By Jessica Walrack, US News & World Report featuring Julia K. Pham, CFP®, AIF®, CDFA®, Wealth Advisor
Attending a wedding can be a costly undertaking, so here are some tips to keep costs down.
A beautiful envelope arrives in the mail with great news – your friend is getting married. But along with the celebration comes the cost of attendance, which can easily cost a few hundred dollars or more.
If you don’t have much wiggle room in your budget for attending weddings, you’re not alone.
“Economic factors such as inflation can increase the cost of travel, accommodations and even wedding gifts, making it harder to budget for weddings,” says Mark Stewart, certified public accountant at Step by Step Business.
Here are some strategies that can make wedding attendance possible on a budget.
The Cost of Attending a Wedding
First, how much do guests typically pay to attend weddings? The average cost is $460, according to the latest dataavailable from The Knot. It can vary significantly, however, depending on the wedding location.
Average wedding attendance cost breakdown:
- Local weddings: $270.
- Weddings out of town (drive): $660.
- Weddings out of town (fly): $1,270.
- Wedding gift: $160.
If you’re in the bridal party, you’ll likely need an even larger budget – especially if you’re a bridesmaid. Additional costs can include:
- The bachelor or bachelorette party/trips.
- A bridal shower.
- A “Yes to the Dress” party.
- Professional hair and makeup.
- More expensive attire than you may otherwise purchase.
- Shared accommodations for the night before the wedding.
Depending on your friend’s bridal party plans, pre-wedding activities can add a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to your expenses.
How to Budget for a Friends’ Wedding
Shelling out $400 or more to attend a wedding can be difficult. Here are four steps that can help keep wedding attendance costs under control:
1. Assess Costs Early
Time is your friend when it comes to budgeting. As soon as you receive the “save the date” notice, start planning for the costs, such as:
- Travel and accommodations: One of the first things to consider is the location of the wedding. Is it local or will you need to travel? Will you need to book a hotel and budget for meals while away?
- Wedding gift: Check the registry right away and plan the amount you want to spend on a gift.
- Attire: Think over what you’ll need for yourself, your date and any other dependent family members who will attend.
- Bridal party events: If you’re in the bridal party, touch base with the bride or groom to get an idea of their plans for pre-wedding events like the bachelor or bachelorette party. You don’t want any surprise expenses down the line.
2. Start a Savings Fund
Once you have an idea of the amount you need to save, create a savings plan. Assess your income and expenses between now and the wedding to figure out the amount you can save out of each paycheck.
It can also help to open a dedicated savings account to separate the funds and track your progress. At this stage, highball your cost estimations so you don’t end up short.
3. Look for Opportunities to Save
As you prepare to make purchases, look for ways to save. Here are some ideas:
Save on Travel
If the trip requires travel by plane, consider using credit card miles to cover the airfare or opening up a new travel cardthat offers a sizable welcome bonus.
“The Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers a $200 cash bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months. That cash back can come in handy to pay for some of your wedding expenses,” says Andrea Woroch, a budgeting expert.
Use a tool like Skyscanner or Google Flights to monitor flight prices and find the best deals. You can often get cheaper tickets if you buy in advance and look for the cheapest days to fly.
“According to CheapAir.com, on average, the best time to book a domestic flight is 64 days before your departure date, ” says Julia Pham, a certified financial planner and wealth advisor at Halbert Hargrove.
If you’re driving, you may want to carpool with friends to split the cost of gas. You can also plan to use the most fuel-efficient vehicle available to you and a gas credit card that offers rewards on gas purchases.
Save on Wedding Gifts
When it comes to the wedding gift, don’t delay if you’re going to buy something from the registry. The later you shop, the slimmer the pickings. “Wait too long, and you may be stuck picking between the random soup ladle and expensive espresso machine,” Pham says.