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Bridezillas can bankrupt wedding guests

"For richer, for poorer" isn't just for the bride and groom anymore.

With modern nuptials, it's often the wedding guests who are headed down the aisle toward the poorhouse.

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Today's trend is toward a seemingly endless lineup of matrimonial get-togethers that mean a steep bill for the harried guest, especially those who are more than just casual acquaintances or distant relatives.

Greedy couples love it. Their happy day -- days, in fact -- can turn into a bonanza of booty from snobby stores.

"What started out years ago as a guest selecting necessities to help a couple with few assets get a good launch on their marriage, these days is all too often a grabby exercise in getting expensive freebies," says Scotts Valley, Calif., wedding consultant Deborah Meehan, who retired last year after 23 years of calming nervous brides and pacifying aggressive mothers.

"It's gotten out of hand and can be a real financial burden for guests. The proliferation of wedding events -- before, during and after -- can carry a fearsome burden of hidden costs," she says.

Rose Smith, a wedding adviser in Albuquerque, N.M., and author of "Sizzling Monogamy" and "101 Ways to Date Your Mate," agrees. "This practice of multiple wedding events sure gets very expensive. In California, especially, it is a whole different ball game, with gifts expected at every event. The parade of showers, parties and bachelorette weekends has gotten way out of hand."

It's difficult to avoid falling into this spending trap but being wary is the first important step. The next time you hear of pending nuptials, remember: There are Bridezillas out there, and they want your dollars.

It all starts innocently enough with the engagement party, proceeds through three or more bridal showers, one each for friends, family and co-workers, plus a shower for both bride and groom.

Then comes the ruinously expensive bachelor or bachelorette bashes, a bridesmaid luncheon, the rehearsal dinner and the wedding itself, where some brazen brides even perform a Money Dance, "to pay for the honeymoon."

Some even carry it one more step with the post-wedding brunch.

Not every bride has all these events, of course, and generally the male guests get off lighter than the females, but the matrimonial minefield is booby-trapped with hidden costs.

"I've been to weddings in places as different as the Midwest and Maui, and the financial fever is unbelievable," says Claire Wallace, a San Francisco paralegal who has contributed heavily to more than a score of friends' matrimonial celebrations. "At wedding showers, it's the guest who gets soaked."

The hidden costs, explains Meehan, are those you don't foresee.

"Anyone invited to a wedding knows full well there will be some expense involved, but we tend to think in terms of gift, new dress, hairdo and sometimes travel. But there's a whole world of other hidden expenses the unsuspecting buddy-of-the-bride rarely thinks of. And that's where the danger lies.

"Hosting any of these events, says Meehan, "can break your bank."

Beyond the obvious expenses, she explains, you should plan for more obscure outlays, such as invitations and postage; long distance phone calls; game supplies and prizes; entertainment; pre-event housecleaning; lawn and yard work; babysitting; pet sitter; valet parking and traffic control.

If you have to travel a long distance to attend, of course, you're also going to add in the costs of airline tickets, hotels and meals, cabs, skycaps, parking, reading material, rental car, gas, tolls and more.

-- Posted: June 24, 2004




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