The wedding or the house?

29 May 2015 ... min read Listen

Amsterdam, 29 May 2015

A realistic look at costs of life events for people in Europe

With marriage it’s the thrift that keeps on giving

  • 60% of people in Europe would rather spend their money on a house than their wedding
  • More couples pay for the big day themselves than have families contribute
  • 62% of people feel weddings are too expensive for guests

Couples across Europe are choosing love over luxury as they opt for thrifty nuptials, according to our pan-European study of more than 12,000 consumers. The ING International Survey on Savings reveals the amount brides and grooms are spending on their weddings and civil partnerships may be lower than many people think because of other life costs they have to bear.

Rather spend money on a house than their wedding day

With property increasingly unaffordable and the cost of living rising, the study found the majority of people across Europe (60%) would in fact rather spend money on a house than their wedding day. The view becomes even stronger in the struggling economies of Spain (70%) and Italy (68%), and the UK (67%) where house prices have been soaring.

Proportion of people who would rather spend money on a house than a wedding / civil partnership ceremony

Furthermore, in a shift from what may have been considered tradition, just 16 per cent of couples receive non-repayable contributions from their families - putting more pressure on the purse-strings as the big day becomes another life cost to budget for.

Findings from the survey show couples are shying away from lavish ceremonies with budgets much closer to €5,000 than €50,000.

To pay for the happy occasion, almost half of couples (45%) save for it specifically, while 15 per cent borrow from a financial institution and one in 10 (9%) are lent money by their family.

Opting for the economical over the extravagant

As austerity has gripped Europe, brides and grooms have been content with opting for the economical over the extravagant, with only a third (32%) of couples married in the last five years feeling their wedding would have been better with a bigger budget to spend. Of course the cost of a wedding doesn’t just impact the bride and groom, but guests as well. From gifts and travel to outfits, 62% of people across Europe feel that attending marriage ceremonies simply costs too much, suggesting many could be falling out of love with wedding invitations too.

Ian Bright, ING<br />Senior Economist

Ian Bright, ING
Senior Economist

Getting married doesn’t have to break the bank

ING Senior Economist, Ian Bright commented: “Getting married can be one of the most enjoyable and important occasions in life, and it can also be one of the most expensive. But with careful money management it doesn’t have to break the bank.

Many happy couples are saving for their big day and sticking to a budget, which is the sensible thing to do. And with other costly life events to consider, it’s important to plan and be comfortable with how much is being spent. When it comes to marriage, it seems that it really is the thrift that keeps on giving!”

The most expensive life event

A wedding or civil partnership ceremony is one of those events that stays with you for the rest of your life – and it seems people in Europe are forking out for the cost. Holding a wedding or civil partnership ceremony was the most expensive life event that people in Europe experienced in the last five years.

Which event have you had happen in the last five years? What were the approximate costs?

Overall, 11% of people surveyed say they made that commitment in the last five years, with a median spend of EUR5,000. The medians – or mid-points – are used to get a realistic answer, not skewed by very high (or very low) responses.

People at the upper end of the “big day” budget said they spent more than 10 times that amount, giving an answer in excess of EUR50,000. It is not only the happy couple who contribute to the cost – weddings of family members were the most common life event for people in Europe in the last five years, with a median cost of EUR900.

Second most expensive moment is comprised of answers people gave in the “other” category, which included illness, or the death of a loved one. Divorce was the third most expensive life event, followed by unemployment or redundancy. The aftermath of the global financial crisis is likely to have played a role in the relatively large share who faced costs from unemployment or redundancy in the last five years. The costs of having a child are the immediate costs, rather than the lifetime total.

I got into debt for my wedding/civil partnership

Married lately? Mind the debt

People who married or had a civil ceremony in the last five years are more likely to agree that they got into debt for their big day. The trend is seen in 12 of 13 countries surveyed, with the exception of Poland – where an even share say they got into debt no matter when the ceremony was held. The reasons behind the finding are not clear. The period coincides with the aftermath of the global financial crisis, which may have increased financial pressure.

The way people expect to celebrate their union also may have changed. Or it might simply be that people more easily recall whether they went into debt – or not – if the event was recent. It’s important to note that most people in Europe do not go into debt for this special occasion. Be aware that the number of people who married in the last five years in several countries is low, so these results are to be used with caution.

I got into debt for my wedding/civil partnership

Young, in love and in debt

Under 25s who have walked down the aisle are the most likely to say they got into debt to pay for it. Almost half – or 49% – of these young brides and grooms gave the response, perhaps reflecting the lower average incomes of young people and fewer years earning as working adults.

Older couples are much less likely to borrow to pay for their wedding, with the share steadily falling away as age of the respondents rises. However it might be that the more recent the big day, the better the recall of whether debt was accumulated.

How did you deal with the costs of your wedding/civil partnership ceremony?

Many couples save for their wedding; donations from family less common

A wedding or civil ceremony typically require es a lot of planning – and saving for the cost seems to be a part of that for many couples. Of people in Europe who married in the last five years, 45% say they saved specifically for all or part of the cost.

Family also play a role for many, with 16% saying their family gifted money to help pay for the celebration and 9% saying they borrowed money from loved ones to fund it. In addition, 15% borrowed from a financial institution to help pay for their big day.

For almost one-in-four, however, the cost was covered “as a normal expense”. This might include couples who opt for a modest ceremony and employ cost saving techniques, such as asking guests to bring a plate of food as an alternative to external catering. Percentages add to more than 100% as respondents could give more than one answer.

How did you deal with the costs of your wedding/civil partnership ceremony?

More women see family pay for wedding; men more likely to borrow

Men and women are both very likely to save specifically for all or part of their big day. However, when it comes to other ways to fund it, there are differences between the sexes. Women are more likely to have received money gifted from family – perhaps reflecting traditions.

While it is common in modern life in many countries for the couple to fund their celebration, traditionally a bride’s parents paid. Men are more likely to borrow to pay for the ceremony – both from a financial institution or from loved ones. Percentages may add to more than 100% as respondents could give more than one answer.

If we had more money to spend on our wedding/civil partnership, it would have been much bette

It’s family, not finances, that makes the day special

Some couples celebrate with fancy clothes and fine food. Some opt for a small ceremony with just a couple of witnesses. Some choose a church, or a chateau or pitch a tent in their back garden. Whatever the taste of the happy couple, it seems most are satisfied with how much they had to spend.

Only about a third of people in Europe say their big day would have been better if they had more to pend. There are differences in attitudes between countries, with the share falling to a survey low of 7% in the Netherlands and rising to a high of 60% in Turkey.

Big party? I’d rather put the money towards a bigger house

Big party? I’d rather put the money towards a bigger house

Given a choice between a lavish ceremony or spending money on a house, most people in Europe prefer the house.

Overall, 60% of people in Europe agree with the statement “rather than spend money on a wedding/civil partnership, I would prefer to spend it on a house”. Germany is the only country where the share agreeing falls below half. In the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain, however, more than two-in-three agree.

The expectations of friends and family have too much influence on how much is spent on marriage/civil partnership celebrations

It’s my day – but my family can have their say too

Big celebrations tend to be a family affair – with loved ones giving advice on various parts of the day.

However, balancing everyone’s interests can be a challenge and 52% of people in Europe agree that expectations of friends and family have too much influence on how much is spent on marriage or civil partnership celebrations. This ranges from survey lows in the Netherlands, Germany and Austria to highs in Spain, Italy and Turkey.

People who are engaged feeling the pressure from loved ones

Of people who are engaged, almost two-in-three agree the expectations of friends and family have too much influence on how much is spent on their big day. Of those married or in a civil partnership, 47% agree – a significantly lower share.

With gifts, travel and outfits, attending weddings costs guests too much

Another friend’s wedding? More fun but more expense

Weddings are celebrated by guests as well as the happy couple. And, as might be expected, this celebrating comes at a financial cost to attendees as well. With wearing a special outfit, travelling and buying a gift typically part of the experience for friends and family, 62% of people in Europe agree weddings are too expensive for guests to attend. The share varies by country.

People in the Netherlands, Germany and Austria are the least likely to agree, with people in Turkey, Spain and Italy are the most likely to agree. It is not clear whether the costs for guests in the Netherlands, Germany and Austria are more affordable, whether weddings are less frequent or whether people are simply happier to pay the price.

Full report

The full report International Survey on Weddings and Life Events 2015 can be viewed on top of this article, is available on slideshare and can also be downloaded as a pdf.

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