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Destination wedding? Don’t expect many invited guests to attend

  • A new study finds a majority of Americans agree that destination weddings are a bad idea.
  • Nearly 20 percent said they’ve declined invitations to attend destination weddings.
  • When saying no, the best bet is to do it is in person, if possible, and perhaps send a gift anyway.

If you’re thinking about planning a destination wedding, maybe think again. Prospective wedding guests often are peeved when couples celebrate their nuptials in distant locales, citing cost as the main frustration — and the primary reason for not attending. Fifty-six percent of Americans agree it’s in poor taste for a couple to plan a destination wedding, according to a study from Bankrate.

But don’t fret — even wedding experts say affianced couples shouldn’t expect their friends and family to attend their destination wedding. “Not only are weddings expensive for a couple to plan, they can be a budget-buster for guests, as well,” said Bankrate analyst Kelly Anne Smith. “A person should not risk going into debt in order to celebrate the occasion with friends of family,” she said. 

Invited guests don’t seem like they’re afraid to RSVP “no,” either, even if it means jeopardizing a friendship. Nearly one in five surveyed said they’ve declined a wedding invitation because they can’t afford to attend, the study found. 

“Just as you would regretfully decline if you have a scheduling conflict, it’s perfectly appropriate to decline if the wedding does not work for your budget. Attending a wedding can be expensive, especially if travel is involved. If this is the case, don’t delay — let the couple know as soon as possible,” said Mariam Naficy, founder and CEO of Minted.

Relationships can suffer

But in some cases, the marrying couple holds these absences against their friends and family. Of those who declined invitations, 30 percent said their relationship with the marrying couple suffered. 

Americans spend an average of $628 per wedding they attend, including attending pre-parties like bridal showers and bachelorette activities in addition to the main event, according to a separate Bankrate study. These results “are very telling of the financial strain that a wedding puts on people across the board,” Smith told CBS MoneyWatch. 

Experts recommend that guests who plan not to attend let the affianced couple know right away — and to share their rationale in person, if possible. “If they can, it will go a long way, versus sending a text or an email,” Smith said. 

Another way to soften the blow? Send a gift anyway, even if you don’t attend the wedding. 


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