How To Not Go Broke As A Wedding Guest

Justine Nelson
May 28, 2019

We all love getting fancy invitations in the mail, especially when the contents cordially invite you to witness loved ones becoming united in matrimony. It’s wedding season, and those of us who get invited to these special occasions know there are costs involved for guest. And those costs can get quite expensive. 

The Knot reports that the average wedding costs $33,931. While the bride and groom generally cover the ceremony and reception costs, wedding guests are expected to shell out some serious dough, too. A recent Bankrate study found that the average person spends hundreds — if not thousands — attending a wedding.

From glitter-crusted congratulatory cards to engagement gifts to travel expenses and all of those dresses you have to buy, wedding festivities add up. As you make plans to celebrate upcoming weddings this year, here are some ways to keep costs low so simply being a wedding guest doesn’t derail your bigger financial goals. 

Estimate the cost of attending a wedding before you commit to it

Even though it may not be you walking down the aisle, attending nuptials involves financial planning. Take into consideration what it might cost in total to attend a wedding. Then you can make an estimate of how much it is and whether or not you can afford to attend.

Jordan Peterson, a 28-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, recommends prioritizing wedding festivities, over the ancillary events, too, in order to make the budget work. “I had three weddings to attend in one year and it was a huge expense,” she told The Money Manual. “Some weddings and parties didn’t make the cut due to costs.” 

A few questions to get you started:

  • Will I have to travel out-of-town to attend?
  • Do I need to take off any time from work?
  • Do I need to pay for a hotel room?
  • Am I expected to attend the wedding shower? Bachelor or bachelorette party?

Factor in how much you can spend on attire, gifts, traveling and other wedding-related events. Now is not the time to go into debt to attend a wedding. An estimate can help you build in the cost to attend in your monthly budget. It’s a great way to cash flow costs leading up to the main event. Not to mention, budgeting can help you with work-life balance so you can enjoy a good time and stay on top of your finances.

Per the Emily Post Institute there’s no reason to feel bad about having to decline a wedding invitation either, and money is certainly a valid reason. To decline an invitation RSVP promptly, don’t go into detail about why you are declining the invite, and send a gift in your place.

Don’t go ham on the bachelor/bachelorette party

As much as we like to see the future bride or future groom go crazy celebrating their last days as a singleton, it’s not a good idea to go ham on your budget. If the bachelor or bachelorette party is a destination party, you need to consider the costs especially because partygoers spend an average of $537 to attend, according to The Knot.

If it’s not in the budget, offer to have the bride or groom over for a special dinner or one-on-one time. It might be more meaningful (and let’s be honest, memorable) to spend time together before their big day.

If you decide to venture out for the festivities, consider only bringing cash with you. If you have the habit of buying a round of drinks and swiping your card, you’ll be less likely to blow your budget when you only bring a $50 bill out with you. 

Get thrifty when it comes to travel plans

Do you have to travel for the big day? Look for ways to cut costs by traveling on the cheap. TR Reese, a 30-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio, recently attended his best friend’s wedding and found ways to make it affordable.

“Another groomsman and I split an Airbnb near the hotel,” he told The Money Manual. “It was only a few minutes further away and we cut our housing costs in half.”

He was also able to split an Uber with other wedding goers to get to the ceremony. Splitting transportation costs can help you reduce costs for parking, gas, and any rental car fees.

Other hacks? Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or family in the area to take advantage of a free couch to crash on. And consider using credit card points as Reese did. “My wife and I used credit card points to purchase airfare,” he shared. “It saved us so much money since we flew from Cleveland to Raleigh [for the wedding,” he said. In some cases, purchasing a flight with travel points can mean the difference between spending or saving hundreds of dollars.

Get creative with wedding gifts

Who says you have to spend money on a wedding gift? Norah Pietrzak, a 30-year-old from Auburn Hills, Michigan, says volunteering your time and services in lieu of a physical gift is a great option. “My best friend’s dad ended up DJ’ing my wedding reception for free instead of spending money on a gift,” Pietrzak told The Money Manual.

If you don’t have DJ skills, look for other areas where you can lessen the wedding cost burdens for the bride and groom. Volunteer to help set up for the reception, run errands or offer to help stuff wedding invitations. These can be a great alternatives to purchasing an expensive gift that may or may not get used.

If you want to give a physical gift, look for something that speaks to the couple’s interests. For couples who enjoy traveling together create a travel journal and luggage tags. Pick up travel-sized toiletries to create a travel basket.

Couples who are foodies might enjoy homemade spices, rubs, or a recipe box with your favorite recipes tucked inside. 

Here comes the wedding guest

With a little bit of planning, you can keep the cost of attending weddings this year to a minimum. Make your clothes last longer by wearing something you already have in your closet to the ceremony. Take some time to estimate how much travel, gifts, and any pre-celebration festivities will cost so you can start setting aside money in your budget.

Justine Nelson is the founder of Debt Free Millennials, an online community to help millennials get out of debt. Justine enjoys writing and speaking about all things personal finance. This Midwest millennial paid off $35k in student loan debt and now resides in San Diego with her husband living the DINK life (Dual Income, No Kids).

Feature Image: Bride Wars/Fox