Hacks for Saving Money as a Wedding Guest

There you are, in your twenties and struggling to get a grasp on your (minimal) finances, and attempting to stay afloat with bills. Throw in that it’s also the average age for people to get married, and you find yourself trying to afford life—and everything that comes with weddings (even when you aren’t the one getting hitched).

If your summer plans involve multiple weddings, showers, bachelorette parties, and all the costs in between, there’s still hope for your bank account while owning the wedding circuit. Here are 6 hacks for affording wedding season:


Swap dresses

If it’s wedding #6 and you can’t budget in another dress, host a clothing swap with friends. Ask everyone to bring over their cocktail and black-tie dresses, then pick and choose which works best for each girl. Make sure every person has at least one “new” dress to wear, and trade back after wedding season commences. Jewelry, bags, and heels should also be shared!



Wait for registry sales

Couples have to do their registry far in advance for a few reasons, but as a guest, you have a year to give a gift. Keep your eye on the registry and wait until something they want goes on sale—it’ll likely happen before the wedding comes—and purchase then. Also, buy in store next time you’re at the mall! You won’t have to pay shipping costs.


Use points towards travel

Remember that credit card you have that gives points per dollar? Use it often, but wisely, leading up to wedding season. Then, save all those points for out-of-town wedding travel. Knowing you have some “free” travel in your budget will help cost wise, and you’ll know exactly how many flights you can afford.



Gift your services

Do you have beautiful handwriting? Offer to make the signs and seating cards. Good with music? Make the bride a playlist for her bachelorette party and even the wedding after-party. Organized? Help with a timeline for the event and the seating chart. People will appreciate the thoughtfulness of presents from the heart, and they usually end up being cheaper than multiple things off the registry.


Makeup smart

If you’re in the wedding, save cash and do your own hair and makeup! Simple as that. If the bride is worried that you won’t look streamlined to the wedding party, watch what the makeup artist does and copy the style/colors. Also, practice a few hairstyles leading up to the big day so the bride is confident in your skills.

If you’re a guest, sign up for a free makeup trial (often times Utla, Sephora, and other retailers offer this if you sign up in advance). Check out local beauty schools, too.



Bow out

Weddings are meaningful, but also expensive. If you simply don’t have the funds to travel for a wedding, or to attend every event leading up, be honest with the couple. Treat them to a dinner after the wedding if you can’t make the big day (more affordable than a dress, travel, hotel, presents, etc.) so that you can celebrate in your own way. Remember that the couple is also paying for you—if you got an invite from a family friend but aren’t necessarily close, it might be a relief on both ends.


What hacks have you put in place to avoid wedding guest debt?

  • These are all great tips.

    This isn’t really a hack, but with weddings I’ve gone to in the past I’ve had at least 6 months notice between getting the save the date or the invitation and the big day. If I know I’ll be attending and getting gift(s) and paying for travel, I’ll try to budget accordingly and save a little each month leading up to the event.

  • The dress swap is such a good idea. I’m gifting services/artwork to all of the couples whose weddings I’m attending this year and it feels so much more personal and I feel like we both get something out of it

    – Natalie

  • Lauren

    Mostly good advice except for for the do your makeup one (more so than hair). If the the bride wants your makeup done professionally then it should be. Sit beside and copy? Lol how many of us get YouTube tutorials right on the first try? However when I was a bride I paid for my girls to have their makeup done, which is best probably, so no one complained.

    Sharing a large gift is also a good way to save!

    • Agreed. If the bride wants the wedding party to have their hair/makeup done professionally, you kind of have no choice.

    • Brie

      I agree as well, especially since you will be in her pictures, she definitely has the right to want your make-up done professionally!

      • I disagree actually. I think that you also have the right to do your own hair and makeup if you can’t afford it. If a friend really wants you in their wedding for a meaningful reason (to stand by their side as they marry someone), who does your makeup shouldn’t really count, in my opinion. Or, if it’s that important, the bride should be willing to pay for it.

    • Montana

      The proper etiquette here is that if you care so much about your bridesmaids getting their hair and makeup done professionally, you have to pay for it. Otherwise it should be optional.

      • I agree with this. I’m getting married in September, and I told my bridesmaids it wasn’t in my budget to pay for all of their hair and makeup, so I gave them the option to use my hair/makeup artist or do their own. If it mattered that much to me, I would have paid for them all myself.

  • Pearl

    If you are looking to save money on a gift, buy one of the items off of their registry that is cheaper but you can buy multiple of. For instance four dinner plates, four glasses, four silverware sets etc.

    You get so many gifts as a couple you never remember the individual value of each item. You’re just excited to get stuff you registered for and combined it makes an impressive package!

  • I think the clothing swap is a good idea. I’ve also found some awesome party dresses at Ross. The last wedding I went to I got my dress for $30 at Ross and got the best compliments. Also, you can re-wear dresses to multiple weddings, even if the people getting married are from the same circle of friends. You can wear different accessories, wear your hair and makeup differently, the options are numerous. And honestly, is anyone but you going to remember that you wore the same dress to another friends wedding? All eyes will be on the bride and groom.

    You should also only buy a gift that you can afford and not worry about buying a gift that is at least equal to the price per person for the wedding (or whatever nonsense people makeup about giving gifts). And if a gift isn’t in the budget at all, that’s ok too. Write a really nice heartfelt note on a pretty card. And then don’t forget to have fun at the wedding, get up and dance, and enjoy yourself!

  • Sawyer Wilson

    Find else who else you know is going to the wedding and split an AirBnb! It is usually a lot cheaper (and more fun!!) than using reserved rooms at a hotel 🙂