weddings

'I made mates pay for their plus ones.' Is charging wedding guests ever okay?

Much to the horror of many, the internet is currently stacked with stories of couples asking their wedding guests to foot the bill. 

But is there some method to the madness?

Should we as guests start expecting to pay our way for the food we eat or the drinks we consume at weddings?

Given just how expensive weddings are these days – with the average big day in Australia costing approximately $36,000 – some believe guests should give the happy couple a bit of financial wiggle room and contribute to the wedding fund. But for others, they see it as inappropriate – because in some people's minds, if you can't afford a gigantic wedding, should you really expect other people to pay for it?

To weigh up the big question 'is charging wedding guests ever okay?' The Quicky spoke to a wedding expert for their viewpoint. Mamamia also asked a dozen women (including two who are currently planning their respective weddings) for their thoughts.

Here's what they had to say.

Watch: Engagement Ring Trends Through The Decades. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

Meghna told The Quicky that in India it's considered very poor form to ask for a monetary contribution from any of those attending the event. And considering how elaborate South Asian weddings can be and the sheer amount of guests, the bill can be pretty hefty.

"How Indian weddings work is that the person getting married is not usually paying for it, it's the parents. More often than not, it's the bride's parents. What kind of wedding you have and how it is organised will depend on your status in society. If you have a low-key wedding, people may assume you are shorter on cash," Meghna said.

"And in Indian culture, that isn't a perception many people want. So that's why there are lots of big, lavish weddings. It's not uncommon for people to take out a loan to do it. There is absolutely no chance of asking a guest to contribute! The gift each guest gives is of their own choice and what they want to give. We do tend to keep a note of it and the price. For example, 'this family gave this much money,' because when it's your turn to go to their event, you will reciprocate in a proportionate manner. But you don't ever ask them to contribute directly."

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Traditions like these are less common in Western culture – perhaps explaining why wishing wells have become a staple at many weddings.

Nicole spoke to The Quicky to share her perspective. She said as a regular wedding attender, she has noticed there are new ways that people are asking their guests to contribute in some way to the wedding fund. 

"While I've never been directly asked to pay for a wedding, I do essentially – isn't that the concept of a wishing well? These days, many couples don't need the traditional wedding gift such as a crockpot or casserole dish or things for the home, as they've already likely been living together for a while. So the money from the wishing well is perceived to go towards whatever they wish - including paying for the wedding," she said.

Listen to The Quicky unpack this dilemma. Post continues after audio.


As for how much money Nicole usually gives, she said she aims to pay her way for the event, of course depending on how much the wedding costs and how close she is to the couple.

Realistically speaking, many of us do already pay in a way to attend weddings, anyway. The accommodation (if applicable), the outfit, the transport, the wedding gift. So does it make sense that we pay for our meal too? 

The concern is the financial burden placed upon the guest – especially for those who aren't as well off. Because of course, not all guests are in a similar financial position. So a level of awareness is key.

Darcy Allen is a Venue Sales Manager at Easy Weddings based in Melbourne, who has many years of experience planning events both big and small. And according to Darcy, it's gradually becoming more common for couples to ask their guests to contribute financially in some way to their wedding. 

"We're definitely seeing examples of this. At Easy Weddings, we speak to hundreds of couples per day, and although we aren't seeing a major trend, there is the odd one here or there. What we are seeing mostly at the moment is around bar tabs. What we have suggested to some of our couples is that if it's not within the budget to cover alcohol and beverages for everyone, how about just doing a 'first-round' and then requesting your guests pay for their own drinks," Darcy said on The Quicky.

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"Everyone has been going to weddings for years now, so it's not something traditionally that you would expect to pay for. I think with the way things are and post-COVID, if it's not within the budget, you don't have to have an extravagant wedding."

Image: Canva. 

To unpack the conversation further, we asked some of our Mamamia audience for their thoughts on the matter. Interestingly, most of the responses overall weren't in favour of asking guests to chip in. 

12 women on whether guests should pay to attend a wedding.

"In lieu of a present, it's totally fine."

"I think it is up to the bride and groom to cover the day and have a wedding they can afford and not ask everyone to basically chip in for something they have decided on."

"I think no, especially when just being a guest costs as much as it does – particularly with destination weddings or weddings you have to travel to. I've paid thousands over the years to be at my friend's and family's weddings, and I've loved every single one and felt privileged to be a part of them all. But if they asked me to pay towards the wedding... nope."

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"I find it rude in this day and age. Big weddings are a thing of the past. Plus, the wedding day should be about yourself and your partner, not the big extravagant bells and whistles – I think that is often missed in today's society. It seems so transactional now."

"I am a bride getting married in September! We are covering the cost of the venue and food, but we are not doing a bar tab. Some of the people invited asked if they could bring their boyfriend/girlfriend, who either we don't know or it's a new relationship. In those instances, we have asked those people to pay for their partner."

"I think it's okay to ask people to pay for their drinks, but food should be provided. I hate to think of the idea of people going into debt for a wedding. I would want to help where I can. Times are changing and sometimes traditions need to change too."

"It depends on the culture. Living in Singapore, people give red packets [with money inside] and this is often in lieu of a gift. I think it's great."

"I would love nothing more than to be invited to a wedding to see people I love become married, and pay for my meal and drinks just to share the day. Hopefully, the old way of everything being covered by the bride's parents is in the past."

"In my mind, when couples say no gifts but ask for a donation to their wishing well, I've always thought the cash basically covers your head."

"I am a bride currently planning my wedding. It does cost a lot, but also as a guest, it's costly. People should plan a wedding within their means."

"In Italy where I live, it's customary – and the parents don't pay for the wedding, the couple do. So they ask the people attending to pay their way and then add a bit more. I think it's practical."

"I find it very bad manners, and quite offensive to invite people and then expect them to pay for something you invited them to. Just like a birthday party – if people were coming to my birthday party, I wouldn't expect them to pay. That's up to me."

What are your thoughts? Is charging wedding guests ever okay? Let us know in the comments below.

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia.

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