Wedding Guest Season: How to Maintain Your Budget and Your Friendships

This guide shows that you don't have to choose between your budget and your friends during wedding season

During your prime wedding guest years, from your mid-20’s to your mid-30’s, wedding invites can come at you faster than Kanye can outrage his Twitter® followers. And because there is a pronounced wedding season (June to October), you can find yourself invited to a lot of nuptials in a short period of time.

Budgeting for everyday life is challenging enough, how do you budget for a summer full of weddings?! Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. This guide will help you make it through wedding season without going broke.

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Create a Wedding Gift Piggy Bank

One simple thing you can do to make budgeting much easier is to open a wedding-specific savings account. It’s so much easier to navigate wedding season if the money earmarked for weddings is separate and you can instantly see how much you have to work with.

Ideally, you’d establish an account like this in the fall and set up monthly automatic deposits from your checking account to this account. By the time wedding season rolls around, you’ll have a hefty cash stash for upcoming weddings.

Or, if you don’t have that kind of time, just deposit what you can spare now. Then consider setting up monthly automatic deposits and reducing your monthly spending to offset the money going into your wedding savings account.


Should I Stay, or Should I Go

No matter how much money you save, you may be invited to more weddings than you can realistically attend. Especially if you have a lot of friends or a big family. So, you’ve got to decide which weddings you’ll attend and which you’ll skip.

How close you are to the bride and/or groom, the travel distance/cost of attending, and how much fun you think you’ll have are solid criteria to help you decide. If there’s a wedding you want to attend but can’t because of the logistics (or the cost), you can always consider sending a gift instead of attending.

In some cases, it might not just be a matter of deciding which weddings to attend or skip but which “pre or post-wedding events” to attend or skip too. Weddings can now include a lengthy series of selfie opportunities: engagement parties, bridal (or couples’) showers, a welcome party, the bachelor(ette) party, the day-after brunch, etc. Use your best judgment for what to attend or not. If you aren’t that close to the bride or groom and they’re the type that’ll get pouty if you don’t go to ALL THE THINGS, it may be better not to attend at all.


Leaving on a Jet Plane

In addition to the usual airfare comparison websites, there are some lesser known websites that can make it faster, more affordable and more comfortable to get to a wedding:

Rome2Rio – See the options and prices to go from anywhere to anywhere by air, car, bus, train or ferry.

Airfare Watchdog – Enter where you’re departing from and going to and get notifications when ticket prices for your trip change.

SeatGuru – It’s not just about cost. Often, rock bottom airfares get you a middle seat next to the restroom on a red-eye flight in an airplane so small, you’d think it was a Cessna.

Seatguru provides airplane seat maps, info about what amenities your flight offers and flight reviews from other passengers, so you can avoid cheap, terrible flights.

Other tips for saving on air travel:

  • Don’t check bags – You’re only going to be gone for 2 or 3 days anyway, right?
  • Travel rewards credit card – If you already have one and you’re making credit card purchases anyway, be sure to use it to get miles. If you don’t have one and you’ve got a busy wedding season coming up, consider getting one.
  • Frequent flyer miles – Even if you don’t have a travel rewards credit card, do you have frequent flyer miles that you could use?
  • Bring snacks – Food at the airport and in the airplane is overpriced and underwhelming.


Wedding Guest Accommodations

So where do you stay once you get there? Even if you’re in the wedding—and even if there is a fancy wedding guest rate–don’t think you have to stay at the same place as the bride and groom, or where the reception is being held. See if you can stay at a nearby hotel or motel that’s less expensive.

If you have several friends or family members going to the same wedding, consider splitting the cost of renting a house using a website like VRBO or Airbnb.

What’s the most cost-effective option of all? If you have friends or family who live near the wedding venue, see if you can stay with them.

Of course, this all assumes that you’re staying overnight after the wedding. If you’re a time-crunched, red-eye taking travel ninja, you may just head straight to the airport and peace out after the reception. If that’s how you roll, carry on (pun intended).


The Perfect Wedding Outfit

If you’re a groomsman or bridesmaid, you probably don’t have much choice, you’ve got to wear the same dress or suit/tux as everyone else in the wedding party. If you’re not, you’ve got some options.

Guys, you’ve got it pretty easy. Just bring or rent a suit, or maybe a tuxedo, if it’s a very formal wedding. Heck, you may even be able to get with a blazer and slacks if it’s a casual wedding.

As always, it’s more complicated for the ladies. First, and most obviously, you can just buy a dress for each wedding (you don’t want to be photographed in the same dress at multiple, weddings, do you?). Check out thrift shops in upscale neighborhoods to save some money.

Do you have a friend who’s about the same size? A more affordable option is to do a dress swap.

Not happy with the options in your closet but can’t or don’t want to buy or swap clothes? See if there are any shops that rent clothes near where you live or near the wedding.

If there aren’t, Renttherunway can help you find the prefect dress, outfit or accessories and ship them to you. After the wedding, just ship back what you rented. Want to wear a Donna Karan dress but can’t afford one? Now you can!


The Gift

There’s a problem with wedding gift registries: a disconnect between what couples ask for and what guests want to buy. When they get married, people tend not to ask for small, inexpensive gifts. You only get married once, right (hopefully)? You might as well ask for that $400 KitchenAid® mixer. The worst-case scenario is that no one buys it. Engaged couples have nothing to lose.

The result is wedding gift registries littered with pricey gifts but containing relatively few affordable ones. What’s a guest on a budget to do? Here are some ideas:

  • Team up – Chip in with several others to buy an expensive gift you couldn’t afford on your own.
  • Barter – Are you skilled at hair and makeup? Did you used to DJ? Are you ordained? Donate your services to the wedding in lieu of a gift.
  • Make it – Along those lines, if your arts & crafts game is strong, there is no more heartfelt gift than the one you make.


We hope this guide helps you make it through a full calendar of weddings without an empty bank account at the end.