Saturday 16 December 2017

In which I fly off to a wedding overseas

What Katie did next with Katie Byrne

As economic green shoots begin to emerge, it feels like we can finally reflect on how the recession has affected consumer behaviour.

 By now, we all know about the spending that people sacrificed and the spending they weren't willing to forego; the industries that bucked the trend and the industries that floundered.

Far more interesting, however, is how we managed our social spending, and how we implemented our own, often unspoken, austerity measures.

When the banks aren't lending, friends and family are. "Can you lend me €50, just until pay day?" entered common parlance.

There is no shame in borrowing money these days whereas, during the Celtic Tiger, it felt like an admission of failure, up there with not owning an apartment in Budapest or having a Brazilian wax.

Elsewhere, we became savvy about dining out en masse. Nowadays, big groups happily opt for early-bird deals and BYOB options.

I remember meals that cost €100 a head ("Let's get cocktails!"). Add to that the requisite 20pc service charge added by many restaurants for groups of 10 or more.

It's a dining custom that is just about justifiable if the service is impeccable. Only then one of your wallet-flexing dining companions, drunk on a cocktail of vodka and ego, would declare: "Everyone add 10pc to their share!"


So you had to. I remember seeing tips of €300 and more being passed over by groups of boomtown prats – myself included.

These same people now carry naggins in their handbags on a night out. And these days it's a symbol of prudence rather than the mark of a piss-head.

But some Celtic Tiger institutions stuck around: private members' clubs, personal trainers and shoppers and, as I have discovered to my detriment, destination weddings.

I am writing this on board a flight that is en route to Madrid. There was a taxi to the airport this morning; there'll be a taxi to the hotel when I land and another to the wedding destination tomorrow.

There will be a pre-wedding dinner and a post-wedding knees-up. There'll be a new pair of shoes and a blow-dry, and a trip to a farmacia, where I'll buy all manner of lotions and potions with tantalisingly foreign names.

Granted, this isn't exactly the bride and groom's fault.

And then, of course, there will be The Gift. Mercifully, the bride and groom in question did not partake in that grotesque practise of putting their bank account details on the invite.

If they did, I would have sent them back my flight number and the address of the hotel I'm staying in.

I wonder if those who have destination weddings expect significant gifts? You couldn't put your bank account details on an invitation that also suggests suitable airlines and hotels, could you?

Surely couples understand that most guests have to cough up at least e1,200 to attend, and this doesn't include the time off work if you're self-employed and the child-minding if you're a parent – not to mention the hen and stag nights.

Perhaps not. I read an unintentionally hilarious forum post by a recent bride who was concerned that half of her wedding envelopes (does anyone even give tactile gifts these days?) were looted when she and her new husband "finally got around to opening them". (Read: the minute they were safely ensconced in their hotel room.)


It was, of course, a destination wedding and, upon further investigation (I can only imagine how that one went), it transpired that many of their guests simply couldn't afford to give them a gift.

Do you know what the average cost of a wedding is these days? The combined cost of every wedding you've ever attended. I just made that up. But it must be true.

Worse still, weddings start to dominate your weekends when you reach your thirties. And if your friends are fond of the destination wedding, well, then they start to impinge on your precious holiday time, too.

It's all well and good if you're Liz Hurley and most of your friends have private jets and double-barrelled surnames, but not when you have to ring DFS to enquire about interest-free credit in order to attend.

Brides- and grooms-to-be ought to consider the economic climate before they ask their guests to visit foreign climes.

As a general rule of thumb, if they don't earn more than €100,000 a year, they'll be put under a degree of financial pressure in order to attend your wedding.

I imagine that there will be very few gilt-edged envelopes landing on my door mat when this column goes out. But perhaps that's not a bad thing.