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How to Attend a Wedding on a Budget

Want to know the latest 2023 wedding trend predictions? Picture wedding guests in traditional attire, over-the-top moments and big retro vibes.1

Okay, if you’re starting to add up the costs of participating in a wedding like that—plus travel and the gift and the showers and the parties before—you might start feeling a little (or a lot) of money stress. But there’s good news. You can learn how to attend a wedding on a budget.

Then you can focus on the good stuff—like brushing up on your electric slide dance skills, getting dressed up, and connecting with old friends.

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

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

The average price people spend to attend a wedding is $460—but that number is as low as $270 if the wedding doesn’t require travel and jumps to $1,270 if the guest has to fly somewhere.2

You read that right. Sheesh! Ever hear someone say “I always cry at weddings”? That big price tag might be why.

Is It Even Possible to Attend a Wedding on a Budget? 

Let’s bust two myths right now: One, it’s definitely possible to host a beautiful wedding on a budget. And two, it’s totally doable to attend a wedding on a budget—and still have a fantastic time! Let’s dig in to how you can do just that.

How to Save Money on Wedding Travel

While some wedding guests hit the jackpot and don’t have to travel (lucky!), a lot of people have to fly or drive to an out-of-state wedding. Here’s how you can save if the wedding you’re going to has you hitting the friendly skies or open road:

  • Split travel expenses with a friend. Share the cost of gas, a rental car and a room with one or two friends (even three for major savings!).
  • Travel on the cheap days. The cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays and Wednesdays.3 Try to work your trip around those cheaper dates if you can.
  • Look for deals. Research travel hacks that will save you money before you book anything at all.
  • Skip the bridal shower and other parties. Traveling for a bridal shower, bachelorette party and bridal tea will get pricey. Be picky about which parties you go to (if any) to guarantee you can afford to make it to the big day.
  • Make the most of your trip. Of course we'd never encourage you to spend more money, but if you can combine your vacation with a wedding invitation, go for it! It might feel like you’re spending more overall, but you’ll actually save money in the long run by only spending money on some things once instead of twice—like the pet sitter or babysitter and all those transportation costs. (Plus, you can make the most of your vacation days at work! Win-win.) But only do this if it makes sense in your budget.

How to Save Money on Wedding Clothes

Let’s be real: Most wedding invitations don’t say 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 new shoes or a new accessory to give your look some fresh 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. Your sister, your best friend, your roommate—someone is bound to have a nice outfit collecting dust in their closet 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. Whether you prefer online or in-store shopping, you can score some great secondhand fashions for really cheap. 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? There are plenty of online stores where you can find the perfect designer dress at a fraction of the cost.
  • Shop your closet. Like we mentioned, one of the 2023 wedding trend predictions is for guests to wear traditional attire. That's good news! It means you can dust off that classic black dress hanging in the back of your closet and wear it proudly. Wedding guests should be paying more attention to the bride and groom's clothing anyway!

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 leave you strapped for cash.

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Every savings goal starts with a budget. Create yours today with EveryDollar.

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. A lot of people think you can’t gift something that isn’t on the wedding registry—but 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. 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 or bachelorette party, and the wedding, it’s okay to spend your money on only one gift. Seriously.

How to Tell if You Can 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 goals, 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. But 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 gift 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 problem! 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 learn how to save for big expenses.

So, first things first, when a save-the-date card or wedding invitation hits your mailbox, start setting aside a little money every month. By the time the big event appears on your calendar, you’ll have enough money saved up to pay for everything with cash.

This type of financial planning works so well, it even has its own name—it’s called a sinking fund. Here’s how to create one for wedding guest expenses.

The first step is to add a new category to your EveryDollar budget. Name the new category something like “Smith Family Wedding.” Then fill out the category by asking yourself these questions:

1. What are all the expenses involved?

Between travel, your outfit, hair, shoes and the wedding gift itself, costs can add up real fast. Make sure you put everything in your budget.

Here's a list of common wedding guest expenses:

  • Airfare
  • Lodging
  • Babysitter or pet sitter
  • Wedding gift
  • Local transportation
  • Clothes
  • Food
  • Incidentals (taxes, tips, etc.)

2. How much are you willing to spend?

Ask yourself how much money you can afford to spend on the wedding overall. Be honest with yourself here.

If the list of expenses is too high, ask yourself if anything on that list is a want and not a need for you to attend the wedding. Cut anything from your list of expenses that isn’t really needed, or think of ways to cut back on that cost.

For example, can you carpool or get a hotel close to the venue so you don’t have to rent a car? Is renting an Airbnb with a kitchen where you can stock some thrifty groceries cheaper than a hotel and lots of restaurants?  

Once you’ve whittled your overall expense amount down to a sensible number, the next step will be a piece of cake.

3. How many months until the wedding takes place?

Now for the math part. This is how you’ll set up your sinking fund so you can start saving up for the big day. Don't worry—it’s easy!

All you do is take the total amount you need to save (from steps 1 and 2) and divide it by the number of months until the event. So, let’s say you need to save $500 for a wedding that’s five months away. Set aside $100 each month. You’ll reach your $500 goal right on time. Easy peasy.

How to Attend a Wedding on a Budget—With a Budget!

Attending a wedding on a budget doesn’t have to get overwhelming and complicated. Remember, you’re celebrating love here! Plan ahead. Budget ahead. And don’t be afraid to say no to things—for the couple or for yourself!

Speaking of budgets, EveryDollar makes it super simple to prep for all your wedding guest spending right in your regular monthly budget. You’ll create that sinking fund in the app and be cash-ready to pay for the happy event and everything that goes with it.

Cheers to the couple, to your budget, and to many more successful money goals!

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author


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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