What is cost of attending destination wedding?

Virtually nobody reading this sentence is going to make the guest list for the royal wedding between Britain’s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle. One one hand, this means we’ll all be missing out on a major event. On the other, it saves us the costs of plane tickets, hotel rooms, gifts, event-appropriate attire, and much more.

Still, a much larger fraction of us may at some point receive an invitation to a destination wedding. And deciding whether or not to RSVP with a yes isn’t always easy, no matter what your relationship is to the bride or groom.

Attending a regular wedding costs an average of $372 for those neither in the wedding party nor closely related to a member of the happy couple, according to a recent Bankrate.com survey. Destination weddings average about four times that much — at least.

How much does attending a destination wedding cost?

The average destination wedding costs each attendee an average of $1,422, according to a recent survey of 1,000 wedding guests by CompareCards.com. The average outlay rises to $2,514 when the event takes place outside the United States.

As you might imagine, members of the wedding party spend more ($1,580), while regular guests average $1,269 in expenses. Travel is by far the largest single piece of the pie for everyone.

“Weddings are a major life expense for the couple, with some celebrations ranking up there with a new car and down payment on a home,” said CompareCards.com senior credit card specialist Thomas Donaldson in a press release. “Yet, wedding guests face high costs too. While it’s fun to celebrate with family and friends, it’s important for guests to be realistic on how much you can afford to spend and set limits to avoid post-wedding hangover.”

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 (Photo: Comparecards.com)

You have choices

Of course, it will harder to say no to some invites than others, but just because you get an invitation, that doesn’t mean you are obligated to attend.

Before committing to go to a destination wedding, try to consider all the costs, both direct and indirect. Will you need child care or pet care while you’re gone? Will you have to take time off from work? Consider whether your relationship with the couple getting married justifies the total expense.

If you can’t afford to go, that’s different from not wanting to attend. When money (or a lack of it) is your reason for declining an invite, be polite and honest. Send back your RSVP card with a note wishing the couple well, an appropriate gift, and a polite sentence or two saying that you would love to be there, but simply can’t for whatever actual reason prevents you from going.

If, on the other hand, you’re simply choosing not to go because you don’t feel your relationship to the people getting married justifies the cost or the time off, then it’s best to RSVP that you can’t attend and send a gift. Skip the excuse, because the truth would be hurtful, and a lie is never a good idea.

Destination weddings can be wonderful vacations for everyone attending, and may be well worth the cost. They can also be unneeded expenses you either can’t or don’t want to take on. It’s up to you to decide which. But if you do send the happy couple your regrets, trust us: You won’t be alone. According to the CompareCards.com survey, 51% of the people who receive destination wedding invitations decline them.


Tostitos' take on a Royal Wedding cake is fit for a wedding watch party… or tailgate. TOSTITOS

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