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Marketplace Morning Report

As wedding events drag on for months, emotional and financial costs rise for guests

Marielle Segarra May 24, 2019
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It’s wedding season, the time of year from May to October when about 75% of weddings take place, according to the Knot, a wedding planning website.

Couples now spend nearly $34,000 on their weddings, on average, the Knot reports. And for many couples, a wedding is no longer just a one-day affair. It’s a marathon of elaborate events that goes on for months: the engagement party, the bridal shower, the destination bachelor and bachelorette party, the trying-on-the-wedding-dress brunch.

Samantha Schreiber, 33, has been to seven destination bachelorette parties in cities like Las Vegas, Nashville and San Diego. With airfare, the hotel, meals and everything else, these parties can be pricey. The one in California cost her more than $1,000, which is about twice the national average, according to the Knot.

But these events can be hard to resist.

“The wedding industry markets in regret,” said Meg Keene, editor in chief of the wedding planning website A Practical Wedding. “It’s the idea that if you don’t buy it, if you don’t spend the money for it, you will regret it later. And it’s very effective.”

That’s especially true in the age of Instagram and Pinterest, where you can find endless ideas for bridal shower themes or for bachelor party gift bags filled with cigars and mini bottles of Jack Daniels.

Bridal shower styling inspiration from Pinterest.
Bridal shower styling from Pinterest.
Pinterest wedding shower mood board.
Pinterest is filled with bridal shower and bachelorette tutorials and “how-tos.”

It’s also where you see photos of a bride getting her moment in the sun — standing on a yacht surrounded by friends in matching “bride squad” bathing suits who are gazing at her adoringly.

“You see the bachelorette party in Palm Springs or in Nashville or whatever, and you think, ‘I want that,’ and that’s normal,” Keene said.

There can be lot of pressure to participate whether you’re getting married or you’re a friend of the couple.

In real life, these parties are often less glamorous.

Erin Brennan lives in Fort Lauderdale. At a bachelorette party she went to last year, the group decided to charter a boat for the day. It cost more than $400.

“And then the day that we all came down for the party there was a tropical storm, so we couldn’t even go on the beach, we couldn’t go on the water, couldn’t do anything,” Brennan said.

The boat was nonrefundable. The group of nine women also got a suite at the W hotel, but they had to share beds.

Brennan said last year she went to six weddings and spent about $10,000 on all the events.

“I mean, we’re all young,” she said. “We’re all, like, in our early 30s, late 20s. We’re not, like, rolling in the dough.”

You can say no to these kinds of events, said Lauren Kay, executive editor of the Knot. Say you’re invited to your friend’s bridal shower and destination bachelorette party.

“I can call the bride and say, ‘Listen, you know how much I love you. You know how excited I am for you and this wedding. I can’t wait to celebrate you. Unfortunately, I just can’t attend both of these events,'” Kay said.

It’s easy enough in theory. But people’s feelings do get hurt.

Samantha Schreiber, from Los Angeles, said these kinds of events can become a test of the friendship.

“You’re testing how close I am to you by whether or not I’m willing to take off time from work and come to Vegas and pay $20 for, like, one drink that’s well cocktails,” she said.

“Like, oh, my God. It’s not avocado toast that’s the reason I can’t buy a house, you know?”

Schreiber happens to be planning her own wedding, and she’s thinking about what she’s going to ask of her friends. On the one hand, she doesn’t want to put them through all this. But a bachelorette party in Mexico could be fun.

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