As delighted as you are to hear wedding bells, you know big costs are coming. You skimp and save. You budget — splurge — and maybe alter expectations.
And that’s just to be a wedding guest.
The average guest last year spent $888 per wedding, according to a study from the Knot. For those in the wedding party, the price of being a stand-up friend was over $1,000.
“I did not spend that much!” you may be saying. And that may be true. Costs of attending a wedding are different depending on where the wedding is held.
But chances are, once you pull together all the related wedding expenses — wedding clothes, transportation, hotel, gifts — you may be spending a lot more than you think.
During those seasons in your life when every weekend seems to have some wedding-related event, be sure to adjust your budget accordingly, says Tyler Dolan, certified financial planner at Society of Grownups.
“If I say 10% of my budget is entertainment,” says Dolan. “Then a big wedding season comes along and suddenly it’s at 30%, that can be a big problem.”
A new pair of shoes may feel like a dire need, but that’s not what an emergency fund is for. Here are some ways to avoid going in debt, while still being a great guest.
Average cost of wedding attire: $81
More than half of wedding guests buy something new, according to the study. But take a page from the bride’s playbook: look to something old instead of something new and explore the options of something borrowed. (You can even make it blue, too.)
There are plenty of options for rentable formal-wear at places like Rent the Runway, Le Tote or Menguin.
But clothes aren’t library books and not everyone wants to borrow. For lower-cost buys, go to a site like Dress For the Wedding, which culls options for wedding guests in all price ranges, searchable by style or color.
Members of the wedding party face more costs, $207 per wedding, and less control. The final call on clothing choices are the couple’s, of course. But early on in the planning process, you might recommend the wedding party rent bridesmaids’ dresses from a site like Vow to be Chic or Rent the Runway. The bride could have the women standing up for her in sparkling $750 Badgley Mischka dresses for $35 each.
Average cost of wedding travel: transportation $321, accommodation $322
A quarter of couples get married in a place other than where they live. And you love them. So, off you go to places your vacation fund has zero interest in.
One of the hardest things about returning an RSVP is committing to the travel costs. But looking at the costs as soon as you get the invitation will give you the most flexibility with flight and hotel options.
Set up a flight alert on a site like AirFareWatchdog or SkyScanner to track prices for a while. Then make a move when the price dips.
Often a couple will set aside a block of rooms at a hotel at a discounted rate for guests. But that probably isn’t the lowest price you can find. And it may not even be the cheapest room you can get in that hotel. Check for your own deal at that hotel or others in the area. Or, team up with other wedding guests to go in on a VRBO or AirBnB property for the weekend.
Average cost of a wedding gift: $118
Here’s where the cash counts. In some regions of the country money is an expected gift.
But many couples also set up a registry with requested gifts at various prices. Get to that registry early to snag the gifts in your price range, especially if the couple has invited a lot of friends also looking to support them without diving into debt.
If you want to gift a bigger ticket item, go in with as many other people as it takes to cover it and everyone can contribute as they are able.
If you know the couple quite well, you might opt for a more personal gift. A framed photo. A donation in their name to a cause or organization they cherish. A set of mixing bowls and a homemade book of your favorite recipes.
One of the simplest, classiest and lowest cost gifts you can give is their wedding invitation matted and framed. It’s a way to mark the occasion that you know will be in their taste — they designed the invitation, after all. If you get a pre-matted frame it could cost you $10 or you could get it professionally framed and it would likely still come in under the average.