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How Wedding Guests Can Cut Costs (Without Being Cheap)

On average, guests shell out $888 per wedding.

by Jean Chatzky /
Wedding guests toast with champagneBellamy Hunt / Getty Images

When you get a Save the Date card in the mail for a wedding, your first thought probably isn’t: “How much is this going to cost me?” But maybe it should be. Guests shell out an average of $888 per wedding, according to a survey by The Knot. And being a member of the wedding party means even higher costs. Bridesmaids spend about $1,200 per wedding, according to a survey by WeddingWire — and that can quickly jump to $1,820 after including all associated costs (alterations, travel, gifts, etc.).

“I would advise anyone in their mid-twenties or mid-thirties to factor [weddings] into your budget every year,” says Jessica Bishop, creator of TheBudgetSavvyBride.com. If you don’t use the money, you can add to your emergency fund, bulk up your retirement account or save it for the shindigs that will no doubt catch up with you down the road. Every year, wedding season is May to October. Figure out ahead of time how many of these events you can likely afford to attend, and say no to the ones you can’t. “Don’t go into debt to pay for a wedding,” says Bishop.

Whether you’re heading to the event as a guest or as a member of the wedding party, we’ve got tips for cutting costs.

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Wedding Wear

The price of wedding formalwear can add up, especially if you’re attending multiple events (like the bridal shower, bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner and wedding itself). First, try to raid your friends closets. Then, instead of shelling out extra cash on something you’ll probably only wear once, you could use Rent the Runway, which allows users to rent designer clothing at a fraction (usually between $30 and $215, depending on the dress) of the retail cost. If you’re a bridesmaid and were just given a dress color to match, this could be the way to go. Another option — especially if you’re attending multiple events in one weekend — is Le Tote, which allows users to borrow three items of clothing and two accessories at a time and starts at $39 per month. If your date needs a tuxedo, Menguin.com, a men’s formalwear rental site, can help. And if you’d rather sell your old formalwear and buy something new, sites like Tradesy.com and Poshmark.com are a good bet.

Don’t go into debt to pay for a wedding.

Don’t go into debt to pay for a wedding.

Wedding Gifts

People used to think you should spend as much on a wedding gift as the couple spent on food per person at the wedding, but that formula is no longer valid, says Bishop. Think about a) what you can afford and b) what your relationship is to the couple. The least amount you should probably spend is $50, and it’s a good idea to head to the registry website as early as possible to avoid getting stuck with the most expensive picks. Remember that many stores have a policy that if something goes on sale after you buy it, you can get a retroactive refund for the difference, so keep an eye on the item’s price after purchasing. If you’re a bridesmaid attending multiple events, collaborating on group gifts is an option — for example, if eight of you went in on a $200 gift, it’d be $25 per person. Finally, you can always go the creative route. “I attended a wedding and the couple were going to a mountain cabin immediately after,” says Anastasia Stevenson, the DIY Wedding Planner. “Instead of buying a pricey gift, I made them a gourmet, hand-crafted gift basket [with] wine, a corkscrew, candles and some treats.”

Travel

When you RSVP “yes” to a wedding that’s not within driving distance, it’s a good idea to start thinking about flights as soon as possible. Sign up for fare alerts from websites like Scott’s Cheap Flights, The Flight Deal and HolidayPirates, or use an app like Hopper to keep an eye on fares and advise you when to book. Don’t start searching more than three months in advance to avoid inflated prices, but also do your very best to avoid booking within 30 days of the trip — that’s when prices can skyrocket. You can also always take advantage of the new “basic fares” on select routes with carriers like United, Delta and American Airlines — they can be about 20 percent cheaper than main cabin, and they should pop up when available next to the other seat class options on an airline’s website. Use Google Flights to compare side-by-side flight options, and one feature will sometimes prompt you if fares are likely to go up or down. When it comes to lodging, check the save the date card and/or wedding website for discounted hotel rates. If there aren’t any, there’s a good chance you can create your own hotel block discount, says Anne Chertoff, WeddingWire Trend Expert. Call a local hotel and tell them how many people you are and how many rooms you need, then ask, “Can you do something for us?” Also remember you can save 50 percent on a hotel room by splitting it with a friend.

With Hayden Field

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