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Are weddings too expensive for guests?

By Sophia Carlini 3 May 2015 52

The cost of attending someone else’s wedding quickly adds up. By the time you buy a gift, choose a dress, get your makeup done and travel to the wedding venue, it can be a pretty pricey day – and you’re not even the one getting married! Sophia Carlini has more.

Like most women, I love weddings. So when my partner Mike and I received a wedding invitation for the Easter long weekend I was pretty excited.

We opened the beautiful hand-made invitation to discover that our friends were asking guests to contribute towards their honeymoon in lieu of a gift.

I asked a number of friends as well as work colleagues for advice on the appropriate amount of money to contribute. In my mind, money is less subtle than a gift. If you buy someone a gift, they can guess how much it cost but they will actually never know for certain, whereas with $50, no amount of wrapping or bows disguises the fact that you’ve gifted a single $50 note.

I was really surprised that there wasn’t general a rule of thumb to follow. In the end we thought about how much it would cost for the bride and groom to have us at their wedding and put $300 into the invitation, leaving it on the kitchen bench for further consideration.

In the weeks leading up to the wedding I started booking myself in to get made-up. Ideally I would have liked to have gone to the one place, however, as it was the Easter long weekend I discovered that the majority of my usual options were closed. I spent a lot of time on Google searching for Canberra beauty bars and made a number of phone calls without any success.

I got my eyebrows waxed at Soma Day Spa in New Acton. This is my regular brow place and the ladies do such a fantastic job!

For my spray tan, I was recommended to a lady who works from home in Belconnen (I was desperate and my regular spray tan places were closed for the long weekend). On the day of my appointment, I spent an hour prepping myself for my tan (gosh it is hard being a woman) and drove out to Belconnen.

The lady was lovely but I had never been to her before or used the brand of tan she uses so I was a little nervous. I had told her at the time of booking that I wanted more of a glow, a light tan, as opposed to a full on tan. For anyone who’s not had a spray tan, they take time to develop so you can’t always tell how they are going to look straight away. After a couple of hours I showered and went to bed.

The day of the wedding arrived and my alarm did not go off for my 9am appointment with Napolean Perdis in the Canberra Centre. As I was rushing around to get out the door I noticed my tan – It was so far from a “glow” ….. and some parts of my tan were streaky, with my hands having  big dark streaks and the in betweens of my fingers being stark white. I attempted to wash my hands a number of times in order to fade the colour without any success. How was I going to hide this?!


The wedding was at 12pm and I had timed my appointments to the minute. I arrived at Napoleon right on 9am where I was met by a staff member who informed me that the store could not be opened, as the girl who has the keys had had a car accident. Another staff member was on their way. I felt terrible for the girl (she’s ok by the way) but a part of me was flustered. I had already had a bit of bad luck and was feeling rushed. Was I going to miss my hair appointment?!

As the back-up Napoleon girl approached the store at 9:30am, I recognised her as my beautiful friend Laura. As soon as I saw her face I felt relieved and new she would be able to turn my day around. Laura was wonderful and I was made-up and out the door by 10:10am. The reason I love Napoleon is because you pay $85 for a make-over and receive $85 worth of make-up products of your choice – How can you go wrong?!


I headed to down to Zaija for my hair appointment, just outside the Canberra Centre and was just on time for my 10:15am appointment. I explained to the girls that I was feeling flustered and needed them to do an amazing job that was quick …. but not too quick! I showed them a couple of pictures of what I had in mind and after a billion bobby pins and a tone of hair spray I was out the door.


I rushed home to quickly throw on my dress and some jewellery and we were out the door and on our way to Gold Creek Chapel. We made it just on time!


As much as I love weddings, they are expensive! Here’s what we ended up spending money on:

  • $300 for the wishing well ($150 each)
  • $150 for the dress
  • $20 for an eyebrow wax at Soma Day Spa
  • $25 for a spray tan
  • $85 for make up, plus the extra cash I spent on impulse purchases while in store
  • $110 for hair

All up the day cost roughly $700. It could have gone way over but Mike and I decided to help reduce our costs by using things we already owned, such as Mike’s suit. I also did a few things myself, like painting my own nails with my at-home shellac kit.

Although attending a wedding costs a bucket of money, I do think it’s all worth it!

Oh! And there was a photo booth!


 Do you think the costs of attending weddings in Canberra are to expensive? Do you care? 

What’s Your opinion?

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52 Responses to
Are weddings too expensive for guests?
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Jenny Tiffen 12:40 pm 22 May 15

Sofia you look banging! I am with you. I spend money on hair, nails and make-up before someone else’s big day too. The only reason I may not is because I am time poor {Mum of 4}. Often I do my own make-up and my hair gets blow dried a day or two before the event {poor me lol!}. If I could have a Napoleon girl everyday – I WOULD! We go to weddings once or twice a year and its respectful to dress up and look your best. Plus its an excellent photo opportunity. You want to BRING it, and you did!

Katietonia 4:25 pm 21 May 15

Forgetting the fact that everyone thinks you spent too much on things you didn’t need (tans, makeup, hair, new dress), I think the bigger issue is HOW MUCH DO YOU GIVE?

Went to a wedding recently and they had asked for cash. I had no idea how much to give. Asked loads of people and it ranged from $50 to $300. My partner and I had both not been paid for quite some time (creative lifestyle they said) and were struggling with our own expenses so it was really stressful.

london 2:40 pm 11 May 15

yes!!! usually terrible food and buy own drinks. Why do people think you would want to give them money. A wishing well is a way of extorting money from people and comparing what people give. It costs a fortune for outfits because one is judged on looks. Hate weddings especially family ones now. Used to be a pleasant get together.

cantdance 12:01 pm 06 May 15

$700 by choice to do yourself up?!

And people wonder why I don’t go to weddings…

Sandman 10:51 pm 05 May 15

I have one good suit that I’ve had for 15 years and probably worn less than 20 times. Presents are tailored to the couple. Anything from homemade furniture to a voucher which entitles the couple to my labour, truck and tools for a day to either help them move in together or do work on their existing home. I’ve even used the truck to pick up supplies for the wedding, saving the couple a fortune and they then insist that it counts as a present.

Of course, I’m about as far from the OP’s demographic as possible so I’m probably not her targeted survey group.

Masquara 8:09 pm 05 May 15

When I saw the title the other day, I thought this would have been about marrying couples who insist that their guests fly to Fiji or Bali to attend a wedding. Friends of mine got married in S E Asia five years ago – I didn’t spend the money to go, but two of my girlfriends spent $3,000 each to attend. Count yourself lucky!

m_ratt 7:17 pm 05 May 15

Seems no one here has ever gotten married on the opposite side of the continent from where they live, nor travelled to attend a wedding. Where travel is involved (especially for the newlyweds), then physical gifts (as opposed to monetary) rapidly become impractical.
Where the couple have already established a home, then physical/household gifts are often pointless.

pink little birdie 1:35 pm 05 May 15

KHorvath said :

I think Sophia outlines pretty well in the article why having everyone give money as a gift at a wedding might feel uncomfortable for a lot of people. I’m currently a student (living off scholarship money now, and before that what I earned from my casual job) and most of the people my partner and I are friends with are in a similar situation. We’re also getting to the point where members of our friend group are starting to get engaged/married. On and off, it’s often been the case where one of our friends, or a couple in our friend group, aren’t doing so well financially – our former housemate lost his job unexpectedly a few months back. If you’re in this kind of position and you’re invited to someone’s wedding where the couple have a wishing well, you essentially have three choices:

1) Gift an amount (if any) that you can afford – if your contribution ends up being significantly less than that of other guests, obviously the couple are going to know. Best case scenario, they’ll acknowledge that you can’t afford it/there isn’t really a social script about how much is appropriate to give; worst case, they assume you’re being cheap.

2) Work out a contribution roughly based off estimated cost of the wedding (as Sophia did) and gift this amount, even if it involves spending beyond your means – probably not a viable option.

3) Politely decline the invitation.

Now my partner and I definitely know people who, if a guest invited to a wedding went with option 3) and cited expense as the reason, would say that this was fine and that they invited the person because they wanted them there, and that no gift of any kind was required – as pretty well all of us understand what it’s like to be poor. But (at least in my opinion) there’s a lot of social pressure around being honest and saying you can’t afford to do something. I don’t think many people are going to be comfortable disclosing their financial status in this way, or as with option 1), simply giving less money. When you choose a gift for someone, you don’t just put in a monetary cost – you take time picking something that they’ll like and appreciate. Admittedly part of the ‘choosing something’ component of the gift is taken away with a gift registry, but at least in that case the couple’s chosen items within a particular price range, so it’s more clear what’s expected.

Really the best you can do when working out what to contribute to a wishing well is to try and base it off the cost of having people at the wedding – but this is going to involve guesswork.

At the end of the day, I think that if a couple planning their wedding decides they’d rather receive money than gifts, they have the right to make that decision. But at the same time, if I were to make that decision, I’d do it acknowledging that it’d probably be pretty uncomfortable for at least a few of my guests – or I’d make it very clear that whatever amount was affordable (or none at all) was fine. Weddings come with a lot of social and cultural expectations, and there’s a reason there’s a Miss Manners guide on the subject.

I really like Alexandra’s idea of having guests donate to a charity of my choice, so I’d probably consider doing something like that if I ever got married!

We had a few friends who have other more important pirorities for thier money right now and they all offered to assist us with the wedding and i am extreemly grateful. The weddding would not have worked so well and they did things that i wanted/needed/made the day extra special. Though we have had more than one close friends assist us massively and still push gifts on us (we feel this was unnecessary and have been giving them wine to say thank you)
especially as we are one of the more well off couples in our group of friends.
I would 100% loved to have my guests their than their gifts I wanted to share my day. And everyone seems to have enjoyed it.

chewy14 12:11 pm 05 May 15

Alexandra Craig said :

If you need money, don’t have a flash OTT wedding until you can pay for it.

I know of people who have given to a wishing well in the past on the assumption that it would pay for a honeymoon and the newlyweds used it to pay off credit cards (maxed out before wedding costs). I know not every couple do this, and it would be the minority, but my point still stands. I’m not subsidising people’s bills.

Why do you think a gift actually has to be a tangible, physical object?

I would think that a wedding day is probably one of the most important days in a couple’s life. What if the one thing that couple actually wants is to have the perfect day, the way they want it, with the people they want to share it with?

Do you think it’s unreasonable to help them have that day? Have that perfect experience? Wouldn’t that be the best gift of all?

And the idea of helping people to pay off their bills is laughable, how much do you think weddings cost? It’s not like the bride and groom are making off like bandits by asking for a cash gift, they’ll still usually be in the hole thousands of dollars. If you go to a wedding at someone’s house and they tell you to BYO food and grog and they come out wearing board shorts and thongs, you have my permission to forego their wish for a large cash injection to their mortgage/credit card balance.

justin heywood 11:53 am 05 May 15

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

I’ll probably get strung up for this, but I’ve found that the less people spend on weddings, the more enjoyable they seem to be. The really expensive, snobby, over-indulged weddings seem stilted and awkward, whereas the super casual ones seem relaxed and fun.

I agree.
Weddings CAN be epic parties. It seems to me that people are so focussed on getting every little detail ‘fairytale’ perfect that they forget the main purpose – a celebration amongst family and friends.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 11:40 am 05 May 15

I’ll probably get strung up for this, but I’ve found that the less people spend on weddings, the more enjoyable they seem to be. The really expensive, snobby, over-indulged weddings seem stilted and awkward, whereas the super casual ones seem relaxed and fun.

Mysteryman 9:58 am 05 May 15

chewy14 said :

Alexandra Craig said :

People shouldn’t have to pay their way to attend someone’s wedding. And let’s put it this way – I have no financial problems. I am lucky to have a good job and a very decent amount of savings. But let’s just say I was earning minimum wage and had children to support, and a friend who is spending $200k on her wedding has invited me. What, do I not get to go to something I really want to go to, and have been invited to, because I can’t afford to give her whatever the equivalent it costs to have me there? If people want the equivalent then it’s time to start putting ticket costs in the invitation.

Based on your logic, if your friend had a wedding that costed a million dollars and the price of having you there was $1500, would you give them that in the wishing well?

No, based on my logic you would give what you can afford or what you want to give and the bride and groom would be happy and thankful for your gift.

For me personally, I see that as a way of offsetting the costs for the couple, so that they can have the perfect day, the way they want it without breaking their bank account.

The way you are talking about it, it’s a massive issue whether you are giving the right amount or whether you’ll look bad for not giving enough. Is that your problem or is it something else? If that is your problem, then I would say relax, there is no “right” amount, just give whatever you want. If a bride and groom was ever offended by the amount someone gave, then they’re probably not worth the time anyway.

If people ask for money, then that’s what they want. You shouldn’t think you know what they need better than they know themselves.

Exactly. It’s really not hard. These people complaining about giving money… do their heads also explode when they have to set a budget for a gift to give? Some of these people sound like they are much higher maintenance than the bride and groom.

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