How to Financially Plan for Being a Wedding Guest This Year

Here's your guide to budgeting for wedding season.

Wedding guests

Photo by Ashley Sawtelle

Summer wedding season is officially upon us. But, we have a feeling you already knew that. Chances are, you’ve been invited to double, if not quadruple, the amount of weddings this year after the world has begun to reopen. While it’s undoubtedly an exciting time to be a bride, groom, member of a wedding party, or a guest, it’s definitely a bit overwhelming—especially in the finance department. 

Weddings are anything but cheap—no matter your involvement—and when you multiply the amount you have to attend, you can find yourself feeling like you’re spending far more than your budget comfortably allows. This is especially true for weddings that require you to travel long distances and spend one or more nights in a hotel. “With higher travel expenses, food, hotel, and transportation, destination weddings can cost thousands of dollars to attend and participate in,” notes Abby Eisenkraft of Choice TaxSolutions Inc. “Factor in the time frame of before and after the event, not just the wedding day itself that needs to be funded out of your own pocket, and you might want to turn the event into an extended vacation for yourself.”

Meet the Expert

For bridesmaids, the costs are even higher. In addition to having to purchase a particular dress—which you very likely have to have tailored—shoes, and accessories, you’re also going to need to chip in for other events leading up to the wedding, including the bridal shower and the bachelorette party. “Average costs are variable, but it is safe to say that significant funds need to be set aside, potentially in the thousands,” notes Eisenkraft. 

The good news: There are ways to be a wedding guest without breaking the bank. Here, finance experts share their best-kept secrets for how to financially plan to be a wedding guest amidst a wedding boom. 

Pace Yourself

Especially if you are someone who's a bit unsure about spending money for pure enjoyment, personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi recommends taking it slow—even month by month. “It may be really tempting to try to experience it all now that we're fully vaccinated. Our friends’ posts on social media about their trips and experiences certainly won’t help us feel like we’re not making the most of the summer,” she says. “It’s important to create a plan and make intentional expenses that aren’t led by impulse and of course be realistic about what you can afford.”

She recommends spacing out your trips or excursions so that you have time in between to rebuild or replenish savings. This might mean saying no to one or two weddings that you are fine not attending. This will also help you enjoy the ones you do choose to attend even more. 

Plan Ahead

So many last-minute actions involve price hikes or rush fees, from booking the flights and hotel to arranging for dress alterations. To avoid going over budget, Erika De La Cruz of Passion to Paycheck, recommends planning as far ahead as possible. “This will give you time to look for the right deals for what the bride and groom have asked for as accommodations for hotel, travel, and attire, or to coordinate with the other bridal party to get rooms or travel accommodations together,” she says. “Instead of always looking for a hotel nearby, you can sometimes find a house to rent with the bridal party or guests attending the wedding, which will be much more fun anyway.” 

Be Selective With Your Outfit Costs

One perk of not having been to a wedding in a long time thanks to COVID, is that the odds are pretty high that no one has seen you dressed in wedding attire for a while. As such, personal finance expert Bobbi Rebell points out that there’s little need to purchase a new outfit unless you’re specifically asked to do so as a member of the bridal party. “If you buy something new, declare it your dress for the season and wear it everywhere,” she says.

Split A Gift With A Group

If you’re close with other people attending a certain wedding, Rebell recommends giving a group gift. Offer to be in charge so that you can have more say in the amount spent. “Ask each person to send you the money electronically (via Venmo or Zelle) as their participation confirmation that they will be part of the gift before you buy it,” she says. “Make it clear that if you don’t have the money before a certain date, they are not in. So, you are not chasing them down and have controlled the budget for the gift.” 

Create A "New Normal" Budget

If your budget is looking a little different post-pandemic, it’s actually a smart thing, according to Torabi. “In the past year we may have realized how frivolous (or meaningful) some of our spending choices were,” she says. She recommends taking inventory of that and applying it to your 'new normal' budget. “Post-pandemic life isn't about going back in time and repeating everything—it's about refinement and spending with more clarity and consciousness.” 

Invest In A Travel Credit Card

If several of the weddings you are attending require you to travel and stay at hotels, it can pay off to purchase a travel credit card. These cards can help you rack up airline miles or hotel points that you can then use when you make arrangements to attend a wedding. Some even have certain sign-on bonuses that can turn into a chunk of cash that you can then use towards travel and others even offer trip insurance and certain reimbursements should you have to deal with a travel delay or cancellation. 

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