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6 Tips to Save on Wedding Expenses as a Guest


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It’s no secret that the bride, groom, and their respective families often pay big money on the betrothed’s nuptials. Even small, intimate weddings can cost thousands of dollars, thanks to the wedding reception food, the venue, the all-important wedding dress, and other special touches. Though expensive, the bride and groom have the advantage of time to plan their wedding according to their collective budget. Their guests, however, aren’t always so fortunate.

The more extravagant a wedding becomes, the pricier it can be to attend. Gone are the days when going to a wedding meant a gift of Corningware and a night of dancing. Today, guests often need to travel to attend, have to pony up for suitable attire, and may be asked to contribute to a stag and doe party, not to mention buy a wedding gift. But if you’re smart about what you spend, you can avoid busting your budget without any major wedding drama.

Tips to Survive an Expensive Wedding

Quell your own pre-wedding bank account jitters by adopting a realistic attitude and following specific etiquette and self-preservation tips:

1. Get the Details

Most brides and grooms make wedding plans long before the invitations ever go out. If you’re close to them, ask about the wedding venue. If they plan to marry on a cliff in Mexico, you can start budgeting and saving for travel expenses. But if they choose to stay closer to home, you’ll already have a bit of padding to purchase a wedding gift or buy a new outfit for the big day.

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2. Learn to Say “No”

Oftentimes, what the bride wants, the bride gets. However, it’s okay to say “no” if you’re asked to be in the wedding party and your budget is tight. Those in the wedding party generally cough up the most cash, thanks to pre-wedding parties, clothing, and shoes.

If you don’t think you can afford being a bridesmaid or an usher, explain your trepidations to the bride or groom. Chances are they’ll either completely understand or might retool their spending plans to make it affordable for you to be a member of the wedding party.

3. Split Costs

If you’re in the wedding party, make a point to be part of the planning process. Though the maid of honor and best man are typically most responsible for party planning and dress shopping, being involved can help you better enjoy it. What’s more, you get a say when it comes to cost. In fact, there’s no book on how to celebrate someone’s wedding. You can throw an inexpensive bridal shower or bachelor party by being creative with the venue, food, and entertainment. A cheap trip to the driving range may be more the groom’s speed than a seedy last night out – and it’ll save you a ton of money.

Split Trip Cost

4. Save on Travel Expenses

Traveling to a destination wedding can put a serious strain on guests, but if the bride and groom insist, you might have to whip out the credit card. Before you book, ask who the confirmed guests are. By booking travel and lodging with a large group of people, you may be able to get a better rate. Alternately, you can earmark credit card rewards or cash back for wedding-related travel, and at the very least, use a rewards credit card when booking travel.

You should also compare package prices to purchase airfare, lodging, and a rental car separately. These tips may not completely relieve the pressure of a destination wedding, but will make it easier to swallow.

5. Recycle Outfits

It seems like every wedding has a different dress code – black tie, semi-formal, barbecue – and each requires a different outfit, right? Not exactly. While a bridesmaid basically has to wear whatever the bride says, guests have a lot more freedom. Instead of buying a new outfit for each wedding you attend, grab something neutral and change it up with accessories. A simple cocktail dress can be paired with pearls and heels for black tie, but worn belted with a cardigan and flats for a more casual affair.

Another option is to rent designer clothing from a website such as Rent The Runway. These sites allow you to rent apparel and accessories for a few days at a fraction of what you’d pay retail.

6. Give Homemade

It was once said that you should give a wedding gift that is roughly equivalent to how much the bride and groom spent on you during a wedding, including food and venue. But that’s a pretty outdated guideline, and now most etiquette experts agree that you should give what you can afford.

If a rash of weddings or expensive nuptials have left you broke, you have two choices. The first is to give a gift from the heart, such as a framed picture or memory book. Second, if you attend a destination wedding, it’s entirely acceptable for your presence to be your gift, since it’s a pricey affair. A bride who is your close friend won’t even bat an eye at the lack of gift if you’ve traveled thousands of miles to be there.

Final Word

As a guest, your expenses will largely be dictated by the bride and groom. Still, you can choose not to attend. By prioritizing your wedding calendar, you can spend more on the weddings of those you really care about, and just send a gift and a card to mere acquaintances.

How often do you attend weddings? How do you afford it?

Jacqueline Curtis writes about edtech, finance, marketing, and small business strategy. With over 14 years of copywriting experience, she's created content and scripting for organizations such as GE, Walgreens, Overstock, and MasterCard. She lives in Utah with her husband, three kids, and an overzealous springer spaniel named Penelope.