How to Budget as a Guest for Wedding Season

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Photo by Meg Smith Photography

You get a jolt of joy when you see it. Quickly, you rip open that ‘save the date’ and a huge smile crosses your face. Someone wants you to be a part of their big day. Being a wedding guest is an honor, to say the least, and one you’re more than ready to accept.

However, the moment you check the attending box and put the card in the mail, you’ve just agreed to spend a massive sum of money. Believe it or not, the average cost as a wedding guest is $1,386.22, according to 2017 stats from LendEDU. That’s not an amount to be taken lightly.

“Weddings challenge our finances and financial wellness for two reasons,” explains financial therapist Amanda Clayman. “The first is that weddings tend to create tension between how we want to use our money to take care of ourselves and our own goals, and how we want to use money to support our personal relationships.”

Meet the Expert

Amanda Clayman, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and certified financial wellness coach with over 15 years of experience. She is the host of For Love and Money with Amanda Clayman and author of Financial Wellness: Managing Personal Cash Flow.

“Secondly, weddings often present themselves as very binary choices: Either we attend, and pony up for the expenses, or we decline and pay for none of it. It’s like we relinquish all control once we say yes,” adds Clayman.

So how can you make these expenses less stressful? Here are some of the tips and tricks you ought to try for yourself.

Set Your Wedding Budget Early

Are the wedding invitations coming in thick and fast? When you’re in your 20s and 30s, the chance of you being invited to at least one wedding per year is high. While love is in the air for your nearest and dearest, all that romance could take its toll on your finances. The key to weathering this season is to plan ahead and save for each event.

“There is no downside to preparing early,” says Clayman. “In fact, I recommend that clients who are in that phase in life when all of their friends are getting married should keep a running wedding budget for a few years. This way the money steadily accumulates over the course of the year, and if you only have two weddings one summer but five the next, you can roll those funds over so that you're prepared.”

Regularly Check In With Your Finances

One of the unique things about weddings is that they are planned well in advance. We’re talking months, if not years. That gives you a serious advantage. As the day grows closer, you can check in with your finances and ensure that you have enough cash to cover the costs of being a guest. “Make regular appointments to sit down with your money, predict what you have coming up, and make a financial life to prepare,” says Clayman.

Say No To Pre-Wedding Events

Simply say no! If attending the wedding itself is going to set you back more than a thousand dollars, you’re going to want to cut back elsewhere. Luckily, there are a few events you can skip to help you lighten the load. For instance, you may find that you’re invited to pre-wedding events, such as the bachelorette party or engagement dinner. It’s perfectly acceptable to decline these invitations and save your funds for the main event.

Try Renting Your Wedding Outfit

Make no mistakes, weddings are usually extravagant events. That means that looking like a million bucks on the big day is an absolute must. However, that shouldn't mean that you have to spend a million dollars. Shopping for a brand-new wedding guest outfit—or a host of them, should you have a few weddings on the horizon—does not come cheap.

One way in which you can get that classy, high-end look without the hefty price tag is to rent your outfit. Websites such as the ever popular Rent the Runway allow you to hire your outfit for a specific amount of time. For example, you could rent that perfect dress for four to eight days, rather than having to splurge and buy it outright.

Skip the Hotel and Look at Other Options

Heading to a destination wedding? Staying in a snazzy hotel could set you back hundreds of dollars. Thankfully, you have a couple of alternate options. First of all, if you know anybody in the local area, you could call in a favor and ask to stay with them. While it may not be as comfortable as a hotel—and you will have to bring your own shampoo!—it’s certain to cost you a lot less, if not nothing at all.

Failing that, there’s always the house or apartment rental sites where you could bag a bargain. Check out AirBnb or Vrbo for affordable rentals in the area. Needless to say, the sooner you sort out your wedding accommodation, the more money you’re likely to save. Book well ahead and pay in installments to avoid feeling the financial pinch.

Pick Thoughtful Gifts, Not Expensive Ones

Picking out a wedding gift can be truly stressful, especially if the couple has an expensive registry. If your funds are low, avoid splashing all of your cash on a pricey gift and opt for something affordable yet meaningful. For example, you could paint a pot for the couple or put together a unique photo album. It’s the thought that counts.

“As someone who's been married a few years, I can tell you I have zero recollection of who gave me what gifts, with the exception of a collection of handwritten recipes from the assorted guests at my bridal shower,” says Clayman. “I would be heartbroken if the stress of gift-giving or the financial burden of travel marred anyone's experience of my wedding, and most of the clients I've worked with have expressed the same.”

Understand It’s Okay to Decline Some Invitations

There's absolutely no hard-and-fast rule that you must attend every wedding you're invited to. Set boundaries by weighing your level of intimacy with the to-be-weds. While close friends and family is the traditional rule of thumb, there are many exceptions depending on your personal degree of closeness. Be truthful and concise as you politely decline (stick to RSVP deadlines!) and consider offering a small gesture like sending a card, a gift, or having dinner together instead to celebrate.

Consider Striking Up a No-Travel Policy

Cutting back on wedding attendance or choosing which nuptials to prioritize over others can be difficult. In order to not ruffle too many feathers (and save yourself a lot of explaining), consider establishing a policy that is consistently egalitarian across all social groups. A no-travel policy will significantly slash the costs of the most expensive weddings: destination weddings. Travel and accommodation expenses can really take a toll regardless of how far the commute, so sticking to local weddings only is a surefire way to keep yourself fiscally protected.

Remember Your Role in the Wedding

At the end of the day, it’s worth keeping in mind that all the to-be-weds really want is your support and attendance. Being a wedding guest is not about ruining your finances to play the part. It’s about showing that you care for your friend or loved one and that you’re there for this momentous occasion. So long as you keep that in mind, you should be fine.

Article Sources
Brides takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. LendEDU. "The Average Cost of Going to a Wedding in 2017." April 6, 2020.

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