The snow has melted, the weather is getting warmer, and you know what that means.
Wedding season is coming.
You might have dodged the multiple-destination-weddings bullet this year, but even a few local weddings will represent a not-insignificant portion of your summer spending.
Luckily, if you’re in the thick of the attending-weddings season of your life, there are ways you can plan for wedding attendance to make sure it won’t ruin YOUR financial life.
Yup, I’m talking about building a wedding budget (which you probably thought you didn’t have to do until you were getting married yourself)...
How exactly are you going to handle those wedding-related expenses this year...and every year until your friends stop getting married all the time? Read on.
As soon as you open a piece of mail and are greeted by a smiling photo of the glowing, newly-engaged couple, you know it’s started.
The Save The Date cards are coming.
Luckily, those early-notice cards are the best budgeting tool in your arsenal.
When you open a Save The Date, zero in on the two most important pieces of information on the card:
- the date, and
- the location.
You’ve got your first, and arguably most important, pieces of information to plan how you’re going to afford to attend this wedding (that is, if you plan to RSVP “Yes”).
If the wedding is out of town, this is especially important. Travel costs will be much higher if it’s not a local event. So planning ahead is your new wedding-budget BFF. Figure out how you’ll be getting there and how long you’ll need to stay.
From there, look at ways to save on those two costs: Travel and accommodations.
- Can you look for flight sales, or discounted train tickets?
- Can you stock up on credit card reward points to help fund the travel?
- Do you have a stockpile of miles that could cover hotels?
- Are there good AirBnB options nearby?
Since you’re getting a head start on things, you’ll be much better equipped to find the best deals.
Make a Wedding-Attendance Budget
While you’re in the planning stage, start to plan out exactly how much attending the wedding will cost you. Beyond just travel and accommodations, you’ll want to look at costs you’ll need to cover for local weddings as well.
- How much do you want to spend on a gift?
- Do you think there will be a cash bar - and will you want to partake?
- Are you going to need to cover cab fare?
- Are you invited to any of the pre-wedding events, like the shower or the bachelor party?
- Are there post-wedding events, like a family brunch the next day?
- Are there any specific-to-you costs involved in going to an all-day, or overnight, event? (Like getting a babysitter or boarding your dog?)
As you work through this list, write down an estimate of how much you’ll spend on each item.
If you’ve never paid for a specific thing before, do a quick Google search to figure out what a reasonable amount is to spend on each, and add that number to your running total.
Make a Wedding-Party Budget
If you’ve been honoured with an invite to stand up for a friend or family member as part of their wedding party, congratulations!
This is clearly going to be a special day for you and the people you’re close to. And they clearly value your presence at their big day.
This honour is going to come with a few extra line items in your wedding-attendance budget...So it’s important that you plan for the money side of things too.
You’ll need to take into account things like…
- How much are you expected to spend on attire?
- Are you on the hook to host events like the shower or the bachelor party?
- Will there be additional travel involved to get to these events?
- Are you going to have extra day-of costs, like makeup and hair?
There are a lot of statistics out there about how much it costs to be in a wedding party, on average. But the quickest and easiest way to get an accurate number to plan for?
Talk with the couple who invited you to participate.
Get a sense of what their vision is for the big day. And how they foresee the festivities taking place. Both before and during the wedding.
They may have specific numbers in mind. The sooner you get those on the table, the better prepared you’ll be to tackle them.
Do Your Own Research
Now that you’ve got a list of your costs, you can probably find good deals and savings on most of your line items with a bit of extra research.
If you’re planning on getting a physical gift for the couple, apps like Flipp can help you quickly search to see if any stores near you are having a sale on those things.
If you’re travelling to the wedding, you can set a Google Flight Alert to notify you when the price of the flights you’re looking at drop.
And on just about everything else, doing a bit of advanced research will help you identify what a good base price for each cost is, so that you know a good deal when you see it.
The earlier you get that base price in mind by doing some digging, the longer you’ll have to snag the best deal when it comes around.
Separate Your Savings
Now that you’re staring down a fairly accurate total of how much attending a wedding will cost you, the best thing you can do is to start saving for it ASAP.
To do that, my recommendation is to set up a separate savings account earmarked just for attending weddings.
It seems a little drastic, I know, but when you’re thinking of raiding it to revamp your work wardrobe, having it stashed in an account named “Weddings ONLY” will remind you that right, your summer event attendance is going to ring in around $1500. And you really will need that money later.
Don’t Stress the Attire
True millennial confession: I wore the same dress to three weddings last year.
What? They weren’t my three weddings (that would have made for a much more awkward summer than just wearing the same dress a few times).
Repeating the same wedding attire multiple times in one season taught me an important lesson:
No one cares what you wear to their wedding. (As long as they look like a beautiful princess...The groom probably doesn’t care either.)
Unless you’re in the wedding party, no need to splash out for a fancy new dress for each wedding you’re invited to attend. Because most of the people at the wedding likely won’t have attended the other weddings you went to this year…
And even if they did, my bet is that the only reason they’ll notice is because they really liked the outfit in the first place!
If you’re a dude, don’t kid yourself. That suit looks like every other suit.
Sure you can switch up your shirt, and ties, and shoes. But you also don’t need to feel like you have to. If you want to, go for it (as long as you can afford it).
Be Clear About Your Limits
If you’re being asked to participate in or attend a wedding, and you can feel the anxiety creeping into your chest as soon as you get the invitation about how much you can afford to spend…
You have options.
You don’t need to and are never expected to go into debt for someone else’s big day. (And they shouldn’t go into debt for it either, but that’s another post entirely.)
If you need to have a discussion with the bride and groom to clarify your limits before accepting the invitation, that’s an option.
Another valid option is to RSVP “no.” And send a gift in your place.
If you just can’t afford to make it to another destination wedding, it’s a thoughtful way of acknowledging the invitation, celebrating the couple, and you’re only out the cost of a gift.
Relax and Enjoy The Season
If you’ve done everything in your power to wedding-proof your summer budget, the last step is the most fun part:
Sit back, relax, and enjoy attending the celebrations your friends and family are having this summer!
We could talk all day about the price of weddings, and the pressures we can all feel to spend on them – hosts and attendees alike! But at the end of the day…
This is a genuinely happy occasion. So enjoy it!