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7 of the priciest weddings—for guests

Paul Bradbury | OJO Images | Getty Images

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Getting married, as most people have heard, is not a low-cost endeavor. Neither, as it turns out, is being a wedding guest.

The average guest will spend $592 to attend a wedding this year, according to the American Express Spending & Savings Tracker. That's up 10 percent from 2013 and 75 percent from 2012. (And yes, that is just a ceremony-watching, fish-or-chicken-choosing guest. Members of the bridal party spend slightly more, at an average $618.)

"This links back really clearly to what we're seeing in spending overall," said David Rabkin, senior vice president of consumer lending for AmEx. "People are starting to feel more comfortable." In the less-flush years of the recession and its aftermath, he said, guests were more likely to decline attending or be more frugal on their costs to attend.

Bumped-up guest costs are also a reflection of consumers throwing more lavish weddings. Last year, the average wedding budget hit a staggering $29,858, up 5 percent from 2012, according to wedding site TheKnot.com.

Why should couples care how much guests will spend? More "no" RSVPs, for one, potentially including some important relatives and friends who can't make the numbers work.

Weddings guests deem too pricey to attend also create a nightmare for couples in the form of last-minute cancellations, said Leslie Weekes, a wedding and event consultant based in Washington, D.C. Within a few weeks of the wedding, one of her brides lost three tables' worth of guests who would have been traveling in from out of town.

"People tell the couple they'll be there," said Weekes. "But when it's time to shell out the money, then they cancel." If that happens after final numbers are due to a vendor or caterer, the couple may be out the money for those no-show guests.

These seven wedding attributes, experts said, can substantially add to the cost of being a guest. Tally your possible costs before sending in that reply card.


—By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant
Posted 10 May 2014

Paul Bradbury | OJO Images | Getty Images