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Chelsea speaks with writer Philip Ellis about wedding culture, social expectations, and how they're ruining our finances.

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Hello, everyone.

It's me, Chelsea Fagan, your host, founder, and CEO of The Financial Diet and person who loves to talk about money. And today I'm talking with someone who is a little bit unusual for the typical guests we have.

Or at least the reason bringing him here today is a little bit unusual. But I think that guys will quickly see why this particular project of his we're discussing is so heavily tied in with a lot of the broader themes that we talk about at TFD. As the title would suggest, a lot of people, and especially a lot of women who are moving through their young adulthood, their 20s, their 30s, they're often dealing with other people's life celebrations, as well as the expectations of their own.

We've done a few episodes in the past about the wedding industrial complex and the social pressures that it can put on us. But it's not just weddings that often leave people spending beyond their means or even going into debt, with the average cost of being in a bridal party in the US, for example, now hovering around $1,000. And that's not including a lot of the extras that are increasingly tacked into these life celebrations.

It's the bachelorette trips. It's the baby showers. It's the gender reveals.

It's the birthdays. It's the increasingly expensive task of celebrating yourself and celebrating others. If you feel things like weddings have completely spiraled out of control in terms of cost, that is not in your imagination.

Weddings costs now in the US far more than they did a few decades ago, adjusting for inflation. And a lot of that is driven by social media, right? It used to be that all of these life celebrations were things that were just happening between ourselves and our loved ones and maybe we'd get a few pictures to go in the album to show our grandkids one day.

But now we're living out all of these social expectations in full view of the public, of basically everyone we've ever known and probably some people we don't. And it's also the people attending. I'm sure we've all been to weddings or had weddings, which had their own hashtags for sharing and collecting photos.

And when we've talked before about the wedding industrial complex, TFD historians might remember that I was sort of minicanceled/dragged by a wedding planner about my video on the spiraling costs of the wedding industrial complex. And we later did a video together to sort of have a meeting of the minds and come to some accord. When we talk about these things, we often hear from people that aside from being a burden on all of our finances, it can especially be a burden on people who are not necessarily in a financial place to keep up with their social group.

I'm not going to engage in a lot of spoilers here, but my guest today is a writer, editor, and now author based in England who has written a debut novel all about this particularly interesting intersection of phenomena. We have the class differences. We have the wedding industrial complex.

We also have a rom com because, of course, who doesn't love that? I personally loved the book, but I also found myself really, really fascinated by the socioeconomic and class issues that it unpacked. And when he and I met up recently in New York City, we had a really fascinating conversation about all this stuff in our own lives and in our own experiences.

And it made me want to talk to him for the show not just on the occasion of his novel being released in the US, and he'll tell you more about it, but also because this is such a relevant topic to what we discuss here at TFD. And, honestly, we have a lot of really heavy, serious financial topics coming along this season. So it's also sometimes fun to just sit around and [BLEEP] about expensive weddings.

With all of that said, my guest today is editor at Men's Health and debut novelist Philip Ellis. Hello, Chelsea. Thank you so much for having me.

Thank you for being here. So I didn't even spoil the title. Can you tell people what your book is and when it's coming out and all that good stuff?

Yes. So it is called Love & Other Scams. And it is coming out in the US with Putnam at Penguin Random House on March 7.

I love it. And can you talk a little bit about, obviously, the plot of the book in broad strokes, but what pushed you to write about that phenomenon specifically? Sure, yes.

So when we meet Cat, who is the protagonist of the book at the very beginning. She has been kind of a little bit of a stereotypical always the bridesmaid. She has been through this slew of very expensive destination weddings but also bachelorette weekends, baby showers, et cetera sort of throughout her late 20s.

And that came from a very real place of I'm in my 30s now and so I've lived that sort of period where all of your friends who are of a similar age to you seem to be just sort of that bit further ahead, both in their personal lives, but also professionally and financially. So I was always marveling at A, how expensive weddings are for the people throwing them, but also for the guests. And that's not a read because I absolutely love a wedding.

I love every wedding I've ever been to. And I just really want to clarify that right now. But when you're single and when you're a freelancer, which I was for a very, very long time, it's just even more-- it feels like there's more of a financial barrier.

The travel involves getting a hotel room by yourself, going in on a gift and things like that. And so it did get to the point where it felt like when I was going to three or four or five weddings each summer many years in a row, it was like, oh, there is a real tax on being friends with somebody, basically. And so that's sort of where we meet Cat in Chapter 1.

March 7, 2023, baby. I totally agree with that. I mean, it's interesting because in the era of my life where I was going to other people's celebrations, I was-- I don't think-- I had gone to a few wedding single.

But I've been with my husband for almost 12 years now. So I've mostly only been attending these things as a coupled person, which in and of itself is a lot of financial privilege, right? There was a sense of there's almost a level of reciprocity in we're doing it for you, but you're going to do it for us.

And looking back, I don't necessarily know that I would have changed anything about what we did. But it also, I think, infects your own perception more than you realize at the time that you almost feel like you need to get your money back in some way by perpetuating this-- this-- what am I looking for-- this passing the cost on, essentially. And we did try not to do that in a lot of ways.

But I also feel like it's understandable how when people spend 10 years of their life paying for other people's celebrations, you don't want to be the person to opt out. Right. And I think the way that, as you mentioned at the very beginning, the way the weddings have just become bigger and flashier and more expensive and more drawn out with more celebrations and more bells on, I think it's just sort of-- there is an assumption that, OK, well, I went to yours.

So you're going to come to mine. And it's the way that the expense almost becomes like a stand-in for the depth of the friendship. Like if you were really my friend and you wanted to come and be in my bridal party or come to my wedding and my celebration, then you should be willing to spend that amount of money.

And, obviously, that always goes unsaid. But it does sometimes feel like that is very much the implication. What kind of drew you-- I mean, it's, I'm sure, very difficult when you write fiction to not want people to overly project on the writing that you do, that it's literally one for one about your life.

I'm sure you probably talked to some people and was like, this isn't about you, or whatever it might be, or it's not directly about me. But I'm interested because there is so much of the book that centers around these class disparities and the ignorance of those class disparities. What were the experiences that led you to want to write about those topics specifically as they pertain to these kind of social norms and celebrations?

I think it's just something that I'd noticed without maybe even consciously realizing in my 20s because I took a less traditional career path. I went freelance when I was 25. So I basically was starting from scratch.

And there was 10 years where I didn't have a salary. I didn't have paid leave to come to these events. So a lot of the time if I was going to a stag weekend, that would mean I was actually losing money.

And so I, at the time, I don't do this anymore, but at the time, I was always measuring where I was both professionally and financially against people of a similar age to me. And it was only quite later on that I realized, well, yes, their career paths are more sort of-- it's a very clear upward trajectory in some of the industries that my friends were working in. But also I'd never been fully conscious of the fact that they just came from a greater degree of family wealth than I did.

And because I didn't, I assumed that everyone was starting with the same hand in life, basically. And then the more you become conscious of money, the more you realize that's not always the case. No kidding.

I feel like there, for a lot of people-- I feel like I went through this. You were in London at the time, right, earlier in your adult life? No.

So I was in Birmingham, which is a smaller city. But I was down in, working down in London a lot. And so there was a lot of very-- I felt like a country mouse surrounded by some of these people in that regard.

Right, OK. I couldn't remember if you lived there or you just worked there a lot. But either way, so you were spending a lot of time in London, suffice to say-- Yeah. --which I think is very similar to New York in that sort of social class sense.

And I think a lot of people in their 20s and into their early 30s kind of go through this awakening little by little of you enter into your young adult professional life thinking that everyone is similar to you in a lot of ways. And then you sort of, only bit by bit, start to realize that, oh no, we're not at all living in the same way. You have friends who maybe their parents are paying their rent or seriously helping them with it or sending them a check every month.

I remember when I worked at my first media job and I was making $36,000 a year, which is very, very little in New York City, and I already had the privilege of being in a dual-income household, but I remember I worked with a colleague whose parents were paying for her to live in a luxury apartment that probably cost upwards of $6,000, $7,000 a month. And she was 24 maybe at the time. And I think it's not until people really accept that a lot of these social groups are made up in adulthood of extremely disparate wealth that they can even try to have a healthy relationship with their own finances because as long as you're laboring under the misconception that everyone else is dealing with the same cards as you, you're basically always going to feel inadequate.

It's exactly that. Again, there were so many times when I just kept thinking, well, what am I doing wrong? Because people who are the same age as me, who have the same kind of university degrees just seem to be so much further ahead.

And then I had a real moment, very similar to you, where I realized that one of my friends who works in media, his iPhone and his BMW were not paid for by him. And I don't think much of his rent was either. And I was like, well, if that's the case-- and, obviously, working in media, I think, a lot of the time, you have to come from wealth because a lot of those jobs don't pay a great amount until you're really, really further along in your career.

So there's a barrier to entry for a lot of people in that regard as well. And it's just, yeah, it's wild to have that realization. It's like you have been living in the matrix all along and then you realize there's a reality here that I just had not been aware of.

I'm someone who has put themselves in credit card debt, not a ton, but I have been in credit card debt specifically for-- once was a wedding and once was a girls' trip, basically, which is like another, I think, also very heavily social media fueled increasingly phenomenon. Not that there weren't girl trips before Instagram and TikTok and all that stuff, but I think they've definitely spiraled quite a bit since those things have happened. And I think a lot of it was really driven by a feeling that it wouldn't be acceptable for me to say no to certain things or that it would put the friendship in jeopardy or that it would change the way people look at me.

And I'm interested if those are ever experiences you had and how you navigated them then and how you navigate them now. Yes. So I would say in my 20s, there was a good amount of working class shame, where the last thing you would ever say did anybody is that you couldn't afford to get a round of drinks in or that you couldn't afford to come either on a night out or weekend away.

And I would go along with it because also then you feel like, well, if I don't go to this one, I'm not going to be invited again. And that's how friendships start to drift apart, because when you're in your 20s, that's such a desperate FOMO all the time. And so I would basically live a little bit outside my means just because I really didn't want to feel excluded.

What's been really nice more recently-- I mean, my financial situation, very fortunately, is different now. But also the last couple of weddings and stags that I've been to, and hens, it's been with friends who I have a much closer and, I think, more mature relationship with than I did maybe in my 20s. But also it's been-- the group, the group chat has been consisted of people at different areas, at different stages in their life and career.

So there are younger people. There are older people, people who are students, people who are working different kinds of jobs. And so we've been able to have much more open conversations about, OK, well, if we're going away for a weekend, what is a budget that everybody would feel comfortable with?

And we will work within basically making it as accessible to everybody so that nobody feels left out and nobody feels they have to take out a loan in order to be included. And I was at a wedding just a couple of weeks ago where that was the case. And it really does make a huge difference.

So I'm trying to ride the line of spoiling anything. But so it's fair to say, it's not a spoiler to say that the protagonist in your book is a criminal, that she does crimes. And specifically she robs.

She's a thief who steals from very wealthy-- it's very Robin Hood steals from wealthy people at these weddings. I do think that we're in a cultural moment where we talk about a lot of forms of privilege in a way that we didn't even 10 years ago. But I don't think that we've gotten very far in terms of talking about class privilege or economic privilege.

There doesn't seem to be nearly as much of an acknowledgement of that or a push for it. And one of the ways in which I think that really manifests really starkly is, obviously, your book is fundamentally a rom com, but it deals really heavily with socioeconomic and class issues, which to me really stands out because when you think about pop culture, we actually did a miniseries with another YouTuber Lindsay Ellis two years ago about the role of class and wealth in pop culture. And a lot of it was about how these issues are very, very rarely represented in pop culture and in media.

And kind of beyond that, when it comes to representing low and lower-income folks and poverty and things like that that it's often really bad. When you watch a sitcom, when you watch a rom com or a movie or whatever, it's very, very rare that you see a very accurate portrayal of being working class or what the real struggles of poverty are like or even just not being as high income as the people that you're around. And I think a lot of it is because most people working in media are wealthy.

They grew up in some level of privilege. They have some level of class privilege because in a lot of these jobs, you have to have some level of institutional wealth in order to afford it because the pay is often so terrible and there's a lot of unpaid internships. So it sort of becomes a self-perpetuating, representational cycle, where the people who are deciding what gets represented are from upper classes.

So that tends to be most of what we see. As someone who's worked in media for almost your whole career and who doesn't come from a super privileged background, can you talk a little bit about the experience of trying to integrate class and class analysis into media work, especially around peers who maybe don't share the perspective? Yeah, so while you were speaking just now, I was thinking-- I think the reason that, exactly as you've just said, class is one of the areas that's less explored is because all of the big op eds and think pieces that are being written, of the major magazines and newspapers are being written by very privileged journalists.

And I suppose when it comes to the way I write about it, I mean, I'm really lucky because the people I've worked with on my team at my publisher, it's a real mix of people. I mean, publishing is a famously very posh sector. And so, as I said, that's kind of the reason why a lot of the people who work it are posh, is because those initial jobs don't pay huge amounts.

So you're going to have that leg up already. But also, so in the UK, my publisher is HarperNorth. And their whole ethos is finding voices from outside of the elite London bubble, basically.

And so it's been really nice to work with people who are similar to me in that they don't come from very well-to-do backgrounds. In my freelance career, I basically would just fake it because there was a couple of years where I was freelancing for an advertising agency. And there was just so much money in advertising and I'm not really sure where any of it goes, except on really nice parties.

And so every year for a couple of years, I'd go to work in Cannes for a few weeks. And I always felt like the poor cousin. And then each year, the more I went-- and at first I was very impressed by it.

I was very seduced by it because it's so glamorous. There's boats. There's all this lovely food and wine.

And each year, the more I went, I would just get more and more disillusioned with it because there are-- Kim Kardashian is giving a talk on image and creativity in the Palais. And then there are people begging on the street outside. And it's just absolutely lost its shine.

And so I think, yeah. And, I mean, I would say also, I think every industry since the pandemic has very much pulled back on the spending money for its own sake thing, to be fair to them. Yeah.

Oh, trust me, I, especially in the earlier days of TFD, we like came of age during the peak, peak girlboss era. And some-- Oh wow. Yeah.

Oh my god, some of these events that we went to-- OK, I'm going to be really-- I'm going to obscure a lot of details here because I really don't want to get in trouble. But so I didn't-- OK, I-- how can I say this? So there was an event recently that shall not be named and no identifying details shall be shared.

But we were all talking about it in the TFD chat because we were pretty sure that this particular version of hyperconsumerist, glossy, feminism as liberation had gone by the wayside now. Most of the girlboss figureheads have gone bankrupt or gotten embroiled in scandals or had lawsuits. Some of them are going to prison.

So we were like, OK, this is probably over. And also postpandemic, this is just not the mood anymore. It's not like we're going to break barriers in our stilettos.

That's just not the vibe. And there was this recent event where it was like 1,000% that. It was luxury skin cream and these-- it was VPs from like different Fortune 50 companies or whatever.

And the whole conversation was about just women having it all and stuff like that. Of course, none of these women are disclosing that they probably have an army of domestic workers in their Upper East Side apartments that make this all possible. But that particular kind of dynamic, I think, is so much more common in media and in marketing than people will believe.

And it's less prevalent now than it was five years ago. But I will say that it is shocking how much that really glossy, superficial version of inclusivity is still very much the norm. Yes.

So there was-- I don't know if this made it over to the US, but there was an influencer in the UK whose name I can't remember, which is probably for the best. But she dealt with a huge backlash about a week ago because, obviously, we're dealing with a huge cost-of-living crisis in the UK. And she did a front-facing, get-ready-with-me video, where she was like, the heating in my house is broken.

So I'm going to go and check into the Savoy for a lovely, warm bath. And the comments were just like-- [GASPS] --a war zone because everyone was-- Oh my god. --just like, read the room. Oh my god.

This is so tone deaf. And on the one hand, it absolutely is. But on the other hand, she's a luxury influencer.

And she was off to do a branded thing of a tour of the Savoy. And that's her way of making money. And it's a very cushy, nice job if you can get it.

And it was just sort of like, oh, maybe don't frame it in that way, because she was framing it as in, oh, we're all in it together. We're all struggling to heat our homes this winter. But she obviously isn't.

Oh my god. Literally, that woman's publicist, pour one out for her because I'm sure she had a very, very rough week when that happened. For hetero women, there is still-- I mean, we've changed it somewhat but not that much, that getting married and having children are the two defining successes of your life and are inherently perceived as successes, even though they're not always necessarily.

You can marry the wrong person. Marriages can end. They can be not good.

But those are still the only things that, for women, we really validate at that level. And I wouldn't say that it's totally untrue for men. I think that definitely it's still the largest celebration for men.

But I just don't think that women's other choices get validated in the same way or get celebrated in the same way. And I do think it's very insidious how much it is still considered totally carte blanche to invest to that extent or possibly go into debt to that extent for these moments because the underlying message is still this is the one time in your life that you're really worth it. So I absolutely agree that it's very much more the case for women because the number of weddings I've been to where the groom's job is just to show up is depressing.

There's a podcast that I used to listen to a lot called The Guilty Feminist, hosted by Deborah Frances-White. And she has this really interesting theory that weddings are the last bastion of a certain old school of feminism because, basically, it's the one time in a life when a woman gets to have her own way and dictate everything that happens and be completely 100% in charge because it's her day. And I think that attitude is probably still very much a thing when it comes to-- I know very few straight men who talk about their special day and how everything has to be perfect.

Everything seems to be geared around the bride. And that's probably, yeah, it's from this ridiculous thing where it's like, yeah, you have one special day. And then you get to go into a house and never leave.

That dynamic, there's nothing that truly pisses me off more than when-- and this is a very common thing to hear in weddings between men and women, where the man will say something to the effect of, she really put her heart and soul into this. She really did such a good job with this, as if she's just like someone he's hired to put together the day. And he's like, now, what she did, I couldn't tell you.

I wasn't super close to it. She did this all. She made her magic happen or whatever.

And I understand that in life, there are certain things for people that are-- just like there are certain things that I value more than my husband and vice versa and that I will care and put more attention to. But I do think it's like we're I think a bit naive to the extent to which the social media visibility of things has created a hugely homogenizing effect on the celebrations and that a lot of the things that we feel that we need now-- the photo booth, the super elaborate table settings, the insane floral arrangements, the professional photographer for the bachelorette party and the bridal shower and the wedding, all of these things that we now sort of or a lot of people will deem necessary or that we think we independently reach these conclusions, a lot of this [BLEEP] didn't exist 20 years ago. And it's-- and this is going to sound a bit bitchy, but it is really funny the number of weddings where if you've got a friend who's organizing their wedding and they're like, oh, we're just going to make it so us, it's going to be really unique, it's going to be all about the things that we love, and then you go and it's like, I've been to this wedding before.

This is literally out of the-- out of the-- you could get an AI bot to generate a wedding that would look like this. OK, I got to be real discreet here, but I've been to a couple of weddings in a certain region of the United States where I couldn't tell you whose was whose because they're like, it's like-- when I tell you a wedding, a wedding industrial complex undersells it. I was at a wedding one time where-- so there's a-- is it a common thing in England at weddings to have wedding emcees?

So I went to one a year or two ago that had one. And it was the first one I'd been to. And I felt like I was at a child's birthday party.

So, first of all, it has such a big child-- it has Chuck E. Cheese energy. This is horrible.

I'm so bitchy. But I have to say this. I would say the majority of weddings that I've been to have had emcees.

What about you? Emily, you've been to-- yeah. They have emcees.

It's just some guy in a suit who runs around and is like, hey, hey, hey, give it up for-- oh my god. I can't do it. Anyway, point being, I was at a wedding several-- eh, years ago, uh-- where basically the bride and groom were walking out and this emcee was like, "And welcome," and he said the wrong names because at this venue they do so many weddings.

I mean, it's a beautiful place, but it's a massive venue. I think they host six weddings a day there because they have different areas for some of the weddings and then they have staggered ones. There's a morning and an evening one for each section.

But point being, I'm sure this man was on his fourth wedding of the day and just got the names mixed up. But I was like, you cannot tell me that this feels authentic to the couple. That is hilarious.

And yeah, it's like, it's always really-- so if you happen to stay at the venue of a wedding and then it's like the next morning when you're at breakfast in one room and then they're already turning over and redressing the room for the next wedding they're having that day, and it's like, oh, wow, yeah, that's-- it felt so bespoke and unique, but also they are literally going to churn out the same place settings and the same everything in a couple of hours. And it's like, I think, a little bit of a grim peek behind the curtain, that oh yeah, for most people in that room that it was a really special occasion. It was lovely.

There was drinking. There was dancing. We're here to celebrate a couple we know.

Then the poor people who are doing the waiting service or working behind the bar, it's like how many of these things must they just stand there and watch? I think there are plenty of really frivolous and superficial and stupid things that I on. And I could totally see someone else looking at that and being like, absolutely not.

I would never spend that money. So I want to be clear that I don't have an inherent feeling of there is a good and a bad thing to spend on. But I do have a feeling of I don't believe that the majority of these choices are as organic as a lot of the other consumer choices that we make in our lives because there is a massively-- there's a massive infrastructure and an industry that's built around engendering a level of expectation and need that far exceeds what the average person would want for themselves.

And I think a really perfect representation of that that gets overlooked is how much waste is generated by weddings. The numbers-- and we'll like we can put some numbers up on screen. I'll link.

I'll put them down in the description because we had them for another video. But the amount of [BLEEP] that gets thrown out the next morning after a wedding, like the flower arrangements, the decor, the candles, the enormous amounts of food-- I've very rarely been to a wedding where there wasn't 50% of the food that went uneaten because it was so much. And I remember one time after a large wedding, my husband and I were talking to one of the caterer waiters, and we were like-- because there was, I mean, like 1,000 pounds of leftover food from the cocktail hour?

And we were like, what do you guys do with all this food? And they were like, oh, we like stay after and we package it up and we donate it to shelters and stuff like that. I was like, we were like, wow, that amazing.

And he was like, no, I'm [BLEEP] with you. We throw it out. He literally said-- Oh my god.

Yeah, he was like, no, we literally throw it out. And a lot of that has to do with American regulation where you can't donate a lot of food because of liability issues. But nonetheless, I was like, even as wasteful as Americans can be on average, this is a level of waste that I think most people would not be comfortable with.

But that's not the part that you see, I suppose. And yeah, I mean, I suppose that's-- you could say that of any corporate dinner or massive event. It might be true of that as well.

But it's just sort of grim when you think about it, isn't it? Well, also, again, I'm less offended by it from a corporate event. I still don't like it from a corporate event.

Don't get me wrong. I still think it's very wrong. But at least from a corporate event, I'm like, at least this multibillion-dollar conglomerate is redistributing funds throughout the economy to the smaller businesses who provided those place settings and the food and the gift bags and stuff like that as opposed to in the case of weddings where, again, a lot of people are doing this on debt.

Yeah. It's a question that I will never ask any of my friends. I don't think it's a question that you could ever ask anybody, but just looking back at the day that you had, like, oh, was it worth it?

Was it worth everything you spent? I don't regret-- we only had 30 people at our wedding. So there's not as much to possibly regret, but there are definitely aspects of spending that I regret now, even at that small of a scale.

And from the women I've spoken to, I would say that probably 90% plus of people have at least one or two things from their wedding that they regret spending on. Would those have been things that they sort felt that they were expected to have or that maybe they were pressured to buy into from organizers? So my thing is the number of meltdowns I've witnessed from friends over seat covers.

Just sit in a seat. Why did you have to have a cover for the seat? And why do you have to spend hundreds of pounds on a little bow for the back of your chair?

Yeah, that, I think, is probably the vast majority of things that people regret. I think in general, you're never going to regret the food. You're never going to regret having the ability-- seeing people you love.

I think the two big categories are all of the extra stuff that doesn't necessarily enhance the experience. It just makes it look better, usually in pictures. But then the other thing is I think a lot of people feel pressured to have celebrations that are much bigger than they can afford and also include a lot of people that they would not have independently invited.

So that's another source of massive drama that I've seen vicariously in friends' weddings. It's something happens when a couple get engaged, where their parents lose their damn minds because they're like, oh, this suddenly becomes their day. And I think a lot of times it's because they are making some considerable financial contribution to the day, they feel that they get to dictate everything that happens and they really overstep.

We're in a really weird in-between sociological point where I would say the majority of weddings that I've been to in my life, the couple was at least partially if not entirely paying for it. And yet the parents, I think, still had an outsized expectation of influence on the celebration, where it's like we're sort of in an in-between era because in a prior era, where your parents were paying for 100% of things and you maybe had a dowry and you were moving from your parents' house into another house, that party was for your parents explicitly. And it was like a social event.

And there was just a completely different expectation for it. But now it's this weird, in-between uncanny valley, where it's like it's supposed to be, oh, it's entirely about the couple. And this represents them.

And it's their choice. And in many cases, they are paying for a lot of it. And they're also getting married later in life.

So they have more resources to pay for it. But yet there's still this simultaneous expectation that it should be made to please in many ways everyone but the couple. And it's, yeah, the guilt that gets put on if they don't invite their second cousin thrice removed that they played with once when they were five.

And it becomes about-- I can't remember what podcast I was listening to, but basically somebody was talking about their sister's wedding and the father of the host and the bride said, today is not about the couple and today is not about the family. Today is about show business. And it's basically you are showcasing your family to friends and extended family.

And it's basically about putting on that sort of tits and teeth front to the world. And it's about impressing everyone. Well, and impressing everyone, I think, is the key thing.

And it's weird to me that in 2022, we haven't really started to see a tapering-off effect with some of this stuff. I really would have expected that over the past several years, especially postpandemic, that people might start to be like, OK, let's be a bit more about what feels good to us in the moment and less about of the visible perception-based aspect of this event. And I think that is true for some people.

I know a lot of people who were going to get married in 2020. The pandemic happened. And then they just opted-- they were like, it was just me in a couple people-- it was just us in a couple of people in a park and then we went for dinner at a restaurant.

And I know people who did that and were very, very happy with that choice. But I also saw a lot of people who were like, now because I had to wait two years like, I'm going to have the biggest [BLEEP] celebration that has ever-- that the state of West Virginia or wherever they are has ever seen and wanting to even more get their money's worth and make up for lost time. And I'm personally really fascinated to know what will be the thing that stops the madness a little bit?

Because most people, when you speak to them individually, they agree that wedding culture is not sustainable, especially for the other people who have to pay to celebrate it. And do you think as well that there is a real hangover of I have spent a year thinking, living, breathing this event? And then when that event is over, there must be such a huge crash of, well, now what do I spend all my time and energy on?

I guess I'm married. I think even without the pandemic in the equation, I think a lot of people underestimate-- as someone who has been married, for the actual day itself, I really do think a lot of people underestimate the extent to which when you are the one getting married, you have no time to breathe. You can't even perceive what's going on around you.

I know so many people who at their wedding didn't even get to taste their own food or taste all of it or could barely remember what they had or they only got to dance twice because they were too busy having to greet hundreds of people and thank them for coming. And I think even if there weren't the natural disappointment that comes after anything that you anticipate-- and there is really good sociological data that anticipation actually brings as much joy as an event itself-- for the wedding in particular, so many people don't even get to really enjoy it on the day. And that's been something that I've witnessed firsthand at a number of weddings, where it's like-- and this is why going to a wedding alone, where you don't a lot of people, is really difficult because it's like, well, I'm not going to be spending much quality time with the bride.

She's a celebrity today. She's busy getting papped and walking around the room and making sure that she gets to spend two minutes saying hello to everyone who's arrived, whereas the wedding I was at more recently, we were a big group of us, over two tables. And we were basically the naughty kids.

And it's like, well, we're not going to see the bride and groom because it's their day. They're busy. So we'll just play amongst ourselves almost because it's exactly that.

They had a million jobs to do, thanking everybody and just being whisked away to do an hour of pictures immediately between ceremony and dinner. And it does sound like, in a way, a lot of work. Oh, it for sure is.

I was in a bridal party this year. And shout out to that friend because she was the most no-nonsense person about-- there were only three of us and she was like, you don't have to prepare anything. You can wear anything you want as long as it's in this color.

And if you don't have something in this color, I'll give you a stipend, could not have made it more like not cumbersome on the people who did it. And when we were out doing the photos, she was very adamant about, all right, let's get the group ones really quick. And then they move on so they can get back to enjoying the wedding because I don't want to keep them.

The ceremony lasted 15 minutes, truly went out of her way to make sure that it wasn't something where we were either having to spend a ton of money or having to miss out on the experience. So completely hats off to her. But I would say that is an enormous anomaly in the experience.

And the average experience for being in someone else's wedding, I totally agree that the ideal experience is, I don't know, a rich but not very close cousin is getting married and you just get to go and vibe and hang out with your friends, basically, and not have to worry about anything. The dream. But when you're-- yeah, the dream.

But when you're actually in a wedding, that is probably the one area where it has most wildly spiraled out of control in terms of it has now become very common in the US, I don't know how common it is in England, but it's now become the norm that not only do you have to buy a specific dress or outfit in order to be in the wedding party, which can often be hundreds of dollars, it's now increasingly common for you to have to pay to buy a specific pair of shoes to go with the specific dress. So there are suits that I have owned only because of the honor of being included in a wedding party. And that is, yeah, suits that I have purchased myself that I may or may not have ever worn again.

And I guess a suit is more versatile than a dress, which more often than not, very much looks like a bridesmaid's dress, where the instances where you can reuse it are sort of limited. But yeah, that's very much-- and I'm sure that my friends who've been bridesmaids, yeah, I think maybe the shoes and everything, it's sort of just-- it's escalated. Oh my god, my friend recently had to go-- had to be a bridesmaid in a wedding where they all had to wear floor-length coral-colored column dresses.

And they were all-- they all had to be really tan, too. She sent me a picture and she's like, we all literally look like a tray of salmon nigiri. She was like, this is the least flattering outfit we could have possibly all cho-- independently this is probably the worst option for each of us respectively just in terms of color scheme, cut.

And it's also so unfortunate when you see the group of women who have completely different skin tones and body types and would not ever look good in the same thing who are all in this one awful dress. And I'm just like, in any other circumstance besides the way that we've normalized this for weddings, this would be considered a terrible thing to do to your friends, especially to make them pay for it. If that was a storyline to do with a prom in a high school drama, that's bullying, making-- 1,000% --all the girls wear the same outfits and then like it being really obvious who looks good and who doesn't.

And one color does not look good. I'm thinking how diverse my friendship group is. There's not one color that would look good on any of us except maybe black.

And even then, the girl that I was in her wedding who gave us a color, she was like, even in the color it was green, but it could be any green. And even that was like, wow, just the ability to wear something that looks good against your skin is a privilege that not all bridesmaids are afforded. Yeah, and just feeling like you've been trussed up a little bit and that you're dressed up in someone else's clothes and so you're not comfortable entirely.

And you feel like you have to stand and look a certain way because if you're in the wedding party, you're on show as well as the bride and groom. Weddings have always historically been, to some extent, a display of wealth. They are a way to show that you're prospering and share the bounty of your money despite perhaps not being able to afford it super sustainably or whatever.

That is not new. And I don't think that will ever totally go away. But I do think that, again, with the social media aspect and the arms race of everyone is doing this so you have to do it, I think there's now become a perception that you have to have all these things that involve other people spending money as a way for you to demonstrate how good of a friend they are or that they have real fealty towards you or that they really prioritize you.

And if you don't have all those things, it's like, if you don't have-- I was at a wedding with 17 people in the bridal party, 17 people. The thought of that group chat alone stresses me out, 17? Hey, ladies. 17 girlies.

So there's a section in the book Love & Other Scams, just to bring it back to that, where on the hen weekend, which is a very expensive trip to Sicily, the bridesmaids are all-- it's suggested by the maid of honor that the bridesmaids all bring a thoughtful token of their affections for the bride in addition to having already purchased the wedding gifts and flights and everything. And it's just sort of all of the additional accouterments of, oh yeah, we're your friends, so we have to put all this extra emotional energy as well as financial resources into just extra gifts and extra-- because if we're not showing you with things that we your friends, you won't know. Totally.

And it becomes also, I think-- and it goes way beyond weddings. We talk a lot on TFD about how so much of the spending that we do in life revolves around needing to demonstrate that you are part of an in-group or that you care about someone or that you're not cheap, essentially, and how-- I mean, for me a lot of what-- basically all that put me into credit card debt was those types of appearances and social things that I couldn't afford because it just feels really-- I mean, aside from the fact that you feel that you need to prove yourself and your loyalty and your friendship, it also is like you can't-- it's just not an option to say that something's not in my budget in a lot of these situations. But I do feel like it is uniquely in weddings that there is such a limited ability to express some version of I love you and I want to spend time with you and I want to celebrate you, but I can't afford to do it in this way.

It's really rare that you will hear people have that conversation. Yeah, and I feel like not going to someone's wedding is the-- it's such a faux pas. It's like, OK, if you didn't come to my wedding, then we're not friends anymore.

And so you kind of do have to muster up from somewhere the means to get there. And we all kind of become Marge Simpson sewing that pink suit again into something new. It's probably the greatest episode of television in my lifetime.

But you know what's interesting you say that, I had-- so for our wedding, we covered the-- we rented the villa for a week and covered all of the expenses once there, like the food, the beverage, the celebrations, all that stuff. But everyone was responsible to get themselves there. So for the people that lived in France, because it was in France, the people that lived in France, they were just vibing.

And they were like, cool, I'm going to drive half an hour and then get a free vacation for a week. But for the people who lived in America, the friends and family that were coming from America, that's a very-- that's not a joke. That's an expensive thing to do.

And especially it was summer. It was June. So for, I don't know, my aunt and uncle, that was probably $2,500 just to get themselves there, which is very expensive.

And I do think it's, even though I talk about money all day, every day, even I was like susceptible to not only feeling personally offended with someone maybe not being able to do something in the moment, but not even understanding to the extent-- the extent to which I was putting such a burdensome ask on people. Yeah. So I was in a similar scenario a couple of years ago where friends of mine got married in Bulgaria because that's where the bride's from.

And basically it meant that it was a smaller wedding. And they'd sort of made peace with the fact that not everybody was going to be able to get time off work or get flights or whatever. But I was officiating the wedding.

So I couldn't not go. And basically, I was like, OK, well, I guess this counts as my summer holiday this year because I'm not going to be able to afford-- and they were very, very generous. And they paid to put people up in a hotel while they were there.

But I was like, even the flights, it was just like-- it was 2015. So I was in a very different situation. And it was similar.

It was, I think, four or five days just in this beautiful seaside village leading up to the main event. And it was an amazing week. But I remember just thinking at the time, what if I couldn't come?

What would happen then? And it's, yeah, I'm just very grateful I've always been able to make it work. And then the last couple of weddings I've been to literally two weeks ago, very, very generously, the groom put us all up in the hotel and refused to let us pay for anything because he just wanted us to be there, which does, actually, I have a question for you because he had us stay at the hotel where the event was because he wanted the people who were going to keep the party going to be there and not have to get a taxi at midnight to somewhere else.

And basically, I feel like if you are going to a wedding and it's, regardless of how expensive or inconvenient it's being, when you're at the wedding, you lean in and your job is to be a great guest. So I will chat up every auntie. I will not leave the dance floor until they force me.

And my question for you is are you an amazing wedding guest? It's the role I was born to play, Philip. It was the role I was born to play.

My husband and I both love to dance. We love going out dancing just in our own spare time. And it's like one of the few remaining social occasions in this severely degraded era that we live in where we're never dancing, partner dancing.

And so we are on that dance floor from minute one to minute done. We are always dressed to kill but on theme, never outshining anyone. You got to be respectful.

And yeah, we really do try to be very gregarious at weddings and love to-- I would say, listen, I want to be honest and say I've not loved every wedding I've been to, primarily the weddings where I felt like because I have such a really hyperaware sensibility about money around these things, it makes me very uncomfortable when I've been to weddings that I know are really pushing it financially for people. And on top of that, I don't think the people themselves even necessarily wanted all of those things, that it's more the parents and the people around them and the planners and the vendors and all of that stuff. And it gets out of control.

And you can't rein it in. And those weddings I have a hard time really enjoying myself at because I feel honestly a little bit bitter at the whole-- at the whole set-up. But at the same time, I think 90% of weddings that we've been to that are really authentic and within the means of the couple and representative of their taste and interests, I love a wedding.

I love a good wedding. I just hate the wedding industrial complex. I think that's basically exactly where I fall on it as well.

I love a wedding because it's like you get to dress up. And there's music. And there's food.

And you're celebrating a happy occasion. And on the face of it, what could be better? And it is just sort of all the bull [BLEEP] that you have to contend with just to get to that point, which is difficult.

And that's where the real impetus for the book comes from. I have a note at the end of the book. I do just like namecheck every person whose wedding I've been in and just said, this isn't about you.

I love you. Your wedding was great. I know, truly.

And I feel like even in these comments that I make now, I feel a twinge of guilt because I can't stress enough that when these things have happened, they have not been a reflection on the bride or groom, I think, in most cases. They're a reflection on the industry that's preying upon people and by the people around them, although one thing where I'm like, we got to stop the madness, for real, is with the constant-- what's the word I'm looking for-- the arms race, again, of the wedding registry. This is my biggest pet peeve about weddings.

Now, I am not opposed to a registry. I think they can be very functional. And we also have to think back to the purpose that they served when people were typically getting married at a much younger age, where they were coming from their parents' homes or a very small, like an efficiency bachelor apartment.

They were moving into their first home. They needed a bunch of stuff. They didn't have a whisk.

They didn't have a vacuum cleaner, whatever, whatever. Now, even leaving aside the fact that a lot of people now who are getting married are getting married well into their adult life, where they have all of these things, they have a very nice home, well appointed. In many cases they already own their own home.

They have what they need. I really feel like, I feel strongly that A, I should not be frequently going on wedding registries and having the options be $100 plus items. Luckily I'm privileged enough to be in a place where I can afford to get you like a set of Le Creuset little dishes or whatever.

But a lot of people can't. And that's very onerous to put on people. But more than that, I feel like if a wedding-- if a wedding is a destination wedding to any extent, if people are having to fly themselves out there, if they're having to put themselves up in a hotel, if they're having to spend all of this, I'm sorry, I know this is maybe going to get me in trouble again, but their presence is the gift.

I really don't feel like it's fair to then ask them to buy you another thing. So I think more-- I can't speak, obviously, for the entire UK. But most weddings that I have been to is very much the same, where couples have lived together for years before getting married.

They have all of the crockery that they need. And so a lot of the time there'll be on the invitation, "Your presence is a present. But if you would like to give us a gift, then, please, money towards the honeymoon" or something like that.

Or more often, a couple of the recent ones I've been to, it's been, "Here is a charity that we both feel very passionately about if you'd like to make a donation in our name." And I think that's just a classier way of doing it because there have been times when it's like, yeah, my presence is the present. All the spare money I have has gone into getting me here. And it had better be an open bar because I have $0 in my account now.

Oh, whoof, that's a whole other thing that people got mad at me about because I said that having a cash bar at a wedding was really not cool. And they were like, oh, well, what the [BLEEP]?? Some people don't want to have to pay for drinks at their wedding.

And I'm like, OK, fine, but you realize that you've now created, essentially, a caste system at your own wedding, where only certain people can even afford to have a drink if they want one. Would you throw a house party and not get some wine in? Or even if you want to have a dry wedding, you should have a dry wedding.

I personally believe that if you're throwing a celebration, whatever is on offer should be on offer to everyone, regardless of your income. Take alcohol out of the equation. Let's say you had a cash buffet where only certain people could afford to-- only if you're of a certain socioeconomic status can you afford to get the mac and cheese.

Like, what? That would not be acceptable in any other capacity. And that's one thing that I think gets often brought up in this conversation, is, well, the couple can't necessarily afford x or y.

And I think that's totally fine. And they shouldn't opt in to those things. But I don't think it's really fair to then pass that cost directly off onto people.

And when people will talk about buying a gift as like, oh, you're supposed to buy something that's the value of your plate of dinner, I think that's often a rule of thumb in the US. I've never heard that before. It's a big thing in the US.

They're like, it should be $100 because that's probably what it cost to feed you and put you up for the evening, whatever. Interesting. Which, to me, I'm like, OK, if $100 is the test and you had to take any form of transport to get there and are putting yourself up in a hotel, you are way-- it's already way in your favor in terms of the amount of money being spent.

But also this entire concept of a celebration as just an endless loop of people owing each other money is just mind boggling to me. Yeah, no, I absolutely agree. I think if you're putting money into seat covers, you can afford to put some cash behind the bar.

And if you can't, don't put money into seat covers. I don't understand why this is even like a-- I will say, gift giving is my love language. I have given some fabulous gifts over the years.

I love giving gifts. But part of what's so fabulous about giving gifts is having them be meaningful and having them be something that you put thought into. And it's a decision that you're making.

You're not picking something super expensive off a list that was prescribed to you. I, obviously, we're recording this going into December now. A lot of the time people will just get books from me because I feel like picking a book that I know someone will love is a genuine talent I have.

And also when I was broke, that was a really cheap way of giving gifts. And yeah, I just, I love finding that perfect thing where it's like, oh, this is going to be perfect for this person because I know them well. And it's showing that you know somebody, whereas, to go back to what were talking about earlier, so much of what goes into every wedding is so generic that there's nothing to say, oh yeah, I'm doing this because I know you so well.

It's sort of like, I'm showing up. You might as well just write a check. 100%. And also, I have a piece of advice for the most fabulous wedding gift that has always been a 10 out of 10 hit when I've done it.

And multiple people have been like, this was our favorite gift. So to your earlier point about how much of a letdown it can be after your wedding is over, one thing that my husband and I like to do is get two tickets or sometimes we'll even take the people if we want to get in on it ourselves, which we sometimes do, depending on the situation, to some really fabulous thing three to six months after the wedding. So it's been-- we did Sleep No More, which is this really fun theater activity in New York City.

We've taken people to a really spectacular dinner. We've given people tickets to plays, all kinds of stuff. But give them something really fun and fabulous on their calendar to look forward to that they can dress up for again and celebrate their wedding again and all of that stuff.

And it's always been a huge hit. That is such a good idea. And I am absolutely going to steal that.

You're going to be the hit. Let me tell you. So we have to go soon, but this has been such a fun conversation.

I just love sitting around [BLEEP] about the wedding industrial complex, despite the wedding planners who may come for me because of it. Just to end this on a funny note, what is the funniest or craziest or whatever thing that's happened at a wedding for you? Oh, oh goodness.

OK, so my best, best friend, who I've known since I was 19, staunch feminist. And her view on her wedding was I'm getting married. I want to have a nice celebration.

But getting married isn't an achievement. And she was retraining in her career. It was that same year.

And she's like, this is an achievement. Marrying a man is not an achievement. And literally anyone can do it.

And so she was keeping her name and still has. And I just remember I was one of the groomsmen because I also happened to go to school with the groom. And it was when the vicar said, "I now pronounce you mister and misses," and he basically gave her the groom's name.

And the look on her face, she just turned to the church and was like. We all just burst out laughing. It was the funniest thing because everyone in that room knew her so well.

They were like, oh, somebody is going to pay for that. It was just hilarious. It's like, oh, she's starting her marriage absolutely fuming.

I love that. And it's just become a really, a running joke, that it's like, yeah, that was the perfect note, of course she was going to-- and the staunch feminist was going to enter marriage angry about it. That's perfect.

I, for the record, haven't changed my last name because I don't even use my last name in my professional life. I use my middle name. And I'm really lazy and it's really cumbersome to change.

I might change-- Oh, my mum must be married three times. And apparently it's very expensive to change your name. So she just kept the second one's for a long time until she got married again.

Elizabeth Taylor vibes. I have to share the funniest thing that happened. It didn't happen to me at the wedding, but it's the funniest thing that's ever happened at a wedding I've been at.

And to this day, Marc and I are still like, damn, that wedding was lux. It was one of the perfect setups where we didn't the couple very well. It was an old colleague of mine.

And so like me and another friend that worked with her, we were very much like, what are we even doing here kind of level of attendee. But it was probably one of the top three most luxurious weddings I've ever been to. It was all top-shelf everything, four-star food, the most beautiful surroundings.

And on top of that, they had a rehearsal dinner for the full 200 and however many people who were at the wedding the night before, where they completely rented out the aquarium in the city that this wedding was in. And I didn't even know you could have a dinner party at an aquarium, but you can. And it's all just top-shelf liquor and chocolate fountains and the craziest [BLEEP].

And so everyone's buzzed, just getting to wander around the aquarium at night, fully having free rein of the place, which was, obviously, really fun. And this wasn't even the wedding itself. Who even knows what that whole wedding cost.

Not my problem. But anyway, so we're in this one room. So it's an aquarium where there's petting tanks-- Oh yeah. --which is not a great thing to have at an aquarium, probably, but especially not when there's drunk sorority sisters at your aquarium.

So basically, long story short, one of the-- I don't know if she was in the bridal party, but she was definitely one of the bride's friends, fell into the stingray tank, which, obviously, these are not poisonous stingrays, but that is how Steve Irwin died. RIP. But also it was just, I will never forget looking over and all these aquarium employees running over, complete chaos, and this girl just in the stingray flopping around.

And I'm like, they are fully never allowing people to drink alcohol in this aquarium ever again. That is amazing. I will say as well, because it took me a week to go over my most recent wedding, there is a special kind of drunk that people only get at weddings.

And I live for it. And it's so fun seeing-- you'll often see just a whole new side to somebody that you thought you knew really well. It's just a new extra layer of chaos gets unlocked.

And yeah, you have people-- like you know the stereotype of the best man hooking up with one of the bridesmaids. And it's just like everybody, all their inhibitions are gone. It's like A Midsummer Night's Dream.

It's fantastic. I love it. I once had a conversation with a relative at a wedding that was like so unexpectedly joyous and affirming that it was-- we may as well have been tripping mushrooms or something at that wedding because we were both just-- but it was that feeling of like you've had a little champagne and everyone looks beautiful and the sun is setting.

And we were just like, you're so important to me, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And it was like, oh, what a wonderful thing. And, that said, at the end of the day, these are really joyful occasions.

And I will, yeah, I hope after this people keep inviting me to their weddings because I really do love them. Well, you certainly wrote so wonderfully about them. Please remind everyone where they can get the novel that started this all, Love & Other Scams?

Yeah, so Love & Other Scams comes out in the US on the 7th of March with Putnam and Penguin Random House. It is available for preorder on Amazon and wherever else you buy your books. Well, thank you so much for being here, Philip.

And thank you guys for tuning in. And I will see you next week on an all new episode of The Financial Confessions. Bye. [MUSIC PLAYING]