The average cost of a 2013 wedding is up 5% from last year to $28,427 – and that’s not counting the $539 guests pay to attend
Last year, I wrote an article speculating that maybe, just maybe the low-key backyard nuptials of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan had driven a stake through the heart of the wedding industrial complex. I interviewed scads of brides who proudly recounted their own do-it-yourself relatively low-cost weddings.
That was so 2012.
This year, we’ve enjoyed the spectacle of Facebook co-founder Sean Parker’s multi-million dollar Redwood Forest/Game of Thrones fantasy wedding to singer-songwriter Alexandra Lenas. Controversial alterations to add stone work, a pond and water fall to a state-protected area resulted in Parker paying out an additional last minute $2.5m in fines to the California Coastal Commission. But no worries. The event, Parker hesitates to assure us, was in good taste. “None of the usual tasteless crap that rich people do at their weddings was present here – no ice sculptures, no caviar, no pop stars hired to sing their hit songs,” he claimed to The Atlantic.
Good to know.
Facebook billionaires are apparently a leading economic indicator this year. Wedding expenses are up across the board this year. According to theknot.com, the average bride and groom can expect to spend $28,427 on their nuptials in 2013, up 5% from 2012. Forget the talk of falling bonuses on Wall Street: wedding costs in New York, the city that the financial services sector calls home, increased by 15%, to $76,687.
It’s fine to splash out on your big day. But all of this increased spending seems to be upping the ante for guests as well. According to a survey by American Express, those attending a wedding can expect to spend $539 this year. That’s up an astonishing 58% in a one-year period. In some parts of the country, it’s most of a rent payment.
Is it generational? Look, I am not one to think the Millennials are more narcissistic than any other group of twentysomethings in recent – or even distant – memory. I remember when my Gen X contingent held the honor. It could even be argued that Baby Boomers never relinquished the crown.
But then I read about weddings 2013 style. And my first thought – after I stopped seeing white – is that it’s clear a certain percentage of people really have yet to figure out it’s not all about them.
Exhibit A comes courtesy of the website Jezebel, which got a hold of an extraordinary series of text messages between a wedding guest and his hosts recently. The problem? The brides had somehow decided that those attending the reception should contribute to the (high) cost of the nuptials.
As a result, one requested a receipt from one of their guests so they could return a basket of candy-themed food that contained gluten, something one bride could not digest. Her note came with a little reminder:
People give envelopes. I lost out on $200 covering you and your dates [sic] plate … And got fluffy whip and sour patch kids in return.” When the guest responded somewhat huffily, he was informed, “Weddings are to make money for your future … To be exact the plates were $97 a person … But thanks again for the $30 gift basket
Leaving aside the issue of tackiness, anyone who thinks a wedding is a financial plan needs to take a serious class in financial literacy. It’s cheaper to buy the pots and pans yourself than throw a big party and hope you make it back in cash and gifts. Trust me. The average wedding gift is worth $108 – and some of those are costs split between couples. And the hours of paid work lost to wedding planning time … never mind. Just go to Williams Sonoma on your own dime.
Others go one better, and use the wedding to promote their own services. Take Hollywood yoga guru Rainbeau Mars, who suffered much ridicule for requesting guests attending her Kauai wedding in July undertake a three-week vegan cleanse. Coincidentally, Mars just happens to offer the cleanse via her website for $150. That’s a pretty good racket, wouldn’t you say? Fans not invited to the wedding can sign up to participate via Facebook.
I would like to point out that once upon a time, destination weddings meant you were all but eloping, not expecting your family, friends and acquaintances to spend several hundred – if not thousands – of dollars travelling to a multi-day events at a distant tropical resort.
So what’s changed? We’ve accepted conspicuous nuptial consumption. In an economy where all too many do not have nowhere near enough, it’s becoming something of a status item to show you can throw money around – even if you are secretly expecting your guests to foot a portion of the bill for your vanity.
So a few facts to remember before you ask your friends to up the ante for your special day: just because you have extra funds on hand, please don’t assume everyone else does. Just last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released numbers demonstrating salaries fell to record-breaking rates during the first quarter of 2013.
Other stats show that just under half of us have less than $800 in savings – not exactly the sort of balance that encourages people to go out and underwrite their friends’ weddings costs via generous gift-giving.
You’re getting married, not hitting the jackpot.