Let’s get started by having a conversation

Contact us
Tips to save money as a wedding guest

Tips to save money as a wedding guest

Thankfully at the ripe old age of 42, the wedding invitations have slowed down a little. Many of my friends and family are now happily married so I can breathe a sigh of relief as we approach wedding season.

Although it wasn’t that many years ago that I received a whopping thirteen invitations to friends and family weddings in one year. That year included a seven night trip to Vegas, several very expensive stays in some pretty special locations, a few small and intimate events, and dashing from one end of the UK to another to attend not one but two weddings in the same weekend.

It was quite a year, celebrating each of the weddings was a privilege and each an exceptional day in their own right. Last week I received another wedding invitation in the post and as always, I popped my RSVP in the post with a big smile at the prospect of the forthcoming nuptials.

Then, I began thinking about 2005 and the year of so many weddings. 17-years on and the cost of living is biting everyone – could I have afforded to do all of that again? Would I do it again? Would I have to give something up to go and if so, would I be prepared to give up to be able to?

How much does it cost to attend a wedding?

At the age of 26, I wasn’t particularly flush with money, and at the time I was working in a call centre but somehow I made it work. I didn’t have a summer holiday for two years so that I could go to Vegas for one of the weddings. This was a place I had no interest in going to and certainly wouldn’t have spent the same money on by my own impetus, but I actually found Vegas a really interest place. Whilst it wasn’t in my bucket list, spending time with friends was amazing, as was being part of someone’s big day,  but I use this example because whilst I ended up loving the whole experience, once was plenty for me.

I can’t help wondering, “What if it had been a different outcome?” Be in control of your spending…

I should state that for the record, there is no greater compliment than to receive a wedding invitation in the post.  That invitation to spend and share the couples important day is both a privilege and a joy but attending a wedding can be also be a burden with the average cost to attend a wedding being a huge £1045 according to Experian1 .

You want to say yes to the invitation but with the rising costs of living, how do you keep the spending under control and make sure that you respect the compliment that is bestowed by those sending the invite? I am would never dream of encouraging an individual to miss a wedding because of financial reasons, because it is possible to have a great day without spending the earth.

1. Wedding guests need to plan too

I am quite aware that both Caroline and I spend far too much time talking about budgets, but actually, budget planning is key when it comes to being a wedding guest.

Once a wedding invite arrives, think about what you can realistically afford and are able to  save between now and the date. Luckily most weddings tend to be booked well in advance, so if you start planning as soon as the invite arrives you wont have to go into debt to go just to enjoy the day.

Try to be realistic with the budget and this includes the gift.

It is not uncommon for wedding guests to wonder how much money should you spend on a gift, but the answer is totally down to you. Most newly weds are already living together, or have children and lives together these days so think about this before forking out on pots and pans.

Just remember you have been invited to share their day, so they’re guaranteed to be over the moon by your presence alone, so don’t break the bank on things they probably don’t need. If you do want to gift something special to the happy couple, make sure you plan early and set the money aside gradually rather than in one big instalment. 

2. Start early

With the budget done you should now know what you can afford to spend. The earlier you start planning the better deals you are likely to get. We all know about early bird train tickets but if you are anything like me, I am rarely organised enough to think it through and actually book a ticket which can in lots of cases save a fortune.

Do you really need it?

If your budget is tight do you need to have your nails and hair done, or with a bit of time and practice could you do your own? Whilst I am the resident luddite at Yorkshire Financial Planning, I am reliably informed by Caroline that you can learn pretty much anything on TikTok and that includes nails, make up and hair tutorials so you could well save some money and learn a new skill. 

3. Consider all the accommodation options

If the event is being held in a hotel then its massively convenient to just book a room in the same place but it isn’t always the cheapest option. Many wedding hotels will allocate a lower rate for a set number of rooms and once these are gone, then a booking would be at the standard rate. So if you want to stay in the same hotel as the event then its better to get a wriggle on and it booked as soon as the invite arrives.

If the hotel in question is out of your budget it is worth looking at what’s available in the local area. Chat to friends who are also attending. Is there a local reasonably priced hotel where you could all club together and get a taxi to and from the venue to reduce costs? Or better still, is there an Airbnb even more locally where you could share with friends and split the costs between you?

Last year I used this approach for a friend’s wedding which was August bank holiday in Edinburgh. Given it’s nearly a five hour drive it seemed logical to go up a day early even if it would include an extra nights stay. I cant even begin to tell you the figure for one nights stay in the swankiest hotel in Edinburgh might set you back, let alone two over an August bank holiday!

The budget hotels were definitely more reasonable but would have still made it necessary to go for just one night given the time of year. Having chatted to a few friends and with a bit of research I found an Airbnb in the perfect location for two nights at £409 which when split five ways made it a very affordable visit, particularly when you add in driving up together as opposed to five train tickets for a bank holiday weekend. 

4. Club together

With transport and accommodation sorted the inevitable next problem is the gift. Again, starting early on this is vital. With a bit of luck your friends will have sent out a gift list. They will no doubt have tried to find something for everyone’s budget. The problem is if you leave it to last minute, invariably the lower value items will have been taken so shop early to avoid disappointment.

Should this fail you can also club together with friends to purchase a big ticket item together so that you do not feel forced to stretch yourself. The bride and groom will be delighted with the gift as they did put it on their list and you can relax in the knowledge that it didn’t cost the earth.

If it comes down to cold hard cash, how much should you gift at a wedding?

With more people living together prior to marriage many have already set up home long before the wedding and have everything they need.  It is now much more common to see a wedding invitation which says something put in a very polite way which basically means “no presents, just some cash would be great please”. These words on any wedding invitation always make me groan and instantly I begin with questions like… How much is enough? Will I look cheap?… I am pretty sure the bride and groom will not give it a seconds thought but if you are on a budget its always going to go through your head.

Unfortunately I don’t have a magic wand for this one as I feel exactly the same as you but if its cash they want, my two suggestions would be clubbing together with friends as with a wedding gift, it will look bigger.

Alternatively, a quick phone call to find out where the bridge and groom will be honeymooning. The great thing about the strength of the pound is that most far flung destinations will give you a huge number of dingo dollars (or the local currency for your honeymooners selected destination). So, with a trip to a local bureau de change, you can feel that you look much more generous when you hand over your gift, even if it’s exactly the same in value as the £100 you planned or whatever your budget will allow.

Remember it’s the thought that counts after all!

5. Something old, something new, something borrowed

So the big day is nearly upon you and then comes the mad panic of what to wear. One of the biggest expenses previously for me has been the outfit for the big day, because of course whilst my wardrobe is bursting at the seams, there is never anything to wear!

Clearly the most sensible suggestion is to wear something you already own but if this is really not possible, why not have a quick read of our recent Facebook posts, 3 ways to avoid spending money on a new outfit? A declutter might just release a long forgotten gem from the back of your closet, or a girly swop night could mean a “new to you” outfit perfect for the wedding.

Failing that, chatting to friends might provide an outfit you can borrow.

Only when these have failed is it time to consider some shopping. Before dashing to the shops it’s worth remembering that it’s ok to wear something  you have worn before. As you can imagine the thought of buying thirteen new outfits in 2005 wasn’t exactly going to work on a budget, but I did manage to buy a cream suit which I wore to all but two of the weddings.

I varied the colour of the top that I wore so it felt like a new outfit each time and for the record I only wore a different outfit for the others as it was a bit cold for a linen suit for a Yorkshire October.

Buying something new can still work on a budget but heading straight to shops will almost certainly destroy all your hard work. Buying clothing you don’t need, just for the sake of keeping up with appearances, can contribute to lifestyle creep, and many of us are guilty of it. For more on lifestyle creep and how to avoid it, check our Caroline’s blog and useful advice on the topic.

I am a big fan of “something old” but not necessarily mine. The likes of new sites like Vinted (see I am not a total luddite) are a godsend if you are on a budget. You get the “new” outfit you were hoping for at a very reasonable price and the knowledge that you are saving the planet by reusing something that someone else would have thrown away. The last two outfits I wore to a wedding have both come from Vinted both still had there tags and were under £10 each. I don’t think I have ever had as many compliments so don’t knock it, until you have tried it.

Weddings can be a very expensive event without proper planning but by taking the time and starting early you can say “yes” to the invite even on the tightest budget and have the pleasure of watching your friends or family saying “I do”.

For more help and advice or to receive a complimentary guide covering wealth management, retirement planning or Inheritance Tax planning, contact Yorkshire Financial Planning on 01482 275540 or complete our contact form here.

1 Data Source – Which News – 18 ways to save money as a wedding guest (https://www.which.co.uk/news/article/18-ways-to-save-money-as-a-wedding-guest-aPaNK4o5kyLI) Updated 01/06/2023

Contact Us

Let's chat over a cuppa

Your Partner, together with St. James’s Place Wealth Management plc, are the data controllers of any personal data you provide and any further information which you subsequently provide to us. For further information on our uses of your personal data, please see the Partner’s privacy policy which can be accessed on their website and St. James’s Place Wealth Management plc’s privacy policy which can be accessed at www.sjp.co.uk/privacy