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How to Attend a Wedding on a Budget

If you feel like there are a lot of weddings happening these days, you’re not off base. Welcome to something that’s been dubbed the “wedding boom.” The number of weddings in 2021 is on pace to hit a whopping 2.77 million—that’s two times the number of weddings last year (thanks, COVID) and 30% more than back in 2019.1 That’s a lot of happily ever afters.

Given those numbers, chances are you’ll probably be heading to a wedding soon. And while you’re busy brushing up on your electric slide dance skills, don’t forget to sit down and plan how you’ll attend a wedding on a budget.

Weddings are a great excuse to get dressed up and connect with old friends—all while encouraging a new marriage. Sounds like a good time to us! Still, you might not have room in your budget to go all out, or maybe times are tough and you can’t go at all. Whatever the case, let’s see how you can save.

How Much Does It Really Cost to Be a Wedding Guest? 

Going to a wedding isn’t cheap! The cost that the average wedding guest spends depends on a couple of things—like how far away the wedding is and if they have to include air travel to get there.

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The average price people spend to attend a wedding is $430—but that number is as low as $185 if the wedding is in their hometown and jumps to $1,440 if the guest had to fly somewhere.2 You read that right. Sheesh! Ever hear someone say, “I always cry at weddings!” Now you know why.

Can You Attend a Wedding on a Budget? 

Let’s bust two myths right now: One, it’s definitely possible to have a beautiful wedding on a budget. And two, it’s totally doable to attend a wedding on a budget. Just like the bride and groom don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on their wedding, you don’t have to go into debt just to celebrate their wedding day either. That’s just crazy talk. 

Let’s dig into all the practical ways you can attend a wedding on a budget—and still have a good time.

How to Save Money on Wedding Travel 

A lot of wedding guests have to take a flight to go to an out-of-state wedding, some would rather drive, and others hit the jackpot and don’t have to travel at all (lucky). But if the wedding you’re going to has you hitting the friendly skies or open road, here’s how can you save:

  • Split travel expenses with a friend. Share the costs of gas money, a rental car, and a room with one, two or even three friends for major savings.
  • Travel on the cheap days. The cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Try to work your trip around those cheaper dates if you can.3
  • Look for deals. With everyone and their mom out traveling again, it could be a little harder to score a great deal these days. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Look for coupon codes and special sale offers before you book.
  • Skip the shower and other parties. Traveling for a bridal shower, bachelorette party and bridal tea will get pricey. Be picky about which parties you’ll go to (if any) to guarantee you can afford to make it to the big day.
  • Make the most of your trip. This might sound like the opposite of what we’re encouraging you to do here, but what if you spent a little bit more money and took a few days off work to turn the wedding destination into a vacation? You could knock out two things with one stone here—your yearly vacation and you good friend’s wedding. But only do this if it fits in your budget!

How to Save Money on Wedding Clothes 

Let’s be real: Most wedding invitations don’t say that guests have to buy a new dress or outfit. But if we’re being honest, it sure can feel that way. You can resist the urge to drop loads of cash on a one-time wear and still look good. Here’s how to do it:

  • Mix old and new. Grab a well-loved dress from your closet and pair it with either new shoes or a new accessory to give your look some life. Or buy a new tie to go with your best suit. The entire outfit doesn’t have to be brand spanking new, but you’ll still feel like you’re wearing something new-to-you.
  • Borrow an outfit. You sister, your best friend, your roommate—someone is bound to have a nice outfit collecting dust in their closet that you can wear. Just ask!
  • Buy used. Some people get weirded out by this kind of thing, but buying used clothes is pretty dang amazing. You can score some great secondhand fashions for really cheap at places like Poshmark and Threadup. Just wash the clothes and you’re good to go.
  • Rent your outfit. If you’re only going to wear it once, why not rent it? Hop online at Rent the Runway to find the perfect designer dress at a fraction of the cost.
  • Invest in a re-wearable outfit. Snag a little black dress that makes you feel good, and commit to making this dress your go-to for the long haul (aka it’s the outfit that you’ll wear to all the weddings you’ll be going to for the next two years). Bonus: Buy an outfit that’s easy to wear again and can be worn to work or other festive events.

How to Save Money on Wedding Gifts 

Ah, the wedding gift. What should be simple (giving a gift to the happy couple) can get pretty out of hand fast. But buying wedding gifts shouldn’t cause all kinds of drama and strap you for cash. Save your sanity and some money by keeping it simple with these tips:

  • Go in on a big gift with a group. Call up a few friends or family members and combine your money to purchase a more expensive wedding-registry item, like a set of pots and pans or nice silverware.
  • Buy something not on the registry. Yeah, we’re going rogue here. Look, a lot of people think you can’t gift something that isn’t on the wedding registry—and that’s just not true. Don’t go too far off the rails here, but a nice, personalized gift with the couple’s last name will work just fine. Check out Etsy for unique gifts that are cheaper than most registry items.
  • Give cash. Cash is the use-anywhere-on-anything gift that keeps on giving. By gifting cash, you won’t feel pressured to spend beyond what you can afford. And trust us—it doesn’t matter what the amount is, the newlyweds will thank you. Everyone can always use cash.
  • Give just one gift and make it count. If it isn’t in your budget to buy a gift for every shower, bachelor/bachelorette party and the wedding, it’s okay to spend your money on only one gift. Seriously.

Can You Afford to Attend a Wedding? 

Here’s how you’ll know: Check your budget. It’s really that simple.

Your monthly budget shows your biggest money priorities and is the road map to help you get there. Maybe you have some big savings goals, plan to pay off debt, or need to build up your emergency fund. If you can attend a wedding on a budget without throwing a wrench in your money plan, go for it! But if you run the numbers and realize things just won’t work out—don’t worry—there are ways to bow out gracefully.

What to Do if You Have to Decline a Wedding Invitation 

Sometimes, attending a wedding will still stretch your budget too far, and you just can’t make it work. You don’t want to hurt the bride and groom’s feelings, of course. Believe it or not, you can say no and still keep your relationship intact. Here’s how:

  • Pick up the phone. Make your response personal by calling up the bride or groom to say you’re sorry you can’t be there and wish them well.
  • Include a gift card with your RSVP. If you plan to send a gift, go ahead and grab a card at one of the stores on the couple’s registry to smooth over your “sorry, can’t make it” response.
  • Make dinner plans after the wedding. Offer to host the bride and groom in your home when they return from their destination wedding or honeymoon.
  • Plan a Zoom or FaceTime chat. Don’t live near the happy couple? No prob. Make plans to chat on Zoom or FaceTime to hear all about their wedding.

Attending a Wedding on a Budget: How to Make It Work 

If you looked things over and decided you can afford to attend a wedding on a budget—hooray! But before you start buying the latest kitchen gadget off their wedding registry, make sure you get your budget ready to save up for all the wedding costs. Remember, it’s totally possible to attend a wedding on a budget. You just have to know what your spending goal is and give yourself enough time to save up.

So, first things first, when a save-the-date card or wedding invitation hits your mailbox, add a new category to your EveryDollar budget. Name the new group something like “Smith Family Wedding” and figure out how you’ll fill the category by asking yourself these questions:

1. How much money can you afford to spend on the whole wedding—from gift to outfit to travel? Or how much are you willing to spend? 

Between travel, your outfit, hair, shoes, and budgeting for the wedding gift itself—costs can add up real fast. If you know that you don’t want to spend more than $300, set that budget in stone and then work backward from there.

2. How many months until the wedding takes place? 

This will help you know how much moolah to set aside each month and how long you have to meet your goal. If you have six months until the October wedding date, then you can work backward to figure out how much to save from each paycheck until then. But remember, you might have to buy things before the actual wedding date (like gifts, travel and hotel rooms), so be sure you have enough money saved up to cover those expenses that hit sooner.

3. Will you need to travel? If so, should you drive or fly? Will you need to book a hotel room or get a rental car? Do you need find a pet sitter? 

Treat this like you would any other trip you’d take. You can prep way ahead of time and find someone to feed your cat while you’re gone that weekend. Look at the cost of road tripping with friends versus buying a single airplane ticket for yourself. Maybe you can stay with family or friends when you get there instead of having to spring for a hotel room.

4. Will you need to take time off work? Do you need to hire a babysitter to watch the kids? Will you take an Uber or Lyft home? 

Even if the wedding is close to you, there are still extra costs to think about here. Hiring a sitter to watch the kids while you and your spouse dance the night away will cost you some dollars. And make sure you put in for the PTO early so your time off is locked down.

5. Are there any costs you’re forgetting? 

Be sure to include all the shower and wedding gifts, new clothes, travel costs, hotel accommodations and anything else you can think of. As the wedding gets closer and you start shelling out for some of these things on your list, be sure you’re tracking your spending to keep everything in check, and don’t be scared to make tweaks where you need to.

Attending a wedding on a budget doesn’t have to get overwhelming and complicated. Remember, you’re celebrating love here! So make it easy for yourself to keep that joyful spirit up by creating your budget with EveryDollar. You can build your wedding guest spending right into your regular monthly budget and be all set by the time the wedding gets here.


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Ramsey Solutions

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Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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