/ Travel & Leisure

Think weddings are expensive? Try being a guest!

Couple standing on tropical beach

In the space of a year, I’m due to attend four wedding ceremonies of various friends and family. Now, I love a wedding as much as the next person, but my wallet is starting to feel the strain…

It’s not difficult to see how the cost of attending weddings can add up. You need to get the lucky couple a gift, perhaps buy a new outfit to wear, cover travel costs to the venue, buy drinks at the bar, attend a stag or hen party prior to the event… the list goes on.

But new research from travel insurer LV= has found that being a wedding guest is more expensive than ever, as more and more couples choose to get married abroad.

A costly trip to Cornwall

The research found that the average guest to an overseas wedding has to shell out £2,000 – four times as much as they would to attend a wedding in Britain. And this is increasingly affecting wedding guests, as one in six British wedding ceremonies now takes place overseas.

Some of you may be thinking – how does a person spend £500 just to attend a wedding in the UK? Not long ago, I would have asked the same question. But I’ve managed to spend in excess of that amount to attend a good friend’s wedding planned for early 2014.

The happy couple has decided to get married in Cornwall, 300 miles from the town where we live, in a beautiful hotel overlooking the sea. As it will take me at least six hours to drive to the venue, it’s only sensible that I book a hotel for the evening. And, being so far away, it only makes sense to make a weekend of it (although not essential, of course!)

It’s going to be surfing season in Cornwall, and as such, hotels aren’t cheap. Add this to the cost of fuel for my trip, a gift for the couple, and even the cost of attending the stag and hen dos, and we’ve topped £500 already.

Get married abroad and save £10k

Although it can be costly to attend your friends’ weddings – particularly abroad – it could save the bride and groom an average of £10,000 when compared to a British wedding. That’s a good incentive to head overseas if ever I heard one!

I don’t hold it against my friends when they get married abroad or in faraway places. I can always choose not to attend if it’s truly too costly, and they should feel free to choose the perfect place for their wedding. However, I know I’d be truly disappointed (as would my friends) if I couldn’t afford to attend. In addition, couples can run the risk of alienating guests by putting a high price on attending their ceremonies.

Have you ever had to shell out to attend a wedding abroad or in a far-off location? Did the bride and groom help finance your trip, or did you fund it yourself?

Mary says:
1 June 2013

A very good friend of mine is getting married this summer but the venue is a 6 hour drive away. I don’t own a car so will need to hire one. I looked at train prices but these were extremely high and the venue is in a remote location so I would need to get taxis as well as the train. It is also on a Friday so I need to take two days off work (I couldn’t handle driving through the night to get there after a whole day at work) and stay at the hotel for 2 nights.
Before even taking into account outfit, drinks, present, hen night etc, I’ve got to find over £500. I’m sure it will be an amazing day and the place looks lush but I’m am going to have to put in the overtime like mad to afford it.

The cost of a UK wedding, if you pay for hotel accommodation for the night before and after the wedding. would be £500 or a bit over. A local wedding would cost about £300 for an outfit and a wedding gift.

I would only attend a wedding abroad if I could afford to turn it into a combined holiday and wedding party. I am promoting Venice as a venue to my nephew who is talking about getting married in the next year or two.

I attended a nephew’s wedding in Corfu a couple of years ago and turned the wedding trip into a holiday. A niece got married in Jersey last year and this turned into a long weekend for all the guests. Both weddings were very enjoyable and the cost was less than a home wedding if you took away the cost of the extended trip. Only those who really wanted to put themselves out to attend were there and we had the opportunity to get to know the other guests well.

I think couples have an obligation to consider the costs to relatives and friends of attending far-away weddings. It is particularly hard on grandparents and great-grandparents. If they want me to turn up in Tasmania they can forget the silver fish slice.

I often attend weddings as part of my son’s music business and the average wedding day breaks down as follows:

1 hour Wedding Ceremony,

1 hour with the Photographer taking romantic pictures of the happy couple – usually during the Reception leaving the guests to talk amongst themselves,

2 hours Wedding Breakfast – another period of lockdown with miscellaneous family and guests, whilst the wedding couple are flanked by Mum / Dad / Best Man / Chief Bridesmaid at the top table.

2 hours of other formalities, including group photos, speeches, first dance, cutting the cake, throwing the bouquet, etc.

That leaves no more than 6 hours of contact time to mingle with the guests, at least some of which will be spent shouting over the disco. And if the couple have not delegated all their arrangements well, a good proportion of that time gets eaten up organising the event itself.

Assuming 120 guests attend, that’s a maximum of 3 minutes contact time per person. If it’s a case of seeing and being seen, or you fancy a holiday in the selected location, then go, but don’t turn up expecting to have a long conversation with your best friend on his/her wedding day.

If you are holding your wedding abroad, do your guests a favour and try to hold a pre-wedding day event, where friends and family can meet up on an informal basis, spending a day at the beach or have an organised tour of the city, following by an early evening meal in a local restaurant. Even consider putting some of that £10,000 saved on your UK wedding towards this as an incentive to come early. Everyone will be more relaxed on the wedding day and there will be less pressure on you to meet and greet everyone you haven’t seen for years.

Unknown messagee says:
28 July 2014


Another selfish trend is holding weddings on weekdays, which creates a significant cost for those who are self-employed. I can just about accept funerals on weekdays, but weddings should be at the weekend so that everyone can attend without unnecessary loss of earnings.

I agree that weekday weddings seem selfish but many couples opt for this for cost reasons or to get their chosen venue in a shorter time. Some very popular wedding venues are booked out on Saturdays and Sundays for a couple of years, at least.

If I was very close to the bride or groom, I would try my best to attend their wedding. However, if they decided to get married in Bali or Tuvalu, then I would not go and would be surprised if they expected me to attend. Provided the grand/parents, siblings of the bride and groom and the witnesses are able to attend then I think the rest can make up their minds about spending loadsamoney on the event.

My niece was married in Jersey, with just parents, siblings, Aunt & Uncle, and witnesses in attendance. A few weeks later they had a buffet reception in a hotel near their home, and all friends and family attended. We had a terrific night, everybody relaxed and nobody was worried about rings, dress, cars, photos etc, – a much more enjoyable event than many big weddings I have attended.

A great night was had by all with very little expense on the part of the guests. Although some guests stayed overnight in the hotel because they wanted to have a drink, but it was only one night because of the time of the reception. Special wedding outfits were not required and the bride and groom did not mention a gift list in the invitation. The best man arranged for the video and photos of the wedding ceremony to be on view in an anteroom, for anyone interested in seeing them.

I’m goin 2 a wedding this wkend, but am not sure when I have 2 turn up?? As in, the wedding is at 3, so wot time do they expect the guest 2 start arriving at the venue?

It is normal for guests to arrive at least 30 minutes before the ceremony is due to start. Only the bride is permitted to be fashionably late and, if you miss the entrance of the bride, you should probably remain outside, unless you can sneak in without being noticed.

It depends on the venue and how far you have to travel but I would aim to arrive at 2:30 to see the outfits of the other guests and mingle with them. Never be so late that the ceremony is in progress as they may think you are objecting to the wedding taking place.

Enjoy the day and let us know if the expense was worthwhile, assuming you spent money on an outfit, wedding gift, travel costs, to attend..

Unknown messagee says:
28 July 2014

I spent £6000 going somewhere we dont really want to go

Michelle says:
11 May 2015

My friend asked me to be a bridesmaid before I had any inkling that the wedding would take place abroad. After getting the details where the wedding was being held, I was extremely surprised and somewhat dismayed to discover that it would cost £2000 just for me and my partner to attend and another £1500 to take both my children. Fair enough the couple might be saving money, but it really is unfair to put people in the position of having to say no or get themselves into debt.