How to Budget for a Friend’s Wedding

It starts with one, and then before you know it, you’re in the middle of an epidemic—all of your friends are getting married. The average married couple ties the knot in their late twenties nowadays, so the closer you get to thirty, the more you can expect to see wedding invitations rolling in. Your first reaction may be happiness and excitement, but that may soon give way to worry, as you realize that participating in your friend’s wedding is going to cost you.

Being a wedding guest is still a lot cheaper than being the bride or groom, but you can expect to rack up a few expenses while attending a typical traditional wedding. If your social media feed is starting to fill up with big announcements and pictures of engagement rings, you know it’s coming. Thus, it’s time to start budgeting for all the weddings you’re going to be invited to.

Estimating Expenses

In order to budget for a friend’s upcoming wedding, you need to have some idea of how much it’s going to cost you to attend. This can vary a lot, depending on how big and elaborate the planned wedding is going to be, and what role you’re going to have in it.

  • Travel. Unless the wedding is being held in your own hometown, you’re going to have to get yourself there somehow. If it’s nearby, you might only be out a few bucks for gas, but if you’re going to a destination wedding, you could be looking at hundreds of dollars in airfare.
  • Hotels. If you are going to a destination wedding—or even one where you don’t think it’s wise to drive home after the reception—you’re going to need a place to stay. Depending on the location, a budget motel may or may not be an option.
  • Wedding Gifts. What’s a wedding without presents? Except in those rare cases where couples insist that “your presence is the only present we need,” wedding etiquette pretty much requires you to come bearing gifts. Cultural expectations may vary, but in most cases, a gift that costs between $50 and $100 is appropriate for a friend’s wedding.
  • Food & Drinks. Does your invitation include phrases like “cash bar,” “rehearsal dinner,” or “bachelor/bachelorette party?” If so, make sure you include a line for food and drinks in your budget, because you’re not going to be able to get away with brown-bagging this one.
  • Clothes. Do you have an appropriate outfit to wear to a wedding? If so, you might be in the clear, but if you find yourself Googling “are board shorts and flip flops okay for wedding attire,” accept the fact that you’re going to need to pick a few things up. Bridesmaids and groomsmen, on the other hand, can expect to pay $150 and up for tux rentals, dresses, shoes, and the rest.

All of these expenses can range from zero to astronomical, depending on your particular social circle and the expectations of the couple planning the wedding. Once you know the details—where the wedding is going to be, what events you’re being asked to attend or participate in, and beyond—you should be able to estimate how much you’re going to need to spend in each of these categories.

As you start planning, keep in mind, that the average guest spends over $600 to attend a wedding.

Managing a Wedding Fund

Once you have an idea of how much you’ll need to spend, start making plans to ensure you’ll be able to afford it. Remember, it’s okay to say no if you need to. If flying to Mallorca to attend your college roommate’s wedding is going to plunge you into serious debt, you’re not a bad person if you send your regrets for not being able to attend!

Assuming you’ve accepted the invitation, you can use the time between saving-the-date and the wedding itself to put aside money to cover your expenses.

A savings account can be a great way to maintain a fund for weddings and similar events. Find one that pays a decent interest rate, and determine an amount you can afford to contribute each month. The hard part, of course, is keeping your hands off of that money for everyday expenses, when things get tight. One smart idea is to keep a savings account that isn’t tied to the main bank account you use for debit card purchases and check writing. Doing this makes it easier to “forget” about the second account, so it’s harder to quickly transfer funds into your checking account when you’re feeling the pinch.

Plan Ahead to Make It Work

When you know there’s a wedding on the horizon, and you’ve figured out how much it’s likely to cost you, adjust your contributions, to ensure you have enough when the day arrives. Not sure if you’re going to have enough? You might want to look for a side hustle to put a little extra money in your pocket on a temporary basis.

Being there on the big day for people you really care about can be an experience you’ll always cherish, so don’t let bad financial planning cause you to miss out on your friends’ once-in-a-lifetime events. Take a little time to plan and prepare, and you can maintain a perfect attendance record throughout wedding season, without going broke.