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How to Attend a Wedding on a Budget

This year, Prince Harry and Princess-to-be Meghan Markle will make their way to St. George’s Chapel in view of more than 2,600 onlookers.¹ Yes, mate, another royal wedding is upon us!

Okay, so maybe you’re not one of the lucky few to make that guest list, but chances are you’ll find yourself doing the electric slide a time or two this summer.

And while the high costs of getting married continue to rise, we don’t often chat about how much guests spend just to be a part of the festivities. Attending a wedding isn’t cheap!

So we thought we’d spread some love today by sharing a few tips and tricks to help you save money this wedding season. Plus, we’ll talk about how to graciously decline an invitation when you need to. Yep, we’re here to help you keep bridezilla, groomzilla and budgetzilla at bay.

And if you’re currently planning a wedding, we’ve got you covered with expert advice from Rachel Cruze on how to create that perfect day on a budget.

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

The bride and groom aren’t the only ones susceptible to cold feet. If anything makes us want to hitch up our tuxedo pants and run back down the aisle, it’s this statistic:

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The average wedding guest spends $1,386 on the big day.²

You read that right: Guest. Ever hear someone say, “I always cry at weddings!” Now you know why!

One study found that millennials in particular spend around $600 per wedding event, meaning the numbers add up fast with multiple showers, bachelor or bachelorette parties, and other wedding-related festivities.³

Weddings offer an excuse to get dressed up and connect with old friends in a setting that’s both fun and festive—all while encouraging a new marriage. Sounds like a good time to us!

Still, you may not have room in your budget for the typical wedding-guest expenditure. Or maybe you’d just rather spend your hard-earned money another way. Whatever the case, let’s see how we can save together!

How to Spend Less Money as a Wedding Guest

Let’s take a moment to consider our role as guests at a wedding. We’re there to bear witness as the bride and groom exchange vows. If there’s also dinner, dancing and cake—that’s a welcome bonus!

Now let’s think about the vows or promises we’ve made to others and ourselves—namely the promise to take care of our own household.

All of this to say: Unless you’re the sole witness at an upcoming wedding, you should consider your past promises before shelling out lots of money to watch new promised being made.

How to Save Money on Wedding Travel

Nearly half of all wedding guests take a flight to reach the venue. And if you’re not flying, you may be driving. So how can you save on a trip that requires you to go out of town at a specific time? A few ideas:

  • 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.
  • Make the most of your trip. Sounds counterintuitive, 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?
  • Skip the shower and other parties. Travelling for a bridal shower, bachelorette party and bridal tea will get pricey. Be selective about which parties you’ll intend (if any) to ensure you can make it to the big day.

How to Save Money on Wedding Clothes

Most of the wedding invitations you receive don’t come with a stipulation that all guests must buy a new dress or outfit. But, if we’re honest, it sure can feel that way. Resist the urge to drop loads of cash on a one-time wear but still feel stylish by trying out one of the tips below:

  • 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.
  • Rent the runway. Hop online to find the perfect designer dress at a fraction of the cost, because now you can borrow instead of buy. Have a friend or family member your size? Even better! See if you can borrow formal wear or trade accessories to mix up your wardrobe.
  • If you must buy a new outfit, invest in THE outfit. Snag a little black dress that makes you feel classy and confident. Commit to making this dress your go-to in the foreseeable future. Or if you need to buy a suit or dressier clothes for a wedding, make sure they’re versatile and can be worn to work or other occasions.

How to Save Money on Wedding Gifts

Ah, the wedding gift. If you ever doubt the ethical controversies of this one subject, simply visit any advice column and you’ll see: Wedding gifts cause all kinds of drama. 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, a set of pots and pans, or pretty silverware.
  • Give cash. Cash is the use-anywhere-on-anything gift that keeps on giving. By giving cash you won’t feel pressured to spend beyond what you can afford. And trust us—regardless of the amount, the newlyweds will thank you.
  • Give just one gift and make it count. If it isn't in your budget to buy a gift for every shower and the wedding, it's okay to spend your money on only one gift that’s really special.

Can You Afford to Attend a Wedding? Here’s How You’ll Know:

Check your budget. It’s that simple.

When done right, your monthly budget represents your biggest money priorities. Maybe you have some savings goals, plan to pay off debt, or need to build up your emergency fund. If you can attend the wedding without majorly disrupting your money priorities, go for it! But don’t forget to make room for it in the budget.

How to Factor Attending a Wedding Into Your Budget

When a save-the-date card or official invitation hits your mailbox, it’s time to add a new category to your EveryDollar budget. You can do this by scrolling to the bottom of your budget and selecting “+ Add New Budget Group.”

Name the new group something like “Smith Family Wedding” and decide how you’ll fill the category by answering the following questions:

  1. How many months until the wedding takes place? This will help you determine how much to set aside each month.
  2. 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 to arrange for a pet sitter?
  3. If the wedding is nearby, there are still additional costs to consider. Will you need to take time off work? Do you need to hire a babysitter? Will you take an Uber or Lyft home?
  4. How much money can you afford to spend on the whole wedding—from gift to outfit to travel? Or how much are willing to spend?

Be sure to include applicable line items like shower and wedding gifts, new clothes, travel costs, hotel accommodations, and anything else you can think of. Decide how much money you’ll need at the time of the wedding and how much you should save each month to reach your goal. Then track your spending to keep everything in check.

What to Do if You Must Decline a Wedding Invitation

Sometimes attending a wedding will still stretch your budget too far. You don’t want to hurt your friend or family member and that makes sense. But you can say no but keep your relationship intact. Try these tips:

  • Pick up the phone. Make your response personal by calling up the bride or groom to give your regrets, congratulations and well wishes.
  • 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 no.
  • 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.

Do you have a big day for a happy couple on the horizon? Build your wedding-guest spending right into the budget with EveryDollar!

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

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.

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