Devin Jones is awash in flowers, formal attire and houseware registries.

And he's not even getting married.

The 28-year-old Royal Oak, Mich., resident is smack in the middle of his prime wedding attendance years. A fraternity brother got married in San Diego in April. Another fraternity brother in Rochester got married in May. And a high school friend in southwestern Michigan gets married this month.

Last year, Jones was a groomsman twice -- for a fraternity brother and for a high school friend. Ditto for the summer before that -- for his brother and for a fraternity brother.


Source: Beach Bridesmaid Dresses

With wedding gifts, travel, wardrobe and pre-event fetes, Jones is spending about $2,000, a lot of money for someone who lives on a copywriter's salary.

That's still fewer wedding guest expenditures than for most. Americans attend an average of three weddings a year at about $703 a pop, which is up 5 percent over last year, according to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, though for millennials, it's $893 each. For people in the wedding party, those numbers jump to $743 for most and $928 for millennials.

"You have the wedding, but also the corresponding bachelor party that goes with it. You're pretty much using half your summer for weddings," Jones said. "It's the cost of doing business. It's all fun stuff. It's essentially instead of taking that trip you wanted to do, you use it to go to a wedding, but you see all your friends and everyone you love. It's a really good excuse to see everyone."

And the expenses that come with attending a wedding aren't likely to decrease anytime soon.

The proportion of disposable income guests -- and hosts -- spend on weddings has steadily increased over the course of the 20th century and into the early 21st century, except for during the Depression and World War II, according to Katherine Jellison, a history professor at Ohio University and the author of "It's Our Day: America's Love Affair with the White Wedding, 1945-2005."

"The general idea is you give a gift equivalent to how well you're wined and dined by the couple. Some of these online registries, the costs of items some couples request is exorbitant," she said, pointing out that she attends many graduate student weddings. "Particularly for socially active and 20- and 30-somethings, it can be a very expensive proposition being a wedding guest."

But spending a chunk of your income on wedding-related expenses wasn't always the reality.

Before the period between the world wars, weddings were community affairs, with friends and neighbors making food for the reception and offering to handle special wedding touches, such as taking pictures, arranging flowers and playing music, Jellison said. The dress was from a local store, if not homemade, and the groom's suit perhaps one he borrowed from a friend or relative. The one outside purchase was likely the wedding cake.

They were "people who had known you probably your whole life and didn't have to try to figure out what you needed as a wedding gift, but instead knew the regular, practical items that any bride and groom would need. They'd give you a skillet or a nice tablecloth. People knew instinctively what a couple needed to start housekeeping. That's gotten lost, but there's no longer the idea that members of community they grew up with had to support the couple in setting" up a home.

After World War I, department stores started marketing gift registries and special bridal gowns. By the time World War II ended, the notion of hosting elaborate weddings trickled down from the upper class.

Weddings and student loans

Unfortunately, for people like Emily Stout of Cato Township, Mich., this influx of "I do"-related expenses comes at a lousy time. They're worried about student loans. They are at their first or second jobs, so the salaries aren't great. They're saving money for their own impending nuptials or if they're single, they want to look their best to catch the eye of a fellow guest. They have weekly entertainment costs that would make a baby boomer exhausted just thinking about them.

Stout, a 21-year-old Central Michigan University student who got married in May in an $8,000 ceremony and party, has three others to attend with her new husband, including one where she's a bridesmaid and one where he's a groomsman.

She opts to give gift cards, because then she's not limited to the items the marrying couple has selected.

"I think it's at a lot of money, but at the age I'm at, I knew it'd be a lot of money. It's the age where everyone is getting engaged and married," Stout said. "I also have to keep in mind saving up for college. And I spent so much of my own money out of pocket for my own wedding."

For her wedding, the most expensive gift she and her husband received was a Keurig machine and the least expensive were $20 gift certificates to Bed, Bath & Beyond and Subway.

Also see: SheinDressAU