The Cost of Being a Wedding Guest

  • Copy by: Erica Gellerman
  • Feature Image By: Greg Finck

With summer just around the corner, wedding season is fast approaching, which means plenty of fun filled wedding festivities. While this can be wonderful, if you have multiple friends getting married in close succession you also know this can put a strain on your bank account.

According to American Express Spending & Savings Tracker, the average guest spends $673 on each wedding they attend—and that’s not including any of the festivities leading up to the actual event, like an engagement party, wedding shower, or bachelorette party. So, what does the average cost of a wedding guest look like?

  • Travel (including airfare): $225
  • Hotel: $170
  • Attire: $95
  • Wedding gift: $100
  • Shower gift: $25-$75

And there’s also bound to be that one summer where it feels like everyone you know is getting married and every weekend is filled with another wedding event. Add in a few long distance flights, or acting as a bridesmaid and before you know it, you’ve spent hundreds of dollars over the course of a year celebrating all of the wedded bliss. It’s a fun, but expensive, time to be a good friend.

With all the added pressure on your budget, how’s a girl to manage it all? Here’s what we suggest:

Plan ahead for all foreseeable costs.

There is, unfortunately, no easy solution here. If you know you have four friends getting married in the next year and you want to attend all of their weddings, planning for the expense of each trip is the first step. It may be best to set aside money in a separate account to attend the wedding and other events (hello, bachelorette party!), as a way to accurately budget for the expenditures.

And while it may be frustrating to have your entire vacation budget for the year taken up by weddings and bachelorette parties, try treating these as your vacation. Instead of flying in for a quick weekend, add a few extra days to relax and enjoy the location with good friends. One of the best weddings I ever attended was in Cape Cod, and part of what made it so special was staying a few extra days in a house rented with some of my closest friends. It was a great wedding that also ended up being a great vacation.

Get thrifty where you can.

I’m a procrastinator by nature. Give me something to plan or book and I’ll take as long as necessary to get it done. But when attending a wedding, that’s not a smart move.

If the wedding involves travel, book a flight early to make sure you’re getting the lowest fare price (and that you’re not stuck taking the 5:45 a.m. flight out the morning after the wedding—seriously, never a good idea). If you need to stay overnight, make sure to book a room early in the hotel block to take advantage of the discount offered. Or, check with friends attending about lodging—maybe splitting a house on Airbnb is the way to go. You’ll save money and have a fun weekend in a rental house with friends!

Also, remember to purchase a gift early from the registry. Most people buy gifts right before (or after) the wedding. But if you wait too long to buy a gift, the pickings are slim, leaving you with only expensive choices. Tip: Be sure to look for any sales or free shipping offers that store provides.

Or, if spending during wedding season has gotten away from you and your budget has been stretched a little too thin, you can send a gift up to a year after the event. Tip: You can get creative with a gift card to a local restaurant or event for the bride and groom. In a pinch, that little extra time might help spread out the financial strain.

If all else fails, politely decline.

There are some instances where regardless of how much you scrimp and save, and how much you love the bride and groom, it’s not actually possible to attend without causing some serious financial damage. When this is the case, it may be time to politely decline. And, trust me, your friend will understand.

So you may suggest celebrating another way—by taking the bride-to-be out for a celebratory dinner before the wedding or to brunch and for a mani/pedi before her bachelorette party. The gesture doesn’t need to be large, but it may help you feel like you’re celebrating with her in your own special way. And the important thing is to let her know you are really happy for her—even though you won’t be able to celebrate the big day.

So tell us, how do you fit weddings into your budget?

  • Kelley

    I recently spent a total of $1,600 to attend/participate my best friend’s wedding and all the other celebratory events leading up to it! While I am happy to celebrate my bestie and her husband, my budget took a severe hit that will cost me the new laptop I desperately need and summer trip I was looking forward to.

  • Being comfortable with saying “no” is extremely helpful with keeping your budget on track. I’ve been in 3 weddings so far and am in 1 more in 2017. While I’m very excited to participate, I’ve had to tell my friend that I can’t attend all of her festivities: engagement party, bridal shower, bachelorette party, and wedding. All 4 activities require travel so I picked 2 to attend: the bridal shower and of course the wedding. While the bride was less than thrilled that I wouldn’t be there for all the events, I made sure to emphasize that I care deeply about our friendship and I will be there by her side at her wedding – which is what the brides are ultimately asking you to do 🙂 To make up for not attending the other two events, I always ask how the planning is going and make sure I listen to everything she wants to talk about for the wedding. Being a good friend doesn’t mean you always have to physically be there – being emotionally available is just as clutch!
    As far as attire goes, I always wear something I already own or ask to borrow a dress from a friend. Mixing and matching accessories, shoes and purses with dresses you own keeps your look fresh without having to buy a new dress.

  • I’ve been very fortunate that the weddings I’ve attended the past few years have either been in my immediate vicinity or close enough to make a long-weekend drive (from LA to the bay area). And I have also been very fortunate to be able to stay with friends or split the hotel cost with friends when I have had to stay overnight. I do consider myself lucky in that regard.

    In terms of attire, I think there are a number of ways to save money. Dresses don’t have to cost a fortune to be wedding-appropriate and if you’re not going to weddings within the same friends circle, you can wear the same dress over and over again (maybe jazz it up with different accessories). I have worn very classy dresses to weddings from Old Navy and Ross.

    Also, no one should feel obligated to spend more than they can afford on a gift. If there isn’t something on the registry in your budget, you can get a gift card to one of the stores the couple is registered at for in your price range. With regards to all the extra parties, it’s also ok to say no if it’s going to stretch your budget too much. I declined to go to the bachelorette party of a close friend where I was in the wedding; it was just too much money. That’s ok, too.

  • Stefaniarocks

    In 2016 I will attend 7 weddings…SEVEN! And three bachelorette party! This means that this year I will work more than 3 months just to support my friends’ weddings! I am very happy for all of them, but I’m also very concerned about my finance!