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This story is from Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. It was presented by Jenni Murray and produced by Olivia Cope. To listen to more episodes of Woman’s Hour, please click here. Adapted by Sarah Keating.

“The most recently the wedding of my best friend was in Dubai so that was quite expensive...the wedding before that was in Jamaica and that was even more expensive.”

Danielle Dash, a writer from London, hasn’t been to many weddings – four, to be precise – but despite being choosy about which ones she goes to, they still end up being costly. She has spent roughly £2500 in total.

“I don’t find that pressure to perhaps go to every wedding I’m invited to, but I think when I do go I try to put my best foot forward for the happy couple.”

From buying an outfit to finding the perfect present, what sorts of costs are wedding guests shouldering to attend their loved one’s big day?

In the UK, a survey found that on average guests would spend £400 ($532) in 2017, while in the US another report put the figure at £497 ($628) or more if you are part of the wedding party. The figures vary slightly depending on which survey you look at, but one thing they all have in common is that it’s far from cheap!

Obviously, there are many variables which affect the cost – the biggest being how far you have to travel. If you are booking flights and accommodation on top of everything else, you are looking at a hefty price-tag.

Lauren Bravo, a journalist and digital editor also from London, has managed to escape the massive costs of going to a wedding abroad having only attended those in the UK. But at the ripe old age of 30, she’s in the peak wedding guest years of her life and is a veteran at this stage, having attended 20 over the last few years.

“I think it’s more the cumulative impact,” she says, “we’ve had five or six weddings a year for the last few years. So even if individually they are quite reasonable, when you add them all up together then they are quite a lot.”

“We’re mainly talking about train tickets, perhaps a stay in a nice B&B in the countryside, obviously presents. And I have to say I am particularly bad for buying new outfits, so when you factor in that cost as well it can be a few hundred per wedding.”

She doesn’t buy a new outfit for every wedding but has not worn the same outfit more than twice.

“I understand the pressure,” says Dash, “weddings are such a performative act for both the couple and the people attending – especially with social media you want to put your best foot forward and show how great you can be at weddings, and I think that means that sometimes you put yourself in positions that maybe financially are not the best for you.”

Women tend to spend more on weddings, partly because they buy more outfits, while men can recycle a suit without attention (Credit: Getty Images)

When breaking down the costs of what people spend on being a wedding guest, men and women end up spending roughly the same with women spending more on outfits and men spending more on drinks at the event itself.

Bravo agrees that the discrepancy in how much she spends on her wedding clothes compared to her boyfriend is real.

“My boyfriend has two outfits that he wears to weddings,” she says, “one is his kilt (he’s Scottish) and jacket that he had for his 21st birthday 11 years ago… and the other outfit is the suit that he wears to work every day. So out of the 20 weddings we’ve been to, the only expense he’s incurred is occasionally buying a new tie.”

“There’s definitely a lot of inherent sexism I think in the outfit pressure,” she adds.

I think if your friendship is in jeopardy because you didn’t go to this destination or you didn’t buy a present, then you have to really reconsider who your friends are.

And of course, there is the minefield that is the gift. Should you buy from the wedding list or just give money? What are the expectations and the protocol?

“I don’t think good friends expect you to give anything,” claims Lauren Bravo.

“From what I understand,” she says, "list tends to be particularly for relatives. In a lot of cases I think you know that if you don’t give people some steering on what you might actually like and use in your life, you might end up with twenty ugly fruitbowls.”

Interestingly, according to research, the amount wedding guests spend on gifts for the couple varies depending on age, with younger people (18-37) spending around £42 ($57) when part of the wedding party, and those above the age of 37 spending around £114 ($153). Not surprisingly, the amount you spend goes down the more distant you are from the couple.

For Danielle Dash “it’s a case of ‘do I love this person enough to go?’….and budgeting. If that person is really my friend they will totally understand the cost I’ve put in and they’ll be happy for what they get to be honest.”

“I think if your friendship is in jeopardy because you didn’t go to this destination or you didn’t buy a present, then you have to really reconsider who your friends are.”


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