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As someone who’s attended at least three weddings a year for the past seven, planned her own, written two books on the topic and occasionally plans them for others, it’s safe to say that I know a bit about the process.
With the average millennial shelling out $600 per wedding-related event from showers to bachelor parties, according to a Priceline.com survey, it’s no wonder that nearly 40% of invitees skip the main event due to cost.
But don’t bow out just yet. Here’s my take, with expert tips, on how to save big on the wedding circuit.
Expense #1: Travel and Lodging
While the bride and groom may have negotiated a lower rate with hotels for a room block, shop around online for a better price. On Hotels.com, for example, you can earn a free night after booking 10 others — something to keep in mind as you plan travel throughout the year. One caveat: Sometimes couples must pay for rooms they can’t fill within their block. If you see language on their wedding site like, “we strongly encourage you to stay at X hotel,” check with them before booking on your own.
For frequent wedding-goers, consider using a credit card that earns you discounts, suggests travel expert Eric Rosen. (Just remember to pay off your balance each month!)
Finally, if you’re flying in, use cabs or a ride-share service instead of renting a car. Better yet, try public transit if you can budget the time.
Expense #2: Attire
Renting a dress or tux sounds good in theory, but spending $50-plus on an outfit you’ll wear once is out of most people’s budgets. Instead, borrow from a friend or visit your local outlet mall to invest in two quality dresses or suits for $100 to $400 that you can wear again and again. Aim for neutral colors and classic silhouettes, and use accessories to change up the look. Honestly, no one will notice or care if you re-wear a dress — the only outfit people care about is the bride’s anyway. (And OK, maybe the groom’s.)
Don’t forget to invest in a good pair of shoes, says wedding planner Andrea Freeman. Paying up for quality can mean they’ll last longer — and protect you from dance-floor blisters.
Expense #3: Child Care
Children are typically excluded from festivities unless they’re family or in the wedding party. And while some couples offer a prepaid child care option for guests, most don’t. That means someone’s gotta watch the kids.
“If you’re traveling for a wedding that isn’t kid-friendly and can’t pawn them off on grandparents, you might want to pool your resources with other couples in the same situation and hire a sitter to watch the kiddos at the hotel,” says Freeman, who’s also seen guests use Care.com in a pinch.
Expense #4: Gifts
The greatest words on any wedding invite are “your presence is present enough.” (I literally breathe a sigh of relief every time I see them … and maybe do a fist pump.) However, most couples create a gift registry and, as a guest, you’ll likely feel obligated to acquiesce.
Denver-based wedding planner Lauren Groeper suggests giving according to your relationship and your means. “For example, it would be expected to give a little bit more if a family member is getting married versus a coworker,” she explains. “Also, couples are thankful for any guests who are unemployed or right out of college to just give what they can. A small and thoughtful gift can sometimes be the most meaningful.”
If you’re traveling for a wedding, don't go all out with that 10-piece Le Creuset set. The couple will know you had to shell out significant dough just to attend.
Finally, check the registry early before all the budget-friendly gifts are spoken for. If you’re too late, cash is always an option, or get creative with a couple’s cooking class or massage. “Bonding activities are always appreciated, especially after all the stress of planning a wedding.” Freeman says. “Nobody will check the price tag on such a thoughtful gift, so look for deals online.”