Sure, weddings are romantic and joyful. But between buying a gift, finding something to wear and traveling to the event, the cost of attendance adds up fast. According to one spending survey, the average wedding guest will end up shelling out an average of $628 for someone else’s “big day,” and that number is even higher if you’re a member of the wedding party.
But if you’re smart about how you spend on gifts, clothes and travel, you can avoid busting your budget. These pro hacks will help you shave expenses without running afoul of the etiquette police.
Save On Flights
Whether you’re headed to Ocho Rios or Oshkosh, try these smart travel moves from Travelzoo’s Gabe Saglie.
- If you need to fly to the nuptials, start tracking fares as soon as you receive the “Save the Date.” You’re likely to find the best deals two to three months before the big day. Compare flights to and from alternative or smaller airports, which are usually served by low-cost airlines.
- Be flexible on your travel days. Flying to leisure destinations is usually cheapest on weekdays; fares to business hubs (like New York City and Chicago) typically dip on weekends.
- Pack a carry-on to avoid bag-checking fees.
- Use airline miles or credit card points you’ve accumulated toward your ticket.
Save On Hotels
- Don’t assume that the block of rooms reserved by the couple for a discounted rate is the cheapest option. Compare neighboring hotels and short-term home rentals. For maximum savings, split accommodations with friends or family.
- Unlike airfares, hotel deals are usually found closer to your arrival date. To play it safe, reserve a refundable hotel room early, then look for a lower rate a week or so before the event. (Large hotels typically offer a one- to seven-day free cancellation window.)
- You may also be able to use miles or points for your hotel.
Save On Car Rentals
- Bundle your car rental with your flight and hotel to see if it yields a better rate.
- If you can, avoid getting the car at the airport, where it’s more expensive.
- Split the car with other guests; just make sure the rental contract allows everyone to drive it.
- Check your auto insurance coverage: You may be able to decline the expensive car-rental insurance. (Read more about how your auto insurance may cover rental cars.)
Save On Gifts
Etiquette expert Lee Cordon of Do Say Give offers the following ways to save without looking stingy.
- Shop the registry early, before all the mid-range gifts are snapped up. Only random kitchen items left? Add matching aprons and gourmet pancake mix for a lovely, curated gift that meets your budget. You can also opt for a gift card.
- Round up pals and go in on a group present. You may be able to give a “wow” gift without blowing your budget—a wedding win-win.
- If you’re spending a significant amount to attend a destination wedding, it’s perfectly acceptable to give a smaller gift, such as handcrafted luggage tags or a bottle of wine that will be at its best on a future anniversary.
- Offer your talents or skills. Perhaps you can address envelopes, tailor wedding attire, put together the wedding album or edit the wedding video.
- Remember that gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. Pair a rolling pin with a keepsake box of family recipes, or pick up a pair of robes on sale and have them monogrammed for a romantic, one-of-a-kind gift.
Save On Clothes
Style everyone in the family with these ideas from fashion pro Dianna Baros of The Budget Babe.
- Consider “something borrowed.” Clothing-rental sites offer formalwear for men and women for a fraction of the cost of buying new.
- Invest wisely. If you’ll be wedding-hopping this year, consider buying a lined, classic dress in a mid-weight fabric that can be layered with a cardigan or jacket. Men might pick up one or two staple suits (black and navy are classic) that fit and feel great. Change up the shirt, tie and pocket square and you’ll be set for every wedding you ever get invited to.
- Bringing the kids? Check consignment stores for gently worn treasures.
Read more: 7 Ways To Save Big On A Rental Car
By Julia Califano