The FINANCIAL -- Like spring, wedding season has officially "sprung," and nearly 79 million Americans will bear witness to family and friends saying "I do" this year. That's up a dramatic 18% since last year, according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, perhaps signaling a higher willingness among consumers to shell out the money it takes to RSVP 'yes.'
And that cost is expected to keep rising: Americans are planning to spend a whopping $673 on average per wedding, up 13% from last year and 21% from 2013.
From flights to fancy dresses, the overall cost to attend a wedding has Americans loosening their wallets, perhaps due to the combination of rising travel costs and overall greater willingness to spend more on non-essentials. The top categories where consumers say they'll spend more on attending weddings this year include:
Airfare ($225, up 125% from 2014)
Hotel ($170, up 86% from 2014)
Dining out ($116, up 90% from 2014)
Dressing up ($95, up 53% from 2014)
"Not only are Americans saying 'yes' to attend more events, but they're also taking advantage of the opportunity to purchase and show off a new outfit, or turn a destination wedding into a mini-vacation," said Jed Scala, Senior Vice President, Proprietary Lending at American Express.
The Guests That Keep on Giving
For some guests, "the big day" is actually comprised of "the big days," as certain nuptial events, like showers and bachelor parties, will require shelling out significant funds long before they say "I do." Gifts for pre-wedding celebrations, not included in the wedding attendance cost of $673, include:
Bridal shower gift - $77
Bachelor/bachelorette party gift - $86
Engagement party gift - $89
Although guests and wedding party members can expect to spend more to attend, wedding gifts will cost slightly less at $106 on average (vs. $109 in 2014). Guests say they'll spend more if the recipient is a family member ($142, still down slightly from $150 in 2014).
When it comes to the actual present, cash edges out items from the couples' registry as the top gift to give (33% for cash, 32% for registry items, both on par with 2014). And it looks like they're meeting expectations: when asked what they'd want to receive if they were getting hitched, Americans agree cash is still the most desirable present (49% vs. 55% in 2014), though gifts from the registry are becoming more popular (19% vs. 16% in 2014).
Guests Ditching Destination Weddings; Couples Disregarding DIY
In addition to gifts, travel and transportation costs are up 33% ($357 vs. $239 in 2014), so it's no surprise that a majority of Americans don't love destination weddings. Even if the destination is tropical or exotic, 72% of Americans agree that far-flung weddings are too expensive (vs. 71% in 2014), and 62% do not like being forced to take a vacation for a wedding (on par with 2014).
Millennials, however, seem more open to the idea, as they're more likely to say a destination wedding is a great excuse to travel and/or take a vacation (64% vs. 52% Gen X, 43% Baby Boomers).
While weddings are becoming increasingly expensive for guests, engaged couples might also pay more for the big day, as DIY is on the decline as a strategy for saving money. For betrothed couples, 57% plan to get crafty to save money, down significantly from 65% last year and 79% in 2013.