Guests shun weddings after cost of attending big day rockets

MORE than half of Scots have turned down an invitation to a wedding because of the cost of attending - according to a survey of more than 1,000 wedding guests.

The new age of austerity has led brides, grooms and wedding guests to cut corners and cut costs - with free bars, slap-up meals and endless champagne a thing of the past.

Now, faced with the cost of travelling to a wedding, buying an outfit, booking an overnight stay and forking out for a gift, some thrifty guests have taken the decision to stay away,

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According to the poll, carried out by insurer Sheila's Wheels, more than half of Scots have turned down a wedding invitation over the past year due to concerns about how much it will cost.

UK-wide, just 29 per cent of people have had to opt out of accepting an invitation for financial reasons.

Attending a wedding costs the average guest 504.01, with the price of a new outfit - at an average spend of 91.43 per guest - ranking as the most expensive item. The average cost of a wedding present is 70.12 - the figure rising to 100.93 for a close friend.

However, Scots spend more money on hen and stag parties than revellers anywhere else in the country. According to the survey the average cost of a pre wedding celebration in Scotland is 84.46 compared to an average of 63.72 across the UK.

While wedding guests could once expect free champagne only a quarter of wedding receptions now include a free bar.

Michelle Crawley, acting editor of the Scottish Wedding Directory, said she was surprised to hear of guests choosing not to attend weddings due to financial constraints - but said that because of the cost of travel, a lot of couples now send out a "save the date" card up to a year in advance.

"Weddings are planned so far in advance now," she said. "From a bride and groom's perspective, if you know guests are travelling from further afield you want to give them more time. Traditionally wedding invitations are sent six weeks before the ceremony but if you sent a 'save the date' card people who have to travel have more time to budget."

She added the economic downturn was taking its toll on the way people organise their big day.

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"What we have noticed is that people are spending money more wisely," she said. "Rather than having 200 guests at 40 a head, they are having a smaller more intimate celebration with maybe 40 guests.

"Ultimately they are saving money but not cutting back on enjoyment. I think the trend towards smaller receptions comes partly from people marrying a bit later as well."

In some cases couples are choosing to have their wedding abroad to limit the number of guests attending.However, the research found that attending a wedding overseas sets the average British guest back 953 - almost double that of a wedding in the UK.

Jacky Brown at Sheilas' Wheels home insurance said: "A wedding invite can be a costly affair and really test the strength of relationships during these difficult economic times. "