Attending a wedding without breaking the bank

Brides and grooms aren’t the only ones shelling out big bucks for their big day. As wedding season approaches and the invitations pile up, so does the financial stress. As you were deciding between chicken and beef while filling out the RSVP card, you may not have anticipated just how many financial decisions you would have to make in order to attend the wedding.

According to a poll by the National Endowment for Financial Education, 56 percent of adults said they were unlikely to limit the number of weddings they attend in the next year because of economic factors.

The poll also found that 42 percent of those planning to attend a wedding in the next year expect to spend up to $500 per wedding. If you add up the cost of attending multiple weddings the costs only increase.

The key to keeping your wallet intact during wedding season involves taking a realistic look at your finances, and planning your budgeting accordingly.

When budgeting, keep in mind the factors involved in attending a wedding, including transportation, accommodations, attire and gifts.

Transportation
Depending on the location, travel will likely be the most expensive category. If you are attending an out-of-town wedding and have to find a flight, it is important to begin comparing airfare early. Websites such as farecompare.com and kayak.com will search multiple sites for the lowest fares, and can also send you price alerts.

Another way to keep travel costs down is to minimize extra fees. Many airlines now charge fees for baggage, so if you are leaving for only a couple of days, you could save by packing all of your things in your carry-on. Also check the status of any frequent flyer miles. It may be time to cash in on that free flight.

With many frequent flyer programs you can use miles to book rental cars as well. It’s a great money-saving option if you need to book a ride, but remember that extra fees for rental cars can also add up. Before you reserve a vehicle, check to see if your hotel offers shuttle service, or if a wedding attendee can provide transportation. If you aren’t sure, check with the bride and groom. They likely have many guests traveling and may have a solution for your transportation needs.

Accommodations
I have yet to attend a wedding where the bride and groom didn’t have a deal set up for guests with a local hotel. However, for the last wedding I attended I was able to find a better deal through the hotel’s website. If nothing else, call the hotel and ask about any specials.

Wedding Gifts
Just because the bride and groom registered for a $400 blender, doesn’t mean you have to be the one to purchase it. The key here is to get creative. If you’re really strapped for cash sometimes a homemade gift or offering to help with a task will be just as appreciated. A personal and memorable gift will mean more to the couple than simply buying the least expensive item on the registry. Besides, are they really going to think of you every time they use their spatula?

Attire
Unless you’re in the wedding party, don’t buy a new outfit if you can’t afford it. If you do need to purchase a new outfit, there are steps you can take to ensure you don’t wear out your wallet in the process. You don’t necessarily need to buy new jewelry, shoes and a handbag to match your attire. These expenses can add up very quickly, and you may not realize how much you’re actually spending. Set a strict budget and stick to it! Make sure to include any extraneous expenses, such as getting your nails or hair done.

Ultimately, couples understand the financial burden, so don’t feel badly if you aren’t able to attend for financial reasons. Send a nice note or make a quick phone call to respectfully decline, but be sure to express gratitude to the couple for asking you to be a part of their special day.

Jessica Horton is a former copywriter and community manager at MMI.

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