How much do milestone celebrations cost in 2024?

Let’s face it – here in Britain, we love any excuse to celebrate or throw a party. Whether it’s your best friend’s wedding, your cousin’s baby shower, or just that yearly birthday milestone that hopefully shows how much older and wiser you’ve become, give us a reason to break out the bubbly and we’re there.

However, as we’re sure you’re already very aware, things have been a little bit pricier in the UK as of late, especially with the increased cost of living. Which got us thinking – just how much has the recent rise in prices impacted the celebration of those important occasions throughout the year?

To find out, we interviewed 1,000 people across the length and breadth of the UK to get their take on when and where gifts should be given, what they’re willing to give up in order to attend a celebration, and the top excuses people have given to get out of going to a party.

Not only that, but we also looked at the average cost of various common celebrations and milestone events that most Brits have experienced or been to, in order to see just how expensive they’ve become to attend.

Whilst these prices are eye-watering, we’ve created an fantastic collection of cheeky celebration cards to express ‘this is all you’re getting’ to help tell friends and family you can’t quite afford their over-the-top celebrations. From birthdays to new babies, our creators have come up with designs for all sorts of special occasions.

What is the most expensive part of a party?

Before getting into the nitty gritty detail around party costs and wedding expenses, we thought it’d be helpful to first look at which part of all celebrations Brits tended to see as the most expensive – which may help to explain why the cost of celebrations is on the rise.

And without a shadow of a doubt, this seems to be whatever gift is associated with the occasion in question. In fact, a full 33.3% of Brits felt that gifts were the most expensive part of an event, compared to just 29% for food and drink and 14.3% for outfits.

If we’re being honest, this does make sense. After all, it doesn’t matter if it’s a 30th birthday or a christening, most people are going to need to buy a gift from scratch. Whereas buying a new outfit or spending money on food for an event is not always necessary. Add to this the fact that big birthdays usually require a big present and costs can quickly rise.

What are the most common excuses for missing a party?

We might not like to admit it, but in the same way we don’t want to spend too much money on gifts for every single important occasion, plenty of us are also guilty of finding any excuse to skip out on an event when it might break our budget.

True to form (and much like when we might want a cheeky day off from work), feeling unwell is the most common excuse for missing a party, with 28% of participants admitting to having said this before.

But alongside this, 18.5% of respondents also said they’d used the excuse of a sick relative to avoid an event, while another 16.4% fudged the truth about just how much their work responsibilities were preventing them from attending.

Perhaps more interestingly though were the 29% of recipients who claimed to have never skipped a friend’s event due to financial reasons – a bold claim that certainly seems higher than you might expect. However, whether or not this is due to peer pressure or people still being able to afford the costs associated with the celebration is not clear.

Are certain excuses more common in different parts of the UK?

As you may expect, which excuses are used to miss out on a special occasion to save money varies on a generational and regional basis.

For example, based on our findings, people in Northern Ireland appear more likely to say they’re looking after a sick relative (40%) compared to those in central England (15.9%). Whereas would-be partygoers in Wales are more likely to claim they’re unwell (39%) or burdened with work (19.2%) compared to Scotland (18.8%) and South West England (8.3%).

But with that being said, when looking at different age groups, it seems millennials are more likely to claim they’re looking after a sick relative (44.4%) while boomers are more likely to feign illness (42%).

Meanwhile, it’s the 65+ age bracket who say they never miss special occasions due to financial problems, which suggests that price increases and financial restrictions are contributing to younger people missing out on milestone events, which in turn suggests the cost of parties and celebrations is indeed on the rise.

What are Brits willing to give up to attend a friend’s event?

So, while it’s clear that not everyone is able to attend every big event throughout the year due to financial constraints, that’s not to say people are avoiding important celebrations altogether – in fact, it’s quite the opposite – with many Brits willing to give up on important everyday things in order to spend time partying with those closest to them.

Indeed, by far the biggest thing that people are willing to give up is their annual leave, with 18% of those we spoke to saying this is something they’d willingly done in the past. Alongside this, many others have foregone meals out and takeaways in the lead-up to important occasions (14%), which to be honest, is healthy as well as financially savvy.

However, it also appears that some people are willing to give up far more vital parts of their budget to share in the festivities, such as the 12.3% of respondents who decided to do their weekly food shop on a budget so they could afford an upcoming event. And on top of that, 5.3% of people said they skipped a therapy session so they had the money to see their friends!

The latter appears to be most prominent in Scotland and Wales, where 9.5% and 11.5% of those we surveyed admitted to doing this. Meanwhile, it’s respondents in Northern Ireland who are most likely to pass on a food shop or give up annual leave, with 20% and 24% respectively answering yes to this question.

Finally, looking briefly at age demographics, it appears that millennials are most willing to sacrifice things overall, being the most likely to give up annual leave (36.5%), food shops (19.6%), and therapy (15.3%). However, Gen Z are more inclined to miss holidays (17%) and date nights (10%).

Either way, it certainly hints that the pressure to attend such big events is a leading factor in why people are willing to miss things as important as therapy and food shops, and it again indicates that finances are so tight in some cases that it has to be one or the other.

How much are Brits spending to celebrate birthdays?

Based on everything our report has laid out so far, it’s clear that the younger generations are really feeling the financial pull more than those in their more seasoned years. So, with that in mind, how much are these financial constraints impacting the most common of yearly occasions – birthdays – and specifically gift giving?

Well, based on our report’s findings, only 35.6% of people agreed that gifts should be given on every birthday, while 39.3% considered it appropriate to only give gifts on milestone birthdays after the age of 18. And that’s before we even look at the average spend for birthday gifts overall.

In general, it appears that we’re all getting a big thrifty when it comes to gift costs, with 33.65% of those in Northern England spending less than £20 overall per birthday! Meanwhile, up in Scotland, where people seem to spend the most, it was still only 6% of respondents that confirmed they would spend £101-£150 on a birthday present.

Interestingly, it’s Gen Z that appears to hold the opinion that every birthday warrants a gift (46%), while 39.4% of millennials favoured only giving gifts on milestones.

This is further reflected by millennials spending the most on gifts on average, with 15% spending £101-£150 per present, though Gen Z spends the highest amount of money in certain situations, racking up gift costs as high as £151-£200 on some occasions!

In general, then, it seems that the current financial burdens are reducing the average cost of birthday gifts being given, but not necessarily the number of gifts given overall. And it certainly seems that when a milestone birthday comes around, those giving gifts are willing to pull out all the stops to make it a meaningful and memorable one.

What is the average cost of wedding celebrations in the UK?

Following on from birthdays, let’s see how they compare to one of the seminal events of everyone’s life – weddings! And, of course, the inevitable hen and stag-dos that precede them!

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, weddings are an occasion where a lot more people seem inclined to send a gift the bride and groom’s way, a sentiment that’s certainly shared by 58% of those we surveyed. However, when it comes to engagements, this figure dropped to 27%. Something that makes sense given that an engagement is quite a private affair.

With that being said, overall, it seems boomers are the most likely to buy their friends’ gifts for their wedding, at a whopping 83%! While those aged 55-64 were most likely to buy a gift to celebrate someone’s engagement (36.5%).

Once more we see age playing a key role as to whether or not gifts are bought for certain events. And given just how much the cost of weddings can balloon, it really isn’t a shock that younger generations are being a bit more stringent with their money, even on life-defining occasions such as this one.

The increasing cost of weddings

Touching further on the points we’ve just raised around wedding costs; other studies show that there may be a very specific reason for the decline of gift-giving at weddings. Data shows that at least 25% of all British adults are set to attend a wedding abroad within the next year, which is a marked increase from 17% in 2023 and 15% in 2022!

But perhaps most shockingly of all, the most common age range for this appears to be people aged 18-24 – Gen Z. In fact, studies suggest as many as 39% of Gen Zs plan to attend a wedding in another country this year. But they’re not alone. Upwards of 31% of millennials also said they’d be doing the same, as did 22% of 35–44-year-olds.

Considering that the average cost per person for a wedding overseas is almost £2,000, it goes without saying that even an average-priced wedding present may be off the table for most people!

But even if you’re not planning to go to a wedding in another country, it’s not like the average cost of attending a wedding in the UK is that much cheaper. Further data shows that us Brits spend more than £1,000 when attending a wedding; that’s an 18% increase since 2022!

And, you guessed it, stag and hen parties also seem to be facing much the same issue, with total costs rising as high as an eye-watering £779 per person in the UK or £1,208 if abroad!

In other words, gift-giving or no gift-giving, getting married is an expensive endeavour for everyone involved.

How expensive are other common celebrations?

Finally, with two of life’s bigger occasions out of the way, let’s quickly look at two other milestone events that we like to celebrate in the UK – specifically moving into a new home or having a baby.

Looking at housewarmings first, stats in our report suggest that gifts for occasions such as these are on the decline, with only 37% of those we spoke to agreeing that a housewarming gift should be given when someone you know buys a new place.

Here, the most prominent respondents were millennials (45%), though Gen Z aren’t far behind at 39%. In fact, opinion for housewarming gifts was fairly universal throughout our survey, with over 1 third of people agreeing that at least some form of gift should be given.

And finally, where do we Brits stand on giving gifts to celebrate the arrival of a newborn? Well, interestingly enough, more of those we spoke to seem to agree that the birth of a child warrants a gift more than a birthday (44% compared to 35.6%). However, we’d argue the birth of a child is a tad more special than such a regular celebration.

Here, it appears to be boomers that are the most likely to send a gift to celebrate the arrival of a child at 59.3%, but data suggests that almost half of us would put at least some money aside to commemorate such a wonderful occasion.

Save on the cost of your celebrations with thortful

Based on the findings from our report, it’s clear that the recent increase in the cost of living has more than likely impacted just how much we spend on gifts for special milestones, and whether or not we attend or give a gift in the first place.

Age certainly seems to be one of the most prominent factors in determining this, with Gen Z and Millennials cutting down on how much they spend when giving a present, as well as forgoing impart parts of their daily budget so that they can get involved in the celebrations.

But with that being said, here at thortful, we’re of the opinion that no one should have to sacrifice important aspects of their physical and mental well-being just so they can join a friend or family member in partying for a key life milestone, which is exactly why we’re here to offer you affordable prices on a range of thoughtful gifts.

From dedicated birthday presents and card combos to gifts under £15, there’s something for everyone in the thortful range.

Take your time looking for the perfect card to commiserate such an occasion, and don’t forget to visit the thortful blog as well if you’re looking for tips on what to buy for those niche events!