We pay almost £500 to attend a wedding: we're idiots

Wedding guests shouldn’t have to fork out £500 - not when you can do it all for £50

Wedding guests looking down aisle

We all know weddings are expensive things, it's just that most of us labour under the misapprehension that it's only expensive for the bride and groom. In fact the pain is shared far and wide among friends and family, so that attending a wedding sets us back an average of £432.

But that's crazy money. It really doesn't have to cost so much to go to a party.

See also: Scamwatch: watch out for wedding fraud

See also: Couple slammed for making guests pay for wedding

See also: 40% of married Brits regret wasting money on their wedding

How we spend it

The figure was identified by American Express, who calculated that we spend an average of £85 on the wedding gift, £74 on accommodation, £71 on an outfit, and £64 on travel to the special day. There's also £57 on the hen or stag do, £54 on drinks, and £27 on hair and beauty.

Jenny Cheung, Director at American Express said: "It is a huge compliment to be asked to celebrate a couple's special day but the costs can soon add up. With this in mind, it's important to get your finances in order so you can focus on having fun on the big day, rather than worrying about the cost of attending a ceremony. Our study has found that almost two in five (18%) wedding guests put related expenditure on a credit card and using one that earns cashback, shrewd members of the congregation can ensure they get something back for their spending and treat themselves once the celebrations are over."

However, we don't have to succumb to the pressure to spend a small fortune. We have tracked down the budget option - for those who want to cut the cost in half, and the bargain basement choice for those who would rather save as much of their cash as possible.

The wedding gift
The traditional route: slavishly follow the link to the wedding list, and spend £85 on ridiculously over-priced homewares.
The budget option: club together. You will usually be attending the wedding as part of a larger group, so club together with the group to buy something expensive, and hide the individual contributions.
The bargain basement: offer your services instead. There's a good chance that they'll really welcome the opportunity to cut costs, so by offering to do the bride's hair, make buttonholes, or make 200 fiddly cardboard boxes for favours, you'll be saving them a fortune - at only a tiny cost to yourself.

Accommodation
The traditional route: fork out a fortune to stay in or near the venue.
The budget option: ask the bride and groom if they have secured a group rate anywhere nearby.
The bargain basement: check for campsites nearby, talk to friends and family and see if you know anyone with a spare room within striking distance, or pop onto airbnb, and see if there's a cheap room - or a property you can rent with friends.

The outfit
The traditional route: spend a small fortune on something brand new and fashionable.
The budget route: seek out bargains in outlets and on eBay. Alternatively, opt for a nondescript suit or dress, and accessorise with a striking new purchase.
The bargain basement: swap. The country is full of people with lovely wedding clothes they've worn once, who need something new for their next wedding. Swap with them and you both get to wear something new - with no cost.

Travel
The traditional route: Fork out for a train ticket or a tank of petrol.
The budget route: book in advance to get a discount, or look into cheaper alternatives. Website Gopili lets you input your departure and arrival points, and then calculates the cheapest mode of transport available.
The bargain basement: find a car share. There are bound to be plenty of friends and family travelling from roughly the same place, so fill a car and share the cost.

Stag and hen
The traditional route: sign up for a week in Magaluf and put it on your credit card.
The budget route: do your own research into the destination, and see if you can take a less popular flight and stay in a cheaper hotel nearby.
The bargain basement: see them off at the airport. Arrive with a bottle of something, and a hilarious prop of some description, possibly share a drink, and then go home - having spent little more than £10.

Drinks
The traditional route: when the table wine runs out, run up an enormous bar bill.
The budget route: try to make the table wine last as long as possible, and find something cheaper at the bar to keep your costs down.
The bargain basement: once the table wine runs out, stop drinking. You may actually find the whole thing more enjoyable if you remember it more clearly!

Hair and beauty
The traditional route: Splash out on new cosmetics and book a hairdresser for the morning
The budget route: invest in a few new things, and ask a friend to do your hair.
The bargain basement: buy nothing - there's nothing wrong with what you have, and get a friend to do your hair.

If in any doubt over which route is right for you. Ask yourself two key questions 'Is this day all about you?' and 'Will anyone really mind?'

If the bride and groom love you, then they'll love you showing up with home-made buttonholes in an old outfit. If their friendship depends on you spending £80 odd on china and buying a new hat, then it may not be a particularly valuable friendship anyway - and certainly not one that's worth forking out almost £500 for.

£20,983 wedding: where the money goes

£20,983 wedding: where the money goes