How to Attend a Wedding for Cheap (Without Actually Looking Cheap)
Summer is wedding season, and if, like me, you're at that age when all your friends are tying the knot, it can be a nightmare for your pocketbook. Modern weddings seem to be more elaborate than ever, piling on the costly obligations for guests who just want to show the happy couple some love. (See also: How to Shave $5,000 Off Your Wedding Expenses)
If you're tired of whipping out the credit card every time an invitation lands in your mailbox, this list of money-saving tips is for you.
Far Away? Send a Gift Instead of Attending
If you're hundreds (or even thousands) of miles away from the wedding location, realize that it's okay to decline attendance. No invited guest is expected to attend, even if that's not explicitly stated by the couple. Especially if it's a last-minute wedding. Instead, splurge on the gift and send it with a nice handwritten note of congratulations.
Find Your Own Lodging
When a couple knows people will be traveling to attend their nuptials, they often try to help by blocking off rooms at a local hotel. While convenient, never assume that this is the most cost effective option. Explore local hotel rates for yourself as well as options on Airbnb. If you know others who will be attending, think about getting an entire house or apartment, and splitting the bill.
Look for a Gift That's Thoughtful Rather Than Expensive
This is true 100% of the time, but especially if you're an out of town guest. Contrary to popular belief, there is no "minimum price" for a wedding present. Give from the heart. It could be something that's funny, practical, or homemade. (See also: 25 Gifts You Can Make Today)
Use the Registry to Your Advantage
If the couple announces that they've registered at one or more stores, it behooves you to investigate their requests as early as possible. Sign up for sale alerts and customer loyalty programs at those stores if they exist, then be ready to snag a wanted item when the cost is low or you've got a coupon.
Don't Take Gifts on the Plane
Once you've chosen your gift, ship it directly to the recipients rather than taking it on the plane (if traveling long distance). You'll save yourself the extra baggage fee and a huge logistical hassle. If you're traveling by car, obviously the converse is true. Save on shipping fees by bringing it yourself.
Extend Your Stay and Make it a Vacay
If you're going to three or more weddings in a year, there's a good chance your vacation time will go the way of the dodo. When a friend of ours recently got married at the beach over a long holiday weekend, we used the coincidence to our advantage: We arrived a day early and stayed a day late, turning it into a mini vacation.
Skip Pre-Wedding Events
It must be all the wedding shows on TV, but modern weddings have gone from "a ceremony and a reception" to three day long mini festivals. There are bachelor and bachelorette parties, bridal showers, pre-wedding brunches and dinners, and spa dates — and that doesn't even include the main event! Unless you're immediate family or in the wedding, all of these are optional. Save big by skipping pre-wedding money pits.
Don't Be in the Wedding Party
If the bride or groom asks you to be in the wedding, it's a great honor, but not an obligation. Wedding party duties involve throwing showers, planning pre-wedding events, and buying expensive outfits that you'll probably never wear again. Be honest: Tell the couple that your budget doesn't allow you to participate in the wedding party, but you can't wait to attend the ceremony.
Be a Slow Gift Giver
Did you know that you're not required to bring the gift to the actual wedding? According to the Emily Post Institute, you have up to three months from the date of the wedding to give a gift without violating any etiquette rules. So if money will be less tight in a few weeks, just wait.
You don't have to wear something different to every wedding you attend. If some of the same people will be at more than one upcoming ceremony, invest in a classic outfit that can be made to look different by swapping accessories. You can also borrow something from a friend, or rent an expensive dress and return it when done.
How do you trim the cost of attending weddings? Please share in comments!