How to Attend Weddings Without Going Broke

There’s nothing better than knowing your friend has found his or her perfect match. On the other hand, attending the happy couple’s wedding may be costly.

Weddings are notoriously expensive to attend—on average guests spend $177 on gifts and if travel is involved, the cost can skyrocket to upwards of $700. But, here’s the good news: attending your friends’ nuptials doesn’t have to break the bank. With a little creativity and a bit of planning, you’ll be able to attend weddings without worrying about whether you’ll also be able to pay your bills that month.

Here are 5 tips for how to budget for wedding season:

1. Be Picky

There will come a time in your life when it seems like everyone you know is getting married. If your refrigerator is plastered with “save the date” cards, then you’ve entered probably entered this phase of life.

It’s important to remember that this won’t last forever. At the same time, you’ll have to be picky in order to get through the wedding onslaught without going broke. Yup, you’ll need to turn some of those invites down.

When evaluating which weddings to attend, be sure to remember that it’s okay to put your own needs first. For Julia Layton, a 33-year-old YouTuber in Chicago who is documenting her journey out of $132,000 of debt, carefully choosing which weddings to attend has been critical to her debt repayment success.

“The biggest lesson I learned was that I can’t make everyone happy and I need to be my own biggest advocate, especially where my finances are concerned. I’ve stopped going to destination weddings and I also only attend weddings for family and very close friends,” says Layton.

If you know that you can’t attend every wedding, you may need to prioritize – starting with your closest friends and family. For example, if your sister is getting married this year and you can only afford to attend one wedding, then you may have to decline the invitation from that college friend who you haven’t spoken to since graduation.

2. Set an Annual Budget

Budgets sometimes get a bad rap, but when done correctly, budgets create room for more freedom, not less. The best way to prepare for the cost of weddings is to set aside a little bit of money from your paycheck every month. It’s much more difficult to take the $700 required to attend a destination wedding from a single paycheck than it is to save $58 every month for one year.

Follow these steps to create your wedding budget:

  1. Determine how many weddings you will attend each year. If you’re unsure, pick a realistic number, like two.
  2. Figure out if the weddings are likely to be local. It’s much easier to cut costs for local weddings than it is for out-of-town weddings. For destination weddings, budget about $700 per wedding. For local weddings, budget about $200.
  3. Add up your budget and divide it by 12. If you plan to attend one destination wedding and one local wedding in the upcoming year, you would need to save $900, or about $75 per month.
  4. If you end up coming in under budget or not attending as many weddings as planned, you can save the money for next year’s wedding season.

Here’s the good news: it’s never too late to start saving. Even if you have a destination wedding to attend in two months and haven’t saved a dime, you still have two months to prepare, which is infinitely better than no time at all.

3. Get Creative with the Gift

Most guests spend about $200 per wedding gift. Even though it’s nice to be generous, it’s also important to be realistic.

Being realistic doesn’t mean you can’t buy items from the registry, says Rachel Smith, a 24-year old money blogger from Michigan. It simply means that you need to be strategic.

“Stalk their registry. No, seriously. Figure out where they are registered ASAP and make sure to check those websites frequently for coupon codes and flash deals. I have saved between 25 to 35 percent each time doing this, and it’s still the items the couples actually picked out,” says Smith.

If items on the registry are out of your price range, then get creative with the gift and give something meaningful like matching coffee mugs, monogrammed hand towels or a decorative frame with their new last name.

4. Buy One Wedding Outfit (and Wear it Again)

Wedding attire may not sound like a big expense, but wedding guests tend to spend an average of $81 on clothing for each wedding they attend.

Instead, try buying one outfit you love and then wear it again and again. To get the most bang for your buck, be sure to buy an an outfit with solid colors. Solid colored clothing ensures that you can mix and match shoes and accessories to create entirely different looks.

5. Missing the Big Day? Send a Gift or Plan a Post-Wedding Dinner

Whether you miss the big day because of scheduling conflicts or financial constraints, don’t fret. The best thing to do is send a card and gift. The size of the gift depends on your relationship with the bride and groom.

“If you are close but can’t attend the wedding, get a gift that would include some of the costs you’d spend to attend—meaning actually spend a little more (that you would if you aren’t that close to the couple),” says Smith.

If you live in the same city as the couple, you can perhaps plan a celebratory post-wedding dinner. The bride and groom will get to fill you in on all of the details and you’ll be able to celebrate the milestone with them. It’s a win-win.

Remember: Your Budget and Friendships are Bigger than a Single Day

Weddings are exciting, but they are only one day. If you can’t attend the celebration or simply don’t have room in your budget, it’s not the end of the world. Your financial health is more important than a single day and so is your friendship with the bride or groom.

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