good money habits out the window.
Raymond Chun, senior vice president of Everyday Banking and Personal & Indirect Lending at TD, tells Chatelaine: “Make a realistic list of all the costs involved in then figure out what you can afford and what you will feel comfortable spending.
“From there, make a weekly savings plan,” he continues. “If it’s going to cost you $400 to go to a wedding that’s happening in six months, put aside $16 a week. It’s less painful than having to come up with the money overnight.”
Also, you shouldn’t feel obligated to buy an expensive gift if you can’t afford it.
“Remember that this special day is to celebrate the union and future life together of the couple and the gift is an expression of a guest’s best wishes for them,” adds etiquette expert Louise Fox.
All in all, great advice for ensuring wedding season doesn’t leave you broke. Good luck…