5 ways to budget for a wedding as a guest
By Jackie Lam
Reviewed by Kimberly Rotter
Jun 07, 2023
Read time: 3 min
Summer is prime time for lovebirds to tie the knot. If you’re invited to a wedding (or two), your budget for this year might already be spoken for. As soon as you confirm your RSVP to the invite, it’s easy to get excited about planning for the big day.
Weddings can cost a lot. No surprise there. What’s shocking is how much it costs guests to attend. How much? An average of almost $500. Yikes, that’s a lot for one day! If you’re staying local, expect to spend a little less. If you need to hop on a plane to join the fun, your average cost is more than $1,200.
Before you max out on your credit cards and set yourself back with D-E-B-T, let's talk about 5 ways you can save to be a wedding guest now:
1. Start saving early
We're talking ASAP. Ideally, as soon as you get the engagement announcement, and definitely when you receive the Save the Date, start stashing cash in your "insert name of wedding here" fund. If you have one, don’t raid your emergency fund. Your bestie’s wedding is not an emergency.
Here are some expenses you might need to factor in:
Hotel or vacation home rental
Transportation to and from the wedding
Childcare (if you'll be away and don't want to bring the kidlets)
Do your research to figure out how much to shell out for travel-related expenses. Then, automate your savings if possible.
Set periodic milestones for your savings goals. That's because if you're traveling, you'll need to book your flights and accommodations early. The wedding gift and your outfit could be purchased later.
2. Share expenses
If you have friends and family attending the event, look for someone to share expenses with. Maybe you can carpool and share the cost of gas if the wedding is not local but close enough to drive to. You can also share a hotel room, or split the cost of a wedding gift.
3. Just say "no" to the extras
Those add-on events around a wedding—think the engagement party, bridal shower, and bachelor or bachelorette party, and activities during the wedding weekend—will ramp up the costs to be a wedding guest. If you’re not paying close attention to your budget, you can easily find yourself spending more than you anticipated. Of course you want to support your friends or family in all their celebrations, but don’t do it at the expense of your bank account. So, be okay politely declining festivities if your budget doesn't allow for it.
It's perfectly OK to opt out or be unavailable. Pick and choose the gatherings that you truly want to be at. Ask yourself, "Do I really want to go? Do I feel like I should go? Can I afford to go?"
4. Borrow, rent, and reinvigorate your outfit
Ask your friends or put up an ISO (“in search of”) post on your local Buy Nothing group. You'll be surprised at how many folks would be more than happy to give or loan an outfit that’ll fit the bill. Or, consider going the rental or thrifting route. Check out platforms like Rent the Runway, Haverdash, and Nuuly. You can get several items sent to you to choose from, for a fraction of the cost of buying just one. Also, try shopping at your local thrift or consignment store for a wedding day look to save money If you're attending multiple weddings this summer, there's no shame in wearing the same dress or suit at more than one event. An easy way to change it up? Swap out your shoes and accessories, such as jewelry, a hat, wrap, cufflinks or ties to change up the style of your outfit.
5. Set a "no travel" rule
If being a guest at an out-of-town wedding will set you back financially, then don't be afraid to politely decline weddings where you'll need to travel. If it's a destination wedding, there might even be an option to attend virtually.
Otherwise, you can send a video message or shoutout on your social feeds the day of. Plus, you can send a wedding gift to show your support. Bonus: Because you aren't going to the wedding, you might have a bit extra to put toward a gift!
Looking for ways to free up cash? The Achieve MoLO app can help you find money left over to put toward these expenses and other financial goals. Or if you have credit card points racked up, try to redeem them for a gift, attire, or travel for the wedding. When it comes to budgeting to be a wedding guest this summer, a bit of planning goes a long way. Crunch the numbers and save as far out as possible, and look for deals and find ways to save.
Jackie is an Achieve contributor. She is an accredited financial coach (AFC®) who has written for Business Insider, BuzzFeed, CNET, USA Today's Blueprint, and others. She coaches artists and freelancers.
Kimberly is Achieve’s senior editor. She is a financial counselor accredited by the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education®, and a mortgage expert for The Motley Fool. She owns and manages a 350-writer content agency.