If you’re in your 30s, you probably don’t need us to tell you that 2022 is the biggest year of weddings since the early 1980s. Chances are you have more than a few invitations already magneted to your fridge. Since many couples delayed their nuptials from 2020 and 2021, they’re now saying ‘I do’ this year, along with all the newly engaged duos, too. Whew. And while you may be super excited to celebrate your friends and family, attending one wedding after another adds up fast. Before you RSVP ‘yes’ to everything, it’s essential to understand the true cost of being a guest. If there are big days you simply can’t miss, you can put your favorite saving strategies to work to cut back on costs.
Consider this your 101 guide to attending weddings in the modern era:
How much does it cost to be a guest?
Snigdha Kumar, personal finance expert and head of product operations at Digit, knows a thing or two about attending weddings. She’s been to more than she can count, and in one year, she attended six. She recently went to a wedding in New York and discovered so many hidden costs: “You spend on travel, accommodation, gifts, that new hot dress, new shoes, accessories, the wedding gift,” she shares. “And if you add all of these up, depending on where the wedding is being held, you can easily spend up to $1,500 or more.”
Here is a rough breakdown of how the costs add up:
- Flights: $200-$500, depending on where the wedding is located. If you’re attending an international destination wedding, you can expect to pay up to $1,000 for your flight during peak summer months.
- Lodging: In most cases, you’ll need to spend two nights at a hotel or an Airbnb, likely around $150-350, depending on how fancy is the wedding accommodation. Hotel blocks organized by the couple sometimes bring costs down, but not always significantly.
- Transportation to the venue: If the happy couple doesn’t provide transportation, you can easily spend $50-$150 on taxis, ride sharing or car rentals.
- Gifts: You can expect to pay $100-300, depending on how many people from your party are attending the wedding. AKA: if you and your plus one go together, custom says you give a more expensive gift.
- Wedding attire: $80-200 if you buy something new to show off.
- Hair and makeup: If you’re in the bridal party, this will usually run you $100-200.
- Bachelorette party, engagement party and wedding shower: If you’re in the wedding party or a close friend of the couple, you’ll probably get invites to all of these events leading up to the big day. These costs range dramatically, but you can easily spend upwards of $2,000 or more when a wedding requires travel.
READ MORE: 6 Financial Benefits Of Eloping
Be proactive as soon as you receive the save-the-date
Before founding her company, Whimsy Soul, Kama Harms was a professional wedding photographer for six years. During this time, she photographed 27 ceremonies in a single year, so she has seen it all: the good, the bad — and the expensive. She recommends being proactive and starting to save money as soon as you know about the wedding. And while save-the-dates are traditionally sent out four to six months before the big day (which may be enough time for you to budget) if you know for certain you’ll be attending, ask your friend to let you know as soon as they know the location and date, possibly giving you 7-9 months to set aside funding.
“This way, you can have much more time to monitor flight prices and hotel room trends and book your travel at the best time for you and your budget,” Harms says.
Resist the urge to shop (for yourself)
Though it’s tempting to purchase a new outfit for each wedding you attend, shopping for yourself can become an unnecessary expense, says Lauren Anastasio, CFP, the director of financial advice at Stash. “Just because you’ll have your picture taken doesn’t mean you need a new outfit for each wedding you attend. Assuming you’re not the bride, chances are not everyone will remember what you wore, and you can get more mileage out of your cocktail attire,” she reminds.
Also, if you’re not in the bridal party, you can probably skip a visit to the salon. “Consider doing some of your personal care yourself,” she says. “You may prefer to get a blowout or a mani/pedi when you know you have a special occasion coming up, but if you’re on a budget, these are things you can do on your own. You may not feel as pampered, but you’ll feel great about the savings.”
Split travel costs if you can.
If you can drive and it is cheaper to hit the road than board a plane, consider it. Unless the wedding is in your current zip code, you’ll likely have to travel to attend. However, the most significant way you can save on this expense is by buddying up with another wedding guest or couple, says Kendall Clayborne, CFP at SoFi. You can drive together. “You can split the drive, gas and parking costs among each other,” she continues. “This can be a significant savings tactic, especially compared to the cost of flying.”
What about lodging? If the wedding venue is relatively close to a friend or family member’s house, you can always ask them if you can crash for a night or two or book an Airbnb property since sometimes, hotel rooms are more expensive, she adds. “If you can find a suitable rental property and split the cost with another family member or friends, you can really cut down on the overall travel costs of the wedding,” she explains. “When considering this option, book it as early as possible to take advantage of the best rate.”
Buy the wedding gift ASAP
As with most things, the early bird gets the worm — or, ahem, the first pick of the registry. Once the couple sends their save-the-date with registry details, or publicizes their website, go ahead and purchase the gift that best fits your budget, recommends Julia Pham, a wealth advisor at Halbert Hargrove. “Wait too long, and you may be stuck picking between the random soup ladle and expensive espresso machine,” she says.
If you would like to get the couple a big-ticket item off their registry, consider asking other guests to go in on it as a group gift: “You may even save some money depending on how big your group is, and the couple will be happy to receive something that may be out of range for one person to afford,” she adds.
Extend the destination wedding trip
Destination weddings are the priciest. They usually require a long flight, an expensive lodging booking at a resort, and well, they need more time away from work. However, if you do decide to attend, try to figure out if you can parlay it into an extended vacation for your family, recommends Tammy Trenta, CFP, CTC, CEXP, the founder and CEO of Family Financial. “This can be a smart way to save on airfare and additional hotel costs,” she says. And if you’re already making the long journey, you might as well enjoy the landscape while you’re there.
It’s Okay To Sit One Out
In case you need permission: you don’t have to attend every wedding you’re invited to. And you don’t have to say ‘yes’ each time you’re asked to be in the wedding party. Before you RSVP, think carefully about the importance of attending, says Allie Cunningham, the founder and owner of Set it Down. “If you are not in the wedding party or they are not on your top 10 friend list, consider not going,” she says. It’s a method she’s used herself to cut down on wedding costs. As a general rule, if she’s not in the wedding, she doesn’t attend.
“This can be an extremely hard decision, especially is you are worried your friendship may take a punch. But the reality is, if you say ‘yes’ or move things around to attend every person’s wedding, you are in for a very expensive wedding season,” she says.
Don’t be afraid to decline politely, send a gift off the registry, and celebrate your loved ones from afar. Going into debt to attend a wedding is never, ever worth it.
READ MORE ON HERMONEY:
- How To Say ‘No’ To A Wedding Invitation
- How To Choose The Best (And Most Affordable Wedding Venue)
- The 9 Ways To Blow Your Wedding Budget And How To Avoid It
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