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How to Navigate Wedding Season Without Going Broke
If you have multiple weddings to attend this summer, you’re going to need a budget to make it through wedding season without going broke.
According to The Knot, the average guest shells out more than $850 once travel, lodging, wedding attire, and gifts are tallied up. (A Priceline.com survey is more conservative, at $600 per guest.)
It should come as no surprise, then, that about 40% of guests decline wedding invitations for financial reasons—especially if they’re navigating more than one wedding that year.
Here are 7 tips you can use to keep more money in your pocket—and avoid wedding season overwhelm.
1. Start a Budget
Wedding season can deplete your bank account quickly—especially if you try to put all the expenses on your credit card and worry about them later.
If you can put a little money aside each month to attend the wedding, it’ll ease your financial burden—and the resulting anxiety about expenses. Ultimately, the sooner you start budgeting, the better, says Sarah Berger, a financial expert for Bankrate.
“The minute you receive the 'save the date' card, open a free account that allows you to deposit $20 to $50 a month to put toward expenses for a wedding," Berger suggested to Mic.
A wedding budget will also help put multiple invitations into perspective. Does it make financial sense for you to spend thousands of dollars attending multiple weddings this summer? Or should you only attend the weddings of your closest friends and family members?
Get clear on your financial priorities, so you know exactly how much to set aside for travel, gifts, and more.
2. Balance Your Gifts
If you know you’ll be attending every event for a wedding—like a wedding shower, bachelorette or bachelor party, and the wedding itself—balance out your gift giving.
Consider giving a smaller shower gift and a bigger wedding gift, for example, instead of going all-out at every event. Or set a gift budget and stick to it—so you’ll know exactly what to pick off of each registry.
Timing matters, too. The sooner you buy your gift off the registry, the easier it will be to stick to a gift budget, says The Knot’s Ivy Jacobson.
“About half (46 percent) of a couple's registry items are under $50, so guests should look up a couple's registry...and buy gifts in their price range before all the moderately priced ones are gone,” Jacobson suggests.
Know the bride and groom well? Consider a handmade or creative gift as an alternative, especially if you’re crafty. Not only will the bride and groom appreciate the thought you put into your present, but it’ll be more meaningful than yet another toaster.
3. Shop Around for the Best Hotel
In the wedding party? Then you may want to take advantage of a block of hotel rooms set aside by the bride and groom. The group rate is often cheaper than the hotel’s normal rate—plus, you’ll want to be near your friends on the big day.
But if you’re simply attending the wedding, there’s nothing stopping you from shopping around for the best hotel rate in the area, says Jen Glantz, the founder of Bridesmaid for Hire.
“The cool thing with hotel rates is that you can reserve a room without having to pay for it right then and there,” Glantz explained to NBC News. “So I book [the wedding hotel] as my first option, and I’ll check monthly leading up to the wedding to see if I can find a better deal; sometimes I do and I’ll cancel it.”
As long as you cancel within the hotel’s cancellation window—and the bride and groom aren’t on the hook for unbooked rooms—feel free to find and nab rooms with a better rate.
4. Split the Cost of Lodging
If you’re attending the wedding solo, look for another single friend who might buddy up to split the cost of a hotel room.
You may even want to try booking an entire home through Airbnb and splitting the cost with other couples, suggests Anastasia Stevenson, a Los Angeles-based florist and event planner.
"I spent only $125 a night on lodging and had the equivalent of what would have been a $500-a-night suite in a luxury hotel," Stevenson told U.S. News & World Report of her decision to rent a home with other attendees.
As long as it doesn’t bother you to spend the night in a different location from the wedding party, staying down the road might put you in a better financial position for the entire weekend.
5. Rent Your Outfit
We all want to look our best at the weddings we attend. But, in the age of Instagram, it can be embarrassing to be photographed wearing the same dress or suit at every wedding you attend over the summer.
Still, don’t feel like you have to shell out hundreds of dollars per outfit, says Maureen Sullivan, the CEO of Rent the Runway, a designer rental site.
“Guests can rent the perfect look, save money by not investing in something they will push to the back of their closet and not wear again,” Sullivan explained to The New York Times.
Instead, invest in colorful accessories to refresh your look. You could even tailor an old bridesmaid’s dress into something more fitting for a wedding guest, or organize a dress swap with your friends to update your closet.
6. Use Your Points
Already use a credit card to accumulate points for air travel or hotel stays? Now’s the time to put those points to good use, suggests personal finance expert Rebecca Safier.
“[If] you can pay off your balance each month, earning credit card reward points could be a great way to save money during the wedding season,” Safier writes at Student Loan Hero.
“You might earn points for shopping at certain retailers with a particular card,” she adds. “Or you could score a sign-up bonus on a new card for spending a certain amount within the first few months of opening an account.”
These sign-up bonuses can be funneled toward lodging, flights, or even gifts to help you keep costs low.
7. Opt Out
Remember: attending a wedding is a big financial commitment—which means you can say “no,” especially if money is a barrier.
According to Meg Keene, founder of A Practical Wedding, it’s important for guests to remember that weddings aren’t automatically financial obligations—you choose to take the obligation on by attending.
“When you get an invitation, that’s what it is—an invitation—not an obligation,” Keene told The Cut. “It’s an offer, and nothing more.”
“Think of it from the other way around,” she added. “No one wants to feel like their wedding is an imposition, and that only works if they recognize that the people they invite are grown-ups who are allowed to say no.”
Feel free to send your regrets, or a small gift, if you’re not close to the couple or worried about your finances.
Whether you already opened a savings account to make it through wedding season, or you’re taking on gigs to make extra cash, there are steps you can take to navigate wedding season without going broke.
Wedding season is only fun if you can celebrate with friends and family members without worrying about credit card debt or decimating your savings. So get out that calculator and start drawing up a budget today!
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