Weddings are expensive. It doesn’t matter if you’re the bride, the groom, the bridal party or just a guest—it all costs money. According to new data from MarketWatch, people spend an average of $703 just to be a guest at a wedding, and most go to about three weddings a year. Ouch.
And now that wedding season is kicking into high gear as the summer months truly begin, it can be a financially stressful time. You don’t want to have to say “no” to someone’s big day because you’re feeling the pinch. So here’s how to afford being a wedding guest this summer.
1. Don’t stress about your dress
Unless you’re the bride, there won’t be that many pictures of you in your dress. Wear something you already own, or pick a reasonably priced rental from a service like Rent The Runway. You don’t need to rush out and buy a new dress for every wedding you attend. If you end up wearing the same dress twice, it’s okay—anybody who would rag on you for being an outfit repeater isn’t worth your time.
2. Pitch in for the honeymoon fund
It doesn’t feel great to scroll through a couple’s wedding registry and buy the absolute cheapest thing on the list. Yes, you love them and are happy for their big day, but do napkin rings really communicate that? If the couple has a honeymoon fund, consider donating to that instead. It’s more thoughtful, and you can spend exactly as much as you feel comfortable.
Another option for gifts—wait a few months to send one. Common etiquette dictates that you have up to a year to buy a newlywed couple their wedding gift (more, if it’s your family… because your presence is a gift). Being able to save up for a little while and give a gift later can lessen the financial strain.
3. You don’t always have to fly
Recently, I attended my cousin’s wedding on Kiawah Island in South Carolina. Spoiler alert: It was beautiful and perfect, but getting to Kiawah can be difficult and expensive. Instead of flying (which would have been about $800 roundtrip), my boyfriend and I took the Amtrak down the coast. It wasn’t especially quick, but it was very inexpensive. Plus, we both got a ton of work done on the way and were able to bring our own meals, etc. to cut down on costs. So consider all your options for a destination wedding—the MegaBus isn’t fun, but it’s a small price to pay for a wonderful weekend.
4. Sometimes, you have to say no
If you get invited to seven destination weddings, something has to give. Be honest—tell the person that you have seven destination weddings and you just can’t make it work. Send a nice present, and tell them you’re very happy for them. But please, don’t feel guilty. You shouldn’t have to go into debt just because your college teammate is getting hitched.