Weddings

Sorry bud, I can't afford to be your best man

June 11, 2013 at 10:07 AM ET

Young groomsmen are finding it difficult to stand as best man because wedding costs are rising
Nerida McMurray Photography / Getty Images
Young groomsmen are finding it difficult to stand as best man because wedding costs are rising

Too poor to be the best man?

Marriage is for richer or poorer, but standing up alongside a friend or relative isn’t. Young men are turning down requests to be in a wedding party at a higher-than-average rate because of the cost.

The wedding industry is bouncing back from the recession quite nicely. A March IBISWorld report said, “The amount spent on weddings is estimated to grow during the next five years as the demand for large, costly weddings rises.” According to TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com’s 2012 Real Weddings Study, the average wedding budget is $28,427, the highest it’s been since 2008.

These increasingly spendy shindigs may put a squeeze on the bride and groom, but they’re also hitting wedding parties hard. According to a Harris Interactive survey conducted for CouponCabin.com, 9 percent of people asked to be a bridesmaid or a groomsman turned down the request because it was too expensive.

Overall, fewer men than women turn down requests to be in wedding parties, but this trend is reversed among men in the 18- to 34-year-old age bracket. Young men turned down requests to be groomsmen 12 percent of the time, a rate even higher than women in the same age bracket.

Related:If (going to) weddings costs too much: Meet the refusniks

What’s more, the brightening economic picture doesn’t seem to be doing much to get young men back into those rented tuxes. A CouponCabin survey from last year used different methodology but found a similar pattern: Men aged 18 to 34 bowed out of participating in wedding parties because of cost at a higher-than average rate than other population segments.

And male bridal party members actually pay more for their attire than females, according to TheKnot’s research. The average groomsman shelled out $155 last year, up from $144 in 2009. Meanwhile, the amount bridesmaids spend on their dress has dropped from $144 in 2009 to $137, a trend IBISWorld attributes to more competition from online sellers.

The broader economy plays a role, too. Unsurprisingly, the tendency to turn down the request to stand with a bride or groom (the survey looked at both) was inversely related to household income; the lowest-income respondents had the highest refusal rate.

Young men’s notorious difficulty getting jobs also is a likely factor. The unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-old men is 14.6 percent, while the rate for women in the same age bracket is 11.8 percent.

Today’s brides and grooms are also partially to blame, though. According to IBISWorld, “One way for couples to reduce the guest list and save money was by having a destination wedding... Many guests choose not to attend such events because of the higher cost of attendance, thus greatly reducing the budget.”

This might be good for the newlyweds, but it’s tough on the people they’ve asked to stand with them, since those guests don’t have the option of turning down the invitation and just sending a card instead.

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 4 percent of visitors last year were in town to celebrate a wedding, double the percentage from four years ago. Nevada also has the smallest average size weddings, according to TheKnot, indicating more out-of-towners.

Today, destination weddings make up around a quarter of all wedding celebrations, and TheKnot estimates travel costs can tack an extra $300 or more for those attending. If there’s a destination bachelor party — an increasingly common trend — as well, this cost doubles.

The cost of being part of someone’s special day is hard on regular guests, too, CouponCabin found: Roughly 10 percent admitted going into debt just to attend a wedding.

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