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July 17, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Why are weddings so expensive for Seattle couples and their guests?
This has been a busy, exciting year for my single lady friends. In January, I traveled to Sun Valley for a bachelorette party and to Boise two weeks later to watch the bride exchange vows. Last month, I enjoyed delicious cupcakes at a reception for a same-sex couple I know in Seattle. (Yay for Referendum 74!) Two weeks ago, I attended a Chinese tea ceremony and emceed the couple’s American reception. This past weekend, my parents hosted my younger sister’s traditional Vietnamese engagement ceremony for more than 70 close friends and family members. We’re flying to Honolulu for her western-style nuptials in a luau garden. I’m one of the bridesmaids.
I adore weddings, but I also have to admit they’re burning a hole through my pocket. Everyone talks about how expensive these single-day extravaganzas have become. (The average cost in the Seattle region is about $31,000.) Totally true, but what about the cost to guests who attend the wedding? Or members of the wedding party? Well, check out the interesting infographic below based on a 2013 American Express survey of about 1,500 respondents. The results found about 30 percent of Americans will attend at least one wedding this year, and their expenses per celebration increased from $339 in 2012 to $539 in 2013 — a 59 percent increase.
Each time I’m invited to a wedding, I have to prepare to drop some dough on bachelorette parties, bridal showers, the actual weddings, and gifts for each of those events. Additional costs include outfits, accessories, lodging and transportation to and from said festivities — including flights, car rentals and higher gas prices. It all adds up. For me personally, attending or being part of four weddings and an engagement ceremony this year has meant scrapping my plans to travel internationally. Oh well. Maybe fewer friends will get hitched next year.
In the King County metro area, the average wedding tab in 2012 was between $25,091 and $41,819, according to proprietary surveys and government statistics gathered by a market research company called The Wedding Report. (Scroll to the bottom of this post to see more of their wedding stats for the Seattle-Tacoma region.)
Though the average cost of about $31,000 per wedding seems really high, check out the pie chart at this Costofweddings.com link which shows about 30 percent of weddings in the area cost less than $10,000; 30 percent are between $10,000 and $19,999; 21 percent are between $20,000 and $29,999 and 19 percent are $30,000 and up. Couples spend a whopping $15 million or so on venues, catering and rentals.
Obviously, weddings are big business. Brides and grooms must be prepared to spend a considerable amount — and for their guests to do the same. In Asian culture, the custom isn’t to buy a Martha Stewart cake stand off a Macy’s registry; it’s to give cash to help the couple recover the cost of the reception. So practical. In this July 16 write-up, Slate’s Matt Yglesias calls on Americans to do away completely with the silly notion of gift-giving. He writes:
Your presence at their celebration should be its own reward. Or if they don’t like you unless you come with a gift attached, they can just not invite you and turn the food and beverage savings into buying themselves a beautiful crockpot.
Do you agree? I like it when my friends are up-front about what they’d prefer: a check or a box wrapped in pretty paper. I find registries to be a really convenient way to show a couple I support their union. (I also treat them like a game — who’ll be the first to fulfill the couple’s request for 8 champagne flutes and an ice bucket?)
Let’s talk about this. I’m sure many of you are attending weddings on weekends. Whether you’re the host or guest, what do you think the expectations should be for gift-giving or attendance in modern times? Do you think the cost of weddings in America have spun out of control? Have you ever not attended a wedding because you couldn’t afford to give something?
Share your stories and ideas in the comments or click on my byline above to send me an email. I’d love to write a follow-up post with some of your responses.