According to a new Credit Karma survey, the reason so many people go into debt over wedding guest expenses is surprisingly relatable.

By Maggie Seaver
Updated May 02, 2019
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Someone has to say it: Being a wedding guest is expensive. Between the outfits, travel, and (sometimes multiple) gifts, attending a loved one’s nuptials can rack up a bill. Shelling out some dough to celebrate the people you love is often worth it—but is it worth going into debt over?

A new survey by Credit Karma reveals 20 percent of Americans have gone into debt to attend someone else’s wedding, with 21 percent going between $500 and $1,000 overboard. When quizzed on why, many respondents cited the overwhelming pressure to show up and impress as the reason for spending above and beyond their current means. Based on their responses, the top five debt-inducing expenses for wedding guests are gifts (58 percent), accommodations (44 percent), prewedding events and showers (43 percent), outfits (43 percent), and to-and-from travel (42 percent).

Another expensive tab for attendees is often the bachelor or bachelorette party. Twenty-three percent of Americans said they’ve gone into debt for a bachelor or bachelorette party, with millennials being the most likely group to sink into prewedding party debt (35 percent). But why? Respondents admitted it’s hard to say no to joining bachelor/ette festivities. Forty-six percent of those who’ve gone into debt for this particular bash said they felt obligated to attend, 34 percent said they didn’t want to offend the guest of honor by opting out, and 27 percent confessed they didn’t want their friends to think they couldn’t afford it.

With wedding season just ramping up, you may have four or five weddings to attend over the next few months. How can wedding guests avoid spending irresponsibly without missing their friends’ “I dos?” Choose wedding gifts you can actually afford (try splitting bigger-ticket items with other guests, if the couple’s registry allows), rent or rewear an outfit, stay at a friend's home instead of a hotel, and suggest budget-friendly bachelor/ette activities for the group.