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Wedding spending on the rise - for guests

April 29, 2013 at 6:20 PM ET

Wedding guests look down the aisle. An American Express has found that wedding guests are spending $539 on average to attend a wedding.
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Wedding guests look down the aisle. An American Express has found that wedding guests are spending $539 on average to attend a wedding.

We know that brides and grooms can easily spend tens of thousands of dollars on their big day, but what about those loyal guests who suit up, push their feet into heels and travel to attend those weddings?

They expect to spend an average of $539 for each wedding they attend this year, according to an American Express survey of about 1,500 people.

That’s up $200 from 2012, when guests reported spending an average of $339 on weddings. The expenses include the dress, the hotel and things like the bachelorette party.

Members of the bridal party say they’ll spend slightly more: $577.

“Financial optimism is on the rise,” David Rabkin, senior vice president of consumer lending at American Express. Rabkin said this survey and others indicate that spending has returned to historic norms – although not the peaks seen immediately before the recession.

“They’ve also learned great lessons – they are a little less hesitant to go to their wallets,” Rabkin said.

The affluent, or those whose household income is more than $100,000, appear more likely to pull out those wallets. Affluent wedding guests estimated that cost of attendance would soar to $960 per wedding this year, up from the average $545 they spent last year.

“Throughout this whole recovery we have seen the most affluent recover the most quickly,” Rabkin said.

The Knot.com and WeddingChannel.com, which examine how much couples spend on weddings, found that the ups and downs of how much couples spent on their own weddings over the last five years parallels the American Express study on how much guests spent.

In 2008, when the nation was in recession, couples registered on TheKnot.com reported paying an average of $29,334 on their wedding. The following year, couples reported spending about $1,000 less. In 2012, couples registered at TheKnot.com reported spending $28,427 on average.

When it comes to wedding gifts – included in the total cost – close family members will spend the most ($179), and coworkers will spend the least ($66), according to the American Express survey. The survey found that friends outside a couple’s close-knit circle expect to spend $79 this year on a wedding gift.

This doesn’t hold true for the “affluent” subgroup. Among the wealthier, co-workers outspend friends by a couple dollars, spending an average of $134 on gifts.

“Among the affluent group, co-workers tend to go to each other’s coworkers weddings more often, and they’re often in a more corporate setting,” said Melanie Backs, manager of public affairs for American Express. “The expectations might be a bit higher -- especially if it’s the boss.”

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