Weddings Cost a Small Fortune - for the Guests, Too

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The cost of weddings can be outrageously expensive -- and not only for the bride, groom and their parents. The price tag for guests has gone way up, too.

An online survey of 1,882 adults by American Express finds that nearly 79 million Americans plan to attend a wedding this year, and they plan to spend a whopping $673 on each one -- up 13 percent from last year and 21 percent from 2013.

Travel and hotels are the biggest items, topping $400 per person. In addition, there's dressing up, dining out, buying gifts and other miscellaneous expenses. And in a growing number of cases, the big day has morphed into a series of days -- engagement parties, bridal showers and bachelor or bachelorette parties -- and gifts.

Multiple Outfits

"Having a game plan for wedding season can help you manage your expenses over the whole year," according to Jed Scala, a senior vice president at American Express. "It's important to know what you can spend and to prioritize based on the events you want to attend."

Along with the cost of travel, the big variables for wedding guests are the number of events involved, and the level of formality. Multiday affairs require several different outfits, and extra days in a hotel. And if the wedding itself is a formal affair, men may have to rent a tuxedo. You should expect to pay a minimum of $50 for a conventional tux, and $200 for top-notch designer formalwear, according to If you expect to attend more than two formal weddings, it may make sense to buy the tux. That will be $200 to more than $1,000.

For women, costs are often higher. "Think about buying something that you can wear again," advises Jamie Miles, managing editor of "It's really true that a little black dress can go a long way."

How Much for That Gift (Um, Those Gifts)?

The old rule of thumb was that the gift should equal the cost of the price-per-plate at the wedding reception, but Miles says that's no longer the case. She says the gift should reflect your own budget and your relationship to the bride and groom: $75 to $100 for a co-worker, $100 to $125 for a relative or friend and upwards of $150 for some you are very close to. However, rules are meant to be broken, said Miles, and the cost of a gift is "completely dependent on your budget. It's understood that everyone has a different financial situation."

If you need to buy multiple gifts for multiple events, Miles suggests dividing up an overall budget: 20 percent on an engagement present, 20 percent for the shower and 60 percent for the wedding gift itself. Pooling all that money -- or pooling your money with a group of friends -- will let you make a big impression by getting one of the pricier items on the couple's wedding registry.

The survey found that guests average nearly $106 on gifts -- more if the bride or groom is a relative. And while the wedding registry is still widespread, the survey also showed that cash is the most popular gift.
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