There comes a time in everyone’s life, usually in your mid-20s, when every weekend—probably in the summer—you will find yourself getting salmon from a buffet line, eating cake, and then dancing to “Shout.” This is known as the joyous period that is wedding season.
Don’t get me wrong, I love weddings. I laugh, I cry, I see people I haven’t seen in years, I attempt to do the “Electric Slide” (it’s really hard!), and I eat cake. All in all, it is a good time. But there are some major down sides when you have a few weddings per month, the big one being money—from traveling expenses to dresses to gifts. Forget that summer share house; you have to go buy a friend a Williams-Sonoma waffle maker.
And don’t even get me started on how much it costs if you are in a wedding. Buying bridesmaid dresses (that you will never wear again; I don’t care how many times the bride says you can shorten it later, we are clearly going to different kinds of parties), suits, shoes, jewellery, bachelorette gifts, showers, hotels, etc. The list is epic.
We are all hopefully always trying to be organized about our finances, but with weddings it can get hard. That is why we talked to some experts on how you can enjoy wedding season without going broke.
1. Set an overall budget
Laura Chmar, a financial advisor at Mainpointe Capital in her early 30s who often finds herself in the middle of wedding mayhem, says, “Set your overall budget for the season and stick with it. Your friends don’t want you to go into debt to celebrate their wedding, so don’t feel bad about whatever your budget is. Set a per wedding limit, and divide it among all the gift-giving occasions for that wedding. Some couples end up with multiple events (engagement party! work shower! friends shower! bachelorette party!). That’s great they have so many people eager to celebrate their happiness, and you’ll likely want to give a small token gift at each, but don’t feel that every gift has to be big.”
2. The early bird gets the worm (and spends less money)
It is a pain, but booking as early as possible is the way to go. Shiyan Koh, the VP of Personal Finance at NerdWallet, the personal finance site for Millennials, says this is the number one rule of finding cheap airfare. “Book your flight as soon as you can confidently lock in your travel dates. The longer you wait, the more you’ll pay.”
3. Get your group on!
Often weddings are great excuses for reunions with your friends, so why not all stay together? I actually just did this with a group of friends for a wedding in Alabama, and it was amazing. The house was super cheap, had a pool, was on a lake, and looked like it was out of the Pottery Barn catalogue. Koh says, “If you have a large group of friends who are attending the wedding, you could save money by renting a house together through vacation rental sites like HomeAway or Airbnb. Houses will also have kitchen facilities, ensuring that you can save by cooking a few meals instead of eating out all the time.”
Also, join forces with your friends for gift-giving and transportation.
4. Is this a fair-weather friend?
Weddings can be a good time to evaluate your friendships. Chmar says if a particular wedding is expensive due to travel, and they’re not one of your absolute best friends, don’t feel bad if you decide not to go. “Ask any bride; they’ll have had several invited guests not attend for various reasons and (most!) have no hard feelings about it.”
If you’re in a wedding and feel that the costs are getting out of control, ask the bride what’s most important to her for you to attend. It sounds obvious, but people get nervous about doing it. Some brides don’t care much about their showers, but do care about their bachelorette parties; others feel the opposite.
5. Repeat outfits. You’re not Kim Kardashian.
Okay, if you have three weddings with the same people, you may want to invest in three modestly-priced dresses. But hey, if each time it is a different group, find one great dress and rock it three times. Yes, the photos are on Facebook, but these people haven’t seen them! Or use Rent the Runway and just rent a dress for the occasion. It’s less money and less space in your closet!
6. Get shopping early
Consumer finance expert Andrew Housser, CEO of Freedom Financial Network says, “Get shopping. If invited to a wedding, find out where the couple has registered as soon as possible. Then go online or to the brick-and-mortar store and select a gift. Shopping early assures the best selection—and the selection that fits your budget. The other idea is to give a gift card to the store where the couple has registered. Since you choose the amount, you can be sure it will fit your budget.
Housser says create a picture collage or album of the couple from childhood to present-day (with help from family members), or make a personalized craft item (if you are good at the craft). “Even a heartfelt letter telling the couple why you think the two make a perfect match can be welcome if you are really budget-crunched.”