Are you the sort of person who cries at weddings? i am the sort of person who cries at the thought of the bill.
Before the pandemic hit, the average cost of an uk wedding was north of 24,000 and that doesnt even include the honeymoon. the tightening of coronavirus measures announced this week will reduce the numbers permitted at weddings from 30 to 15 (including the not so happy couple) for at least six months, so you would need to be pretty profligate to spend anywhere near that much.
I do feel sorry for those couples, some of whom have changed the date of their nuptials three times, and must now walk the social tightrope of crossing off half their guest list if they proceed. the only silver lining will be the vastly reduced cost.
Social distancing rules mean that unless a bride lives in the same household as her parents, her father cannot walk her down the aisle. no dancing is allowed. singing is problematic. buffets are out. the guidance also recommends that speeches take place outdoors, and that hands are washed prior to the exchange of rings. and as for a honeymoon abroad? pah!
Ill admit it all sounds pretty miserable but the pressure to spend fortunes on ever more extravagant weddings is something that really needed to be checked.
The average cost of a wedding has nearly doubled in the past decade according to bridebook, the global wedding planning platform. for that, i blame social media. millennial couples, seasoned advocates of the experience economy, know the most aspirational day of their lives will be instantly relayed to a huge worldwide audience. no modern wedding is complete without its own instagram hashtag and the very existence of terms like tablescape show how easy it is for couples to feel they have to spend spectacular sums on things that really dont matter.
And its not just couples (and their parents) who find weddings a costly experience. before the pandemic, colleagues and friends of a marrying age would frequently complain about having to spend money attending stag or hen weekends in increasingly far-flung locations, not to mention the cost of attending the wedding itself particularly if this involved travelling overseas for a destination wedding. and then theres the nightmare of gift lists, and worrying that you will look like a tightwad if you only select a towel bundle.
Last year, i heard of one couple who asked guests not to buy them a gift, but to consider donating money to their housing deposit fund. i admired this but i also thought, why not save it yourselves by having a smaller wedding?
If you have a covid wedding, that choice is made for you. the near impossibility of obtaining wedding insurance will also limit the size of many wedding budgets. nevertheless, bridebooks founder hamish shephard says those couples who go ahead with small weddings are mostly planning two celebrations a cere-mini with 15 guests, and a cere-many at some future point when restrictions are lifted and they can have a much bigger party.
According to bridebooks data, the number of uk weddings in 2020 is on course to be 80 per cent lower than last year. mr shephard says those who proceed with a cere-mini tend to have an underlying reason (such as a desire to get married before they start a family or visa complications if they wait). the vast majority of couples who were planning 2020 weddings have simply postponed them until next year.
Where it gets more interesting is the jump in numbers who have proposed under lockdown. from the data we see, engagements and proposals have increased 15 per cent year on year and those couples are mostly yet to book a date, he says. combine that with the huge spike in proposals that we usually see around christmas time and youre looking at a big backlog of weddings in 2021 and 2022.
The financial consequences for couples who dont get married have been well documented in ft money such as the risk of huge inheritance tax bills if one of you dies suddenly.
Yet rising demand for weddings in future years can only mean one thing rising costs. lets face it, the moment that you say that anything from flowers, a taxi, or a hair-do is for a wedding the cost doubles.
Couples planning a wedding could use the extra time to save even more money to cover this or they could take some inspo from the way weddings were in the early 1970s, when my own parents got married. guest lists were modest. dresses were borrowed. dishes were brought along. a reception in a church hall, or going to the pub with your friends and family after the registry office, were the order of the day.
And as for honeymoons, staycations were the norm. my parents hired a car and drove to the cotswolds via stratford-upon-avon, where they bought standing tickets at the back of the theatre to watch antony and cleopatra. they are still madly in love and approaching their 50th anniversary, showing that what you spend on your wedding day has little bearing on the future strength of your marriage.
If a big day with a big bill to match is what youve always dreamt of, then good luck to you. but i fear that many couples feel obliged to keep up with wallet-busting wedding conventions because this is what they see on their friends feeds.
A trend towards smaller, downplayed weddings would take the financial pressures off couples, parents and guests. and if the pandemic causes wedding day excesses to sink in importance, might couples and their families redirect the money they might have spent into a more lasting asset, like their first home?
The end of the big wedding is not something we should weep about.
Claer barrett is the editor of ft money, and a financial commentator on eddie mairs lbc drive-time show, on weekdays between 4-6pm: ; twitter instagram