Weddings are expensive - for guests

Published by Esther Rantzen on 18 October 2012.
Last updated on 18 October 2012

Paul O'Grady hates weddings. I know because I appeared with him on BBC's One Show and he went on about it quite alarmingly - the boredom, the clothes, the length of time one spends there, he hates the whole palaver. But the one thing he left out was the cost.

Now I'm not talking about the huge expense of holding the wedding - that goes without saying. Especially these days when brides demand their teenage dreams come true, complete with horse-drawn carriage, white doves wheeling overhead, dress glittering with Swarovski crystals and waterfalls of champagne. I just mean the cost of being a guest.

Actually, I differ from Paul. I love weddings - that moment when you melt into soft tears as the bride and groom gaze into each other's eyes and vow to be everything to each other all their lives long.

Who can stay unmoved? Certainly I can't, and I always pack an extra packet of tissues into my clutch bag.

But what I hate is planning for it, and trying to work out how much to spend.

The gift...

First, the present. How generous should you be? A kindly bride will put a list into some department store or online shop, but even so the decision is tricky. You can't really pay for only one plate, or one saucer, at £7 each, but how many is your friendship worth? Six? 10? And how boring, but useful, to buy the happy couple the vacuum cleaner they need - will they think of you each time they suck up the dust?

The travel...

Then if the couple decide to pick some exotic venue, such as the south of France, there's the cost of getting there and back, and the hotel you have to book in overnight, before you even consider buying a hat.

The clothes...

And finally, for women, the eternal dilemma; what on earth to wear?

At the last wedding I went to one friend resembled a massive ice cream cone, everything bulging over the top. Still the dress must have set her back at least £250, plus the teetering heels, another £60, the fascinator over one eyebrow, £80, and the pearls and handbag looked as if she had bought them to match too.

The whole outfit must have cost well over £500, and where else could she wear it all? Only at another wedding, and that might not be for another year.

Another friend proudly admitted that she had found her outfit in a charity shop; it was a rather baggy red satin trouser suit.

She intended to donate it back as soon as she'd worn it, and doubtless it will do the rounds of all the other weddings in the area, so at least the cost per wear will be pretty low - she told me she had only paid £40 for it, and she managed to find a hat at the back of her wardrobe that matched it... almost. I don't think she will like the photographs much, though.

The rental route

What about renting something, as men often do when they are called upon to wear a grey morning suit?

There are plenty of companies online offering all sorts of dresses at around £40 per hire. But the problem with ordering any clothes online is that tempting as they look on screen, I find it impossible to prophesy what they will look like wrapped around me. And if it's the disaster you fear, there's all the tedium of sending it back and finding something else at the last moment.

Whatever you decide to do it's tricky getting it right, and not to spend a fortune. So I'm crusading for the introduction of naturist weddings. Come as you are.

I remember one mad birthday (my 50th), I ran around the garden wearing only a big hat and a necklace and I looked great. At least I thought so. And judging by the way the neighbours' children giggled, so did they.

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