How to Tackle the Expense of Attending a Wedding

Advice & Stories, Living & Spending
on March 14, 2014

How to Tackle the Expense of Attending a Wedding

You’ve heard it a million times before, and maybe you can vouch from firsthand experience—weddings are expensive. The cost to plan a wedding can be outrageous, but what about the wedding guests? Attending a wedding can be expensive, too. Especially if you are in the wedding party, or if you are invited to a destination wedding.

From engagement parties and wedding showers to bachelor and bachelorette parties, guests can spend hundreds of dollars just to be in attendance on a friend’s special day. This doesn’t even account for the expense of being in the wedding party. Renting a tux or buying the bridesmaid dress is just the beginning—groomsmen and bridesmaids are generally expected to plan and host all the showers and parties leading up the main wedding. Then for women there is hair, makeup, jewelry, shoes…Are you sweating yet?

We haven’t even touched on the cost of destination weddings. When a couple hosts a destination wedding, they are basically saying, “Hey, you’re going on vacation! It’s on these days, at this place, and you’re paying for it!” So long $1,300.

Of course, you are happy for your friends! You love them and want to celebrate with them, but how do you balance your love for them with your responsibility to your finances? If financial wellness is important to you, as it should be to everyone, you need to honestly evaluate your own financial situation before you commit to spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

So how can you celebrate with your friends without going broke? These guidelines will help you tread the murky waters surrounding frugality and friendship.

1. Be open with your friend… at the right time. When your friend calls to tell you she is engaged, don’t immediately jump into your financial issues. Give it a week or two and then subtlety probe into the details of the day. Will it be a destination wedding? Are you expected to host a shower? By asking these questions, you can suggest that you are on a budget and you want to start planning in advance.

2. Say yes, but know what you are getting into. If you are asked to be in a wedding party, chances are you will want to say yes. And you definitely should be in a friend’s wedding if you want to be, but it’s a good idea to have a conversation early on about what the expectations are. Again, the earlier you make it known you are on a budget, the better.

3. Decide if attending a destination wedding is right for you. If you are invited to a destination wedding, you have two options—go to the wedding or don’t go to the wedding. You do not have to go to Jamaica in July of 2015 if you don’t want to. There is nothing wrong with declining an invitation. Should you decline the invitation as politely as possible? Definitely. Should you buy the happy couple a wedding gift? Absolutely. But don’t get yourself into debt or a bad financial place just because you don’t want to offend someone.

If you are too close to the couple to decline the invitation, figure out a way to make it work. Destination weddings are usually planned far in advance, so figure out what your hard costs will be (flight and hotel), and start saving immediately.

4. Skimp on gifts. Sure that sounds harsh, but your friend or family member is asking you to spend hundreds, potentially thousands of dollars on their wedding, which may mean buying an expensive gift is out of the question. This is when you get creative. You don’t have to spend $200 in gifts. You can buy a few inexpensive items off their registry and wrap them in a creative way or give them a sentimental gift. It really is the thought that counts.

Above all the financial concerns, you will find a joyous occasion. Celebrate with your friends. But don’t let any awkwardness or guilt associated with the situation steer you into a financial bind.

Peter Dunn, aka Pete the Planner, is an award-winning financial mind who has authored five books, hosts the popular Pete the Planner radio show and travels around the country offering financial education. His signature wit will have you laughing as you learn. For more from Peter, visit

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