Here comes the bride…and the bills. Planning a wedding can be extremely expensive, not only for the bride and groom but for their guests as well! Guests often end up spending a lot of money attending a couple’s big day.
This Saturday is the first day in June, the busiest month for weddings. It’s almost inevitable that someone you know is getting married next month or sometime this summer. I hope, for your wallet’s sake, that it’s only one. A spending and saving tracker survey by American Express found that the average guest expects to spend $539 per wedding this year. Whoa that’s a lot of money to have to shell out. The lion’s share of that number will most likely go to travel, lodging and of course a gift for the happy couple.
If that number is a bit out of reach for your budget or you have multiple weddings you are attending this summer, read these helpful tips to reduce the cost of being a guest.
As soon as you get the wedding announcement in the mail you probably feel elation and are excited to attend. You should also feel a time crunch. Invitations typically go out six to eight weeks before the big day. As soon as you get it, look at your travel options. If the wedding is too far away to drive book a ticket immediately. Prices for flights are cheapest about three months out. After that they rise steadily until three weeks before when prices dip. I’m not trying to encourage you to wait till the week or two before the wedding to book your flight, that’s too risky. By then most seats have been snatched up. Instead book your flight as early as possible to get the cheapest ticket possible.
You might also want to consider driving instead of flying. A lot of times people incorrectly assume flying is cheaper than driving if the destination is thousands of miles away. That’s not necessarily true. The price of the ticket isn’t the only cost you should look at when deciding whether to drive or fly. You’ve got to take into account the money you’ll need to shell out for parking at the airport while you’re traveling and the added cost of renting a car while in town for the wedding. Driving will always be cheaper if you can carpool with other guests and split the cost of gas.
Planning ahead will also help you save money on lodging. Many brides and grooms make arrangements with local hotels so their guests can get discounted rooms. But you may be able to find cheaper rates at other hotels in town. Go online as soon as you get the announcement to see what other hotels are in the area.
Another alternative is to stay one night at the hotel the bride and groom have arranged and other nights at cheaper hotels in the area. Of course only do this if you have transportation to get you to the wedding and back.
If you know you’ll need a flight, rental car and hotel save money by booking all three together. A few studies have been done over the years that prove booking these all at the same time, through the same provider saves money over booking them separately. Try kayak.com or airbnb.com to find combo deals.
You might feel that trying to save money on a gift for the happy couple is in bad taste. You don’t want to cheap out on a gift for your best friend or relative. Thankfully you don’t have to break the bank to let them know you care. Most engaged couple’s set up gift registries for their upcoming nuptials at brand name stores. You might be able to find some of the things on their registry at less expensive stores. Print out a copy of their registry and take it to discount stores like T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s or another outlet store. Most likely you’ll be able to find the same, brand name item for less at these stores.
If you can’t find anything from their registry at discounted stores try Google Shopper. Go to the store where they’ve registered and scan the bar code of an item from their list. The app will pull up other stores in the area that carry that exact same item and the price they are selling it for.
Traveling and buying a gift do not mix well. It’s not easy to fit a set of dishes or blender from the couple’s registry in your suitcase. Most likely they would break or cause you to pay extra in baggage fees for going over the weight limit. Instead try to buy the item once you get to the destination. Before your flight check out where the store’s in town are located and narrow your focus to one or two gifts. That way you won’t spend too much time after you’ve arrived hunting down a gift.
It’s also ok to split a gift with several other guests. When money is tight find a gift on the registry that is more than you can afford on your own, but affordable enough if you split it with a few other guests. This way the bride and groom get an expensive gift that they may otherwise not have gotten and you keep your costs down.
Expenses can really add up if you plan to attend any of the pre-wedding festivities. There are the bachelor and bachelorette parties, the wedding shower, and engagement party that you may possibly be invited to. Each of which require you to throw down some cash for. Don’t feel like you have to attend them all or give a gift each time. It’s ok to decline an invitation and say you simply can’t make it to one or all of these parties. If you feel bad you can make it up to them by taking them out to lunch, it’s a much cheaper option and you still get the chance to bond with your friend or relative.
The next time you receive a wedding invitation in the mail, don’t freak out. Getting invited doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll go broke or are headed for a financial meltdown. There are always cheaper, less expensive alternatives for each pricey part of attending a wedding.
Keeping Money in Your Pocket,