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How to cut the cost of being a wedding guest

Rebecca Rutt
by Lovemoney Staff Rebecca Rutt on 22 February 2013  |  Comments 5 comments

Being a wedding guest can be expensive. We look at ways to cut the cost but still have a good time.

How to cut the cost of being a wedding guest

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.

Travel

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.

Accommodation

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

The gift

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.

Teaming up with friends to buy something is another way to cut costs without looking cheap and this is especially handy with big gifts, such as a food processor.

Wedding favours

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.

Your outfit

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.

Hen/stag do

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.

More on weddings:

How to tie the knot on a budget

Eight cheap and thoughtful wedding gift ideas

How to set up a free wedding website

How to get a cheap wedding dress

Money saving tips for Indian wedding guests

The seven worst wedding rip-offs!

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Comments (5)

  • electricblue
    Love rating 769
    electricblue said

    A suggested cost of £500 a time to attend a wedding is absurd. Where did the author meet her friends - whille attending college classes in 'Gullible'? A silly article indicative of the attitude that so many things of little consequence are regarded as 'essentials' these days.

    Do please illuminate on 'watching out for fees' as a BUYER on Ebay. Have they suddenly introduced a buyers' premium?

    Report on 23 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • jonnie2thumbs
    Love rating 107
    jonnie2thumbs said

    £20k is ridiculous - it's nearly 2000 quid per year for the average marriage.

    Report on 24 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • russbiker
    Love rating 70
    russbiker said

    Up to 8 weddings in one year?

    I doubt I've even got 8 friends, let alone 8 of them getting married!

    Report on 24 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • JRAY100
    Love rating 66
    JRAY100 said

    A couple of years ago we were invited to a wedding in Inverness and so had to travel and stay there from the London area... flying was costly and it was a two-day celebration.

    So, the Highland Cheiftain ex King's Cross... say the return tickets were ~£100 each (can't quite remember)... but by using the hotel booking link with EastCoast Mainline, the tickets were bundled with the hotel stay... so the bottom line: 3 nights for the price of 2 in the Inverness Thistle Hotel INCLUDING FULL BREAKFAST AND return 8 hour each way train journeys for TWO of us, YES £253 all in!

    For some reason the EastCoast Mainline website didn't seem to offer us seat allocation... not sure why.

    Lovely hotel and staff... great breakfast spread. Two points!

    Report on 25 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • PlasticPup
    Love rating 9
    PlasticPup said

    I don't know about 8 weddings in one year but I've been to a few over the years that have ended up costing quite a bit.

    A two week holiday in Antigua for my sister's wedding.

    2 country hotel weddings that involved overnight stays, one of which I shared a room with a friend in a nearby B&B rather than stay at the actual venue.

    One friend had a local wedding but a hen weeked away and two other separate hen nights for different sets of friends, I ended up going to all of them!

    Report on 14 March 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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