Easy Ways to Save Money as a Wedding Guest
My husband and I have eight weddings to attend throughout this summer and fall. That’s eight shower gifts, eight wedding gifts and almost as many hotel and car rental bookings.
Oh — and I’m in three of them. That’s three bridesmaid dresses and three bachelorette parties to attend and help plan.
Please don’t get me wrong — I love and cherish each one of these friends, and I’m honored to be a part of the wedding for those friends who have asked me. The thing is … weddings can really add up, even when you’re just a guest (and especially if you’re a bridesmaid!). In an effort to not blow my entire savings account on weddings this year, I thought I’d do a little research to figure out how I can be as prepared as possible for the costs, as well as potentially cut back on the spending and still be as giving to each of these couples as I’d like to be.
1. Plan Ahead
It might seem cheesy to input your friends’ wedding information into an Excel spreadsheet (how boring!), but trust me, planning this way will really help you out in the long run. Once I received save the dates for the weddings we’re invited to this year — and once I was asked to be in the wedding party for a handful of them, as well — I immediately started an Excel doc creatively named ‘2014 Weddings’. On it I included the following items: The Couple, bachelorette/bachelor party amounts (estimates are fine in the beginning), shower gift amount, hotel amount, wedding gift amount, dress amount, transportation amount and then a column for whether or not these items have already been paid for.
You won’t know all of these amounts up front, but as soon as you do you can fill in the appropriate columns and get a good idea for how much you’ll be spending throughout the wedding season. I filled in all the columns with my best guesses and then divided that number by how many months I have to save up for them. That gave me a good estimate for how much I’ll be spending each month on these weddings so I don’t feel blindsided when the time comes to fork over that extra $350 for a weekend stay for a bachelorette party in Montauk.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Rent
With so many weddings on the horizon, I’ve pretty much given up the idea of wearing a new dress to each one. Lucky for me, sites like Rent the Runway allow me to borrow awesome designer dresses at great discounts so I can still look stylish, even when wearing the same cocktail dress three different times. (Also consider raiding friends’ closets!) It’s always possible to style up the same dress for different occasions with different accessories and shoes.
If you’re in a wedding and you’ve been given a color to run with in any style you like, consider taking into account the other events you have going on this year. For example, my sister is in a wedding in October where the bride has asked her bridal party to pick out a dress (pending approval by her, of course) of a similar color theme. With her husband’s holiday party and another wedding she’ll be attending a month later in mind, my sister picked out a dress that she can easily get at least three wears out of for the rest of the year.
3. Offer Up Your Services
Are you secretly an awesome calligrapher? Does the bride love your baking skills, or has the groom always marveled at your photographic genius? Remember the fact that your friends are probably trying to cut back on some wedding costs as well, and consider offering up your amazing wedding-related skills as your gift to your friends. That’s really a win-win situation for everyone involved.
4. Split the Costs
Don’t be afraid to ask the bride or groom for friends of theirs who might be looking to save a little cash by carpooling or sharing a hotel room, as well. A couple years ago I considered completely bailing on my cousin’s wedding when I couldn’t find a car to rent for less than $400 to get me there. Instead, I asked her if she happened to have any friends in the area who might not mind carpooling and splitting the cost of gas. Not only did I save a little money by doing this, I had some super fun entertainment on the ride up and back, as well.
5. Be Registry Smart
If you know you’d like to get your friend something off her registry for her shower, be sure to purchase your item as soon as possible so you don’t get stuck with the most expensive thing on there.
6. Break the Mold
When it comes to booking a hotel for that special weekend, if you’re not in the bridal party you might want to consider booking a room at a different hotel than those your friends recommend. Most couples these days get group discounts on blocks of rooms at the hotel where their ceremonies are being performed or at other places in the area, but it doesn’t hurt to check out deals on other, perhaps cheaper, hotels in the vicinity. As long as you don’t mind driving a bit after the party, you could save quite a bit by shopping around. (You might even consider renting a house from a site like Airbnb or VRBO if you can find some people to go in on the cost with you.)
7. Just Say No
While you certainly wouldn’t want to skip out on your best friend’s wedding, or the wedding of the cousin you grew up with, the truth of the matter is you probably will occasionally be invited to weddings of people you just aren’t that close with. In the case of a distant relative or an elementary school acquaintance you haven’t seen in years, it really is okay to respond no to a wedding invite, especially if it’s an especially hectic wedding season for you. Wedding etiquette would suggest sending a wedding gift to any wedding you’re invited to — whether you attend or not — but at least you’ll potentially be cutting way down on travel and wedding prep costs.
Cheryl Lock is a personal finance writer at and former editor at LearnVest and Parents magazine. When she’s not writing, she enjoys travel, which she blogs about at wearywanderer.wordpress.com.