Why are some millennials spending so much to get hitched? Maybe because our parents want us to, Emma Teitel writes. (DREAMSTIME)
These are the things millennials spend most of their money on, as reported in our millennial-obsessed media: four-dollar lattes, music festivals in exotic locales, avocado toast, Ubers, electronic gadgets and the most expensive thrill of all: best friends’ weddings. The latter expense is not only the most detrimental to a person’s savings account (as anyone who has been a bridesmaid recently will tell you), it’s also the subject of a new report about the spending habits of Gen Y, entitled “Pre Wedding Bashes can Put a Dent in Saving for a Home Down Payment.” The report, published by real estate database Zillow Porchlight, suggests that millennials spend an exorbitant amount of money on wedding related stuff, from gifts to transportation to the reception itself, to destination bachelor and bachelorette trips.
According to Zillow, “people who attend just nine of these [destination] bashes will have spent up to $13,788, or 35 per cent of a down payment on a median-price home.” Besides the stag parties, says the report, “On average, bridesmaids and groomsmen spend an additional $1,154 for things like wedding day attire, a gift for the bride and groom, as well as travel and accommodations for the wedding day. Guests not in the bridal party still spend $888, on average, to attend each wedding.”
Cue the baby boomer finger wagging: “Spend less on your weekend debauchery and you’d have a house by now! Be sensible! Save your money!” All valid points and some of them true, but I’ve begun to wonder lately if blame for the millennial-wedding-industrial-complex rests not on the shoulders of Gen Y spenders themselves, but rather, on the shoulders of their boomer parents.
After all, who loves a big black-tie bash complete with distant relatives, a Motown cover band and roving platters of cocktail shrimp more than people 50 plus?
Research may indicate that millennials shell out a ton of money for their friends’ nuptials and their own, but it also runs counter to the fact that we are eloping in great numbers (NYC elopement service, Eloping is Fun, told Glamour this month that its millennial-catered business has doubled every year) and we are pioneers in getting married on the cheap. Pop-up style weddings where a handful of couples share their wedding day and the price of the venue are increasingly popular with the Gen Y demographic. Lynzie Kent, Toronto wedding planner and owner of Love By Lynzie Events + Design, says the recent pop up wedding she and her staff organized at the Drake Hotel, where 9 couples were married on the same day for a discount price of $600 per couple, was so successful she has a waiting list for her next shared wedding event in January 2018.
Which brings me back to the boomers: If millennials love eloping and saving money on their big day, why are some of us spending so much to get hitched and watch our friends get hitched? My theory: maybe because our parents want us to.
This at least was a possibility I began to toy with after speaking with a soon to be married woman I will call Rachel. Rachel is a med school graduate in her late twenties and a Toronto resident who is getting married next year. She asked that I not use her real name in this column because she’d rather not identify herself while criticizing her parents and her in-laws in a national newspaper (which anyone who has parents and in-laws, will, I’m sure, understand.) Rachel is in major student debt but she and her fiancé want to contribute financially to their wedding, alongside their parents, in order to maintain a little bit of control over a day that is in theory supposed to be about the couple tying the knot. She and her fiancé initially planned to contribute roughly 10 grand to their big day; they wanted to get married on the family cottage and invite 75 close friends and family. But no such luck. Both sets of parents, citing familial obligation to distant relatives, insisted on a wedding at a banquet hall with a guest list of 150 — in addition to an engagement party with a separate guest list of 150, a sort of consolation prize party for friends and family not invited to the wedding itself. Seventy-five grew to 300 and the engaged couple’s original contribution of 10 grand grew to more than 20. The wedding has not “only grown in size,” says Rachel, “it’s diluted in meaning.”
Boomers like to pick on millennials for spending their savings on the small stuff — avocado toast, weekend getaways and gadgets. But the small stuff is what many of us can comfortably afford or hope to afford, particularly those saddled with student debt in an economy where internships and contract positions aren’t stepping-stones to a stable career but scattered stones leading nowhere clear.
Rachel says she can imagine some of her friends feeling the need to buy more expensive gifts and shell out more money now that the wedding has become a massive, luxurious affair.
“I would go to a big wedding and think this is not what I want,” she says. “But here I am having my arm twisted into having one.”