It’s no secret that weddings are expensive. I fell victim to blowing our wedding budget by failing to prioritise, and I encourage brides to be sensible about their wedding budget, and avoid the temptation to go into debt to pay for their wedding day.
See also: Starting your wedding budget and Why the “average” cost of a wedding is so misleading.
However, while we freely acknowledge how expensive weddings can be for the bride and groom (and often their families), it seems almost tabooo to even consider the price of actually attending their wedding.
The reality though, is that wedding season is expensive for guests as well (and don’t even get us started on being a bridesmaid…). It’s common for all our friends’ weddings to be condensed into a couple of years, and frequently, weddings are almost back-to-back over the summer months, putting some guests at a financial strain.
As Blair’s friends are older than mine (and many of mine are miles away from the aisle), personally, we haven’t had this issue at all, but in talking to friends who are heading to five, six, seven or more weddings in a few months, it’s plain to see that weddings are sending guests broke too.
How much does it actually cost to attend a wedding?
Trying to pin a number on this would be about as helpful as boldly stating the “average” cost of a wedding (i.e. not very helpful), however, it’s certainly costing guests hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in most cases, and the costs can be crippling:
Even if the bride and groom cover everything on the day, many guests still find the costs excessive. While noone wants to be cheap when it comes to their friends’ celebrations, many wedding guests will have to tighten their belts to be able to afford to go to all of their friends’ weddings.
How to Survive Wedding Season Without Going Broke
Don’t miss out on a friend’s special day, you can have your cake and eat it too with just a little forward planning. There are some really easy and practical ways that you can survive wedding season as a guest without going broke.
The first tip will hardly come as a shock… but just like the bride, you need to budget and plan early. Approach the attendance of each wedding as you would organising your own event. As you receive each save-the-date and wedding invitation, start budgeting around them, considering all potential expenses.
Often, you’ll be given the most notice for destination weddings, to give you as much time to plan as possible. Guest lists are typically smaller for overseas weddings, so most guests invited will want to attend their close friend or relative’s nuptials.
Many wedding guests turn overseas destination weddings into a holiday at the same time, thus making the (vast) expense much more justifiable. Given the much higher cost of attending a wedding overseas, often couples do not request wedding gifts, and frequently provide lots of planning assistance to their friends, sometimes even getting a bulk discount on flights or accommodation.
If the couple are a close friend of yours, but not your partner/spouse, consider whether you could go with one of your other girlfriends who’s going, thus cutting costs in half. If you realise early on that you will not be able to attend the wedding, be upfront with the person who invited you. If you can’t attend the wedding at all, perhaps offer to buy them dinner on their return, so you can have your own mini celebration.
Personally, our wedding was in Coromandel. We organised very cheap accommodation for them at the Holiday Park, but with lots of our friends overseas, we did have guests who couldn’t make it. Was I offended? No. Disappointed ? Yes. But I understood. I appreciated her telling me early on and I was able to invite another friend who I was originally unable to due to numbers.
Unfortunately, two other guests who lived in Wellington waited until 10 days before the wedding to let us know that actually, despite their RSVP months ago, they wouldn’t be able to attend… It was too late to invite anyone else (even the seating plan was complete!) and this time we were offended. We haven’t seen them since… unless you count watching her on #MAFS for a few weeks (after they broke up!).
Even where couples aren’t heading offshore for their nuptials, often wedding guests need to book accommodation in the vicinity. The last couple of weekends, I’ve booked wedding accommodation for Waiheke Island and Mt Maunganui and shared a bach/holiday home with other couples, cutting down on expenses there. If that’s not an option, book your hotel early to get a good deal ($40 off Booking.com).
Often, you’ll spend more time away from the house/hotel than at it, between rehearsal dinners, the wedding day itself and the day-after brunch, so you don’t need to splurge on somewhere fancy.
From my dealings with other people in the wedding industry this seems to be the thing that stresses guests out the most.
While it is customary to contribute a gift towards a couple’s future on their wedding day, if it’s already an expensive weekend away for you, and funds are tight, your friends will understand if your gift is modest.
If you want to give a gift but you are unable to afford what you would like to give, If you think about what skills you have. Are you crafty – can you offer to do the cards? Or even offer to put together the wedding photos in an albulm once they are printed. Are you a makeup artist that can offer to do the bridal party makeup? Are you involved in the hospitality industry? A gift does not have to be a tangible item. think outside the square. Recently, a friend of mine went to a wedding where she gave a weekend aways accommodation to her parents amazing flash holiday house as a wedding gifts. Do not let lack of money ruin this part of the celebration.
Even if you don’t have a particular skill or a holiday house, a thoughtful note with a small gift you have hand-picked for the couple will be just as appreciated, and for many couples, it’s your presence they want most.
How else can you cut costs?
- It may be that both the bachelorette party and the wedding is out of town. Consider if you cant afford to do both, can you afford to just attend the wedding?
- In terms of travel, if not accommodation, can you buddy up with another couple or group and drive?
- If you don’t know anyone else going to the wedding just ask the bride or groom – chances are there will be another person in exactly the same boat as you, so ask the bride and groom if they can recommend anyone to travel with, or even stay with.
- While often the couple getting married recommends lodges or accommodation nearby the venue or where they are staying, with the world of air bnb and the like do your research as to what is the cheapest and most sensible way for you to save money.
- If you’re a bride or groom reading this, and you know two people who won’t know anyone else at your wedding, maybe approach them both separately about travelling together or bunking down for accommodation.
Saving Money During Wedding Season
After you have budgeted how much you will need to cover wedding season, start saving well in advance. If your friends have just recently got engaged, you already know there’ll be a couple of weddings next wedding season.
A trick I learned (which you would see in relation to me justifying my wedding dress by cutting my cup of coffee) is treating wedding season like ‘entertainment’. In the weeks before wedding season, cut down on going out to the movies, concerts and going out for expensive dinners. Between bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners and the wedding itself, you will be doing plenty of eating and socialising in the weeks to come. A bit of sacrifice now means more pay off later down the track.
Finally, rent, reuse and recycle (and I’m not talking about the gift here). When considering your outfit/hair and make up – you are not the star of the show. Save your money on hair and makeup and look up some easy makeup and hair tutorials on pinterest or youtube. Borrow a dress from a friend, rent a dress from one of the many places available, or buy a staple item like a plain coloured dress and mix it up between weddings with accessories. Just don’t wear white!
Finally, if your friends are all at a stage when they are probably going to be getting engaged shortly, start putting aside a small amount of money each week (even $5) so that when the time comes you already have a nest egg to start with.
Unfortunately, once you have considered all the costs involved, you may come to the realisation that you can afford to go to all the weddings you are invited to. You must therefore decide whose wedding that you can go to and whose you cannot if your budget does not allow. Weigh up all your relationships and prioritise your invitations. While you will inevitably feel guilty, my personal view is attending weddings shouldn’t make you broke.
What are your tips and tricks to save money when attending weddings? Have I missed out any? I’d love to know what you think x