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Friends' weddings busting your budget?

Seem like everyone you know is getting hitched? Savvy survivors of multiple invites offer advice.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 20, 2012 8:44PM

Image: Newlywed couple (© Purestock/SuperStock)Stephanie S. was invited to 10 weddings this summer. She'll attend eight of them along with showers, engagement parties and bachelorette shindigs, at a cost of at least $3,000.

"It's truly important to me to be at as many of these wedding events as I can," says the 25-year-old, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

Andrea Woroch has fewer invites (six) but higher expenses, about $8,500. Yikes.

That cost will be shared in part by her boyfriend, but Woroch is still feeling the budgetary pain. Normally she wouldn't have accepted so many invitations, "but this year everyone who is getting married is an important person in my life," says Woroch, a consumer expert for

These are extreme cases, of course. But even if you have only two or three weddings per year, the costs start to climb. Read on for some savvy spending tips.

Travel and lodgings

Drive or fly?
Do the math. Most of Stephanie's weddings are in North Carolina; she'll save $200 per event by driving instead of flying. Carpooling is even cheaper if you can coordinate schedules with another guest.

Airline deals:
Travel websites will alert you to the best prices and may even help you get a refund if the price drops. Read "$9 airfare and 9 other travel hacks" for more information.

Cheap sleeps:
The bride and groom's preferred hotel may not be the best deal. Look for a cheaper one nearby or explore other options at sites like Airbnb and Roomorama.


Book early: Look for lodgings as soon as you RSVP, because rooms go fast during wedding season, according to San Francisco event planner Amy Kaneko. Check again a few weeks before the wedding; you might be able to rebook at a better rate.

The gifts

Sook Yee Yeung, a wedding planner in Queens, N.Y., says she and her husband put 5% of their combined income into a special-occasions fund. This lets them "be a part of the celebrations while not breaking the bank."

Don't dawdle:
The less-expensive items on the gift registry go fast.

Something old: Check out estate sales and flea markets, suggests Los Angeles wedding planner Wayne Gurnick. "With a little bit of digging, you can find one-of-a-kind treasures," he says.

Go plastic:
"I often give a gift card," says Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers, a personal-finance blog. He usually spends $100 per wedding, less if he incurs "significant travel expenses" to attend. Look for discounted gift cards on the secondary market through the Gift Card Granny aggregator site.

Donate your services: Have a special skill such as flower arranging or photography? Offer it in lieu of a gift. Be gracious if the couple declines.

Wait a while:
If you can't afford a gift, don’t give one -- yet. "Etiquette mandates that guests have a full year from the wedding date to buy a gift," says MP Dunleavey of the Daily Worth.


Be real: No matter when you buy, don't get carried away. "The size of your gift is determined by your budget, not by what the bride and groom spend on you," Dunleavey says.

The bridesmaid's burden

According to, bridesmaids drop an average $1,695 per wedding on "(bachelorette) parties, engagement parties, bridal showers, pre-wedding brunches and anything else the soon-to-be-married couple has in mind."

Bridesmaids, heed these tips:

  • A one-time thing? You'll likely wind up with a dress you can never wear again. If you're close to the bride, "brainstorm the dress code," says Karla Amador of Event Finds. For example, attendants might wear the same color versus the same dress, with identical shawls or wraps to coordinate.
  • Get cheaper duds. If the couple prefers uniformity, check sites like and RetailMeNot for bridal store and tuxedo rental coupons. Or access wedding retailers through cash-back shopping sites for rebates of 4% to 10% plus coupon codes. (See "Get paid to buy stuff.")
  • Try DIY beauty. Some brides schedule group mani-pedi appointments or book hair or makeup sessions. Politely decline. Who's going to be looking at your hands or feet, really? Or your mascara?
  • Skip the party. If the bachelorette party is a "destination" event you can't afford, stay home. In an article on the Hustle Your Bustle wedding fashion resale site, the writers suggest focusing on the real objective: "Being able to afford being in the wedding."
  • But send your regards. Have champagne sent to the bachelorette party and "you'll become a living legend," according to Hustle Your Bustle.

What to wear?
Check your closet:
Update the nice dress or suit you already own with a new tie or a borrowed scarf or jewelry.

Go classic:
If you really don't have anything to wear, shop for a simple, flattering style that translates to other special occasions. Check consignment stores for "supercheap yet quality fashion and accessories," Woroch says. Men should watch for tuxedo sales at formalwear shops.

Something borrowed:
I wore a friend's dress to my brother-in-law’s wedding. No one knew.

Stand down:
While it's important to look presentable, you can't upstage the wedding couple. Nor should you try.

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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.