After so many couples were forced to postpone their weddings in 2020, 2021 is shaping up to be a jam-packed wedding season. For many people that means a calendar filled with memorable weekends – if you can actually afford to attend.
Here are some practical ways to stretch your budget, so you don’t have to miss out on a single high-end buffet, open bar, or crowded dance floor.
Use credit card points
If you have credit card points, you can redeem them for flights, hotel stays, and rental cars. Play around with the redemption figures if you have several cards with significant point totals.
Don’t have a rewards card? It may not be too late to earn a free trip. Chase is currently offering a 60,000-point sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, along with a 100,000-point sign-up bonus for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Both of these offers are enough for a domestic round-trip flight and a couple nights at a hotel. Pro tip: compare reward cards and check the recommended credit score to ensure you’ll get approved before applying.
You can also redeem miles and points for gift cards at retailers like Target and Macy’s – perfect if you’re buying a gift off the registry. Also, look for coupons and discounts before making a purchase.
Be involved in the planning
If your best friend is getting married and you’re in the wedding party, encourage them to make budget-friendly decisions so you – and your other friends – can save some money.
For example, ask them to combine the bridal shower and bachelorette party so it’s on the same weekend. This minimizes the cost of travel and you won’t feel pressured to buy two big gifts.
If your friend is thinking of going of going on a trip for the bachelor party, help them find an affordable Airbnb or hotel arrangement. Look at flights for several different weekends to find the least expensive option.
Skip the hotel
Staying at a house or apartment can save you hundreds compared to staying at a hotel if you’re traveling for a wedding, bachelor or bachelorette party – especially if you can split a large house with several friends. When you find out you’ve been invited to an out-of-town wedding, coordinate with other guests to see if you can split a rental home.
If you’re getting a house or apartment with a decent kitchen, you can eat breakfast there and bring your own drinks and snacks. Some hotels charge extra for WiFi and parking, but if you stay at an AirBnB, those costs will be included in the price.
Minimize other expenses
Every time I get invited to a wedding, I’m tempted to buy a whole new outfit to prepare for the onslaught of pictures. But if you’re on a budget, skip the shopping spree. If you really do need a new dress or shoes, hit up a consignment store or ask a friend.
If you’re really struggling, don’t feel pressured to spend as much on a gift as you would normally. Alternatively, you can split a more expensive gift with several people so it still feels like you’re contributing something meaningful.
Create a budget
Before you mail back the RSVP card, go through your finances to make sure you can afford to go. See how much you currently have in your savings account, not including your emergency fund. Do you have a vacation fund you could put toward a wedding trip? Could you divert some discretionary money to a bachelorette party?
Then, plug the numbers into the travel budget calculator to see how much it will cost to attend the wedding. Add up the hotel, rideshare services, meals, and cost of boarding your pets. If the total amount is more than what you have available, you may have to decline the invitation.
If you’re invited to several weddings, at some point, you may have to decline an invitation. Or you may have to choose between attending a wedding or going to the bachelorette party.
If you have to choose, ask the bride or groom what they would prefer. Don’t assume they would rather have you come to the wedding, especially if the bachelor or bachelorette party is a better way to spend quality time with them.
I knew a bride whose friends couldn’t afford to fly in for both the bachelorette party and the wedding. She told them to come to the bachelorette party, where she would get more one-on-one time with them, compared to the wedding where face time would be scarce.
If you lost your job at some point or don’t have the money to travel for other reasons, don’t feel pressured to attend. Call your friend and explain the situation. A true friend will understand if you can’t afford to go.
Send a heartfelt card before the wedding, expressing how excited for them you are and how sad you are that you won’t be there in person. Before or after the wedding, you can still schedule a special day focused on celebrating them, a girls day to get your nails done, dinner with the couple, a fun hike or something you know they enjoy.
Whatever you do, don’t lie and say you can’t go because of vacation days or a work conflict. Some people might interpret that as you not caring enough to attend. Being honest about your financial situation gives them a chance to understand why you can’t go.
Start a sinking fund
If you have a while to save before the next wedding on your schedule, start a sinking fund. A sinking fund is a special savings account dedicated to a short-term goal, like your best friend’s wedding.
I like to create separate savings account for each sinking fund, which makes it easy to track how much I’ve saved for my goal. You can easily set up a goal in the Mint app.
Once you figure out how much attending the wedding will cost, divide that amount by how many months you have left. Then, create automatic transfers for that amount from your checking account to your sinking fund.
Before setting up the transfers, verify that you can afford to save that much every month. You may have to cut back in other areas or turn to more creative solutions, like finding a side hustle or selling stuff around the house.