By the time I got the text, I had already paid $500 for the flight and $300 for the hotel to travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for my friend’s bachelorette party. Not her wedding, but the small, girls-only party that comes before it.
The text was short and sweet but seemed like the kind of question that had only one right answer.
“Are you wanting to do the donkey excursion in Mexico?”
Did I really want to shell out an additional $80 for a donkey excursion (and ziplining, I would later learn) in another country? I quickly typed my refusal, but the guilt stayed with me the rest of the day.
All told, I spent almost $2,000 to witness my friend’s beautiful wedding in Colorado and party with her beforehand in Mexico. That $2,000 weighed on me for the four months between bachelorette party and wedding. It certainly informed my financial decisions in that time, and it limited any vacation plans I had for myself.
Come November, I was ready to breathe a sigh of relief, hoping that weddings were cleared from my schedule for the immediate future. Then my phone dinged. Another wedding. I wish my only emotion was joy, but it was laced with a tiny dose of dread, thinking of my impending credit card statement.
For better or worse, I’m not alone in this predicament. The average wedding guest pays about $628 to attend a wedding, according to a 2018 Bankrate study. And that money is not inconsequential. Less than 40 percent of people can afford a $1,000 surprise expense on the spot using their savings.
What this tells me is that many young adults are in the same position, struggling to scrimp and save for our friends’ weddings or deciding whether to skip the occasion altogether and send them a nice gift.
The first problem: Weddings have simply gotten more expensive. In 2006, a wedding cost on average roughly $16,000 with about 110 guests. In 2016, that escalated to $28,000 with 124 guests.
More striking is how many couples marry outside their home state, tacking on myriad travel expenses for guests who also do not live there. In 2006, that was only about 8 percent. In 2016, it was at 34 percent.
What does this all mean for those of us left in the middle, not yet married but in the throes of “wedding seasons?” Aside from the multiple obligatory Instagrams I feel I must post, it means that I am footing a bill I was never told to expect. I’m only mildly bitter.
So for those of you getting married this year, I ask that you are empathetic to your friends’ needs and financial situations. For me, even small things, like a “Thank you for coming so far” at the reception, or a rehearsal dinner including all of the out-of-town guests, go a long way toward feeling welcome.
The issue has never been that I don’t want to attend my friends’ weddings. It’s just the pressure of the financial burden that is so often attached.
Elizabeth Djinis is a Tampa Bay Times editorial writer.