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Stop Spending So Much Money on Your Friends' Weddings

RSVPing “yes" can break your budget—here’s how to save during peak wedding season.

by Melissa Kravitz
May 25 2018, 4:41pm

Photo by Hero Images / Getty Images

Oh great, you were invited to another wedding. Time to open up another credit card, take out a small loan and re-evaluate exactly how close you still are to your college roommate or high school friend.

It’s no secret that attending weddings is expensive—two out of five millennials surveyed by NerdWallet in March said they’d considered skipping a wedding because it was too expensive. The same percentage said they spend money they don’t have to keep up with their friends, according to a recent Credit Karma survey.

And keeping up with whomever you're close to on their Big Day isn’t cheap. A recent Bankrate survey found that the average wedding attendee spends about $630 to attend the nuptials of a close friend or family member, and an average of around $730 if they’re in the wedding party. To avoid going into wedding guest debt (a very real thing!), decide how much you can realistically spend on each specific wedding’s attendance, and don’t go over your budget. It may even be worthwhile to set money aside in your savings account to pay for all the weddings you want to attend.

If you don't have enough money to cover all the weddings you got invited to, there are ways to curb your spending. Here are a few tips:

RSVP no to pre-wedding festivities

"The [pre-wedding and wedding weekend] activities can get a bit overwhelming,” says Heather West, Charleston-based wedding planner and owner of Carolina Occasions. Expect to spend at least $500 on a bachelorette weekend (and we’re talking room sharing, pre-gaming, not lavish celebrations). Shower-wise, spending anything less than $50 on a gift is uncouth, according to Vogue, and if you have to travel, that’s yet another weekend expense.

West encourages cutting costs by only attending the wedding itself, and that’s it. “The couple will not only understand but probably won't realize you aren't at the pre-wedding brewery hopping, girls day at the salon, and post-wedding brunch,” she says. If you have Bachelorette FOMO, try calling the venue ahead of time to put down your credit card for a few drinks for the bride (set a limit in advance).

Total savings: At least $50, but probably much more.

Barter

If you have a skill or a talent—like invitation making, calligraphy, music to play during the ceremony, photo framing, flower arranging, makeup, anything—consider offering that to the couple as your gift —it will probably be worth more than the gift you could afford monetarily anyway and adds a personal element to the special day.

Total savings: Brides suggests giving at least $100 per guest as a gift, and your services are probably worth much more than that $100 gift would be in wedding world


Gift smart

If a $200 crystal vase is out of budget, team up with a friend or several to go in on a gift together. And while buying an item of the registry may not be the greatest idea—see if the same item is available cheaper at another store, or at a store that perhaps offers better coupons. Sign up for email newsletters from places like Bed, Bath & Beyond or Crate & Barrel for easy-to-use digital coupons.

Total savings: If you can get 20% off that suggested $100 gift price tag, you’re saving $20

Share accommodations

There’s no need to book your own hotel room for a night when you’ll likely be rolling into bed and jetting out early. Share a hotel room (average price of $130 a night, depending on the area) with another friend or couple or book an Airbnb to share with a group. If you’re feeling outdoorsy, see if there are campgrounds or other less opulent accommodations near the wedding venue -- as long as you have somewhere to get ready before the festivities, why not wind down in a tent? Travel-wise, see if an airline will give you a group rate or share a care a road trip out to the wedding destination.

Total savings: $65, if sharing with one other person, or more

Borrow an outfit

Before you Rent The Runway (which starts at $30 per a four-day rental), borrow the friends’ closet—this goes for everything from the actual clothes on your body to shoes, a purse or really anything you may need. In a pinch, post on Facebook—you’d be surprised at how eager people are to share and help out a semi-Friend.

Total savings: $20 or more (you should spend the $10 to dry clean your friends’ outfit)

Sell your outfit

Forced to wear something you will never wear again? Get some of the cash you didn’t want to spend back by keeping your clothes in good condition and reselling them on apps like Poshmark, Tradesy or Bridesmaid Trade. This, of course, also works in the reverse—if you’ve been signed up to wear a special bridal party outfit, check if eBay, Facebook marketplace, LetGo or other crowd-selling sights have a once-used version you can also fit into.

Total savings: Expect to sell your once-used dress for about half its value, so if it cost $100, expect to earn $50

Ditch the date

Bringing a plus one just to have someone to awkwardly slow dance with? Just don’t. Cut down your hosts’ costs, your gift budget and everything else by going stag. Better yet, buddy up with another solo guest to ensure you have someone to sneak an extra slice of cake with when everyone else is shuffling their feet to a bad cover of “At Last.”

Total savings: Assuming you’d be paying for your guest, you’ll save $100 on their portion of the gift, plus transit and accommodations

Just don’t go

Being invited to a wedding doesn’t mean that you actually have to RSVP yes. And you can say no without ruining a relationship. ”Focus on the event, not your declination,” advises etiquette consultant Jodi RR Smith. She suggest saying something like: “Melissa, The invitations are amazing and a reception in a historic rose garden should be magical. I am so sorry I am unable to attend. But I can not wait to have coffee with you after the honeymoon to see your pictures and hear the stories. You are going to be beautiful bride.” Don’t make up a reason or excuse as to why you’re not attending and consider sending a small gift and warm wishes for a happy marriage before the big day.

Total savings: $627 per wedding on average

Follow Melissa Kravitz on Twitter.