How to Budget for Attending a Wedding

Quick Answer

Getting invited to lots of weddings is an honor but can also be a big expense. You can lower the cost of attending a wedding by being selective, setting a budget for each event, starting a wedding fund and looking for deals on travel and gifts.

Happy wedding guests sitting in an outdoor venue and clapping at the end of the ceremony.

Getting married can be expensive—not only for the happy couple, but also for the guests. In 2022, the average guest spent $550 to attend a wedding, according to wedding site Zola. When air travel is involved, costs soared to over $1,300. Multiplying the outlay, guests attended an average of four weddings annually. Being invited to several weddings in one year can be pricey, but you can make it less daunting by budgeting for the expenses, booking travel and lodging early and going in on gifts with friends.

Costs to Consider When Attending a Wedding

When deciding whether you can afford to attend a wedding, consider these expenses.

  • Travel: Some 20% of couples had destination weddings last year, according to wedding planning site The Knot. Inflation and rising fuel costs have made both driving and flying more expensive. Airfare rose almost 20% from January 2022 to January 2023, according to data from travel site Hopper.
  • Lodging: Depending on distance, you may choose to stay overnight even for a non-destination wedding. Hotel rates soared by over 50% from January 2022 to January 2023, Hopper reports.
  • Gifts: Tradition dictates that you should send a wedding gift even if you can't attend. Engagement parties and wedding showers also call for gifts.
  • Clothing: Appropriate attire for the wedding and related activities may vary depending on the event's location, formality and time of year. If you're in the wedding party, expect to spend more; women may also have to pay for professional hairstyling and makeup.
  • Childcare: Unless your children are invited guests, you'll need a sitter for the day—or longer, in the case of a destination wedding.
  • Wedding-related events: Bachelor/bachelorette parties often involve travel and last two or three days, making them particularly pricey.

How to Prioritize if You're Invited to Multiple Weddings

When you're invited to several weddings in a year and can't swing them all—either financially or schedule-wise—you'll need to prioritize. When making your decision, you can:

  • Weigh your relationship to the couple. Is the groom your best buddy, or a former fraternity brother you haven't seen for 10 years? Set your own criteria, and don't feel guilty about it. For example, you might choose to attend weddings only if you're in the wedding party or related to the bride or groom.
  • Attend the events closer to you. If traveling to destination weddings isn't financially feasible, put your budget toward nuptials closer to home.
  • Focus on the wedding day. Just because your friend is throwing a three-day blowout doesn't mean you have to attend all three days. Attending the wedding ceremony and reception and skipping the pre- and post-wedding festivities will save money on accommodations, clothing and more.
  • Turn a wedding into a vacation. Extend a weekend destination wedding into a week-long vacation, and kill two trips with one flight. Flying midweek might save you money, too, since weekend flights usually cost more.

How to Budget for Attending a Wedding

The key to managing multiple weddings in one year is to budget for them all. Here's how.

  • Start saving early. As soon as you get a "save the date" card, estimate the expenses involved and build a sinking fund to finance them.
  • Funnel windfalls to your wedding attendance fund. Whenever surprise cash comes your way—a bonus at work, a tax refund or a generous gift from Aunt Edna—put it toward upcoming weddings.
  • Create or revamp your budget. Look for places you can cut costs and stash the savings in your wedding fund. For example, could you cancel some subscription services or slash your entertainment budget and put that money into the wedding fund instead?
  • Earn extra money. Look for quick ways to make money, such as taking a side gig, finding temporary work, asking for more hours at work, selling unwanted items online or tutoring.

How to Save on the Costs of Attending a Wedding

Try these ideas to help cut the cost of attending a wedding.

  • Start planning early. Don't wait to book flights, rental cars or hotels—budget options may sell out quickly. Use websites such as Google Flights and Skyscanner to track airfares, compare prices and get notified of price drops so you can jump on deals.
  • Go in on a group gift. You want to give a fancy espresso maker, but can barely afford a coffee mug? Pool your resources to stretch your budget and buy a gift with a bigger impact.
  • Watch for sales and coupons. Check the wedding registry early, then join retailers' loyalty programs and follow them on social media for discount offers and sale notifications. Use coupon aggregator sites such as RetailMeNot and Rakuten to search for coupon codes.
  • Investigate lodging options. Couples often reserve blocks of rooms for guests at the wedding venue, but even at a discount rate, there may be cheaper options. Compare prices at nearby hotels or Airbnb or Vrbo rentals.
  • Share accommodations. Splitting a vacation rental or sharing a hotel room with friends saves money—and it's fun, too.
  • Get help. See if family or friends will babysit your children for free. Grandma may be delighted to have your kids spend the weekend.
  • Pay with points. Use points on a rewards credit card to book hotels or flights. You could even start putting everyday purchases on the card to earn more points. Just be disciplined enough to pay off your balances every month so you don't end up with high-interest credit card debt.
  • Use gift cards. Check to see if you have unused retail gift cards that could help pay for wedding gifts.
  • Shop your closet. Instead of splurging on a new outfit for each event, buy one that you can wear to multiple weddings. (With all eyes on the happy couple, no one will notice.) Better yet, wear clothes you already have, borrow from friends or rent your finery.

Ways to Show the Couple You Care if You Can't Make the Wedding

Writing a personal note on your RSVP card is generally enough to convey your regrets to a couple you're not especially close with, such as a coworker or former schoolmate. But if you can't attend a good friend's wedding, you need to show your support in other ways. Here are some ways to let the couple know you're thinking about them.

  • Give them a call to decline the invitation. Breaking the news in person is more thoughtful than texting. No need for a detailed explanation; just tell them that you're happy for them and disappointed that you can't attend.
  • Let them know soon as possible. Having a headcount makes it easier to plan. It also gives the couple the opportunity to invite other people.
  • Send a gift with a personal note, separate from the wedding gift. This will help ensure your regrets don't get lost in all the wedding cards, and shows you truly value your connection to the couple.
  • Make plans to get together before or after the wedding. Suggest an idea that resonates with your friend, whether that's a relaxing girls' night in or a fancy dinner out with the couple.
  • Attend other wedding-related events to which you're invited. Your presence at the bridal shower or engagement party will still be welcomed, and you may be able to save money traveling during a less busy time.
  • Offer your assistance. There's a lot to do when planning a wedding. Ease your friend's burdens by offering to research venues, honeymoon ideas and caterers; help shop for dresses; put together wedding favors or table décor; plan a shower or simply be a sounding board.

The Bottom Line

By planning ahead and setting a budget for attending weddings, you can celebrate with friends and family on their special day without derailing financial goals such as saving for a down payment on a home or paying off credit card debt.

Planning to use credit cards to pay for flights, hotels or other big expenses? Depending on the card, this could earn you rewards points or cash bonuses; some cards also offer travel insurance and other protections. Just be aware that a large purchase will increase your credit utilization ratio, which can cause a dip in your credit score. To prevent this, pay off the balance before your statement period ends.

With so many expenses during the wedding season, consider signing up for free credit monitoring from Experian. Let Experian watch your credit report for changes and potential signs of fraud, while you enjoy making toasts, catching bouquets and dancing the night away.