While marriage may be the ultimate way to commit to the one you love, weddings are also big business. According to the Real Weddings Study from The Knot, the average cost of a wedding reached an all-time high of $35,329 in 2016.
But, all of the costs of a wedding aren’t born by the bride and groom or their families, and that number doesn't include all a wedding's costs anyway. In addition to funds spent on a wedding itself, there are gifts for the bride and groom, costs covered by the wedding party and travel expenses paid by guests, for example.
So, what do you do if you want to save on a friend’s wedding? It can be tricky. When you don’t get to choose the “when and where,” it can be hard to to keep costs down.
Here are some tips that can help you save no matter who calls the shots:
Bow out of being a bridesmaid or a groomsman
Being a bridesmaid or a groomsman has become expensive. A recent study from WeddingWire pegged the average cost of being a bridesmaid at $1,200, which includes a dress, hair, makeup and travel. The average bridesmaid spends an average of $208 on the dress alone.
Believe it or not, the average groomsman may spend more. A study from GoBankingRates found groomsmen spent some absurd amounts on weddings in the past, mainly because they spend more on wedding gifts and miscellaneous costs.
The bottom line: If you want to save money, attend the wedding as a guest but don’t stand with the bride and groom.
Suggest frugal ideas early on
While you may not get to decide all the details for your friend’s big day, planting some frugal ideas in their head never hurts. If your friend is willing to negotiate a discount on a block of hotel rooms for the wedding, for example, that could lead to savings for everyone.
Another example: If you can talk your BFF out of having a bachelorette party in Las Vegas and into having one in your hometown, your wallet (and other frugal guests) will thank you.
Start building a wedding savings account early
With at least one wedding on the way and more coming in the future, it’s best to start saving money early on. Try putting $20 per week (or whatever you can afford) in a high-interest savings account now before wedding season hits and even more of your friends get engaged.
By the time the next wedding rolls around, you’ll be glad you did.
Skip some of the pre-wedding festivities
While the cost of weddings has gotten out of hand, so have the number of events associated with the big day. Not only do couples plan the wedding itself, a reception and a rehearsal dinner, but there are often engagement luncheons, bridal showers, dress-shopping events, bachelor and bachelorette parties and other events.
While plenty of these events are legit, all of them combined may be too much for your wallet. The more of these events you can skip, the more you can save.
Use credit card rewards
Credit card rewards can help make a friend’s wedding more palatable financially, and that’s especially true if you need to travel. Figure out where and when the wedding will be held, then map out a travel rewards strategy that can cover your hotel and airfare.
If you are unsure of the travel details just yet, you could settle on a flexible travel credit card instead. As an example, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard offers a big signup bonus plus two points for each dollar you spend. Because it’s a flexible card, you can redeem your points for airfare, hotel stays, trains and other travel expenses at a rate of one cent per point.
Give a frugal gift
Last but not least, try to come up with a frugal gift to give your friend on his or her big day. Even if you wish you could give them the most expensive item on their wedding registry, there’s nothing wrong with setting a reasonable limit and finding a gift that’s meaningful and frugal.
Look for something inexpensive you know your friend will love – whether it’s on their wedding registry or not. You can also consider giving a handmade gift or a “gift of service” that is valuable in its own way. You could drive your friends to and from the airport for their honeymoon, for example. Or, you could watch their dog or cat while they’re away.
Think of a gift only you can give and give it openly and from the bottom of your heart. A real friend will appreciate the thought you put into your wedding gift no matter how much you spent.