Your fridge is covered in Save the Dates, clever hashtags fill your Instagram feed and your vacation days are spoken for before you know it. It can only mean one thing: wedding season is here again. Even if you’re someone who loves love and can’t resist a good photobooth, you may feel a little worried when this time of year rolls around and you think about the toll on your wallet. Before you panic about your budget, take a look at these seven tips to help you avoid breaking the bank whether you’re attending or you’re in multiple weddings this year.
1. “No” Can be a Good Thing
When a shiny invite arrives in the mail promising a seaside wedding celebration complete with bridal shower and bachelorette party invites to follow, your instinct may be to immediately add everything to your calendar. The unfortunate reality is that it just may not be possible financially (or physically given your allotted vacation days) for you to attend every festivity involved in a wedding. Instead of skipping out on all of the above, opt in to the one that makes the most sense for you and prioritize accordingly. Chances are your engaged loved ones will appreciate what you can attend way more than be disappointed at what you can’t.
Helpful hint: You can be there without being there by sending a small surprise to the events you can’t attend. Call the restaurant ahead of time to order a round of champagne or send something fun to wear for the bachelorette party (fake mustaches, anyone?) with one of your friends who is attending to let your friend know you’re there in spirit.
2. Check Out the Registry Early
Couples tend to do you a massive favor and that's registering their gift wish list early—you'll typically have at least four or five months of notice about a bride and groom's wedding registry. Be proactive about buying your gifts early. Often times, the longer you wait, the more likely there will only be big ticket items left on the list, so deciding on a gift early on will help you be able to get the couple something that they want and save you some bucks.
You might also want to plan on perusing the registry during times when there’s likely to be a big sale, like holiday weekends. Sales let you save a little extra on your gift that you can put toward something else wedding-related.
Helpful hint: If you’re already late to the registry, it might be worth waiting for a sale even after the big day has passed (remember, you have a year to give your gift). It will make it easier to purchase one of those last-on-the-list items that might be slightly more expensive than you originally budgeted for.
3. Cash in on Rewards
Traveling alone often costs over $300 per guest, according to The Knot's wedding guest survey. One way to subsidize the cost of traveling to and from a wedding: Redeem your credit card rewards.
Depending on how far in advance the couple sends out their save the dates (usually around six months), you should have a good amount of time to take advantage of any current credit card rewards you’ve accrued. Or—if the wedding is some ways off—you can start building up your rewards now. Things like setting up automatic payments with your credit card can help you get rewards for stuff you’re already paying for anyway, so when it comes time to book your travel, you’ll have a nice nest of funds to pull from.
Helpful hint: Aim to purchase travel you can feel comfortable paying off in a timely fashion.
4. Trade in “New” for “Gently Used”
It's an honor when a family member or friend asks you to be part of the bridal party. But going into debt to pay for all that comes with it can really put a damper on that fiesta. Instead, explore some alternative options for purchasing larger items, like your attire for the big day.
For bridesmaids especially, you may be able to save on the cost of the dress by buying a previously used one. There are a number of sites that offer an array of options for bridesmaid dresses, including Poshmark, Tradesy, Bridesmaid Trade, and more. (Even Ebay has some options).
Helpful hint: It's common for one type of dress or style to dominate each wedding season, so if your bride picks a trendy dress, then you can probably find another bridesmaid looking to sell hers. Keep this in mind for shoes too.
5. Split up as a couple
It's fun to attend weddings with your partner or spouse—a dance floor makes for a fantastic night. But the two of you may find that coupling up means doubling your number of wedding invites. Should you find yourself feeling financially strapped by trying to go together to each wedding, try splitting up your attendance where you can.
Helpful hint: Getting creative with an RSVP can help soften the my-better-half-isn’t-attending blow. Try adding a personal note when sending your response or dropping a personalized email for digital responses. And always remember to sign the card on your gift from both of you.
6. Book Early and Share Costs
Because many couples have a group rate on a block of hotel rooms, make it a priority to book your accommodations early. It's usually a first-come, first-serve policy with a limited number of rooms, so waiting too long may have you booking at the regular price, or worse, not being able to stay at that hotel. Check with the hotel ahead of time for options around doubling up with friends or family to bring down the cost of a more expensive room.
Helpful hint: If you know you have a lot of family or friends attending, try looking at home rental sites, which have made it much easier to lower the cost of booking accommodations for a wedding. You can easily go in on a larger space with multiple people to help subsidize the cost. Better yet, you can split food costs for the days you’re not at the wedding by taking advantage of the kitchen.
7. Start Your Savings Fund for Next Year
Chances are you’re already in the thick of wedding season planning for this year, but it’s never too late to start planning for next year, and that means starting a special savings fund just for weddings. Crazy? Maybe. But fast forward to you this time next year and you’ll be happy you did.
Start by setting up a separate savings account with your bank and determine how much money is reasonable to dedicate to it each month. Even depositing a small amount will help you when the time comes to start planning. You can even set up automated transfers from one account to another. The automatic deposit helps make saving even easier considering you won’t have to remember to move money each month. And if you’re currently mired in the search for a perfectly affordable accommodation for your August wedding in Cabo and don’t have time to even think about next year, consider the number of people in your life who are likely on the verge of an engagement… Might be time to log in to your account.
Helpful hint: Setting up regular goals for yourself can help keep you motivated to grow your wedding savings. Work toward beating each month’s savings by a set percentage and by your end date, you might be surprised at how much you have to help pay for the season’s expenses.