How to cut the cost of being a wedding guest
Being a wedding guest can be expensive. We look at ways to cut the cost but still have a good time.
Weddings are an expensive business. The current average cost of a wedding is around £20,000, an incredible amount to pay out for just one day.
But it's not just the bride and groom that face an expensive time - if you’re a guest you may have to pay out for five or six weddings each year.
I’ve reached the age now where my friends have started getting married and with all costs included it can easily add up to £500 for each wedding. So if you have six in a year, that’s £3,000 you’ve paid out.
But there are ways to cut back and enjoy the day, rather than resenting the newlyweds for sending you into the red.
Unless the wedding is nearby, transport costs are going to be a big part of your budget. As soon as you know when the wedding is taking place try to get this sorted.
Train tickets can be purchased three months in advance, and if you’re travelling with friends you can use a ‘Group Save’ group travel ticket to save money. Our article – How to cut the cost of rail and coach travel - has more information.
If the wedding is in a remote location, hiring a mini bus with friends, or renting a car, will also be cheaper than going on your own or getting a taxi.
Check out Carpooling: an easy way to cut your car costs for a run-down of the best ways to save money.
Ideally I’d prefer it if all my friends got married in London, but unfortunately most opt for countryside venues instead. This means paying for a hotel and as there isn’t normally a lot of choice, the price is expensive.
The best way to get around this is booking early, and again teaming up with friends if you’re going together. Do your research first as you may be able to find a cheaper hotel, such as a Premier Inn, slightly further out.
Hotels may also have deals for the wedding party so check this first. However, don’t just take the hotel’s word for it. As it’s a wedding you may be expected to pay more, so check whatever price they quote against that for normal non-wedding guests and then book the cheapest
Most couples will have a wedding list but unless they’ve specifically asked you to, you don’t need to stick to this. Similarly, some may ask for money instead, but if you’re not happy doing this you can give them your own gift such as something more personal (and less expensive) like a framed photo or print.
If you have a particular skill, such as baking, flower arranging or photography, you could offer out your services on the day as your present to the couple.
This means they’ll save money by not having to pay a professional and you’ll cut down costs you’d otherwise spend on a present. Just make sure with this you are going to give them a professional job as no one will thank you for a burnt wedding cake.
Attending a wedding means you’ll need to wear something smart, either a suit or a dress. But instead of forking out for a brand new outfit for each wedding, you can save money by borrowing something from a friend or by getting one second hand.
eBay is a good place to start, but watch out for the fees involved. Our article – How to win more on eBay – is full of ways to help you when bidding on the auction site. Preloved, Gumtree, Freecycle and Freegle are also worth exploring.
If you’re really lucky you might even pick up a new dress at your local charity shop, or a car boot sale. If you’ve not got time to trail the charity shops, some have online versions, like Oxfam.
This is a tricky one where you’re inevitably going to end up spending money. The same rules apply for transport and accommodation so book early to save money and try to buddy up with your friends.
If there is a series of events such as dinner, a cocktail-making class and an evening out, and you’re really struggling with cash then you could try to just go to one part, instead of a whole day’s activities.
Similarly, if you know you can’t afford it you could arrange something separately for you and the bride/groom such as cooking them a meal or taking them out to dinner at a future time when you can afford to.
Food and drink on the day
On the wedding day the food will likely be provided for you, normally through a sit-down dinner and a late-night buffet and obviously lots of cake.
However, while some weddings will have a free bar, others may only have paid-for drinks.
To avoid getting carried away and over spending, only take out a certain amount of cash for drinks. Don't take your cards with you, and you won’t be able to build up a huge bar tab. Getting together with friends and arranging a kitty will also help lower your costs.
Save for the day
If you know you’ve got eight weddings in a year, firstly don’t be afraid to turn down those you don’t actually want to go to. If it’s not a close friend or relative then don’t feel obliged to turn up.
Secondly, try to work out a budget for each wedding and then save for it. If you do have a lot of weddings in a year you may need to forego other activities to pay for them, such as mini breaks or evenings out.
If you have any other ideas for being a budget wedding guest – while still enjoying the day – please leave them in the comment box below.