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Why are Aussies still wasting money on this stupid tradition: 'Literal and financial nausea'

OPINION: Costs are rising and there's one thing this author absolutely doesn't want to burn cash on. When will brides get the memo?

Why are Aussies still wasting money on this stupid tradition: 'Literal and financial nausea'

How much you need to spend to attend a hen's parties has long been debated, but with the cost of living rising, are these extravagant celebrations finally going to cool their jets? With Aussies being served rental increases left and right, and mortgage repayments soaring at rapid rates, we’ve got less disposable income than ever.

When budgets get pinched, we’re forced to reprioritise where our money goes. Frankly drinking warm rosé on a boat with 12 girls I don’t know isn’t the best use of my money right now.

And I’m not alone in that thinking. Of 1500 respondents polled in my social media community, 80 per cent said they were willing to pay a little less (33 per cent) or substantially less (47 per cent) to attend a hens party than they were 12 months ago.

But it doesn’t look like brides are getting the memo.

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Out of 1,000 people polled who had been invited to a hen's party in recent months, 70 per cent reported the costs being higher than last year, though some of this may be accounted for by rising costs across the board.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t appear that the broader norms around hen's celebrations are showing any sign of tapering to more modest alternatives.

Writing about money online often positions me as a receptacle for hen's horror stories; my inbox often pinging with tales of blown-out budgets and ritzy boat trips that incite literal and financial nausea.

But as the cost of living crisis rages on, I’m hearing from people that are spending more on attending hens parties than on their own personal leisure budget. Just recently a hen's invitee told me they were having to pay hundreds of dollars they didn’t want to spend just to “save face”.

After all, nobody wants to be seen as the cheap one – even if we’re all thinking the same thing. We’ve made so much progress with breaking the taboo of talking about money, yet hens party planning remains one area we still feel unable to speak up.

I completely understand wanting to have a hen's party celebration when you’re getting married – but if people are spending more on attending a destination hens than on a holiday for themselves, have we gone too far?

You only have to look to Reddit to find an endless supply of disgruntled hens recalling instances when they’ve been asked to shell out hundreds if not thousands of dollars on hen's celebrations.

Weekends away, a jam-packed schedule of organised (read: expensive) fun, and often additional fringe costs that haven’t been accounted for in the pre-planning. Head to TikTok and you’ll even find some hens who aren’t afraid to hide behind anonymity.

But the common factor among so many of the hen's horror stories I come across is this: silent expectation.

I’d hasten a guess that the majority of hens organising committees start off much less hostile than they finish.

People genuinely do want to celebrate the bride getting married – and for the most part, where they have capacity to do so, they’re happy to spend a bit of money doing that.

On the whole, the resentment doesn’t come from the presence of a celebration. The resentment emerges as people’s sense of agency over their own financial decisions gradually gets eroded throughout the planning process.

When plans begin to be laid, being unable or unwilling to fork out the amount being thrown around quickly makes you feel like the outsider. Add to that the inevitable collisions of perspective that can happen between people with wildly different financial capacities, and you’ve got a recipe for resentment.

So what do we actually do here? Is the solution to ditch hen's celebrations all together?

Ultimately, no. If people value the opportunity to celebrate with their friends before they get married – each to their own. But we do need to change the expectations around the cost of attending.

There’s a lot of speculation around how much is the right amount to spend on a hen's weekend. Some brides even pride themselves on making their celebration “something everyone could afford”. But do we ever really know what’s financially accessible to someone else?

Instead of labouring over costs and trying to strike the perfect mix of cocktail making and games of ‘Mr and Mrs’, we need to be examining expectation.

That means opening the door for people to express the aspects they are and are not willing to pay for, or offer up a genuine opportunity for them not to attend if they feel stretched financially.

As a bride, you might not feel like you’re placing expectations on your guest to attend your hens. But trust me, they feel obligated to. The expectation existed the second the ‘Becky’s Hens 2024’ Whatsapp group was created.

It’s perfectly fine to want to do certain activities – but you can’t place expectations on other people to value the same things as you, especially when they’re more financially stretched than ever.

Remove the expectation, give people back their sense of agency over their decisions, and you’ll likely find people genuinely do want to celebrate you – they just want to be able to pay their rent on time as well.