Millennial Wedding Guest Debt Is Probably Not a Real Thing

A married couple poses in front of the Eiffel tower at sunrise on Trocadero square.
Millennials aren’t going into debt over destination weddings.
Ludovic Marin/Getty Images

Last month, a 30-year-old British woman’s confession that she had spent £9250 (about $13,000) attending 20 weddings and almost as many bachelorette parties over the past four years struck fear into the hearts of wedding-goers everywhere. Georgina Childs’ story captured multiple millennial-related fears: credit card debt, wedding season, and being forced to move back home, which Childs did after giving up her apartment because of the thousands of dollars of credit card debt she had incurred. Since she appeared on a British talk show, she’s been bombarded with media requests to talk about the newest Youth Trend: “wedding-guest debt.” According to Business Insider, while Childs faced “criticism on social media for her choices … for many millennials, her situation is all too relatable.” However, while attending a wedding can set most people back a pretty penny, the concept of going into debt to celebrate a friend’s nuptials might be as overhyped as most of the other “trends” attributed to millennials.

To wit: A recent Refinery29 article on how much millennial women are spending and saving on weddings dispels the easy fiscally irresponsible youth angle that defined most of the coverage of Childs’ story. The piece did confirm one well-known fact: Attending weddings can be quite expensive. Of the ten women interviewed, eight of them anticipated spending at least $1,500 on wedding-related expenses over one year, including travel, gifts, and “miscellaneous stuff like accessories and Ubers.” But of the ten, only four were willing to expense their wedding damages to a credit card. And half of them had paid off the balance within three months of the initial expense.

The Refinery29 interviews paint a picture of a much more financially responsible generation than did the spate of wedding-guest debt articles that emerged in the wake of Childs’ story.
As one woman said, “I love the people in my life, but their wedding days are not worth going into debt for!” The overwhelming consensus of the women interviewed suggests that millennials are willing to spend big on important moments: “The bridal shower is what I’m willing to spend the most on—it’s for my best friend and she deserves a great party.” But what they’re not willing to do is jeopardize their financial future over it. In other words, the interviews present a generation of adults that both value friendship and lack of indebtedness.

Of course, it makes sense that a generation largely defined by exorbitant student loan debt would not willingly go into more debt over the fear of missing out on a destination wedding. But given the media’s love of lampooning the financial decisions of 20- to 30-year-olds, Childs’ story proved too attractive, even if it spoke to a trend of only one. There’s evidence to suggest that millennials are one of the most financially conservative generations to emerge since the Great Depression, but that data conflicts with the more titillating social consensus that millennials are too busy instagramming with their friends to balance a checkbook. What if … they can do both?