The sun is high in the sky, the days are getting longer and temperatures are soaring the time for weddings is fast approaching. And only the most dedicated misanthrope could be entirely unhappy about that. "Wedding season is wonderful for so many reasons," says Sarah Young in The Independent. "You get to travel to new places, see old pals and watch two people celebrate their love surrounded by their closest friends and family." But it can also be "seriously expensive".
The average British wedding now costs more than £27,000 (£38,000 in London) to organise but also comes with a rising price tag for the guests. These days it's not just the hotels, wedding gifts, outfits and the hen or stag do that you have to fork out for, it's the "celebratory drinks, meals and engagement-party ensembles" too. Guests pay an average of £1,015 to be there for the big day, and twice as much if it's abroad. Things are even more costly for those who are more directly involved "best men and women fork out £1,211", while the parents of the bride spend an average £1,450 to attend their daughter's wedding.
Pity the happy couple
So the happy couple face a no-win situation. Make the event too expensive and you risk ruining your guests consider the cautionary tale of Georgina from Essex who "got herself into £2,000 of debt and had to move back in with her parents after attending 20 weddings and 12 hen dos in four years", says Jenny Francis in The Sun. Since the summer of 2014, she's "spent £6,465 on weddings and £2,785 on hen dos" a total of £9,250. "I shudder when the invite arrives," says Georgina. "I wish I could say no but how do you tell your friends you just don't think their wedding is within your budget?"
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On the other hand, some people may be offended if they are robbed of the chance to splash out on clothes and travel. And the recent trend for putting "no presents" on wedding invitations leaves Susie Boyt in the Financial Times "on the back foot"."I don't like going to weddings, big birthdays, anniversaries (even funerals) without a gift in my hand," she says. Arriving without a parcel makes you feel "under-dressed", while clutching one can sooth "party-arrival nerves". It's a tricky balancing act for the bride and groom.
A right royal expense
Of course, the couple at the centre of this year's big wedding don't need to worry about the financial side of things. The cost of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding next month is being footed by Her Majesty, while the taxpayer will be paying for the security arrangements. These cost £6.3m for Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding in 2011, the Press Association revealed this week, leading to calls for the Queen to cover them as well. "It might be a private wedding, but they've chosen to do it in the centre of Windsor," Graham Smith of anti-monarchy group Republic tells Sky. "The royals should pick up the whole bill for this event."
Tabloid money Gwyneth splashes the cash on engagement party
"Back in my parents' day, [newly weds]... seemed satisfied with a sprinkling of confetti, chicken in a thin sauce and a first dance to T Rex," says Camilla Tominey in the Sunday Express. But last week, actress and lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow, "that most po-faced of celebrity puritans, came over all Katie Price when she threw an event so extravagant everyone assumed it was her actual wedding to [TV writer] Brad Falchuk". It turned out the star-studded black-tie bash for 400 guests, featuring speeches from the likes of actress Kate Hudson, was just an engagement party. "I'm sure we're all looking forward to the actual wedding when we can presumably expect Gwyneth and Brad... to be briefly blasted into space before the cheese is served, only to return with small chunks of the moon as wedding favours for their guests."
"Tim Martin, national treasure and chief of mighty pub chain JD Wetherspoon, has withdrawn his company from all social media," says Tony Parsons in The Sun on Sunday. For years, businesses have felt compelled to be always "connected". But "what is so great about being connected to empty-headed thickos? What exactly do you get out of it?" Staff were wasting too much time responding to tweeted queries, such as "Have just realised you've taken the haggis bites off the menu??? Why is this?" Martin thinks the time would be better spent talking to customers in person. "Who would have thought it? Real life is suddenly making a comeback."
Britain's armed forces have a shortfall of 8,200 regular soldiers, reckons the National Audit Office, reports Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror. Meanwhile, taxpayers have spent £246m in the past three years subsidising the private education of 5,216 children of military officers at elite schools such as Harrow and Eton. In 2011, the government was urged to scrap this subsidy on the grounds that it was antiquated and hindered social mobility but a government review argued it was key to operational effectiveness. "Surely anyone with half a brain can deduce that military operations would be far more effective if, instead of giving the officer class millions to pass their privilege and wealth down a generation, we used it to hire more troops?"
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