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Wilder Shaw has seven weddings to attend this year. They’re all in desirable destinations, such as Tuscany, Upstate New York and the Northern California coast — places where people go on vacation.
“It’s a nightmare,” Shaw said.
It’s not because Shaw, 33, doesn’t want to attend the special occasions. It’s the cost and recent travel chaos making things hellish.
Summer travel prices aren’t the only culprit in the high cost of attending weddings. The celebrations have become pricey, days-long events, and travel expectations for guests can be high. There’s the engagement party, the bachelor and bachelorette trips, the bridal shower, and then the actual wedding weekend extravaganza.
Some travelers are spending even more on weddings this year; after nuptials were postponed during the height of the pandemic, 2022 marks the busiest wedding season in decades.
“The season has definitely been insane,” Massachusetts-based wedding planner Jasmine Galloway said. “And at all of those weddings, all of the guests are traveling from different countries, different states.”
The busiest wedding year in decades is upon us. Here’s how to save on travel.
And how are all those weddings making guests feel? Broke. Here’s how travelers are coping with the costs.
A family favor in lieu of a rental car
Emma Diltz, 25, is in three weddings this year. They’re taking place around where she’s from, in central Illinois and Missouri. But she lives in Arlington, Va., making flights to each wedding at least $400.
Being in the weddings makes it even more expensive. Between buying dresses; getting hair, makeup and nails done; and transportation, “I think I’ve spent $3,500 on weddings,” Diltz said. “There were two that I wasn’t able to go to the bachelorette party, so I actually saved myself some money that way, I guess.”
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To manage some of the financial stress, Diltz started putting $100 aside from each paycheck and set Google Flight alerts to find the best time to buy her airfare.
Because the weddings are relatively close to her hometown, a family member will pick her up from the airport to save on transportation costs.
“I am super grateful that they are willing to drive for hours to get me from St. Louis,” Diltz said. “I appreciate that I don’t have to rent a car or anything. But it’s a lot of logistics planning.”
By The Way reporter Natalie Compton shares some quick tips to help you save on wedding travel this summer. (Video: Casey Silvestri/The Washington Post)
‘My credit’s going straight to hell’
Shaw, who lives in Asheville, N.C., also sets up price alerts for airfare.
“I have 90 million Hopper alerts going on all year,” he said.
He often buys one-way flights when he sees a good deal and worries about the return later. His other strategy is to drive 3½ hours to stay at his girlfriend’s parents’ house in Georgia, because flying out of Atlanta is cheaper than leaving from Asheville.
Even with the hacks, it has cost him about $4,000 in flights so far. That doesn’t include other costs, such as suits and hotels, sometimes alleviated by staying with friends or family.
“Then there’s a sitting-in-an-airport-bar cost that I’ve been going through because there’s been so many delays,” he said.
Even in the onslaught of weddings, invitations are rolling in for next year, including for a bachelor party in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
“My credit’s going straight to hell,” he said.
$1,000-plus bachelorette trip
Fortunately for Elizabeth Hills, 42, resort rates for a Jekyll Island, Ga., wedding were locked in when she booked a year in advance — well before travel prices began skyrocketing.
That didn’t mean the room was cheap. At $330 a night for three nights, accommodations accounted for a significant portion of Hills’s total cost to attend. There was also her dress, $170, plus the bachelorette trip to South Florida from Charleston, S.C., that set her back $1,050, plus another $800 in costs such as food and transportation.
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To offset some of the costs, Hills had been using her American Express Platinum credit card for months, knowing she would cash in her points (including the sign-up bonus) toward the occasion.
Despite the price tag, “I don’t see spending this money in a negative light,” Hills said. “I was more than happy to do all of the things that we did.”
Emilie Liadis, who lives in Durham, N.C., and travels heavily for work, said it hasn’t helped that prices seem worse than ever. She has six weddings this year taking place around the world, including in Panama and India.
“It’s been a lot more expensive,” said Liadis, 32. “Like ridiculously more expensive compared to previous years of travel for weddings or just travel in general.”
Her advice to others in her position is to set boundaries and say no to invitations if they’re taking too much of a toll on your mental, physical or financial health.
Liadis may back out of one for those reasons. In the past, she has weeded out weddings by only saying yes to invites in places she would like to visit, or if there would be at least two or three close friends in attendance.
“If we only know the couple, we’re not going to spend time with them,” she said.
But, of course, some feel impossible to miss. In Shaw’s case, that’s all of them.
“They’re all people I can’t skip,” he said. “This one’s my cousin. The other one was one of my closest friends. There’s one coming up, that’s like my oldest friend — you can’t not go to any of them.”