Hearing wedding bells? You may also be hearing the sound of your wallet emptying. We all know that planning your own wedding can be expensive, with the national average cost of a wedding topping out at nearly $44,000, according to the 2018 Brides American Wedding Study. But attending one as a guest can also be a budget-buster.
A 2018 study by Bankrate found that the average wedding guest spends hundreds — maybe even thousands — on attending a wedding. This includes costs such as wedding attire, traveling to and from the wedding, a wedding gift, even attending a bachelor or bachelorette party.
Read on for our breakdown of the average cost of attending a wedding and some money-saving tips while still celebrating the happy couple.
Members of a bridal party can expect to pay an average of $728 to attend a wedding and other related events, according to the 2018 Bankrate study, which surveyed 2,228 U.S. adults. The cost of attending a wedding as a member of a wedding party in more expensive geographic areas (like the Northeast) jumps considerably, to around $1,070.
This cost includes attendance and gifts for the shower, the bachelorette party, and the costs of traveling to and from the wedding ceremony and reception.
Members of the wedding party may also be responsible for paying for professional makeup and hair stylists, which can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars. Another potential cost? Attending the engagement party, where a small gift is usually expected.
Wedding guests, on the other hand, can expect to shell out $627.72 to attend the wedding of a family member or close friend, or $371.60 to attend the nuptials of a casual friend or distant family member.
This price can be especially concerning for many, as the Federal Reserve's 2020 Economic Well-Being report found that 15% of individuals would have to put a small expense (the report used $400 as benchmark) on a credit card and pay it off over time, and that 12% would not be able to pay for the expense at all. If the price of celebrating the new nuptials seems steep, don’t worry; there are ways to cut costs.
How to Cut Costs
Most couples send out a save-the-date card months before the wedding. This is your cue to start saving, if you haven’t already.
- Try setting aside a certain amount each week or month to lessen the overall cost and prevent yourself from overspending. Remember, planning ahead can save you hundreds of dollars in rental cars, hotel rooms, even gifts if you hit the right sales.
- Factor in the cost of travel. This includes airfare, rental cars, tolls and hotel rooms. Be sure to call the hotel specified on the invitation or wedding website to get the block room rate, which is a discounted rate the wedding party and guests receive in exchange for the bride and groom guaranteeing the hotel that a certain number of rooms will be rented out.
- Also take into account any new clothing (i.e. dresses, suits, tux rental, accessories) you’ll need to attend the wedding. Then determine how much you’d like to gift the new couple, whether it’s a new blender or toaster, or a monetary gift. The general rule of thumb is to at least cover the price per head in the value of your gift. So, if the cost per person is around $75, and you and a guest are attending, your gift should total roughly $150.
According to a 2019 survey by Zelle, 86% of respondents spent less than $500 on wedding gifts in a year.
Once you have your total expected expenditure, divide that number by the number of months before the wedding, and that’s how much you need to save each month.
How to Save
First, you should take a look at your budget. How much do you have allotted for entertainment or travel? You may consider increasing the percentage during wedding season or if you know you have a lot of weddings coming up. Having a realistic budget is important to be successful in managing your money.
It’s also wise to resist the urge to just leave the money earmarked for the wedding in an everyday checking or savings account. Instead, it’s a good idea to open a new savings account earmarked just for the wedding. That way, it’s easy to see exactly how close you are to your savings goal, and won’t be tempted to spend it now and try to replenish it later. Bonus: You can use this extra savings account for your next long-term financial goal.
While it may not be the exact financial goal you had in mind, treat saving for a wedding like any other long-term expense. After all, you don’t want to have to put the cost of attending on a credit card and end up in debt.
You may also consider using a savings app to help track your progress, or even a robo-investing app like Acorns that invests your spare change to more quickly meet your savings goal.
If you’re having trouble balancing your savings priorities, try making a list of your financial goals, prioritizing items from most important to least. Attending a wedding may have to temporarily replace another savings goal if it’s one you absolutely have to attend or can’t miss.
What to Do If You Can't Attend
If you simply can’t afford to attend the wedding, be upfront with the bride and groom (or brides or grooms) from the get-go. RSVP early, send a nice gift and heartfelt card, and be sure to meet up with the newlyweds after they return from their honeymoon to catch up on what you missed on the big day.
While being there for your friends is certainly important, a wedding is not worth going into debt for. If it’s a family wedding that you simply can’t miss, try sharing a hotel room with a family member or friend, buying discount airfare, or staying in a cheaper hotel. You may also want to consider going in on a group gift to spend a bit less.
Financially preparing for the next wedding you attend will help alleviate any money stress and will allow you to truly celebrate the newlyweds. And that’s what attending a wedding is all about, right?