I entered my late 20s just as 2 years' worth of pandemic-delayed weddings were back on. And I had a partner with a long list of friends ready to tie the knot. In 2022, I was invited to 10 weddings. Don't worry—I only attended 8.
Maybe your mailbox was as stuffed as mine. There were more weddings in the US in 2022 than in any other year since 1984.1 All that partying is eventually expected to slow to pre-pandemic levels, but a "slow" year for me and many of my friends still involves 2 to 4 weddings.
New research from Bankrate shows the average wedding guest plans to spend $611 per wedding including travel, accommodations, attire, and gifts.2 If I spent that much on every wedding I attended over the last few years, I'd be broke and resenting the newlyweds who got me there.
There are a lot of tricks to spend less on weddings already out there, and I've taken advantage of so many of them—and come up with some savvy savings tips of my own.
You've heard: Set a budget for each event
But have you considered: creating a wedding-specific savings account?
A general budget for each event is great. Saving specifically for these parties is better. I set up a direct deposit of $50 per paycheck to a new savings account labeled "weddings." This is a game-changing way for me to gradually build up cash while visually separating this money from my other savings goals.
Choose the account type and deposit amount that's right for you, factoring in how much you can potentially grow your funds and how easily you can access them. The key for me has been to automate transfers, so I don't have to remember to set aside savings.
You've heard: Chip in with friends for gifts off the registry
But have you considered: offering your skills as gifts?
I love tag-teaming a big registry item with friends to save some dough. But when I got invited to my first destination wedding where I'd need to spend most of my budget on travel, I gifted my time instead of my money.
I dusted off my DSLR camera (I was an amateur photographer in college) and offered to shoot my friend's engagement photos. It was a win-win: She and her fiancé felt more comfortable posing for photos in front of me, and I gifted an hour of my time, which contributed meaningfully to their big day. They used the photos for their invite and wedding website, and I framed a pic from our shoot for the bridal shower.
Not a photographer? You could instead offer to:
- Design the couple's save-the-dates and/or invitations
- Build their wedding website
- Lend your home or yard for an engagement party or bridal shower
- Do the bridal party's hair, makeup, or nails
- Craft their place cards or seating chart
- Assemble bouquets, boutonnieres, and/or centerpieces
- Bake treats for their reception dessert table or favors
- Run a photo or video booth—you just need a laptop with a camera, a fun backdrop, and some on-theme props
Couples end up spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on these key elements, so they'd likely be grateful if you could spare them from paying another pro.
You've heard: Rent or borrow formalwear
But have you considered: investing in a reusable pair of dancing shoes?
Spending as little as possible on wedding-guest dresses is one of my strengths. More savings come from my footwear choice. I've worn the exact same pair of black strappy heels to all 20 recent weddings I've attended (OK, minus this one beach wedding in the Bahamas).
They've held up on every surface, from grass to gravel, and I've closed down many a parquet dance floor in them. They originally cost $75—that's less than $4 per wear. Buying a new set of shoes to go with each outfit can get expensive, so hunt for a neutral, comfortable pair to wear and rewear.
You've heard: Ditch the hotel and rent a place with friends instead
But have you considered: skipping the overnight stay altogether?
Many of us have gotten creative with overnight accommodations. I've split a house rental with 18 friends, shared hotel beds, and stayed with family.
It was so much fun spending extra time with friends, especially ones I might only see on these special occasions. But last year, my partner and I started driving to or calling a rideshare service for weddings that were under an hour away. The accommodation costs just weren't worth it. This can easily save thousands over the years. If you carpool with other guests—even just one way, perhaps with people who are spending the night, and take a rideshare home—you can save more.
You've heard: Use credit card points to pay for destination weddings
But have you considered: turning it into your vacation for the year?
If you're invited to a wedding across the state or out of the country, consider making a vacation out of it. Do you want to spend your hard-earned points and miles only for a 5-hour party? Tack on that PTO and choose your own adventure. You may be able to use a discounted guest rate at the hotel for days before or after the party, and some of your meals are covered with the wedding dinner, plus perhaps a rehearsal dinner and post-wedding brunch.
Weddings have brought me to great places I wouldn't have thought to visit including Seattle, Washington, DC, upstate New York, Hawaii, and the Bahamas. Using my credit card points and miles made these trips possible, and staying a couple extra nights made using them more worth it.
Bonus tip: Don't be afraid to say no
Attending weddings and all the related events (engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelor/ette parties) costs time, energy, and so much money. Give yourself permission to decline invites.
Not sure where to draw the line? Consider your relationship with the couple and other attendees. Are you close enough to go out to dinner together? Will you know anyone else at the event? If either of the answers is "no," it could be a good one to skip.
If you decline an invite, consider sending a heartfelt note and small gift thanking them for including you and wishing them well. Kindness counts.