With the average cost of a UK wedding now a whopping £32,273, finding the funds to afford your dream wedding can be a panic-inducing task.
Which is why more and more couples are coming up with creative ways to finance their big day, including asking their guests to stump up the cash – but is it ever acceptable to ask your guests to pay to attend your wedding?
Image: Kevin Fern Photography
We polled over 2,000 Hitched followers* and found a surprising 7% would consider asking guests to pay to attend their wedding versus a colossal 93% who were against the idea.
So have couples struck upon an innovative and modern way of funding their wedding through selling tickets and crowdfunding, or it is selfish and stingy to expect someone else to pay for your big day?
We weigh up the different options with the help of renowned etiquette expert Liz Brewer, author of ‘The Ultimate Guide To Party Planning & Etiquette’.
Can I Sell Tickets To My Wedding Day?
Image: Rob Dodsworth Photography
The story of a cash-strapped couple went viral in 2017 when they announced they’d come up with an ingenious “business model” to cover the cost of their wedding – selling tickets for £150 a head (a bargain £50 for kids).
For the price, guests got an all-inclusive three-night stay at Knockerdown Cottages in Derbyshire, with access to a spa and pool. Groom Ben Farina and bride Clare Moran said it was the only way to afford the wedding of their dreams and all 60 guests had happily paid up.
READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide To A £25,000 Wedding
While you might instinctively balk at the idea of asking guests to pay £150, a recent survey by Goldsmiths found that the average wedding guest spend is now £217. In theory, the couple were saving their guests £67 – but would you ever do it?
Our poll suggests no, and etiquette expert Liz agrees.
“There is really NOT a scenario where it’s acceptable to ask guests to pay. A wedding is one of the most significant occasions in your life. That is one of the reasons for an engagement, which is generally a year in advance; this gives time to save and prepare for the main event. If a couple really cannot afford it, then a better plan is to have a quiet family affair and celebrate when they can!” she says.
Image: Jules Bower Photography
In the majority of cases, it seems that selling tickets to your wedding is a bad idea and sticking to good budgeting and planning is a much better option. Don’t feel embarrassed if you need to push your wedding back by a few months or even a year to save more money.
There is one situation where a ticket model like Ben and Clare’s might actually be a good idea though. If you are planning a destination wedding, then arranging a fixed all-inclusive price could be a huge cost-saver for your guests. You can likely save money by bulk-booking a block of rooms and can often get a discount on group flight bookings. We still suggest you don’t phrase it “buying a ticket” to your wedding!
Is it OK to Crowdfund For Your Wedding Costs?
Image: Rob Dodsworth Photography
While charging your guests is one thing, an engaged couple in 2017 found out the hard way that strangers were not on board with their plan to pay for their £6,000 destination wedding.
Hannah Louise Miell and Jack Dudley set up a GoFundMe page asking guests and wellwishers to fund their wedding in Ravello, Italy. But the crowdfunder only raised £55 before it was taken down when the page went viral, with strangers asking why they should be expected to pay for someone else’s wedding.
READ MORE: Everything You Need To Know About Planning A Wedding In Six Months
Understandably people who don’t know you and aren’t attending the wedding may feel it’s inappropriate to ask them to spend their hard-earned cash on your wedding day. But even your guests who are attending may feel this way, especially if they are already having to fork out for travel, accommodation and gifts for your wedding. Before you put any expectations on them, consider the financial situation of your guests too; you don’t want them to feel embarrassed if they can’t contribute.
Remember that crowdfunding sites were originally set up to fundraise for charities so think about the appropriateness of putting your wedding on there too. There are wedding fundraisers on sites such as GoFundMe where couples are racing to tie the knot after a cancer diagnosis – these are acceptable and admirable.
Cash Instead Of Gifts: Yes Or No?
Image: Jules Bower Photography
A gift list is an expectation for most weddings and many guests will already have mentally put aside money to buy you a gift. But if you live together already, the customary homeware and appliance gifts aren’t really necessary.
Is it cheeky then to ask for cash gifts instead – which could help cover the cost of the wedding while not out rightly offending guests by asking them to pay?
READ MORE: How To Stop Parents Interfering In Your Wedding Planning
Well, this one isn’t black and white. Many guests won’t mind giving you a cash gift instead but they will expect to know where it’s going – such as saving for a house deposit or starting a family. If they find out it’s being spent on your Jimmy Choo wedding heels, they might be a little put out (especially if money’s tight for them and it’s something they’d never splash out on).
The best way to do this therefore is to ask them to cover one of the traditionally big costs of the wedding: the honeymoon.
Expert Liz notes that asking for donations towards your honeymoon instead of gifts is no longer frowned upon.
“Today this is considered acceptable. The location should still be secret and appropriate wording added to the wedding list,” she says.
Getting guests to cover the cost of the honeymoon frees up a smaller budget to cover other important parts of the day and can be a life-saver for couples.
Can We Charge No-Shows For Their Meal?
Image: Slawa Walczak Photography
Instead of charging guests to attend your wedding, what about charging them not to. This controversial situation happened to an American couple who received a bill in the post for the meals they missed at a wedding.
Jessica Baker and her husband could no longer attend when their childcare fell through and were slapped with a $79.50 bill for two herb-crusted fish dishes plus a service charge and tax. The invoice read: “This cost reflects the amount paid by bride and groom for meals that were RSVPed for. Reimbursement and explanation for no show, card, call or text would be appreciated.”
It’s understandable why this scenario is so divisive – should you charge your no-show guests? No. Should you not show up at a wedding you’ve RSVPed to, without so much as a courtesy text? Also no.
READ MORE: 9 Things Guests Should Never Do At A Wedding
Liz says that it is “not at all” greedy for guests to expect everything to be paid for them at a wedding, but those in the wrong in this situation are the no-shows.
She says, “This is the height of bad manners, to accept and do a no-show. Best plan is to drop that friend!
“However, the couple should make it very clear that it is a seated meal and therefore numbers are important and if for some unavoidable reason they are unable to attend guests need to convey this information asap.”
All we can say on this one is that couples need to budget for no-shows and for unexpected plus-ones – it happens! But if you are a guest and can’t make it suddenly, always tell the couple and be apologetic.
What If You Can’t Afford Your Dream Wedding?
Image: Rafe Abrook Photography
There are lots of ways you can save money or make your budget stretch further that doesn’t involve a guest shakedown.
*(In a poll of 2,108 of Hitched’s Instagram followers asking ‘Would you consider asking guests to pay to attend your wedding?’, 1965 voted no, 143 voted yes.)