Sarah Geraghty on..
The expense of weddings
Love is patient, love is kind . . . ” It’s probably the most popular reading in the wedding liturgy. It also prompted one regular wedding-goer to rage that she’d “go effing mad if I hear it one more time this summer”.
She’s doomed. One man – lucky enough to be “lying in another expensive hotel bed with my wife the morning after a wedding” – counted 68 weddings in the last seven years.
That’s more than €40,000 at an average spend of at least €600 for an out-of-town, hotel-based wedding. It adds up pretty alarmingly; travel (€30), the gift (€150), the hotel (€80 per night per person sharing), the dress (€100) plus hair, tan, shoes, Spanx, manipedis, hatinator (€150 easily) or suit-hire (€90).
And hold on . . . there’s still two full days of carousing to be accounted for.
Asked if he had any holiday plans this summer, another engaged 30-something said no, he hadn’t. He had no time or money for anything else but weddings.
At 19, I worked in a “wedding-factory” hotel, where every Saturday two receptions were held at the same time. The trick was to get the first bride up the red carpet as fast as possible so as to avoid an awkward stand-off with the second. Guests from both weddings would end up fighting in the residents’ bar at 5am. One woman famously peed in a flower pot.
My next hotel wedding was as bridesmaid in Texas – “the bigger the hair, the closer to God” – for an American friend. Lovely. Culture alert : in America it costs to be a bridesmaid. Suddenly, my inbox was flooded with emails containing dress payment details, the cost of the hotel suite and hair and make-up. Plus gifts for the bridal shower and the lingerie shower (“first-fight lingerie” or “baby-making lingerie”?), never mind the wedding. The cost of entrance to a nightclub for the “bachelorette party” on New Year’s Eve and oh yeah, the flights to Texas.
US wedding bible, theknot.com, pronounces on this: it’s perfectly acceptable to turn down a bridesmaid invitation on financial grounds. You can admit you’re not solvent enough to be bridesmaid but you could just stretch to being a member of the “House Party” aka the B Team. You – and up to 14 other BFFs – don’t get to stand on the alter or wear as nice a dress as the A Team and your duties might include serving cake, but you’ll still make it onto the “Bridal Party” page of the wedding website.
Is it okay to turn down a wedding invite on financial grounds? Theknot.com says it is. But I don’t want to turn any down. I loved the Texas wedding. I love the fact that each wedding has its own magical, individual thread – like my French friend who planted her own wedding flowers in March for her July wedding, or the prospective Irish groom who says about his prospective American bride, “I’m just really excited about being married to her.”
But the point is that at a purely practical level, for 20-somethings like this one, this is uncharted territory. It is a shocker to realise that the cost of being a guest at an Irish wedding equates to well over a month’s rent. Few household economies, single or married, can sustain that.
So if you are a happy couple sitting down this morning to plan your lovely wedding, should your first thought be how to make it affordable for your guests? Whose responsibility is that? Maybe the more pertinent question is, how much of that €600 cost is actually down to the wedding itself and how much of it is within the guests’ control? How much of it for example, is lashed on two mad days of hotel-priced “pint, shot, shot, pint”?
Go, happy couple, and look out for yourselves (while maybe considering the necessity of Friday weddings and hen/stag parties in say, Spain). And what about us, the guests? Do we do the sensible thing, defer to theknot.com and ’fess up when we just can’t afford it? Or do we vow to stick to tap water? And how would that impact on, say, the party in the bridal suite until 6.30 the next morning (with pizza), a favourite memory from a recent wedding?
Tap water or pints, hotel or glamping in a teepee, dress code black tie or “farmhouse chic” (yes, really): there will always be those defining moments of fun and joy and stand-out memories.
But at the same time, seriously. If people are even considering going into debt so they don’t have to turn down a wedding invitation something’s up. A balance of some kind needs to be struck. It’s just a matter of what that is and how to do it. Get creative people. All suggestions welcome.
Róisín Ingle is on holiday