When two people tie the knot, it’s time to party! It’s exciting to reconnect with friends and family at a special time followed up by dinner, drinks, and dancing – sometimes spanning multiple days. But when you get a wedding invitation in the mail, you may open it with anticipation, fingers crossed that the wedding is local to you so it’s more affordable to attend.
According to a study from wedding planning service The Knot, in 2021, the average cost of being a wedding guest was $460. They broke it down further based on travel types. They found it cost $270 to attend a wedding that didn’t require travel or lodging, $660 to drive to an out-of-town wedding, and $1,270 to fly for an out-of-town wedding. That can be a sizeable portion of your budget!
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to reduce your cost of attending a wedding, so you can celebrate the happy couple while also keeping your finances on track. Let’s dive in!
Save up early
The first tip: start saving ASAP. Whether you attend weddings infrequently or if you’re going to multiple each year, build it into your budget. You can create a Jar in Milli to save up for a specific wedding or save on a recurring basis for any weddings you may attend. While saving up early won’t make your cost to attend any less, it will help make weddings feel less like budget busters. If you’re in a season of your life with a lot of weddings (maybe all your childhood friends are getting married, or your many nieces and nephews), be proactive – that way you can enjoy the weddings knowing the money is set aside for this purpose!
Don’t feel pressured to attend every wedding event
The best way to reduce your wedding attendance cost? Don’t show up for every last wedding event. Some weddings are a whole weekend affair with a rehearsal dinner and post-wedding brunch. Sometimes you’re invited to pre-wedding events like engagement parties, bridal showers, or bachelor/ bachelorette parties. It doesn’t stop there – some cultures have additional wedding events, like an Arabic sahra, a Vietnamese tea ceremony, or a Hindu mehndi ceremony.
The cost can add up between gifts and getting yourself to and from the event. But remember: you’re not obligated to attend every part! It’s totally okay to just go to the main wedding day if you’re not in the bridal party and not conveniently located. If you’re invited to a new cultural wedding event, ask the couple if you should prioritize that if you can’t make everything.
Going to a wedding alone
If you’re partnered up, it’s common or traditional that both you and your significant other will be invited. Some weddings extend plus-ones even to single guests. Or, if you’ve got kids and the wedding includes children, that multiplies the guests you’ll bring. More people can increase the amount you’ll spend on a gift, attire, and travelling. If you’ve got pets, leaving them means needing a pet sitter or covering their travel fees to bring them along.
One way to cut the costs? Going to a wedding alone. It’s totally okay to RSVP with just one member of the family or couple – especially if your partner isn’t close with the couple getting married. If you know others at the wedding, see it as a chance to reconnect with them.
Of course, attending a wedding solo may not be as fun, but what’s most important is supporting the couple. They may even secretly be happy to extend the invitation to another person on the B list or keep the wedding smaller rather than have an acquaintance there!
How much to spend on a wedding gift
Thanks to our melting pot culture, the traditions around wedding gift-giving vary widely in the United States. Different regions of the country have varying expectations for what kind of dough you should plan to drop on a gift, and different cultures give physical gifts while some opt for cash or checks instead. Regardless of whatever the culture is for the couple getting married and the location of their wedding, ultimately, you can only gift what you can afford!
But, still looking for a benchmark of what to spend? In the same study cited above, the Knot reported that in 2021, the average amount spent on a wedding gift was $160 – an increase from $120 just two years prior in 2019. (Ouch, inflation!)
First, set a budget: Look through your budget and accounts to figure out how much you can comfortably spend on a wedding gift without straining your finances. This will help guide your gift choices.
Now, here are some specific tips to stay within that budget:
- Give a group gift: Consider teaming up with other guests, like other family or friends attending the wedding. Pooling resources allows you to contribute towards a larger gift on the registry that the couple really, really wants but most likely won’t buy for themselves any time soon.
- Go the DIY route. Put your creative skills to use by making a personalized gift. Handcrafted items like a photo album, artwork, or quilting can be incredibly meaningful and cost-effective. You may want to stick to this only if you have DIY talent and supplies on hand.
- Offer a service: If you’ve got a valuable skill or talent, consider offering your services as a gift. This works best if you know the couple really well, if the couple is paying for the wedding themselves, and/or if it’s a DIY style wedding. They may be thrilled that your gift could offset their cost prior to the wedding when it feels like they are spending money left and right. Could you arrange the floral bouquets? Design and print signage and programs? Set up or clean up the venue? Offer to pet sit for the couple on their honeymoon? Reach out and be honest about wanting to gift your time and services, and do so early before the couple makes another arrangement for that task.
- Keep an eye out for sales, discounts, and special offers when purchasing wedding gifts. For example, if Black Friday/Cyber Monday falls before the wedding, see what kind of deals for items on the registry come up then.
- Cash in credit card points. If you have a credit card that offers reward points you can redeem for gift cards, that can be a way to cover your wedding gift without having to spend any actual money. With many credit cards rewards programs, you can get a higher equivalent value by choosing a gift card for certain stores than cash back off your credit card statement.
And remember, you can mix and match some of these strategies. Maybe you get the couple a small item from the registry plus some of your signature handmade soap from your hobby or lending your hairstyling skills for the bridal party. Remember, the saying is true – it’s the thought that counts.
Saving on wedding travel costs
When you’re travelling for a wedding, you don’t get control over the timing and location – two things that can greatly impact the cost of travel. We’ve got a whole blog post on budget travel planning (check it out for the specifics), but here are some other things you can do to minimize travel as it relates to weddings.
First, plan ahead! Start planning your travel arrangements as soon as you receive the wedding invitation. If you get a “save the date” card with just the date and city included, reach out to the couple to ask about other details – is there a post-wedding brunch planned? Are guests on their own for transportation?
They’ll understand that their out-of-town guests need more information, and hopefully they will fill you in with the details early.
From there, be flexible with your travel dates. Adjusting your arrival and departure dates by a day or two can sometimes drop the price significantly, as flight and hotel prices can vary depending on the day of the week. Then, start your research. If you’re flying, compare prices from different airlines and airports and research hotels in the area. Sometimes if a wedding’s destination is not served by a major airport or you have multiple to choose from, you can land a deal by going to a secondary choice and driving in.
If you know others attending the wedding from out of town, team up with them for accommodations and split a hotel or vacation rental home, and coordinate local transportation with them. If you know other guests or non-guests coincidentally living in the area of the wedding, don’t be shy about asking to stay at their home if they have guest space. You may be so busy with the wedding events that you really just need a place to crash, so call up that aunt, cousin, or former college roommate with a guest room.
Find wedding attire on a budget
Another line item that can be pricey when it comes to weddings: what you’ll wear. If you’ve got a wedding invitation with a formal (or fancier) dress code, you may not have something in your closet that fits the bill. There are plenty of ways to save money while still looking great. Here are some suggestions for saving money on wedding guest attire:
1. Rent instead of buy – with a caveat. Renting allows you to wear high-quality outfits for a fraction of the cost, which is great if you’ve got a black tie wedding to attend and need a gown. But, many clothing rental services are a subscription model, which might only make sense if you have a lot of formal events to attend. Services like Nuuly and Fashionpass will run you $69 to $100 per month to rent multiple garments. If you’ve just got one wedding or similar important event on the horizon, you’re better off shopping sales.
2. Borrow or swap with a friend. Have a friend with an old bridesmaid dress she never wants to wear again? If you have friends or family members who wear similar sizes and have formal attire, consider borrowing or swapping outfits with them. This can be a cost-effective way to wear something new to you without spending money. If your friend is not the exact same size but they don’t need the garment back, you may be able to alter it.
3. Shop secondhand. Browse thrift stores or consignment shops for gently used formal attire. So many people donate these items gently used, or even new with tags! You might be surprised by the quality and variety of clothing available at affordable prices. You can even shop secondhand online with ThredUP or ShopGoodwill so you can quickly search your preferred brands, colors, styles, and size.
4. Shop off-season or during sales: Plan ahead and shop for formal attire during off-seasons or when there are sales. Many stores offer discounts on formalwear during non-wedding seasons, so keep an eye out for promotions and clearance events.
5. Look for discounts and coupons. Many brands will offer a discount code for new customers who sign up for their email list. (You can always unsubscribe after you get your order!)
6. Consider non-traditional options: Depending on the dress code and the couple’s preferences, you could opt for a stylish cocktail dress, a dressy suit or jumpsuit, or separates that you can mix and match. Non-traditional options are often more versatile and can be worn for other occasions as well. And, you’re more likely to already own something that works!
7. Accessorize or alter something to make an existing garment work. Sometimes, all you need to freshen up your look is to accessorize or alter your existing clothing. A basic suit with a fresh dress shirt and tie or a simple dress with some statement shoes can work in a pinch. If necessary, consider having minor alterations done to ensure a proper fit.
8. Host clothing swaps: Organize a clothing swap with friends or family members who have a similar size. Everyone can bring their gently used formal attire and exchange it with others, allowing everyone to find something new to wear without spending money.
Remember, the goal is to find affordable formal attire that makes you feel confident and comfortable. Start hunting for your attire early and explore different options and you’ll find a great fit that fits the budget!
Does wedding season feel like a wrecking ball to your budget? Anyone who has bought a plane ticket for a wedding or attire for multiple children to attend gets it. Fortunately, with some advanced planning and creativity, you can bring down your cost of attending weddings. Then, you can get down on the dance floor and let loose – who cares if you spill your drink on that secondhand dress?
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