It’s officially wedding season, and if you’re in the late-20s-to-early-30s age bracket, you probably have a stack of invitations piling up from college pals begging you to attend their destination wedding in Tuscany. Considering the average guest spends $600-to-$700 to attend a ceremony, it’s no wonder that weddings are putting millennials into debt.
Before the pandemic, a 30-year-old woman in England went broke after she attended 20 weddings in four years, per the New York Post. After racking up $13,200 in debt, she had to move back in with her parents.
“I shudder when the invite arrives,” she told The Sun. “I wish I could say no — but how do you tell your friends you just don’t think their wedding is within your budget? I know the drill at weddings. The bride will walk down the aisle to Ed Sheeran, the floral theme will be subdued greenery — and my bank balance will have taken another hit to the tune of $380.”
Although this woman’s story sounds like a nightmare, according to a 2017 Priceline.com survey, 47 percent of millennials actually enjoy attending weddings. You get to take off from work, party with your friends and there’s usually an open bar. But when budgets are tight, it can be hard to pony up the cash for travel, hotel, gifts and more. To make matters worse, in a 2022 Prudential Survey, nearly half of millennials blame wedding milestones as getting in the way of achieving their personal financial goals.
Before you awkwardly tell your friend you can’t come, here are some ways you can attend a destination wedding without going into debt.
First, Find Out How Much You’ll Really Have To Pay For This Wedding
Don’t procrastinate. The second you get the wedding invitation, start budgeting to see how much you’ll need to save. Although hotel and accommodations will be the priciest chunk of the pie, you should also factor in things like money for a Lyft to and from the airport, fees for a babysitter or petsitter, or money for a new outfit if you have nothing to wear. Contact the bride and groom and ask them to send you an estimate of how much you’ll need to pay — especially if you’re part of the bridal party.
Once you’ve got a rough estimate about what you’ll need to spend on the destination wedding, check your budget. Can you set $100 aside each month to afford to attend, or will you have to charge it to a credit card? Can you eliminate certain monthly expenses like Starbucks each day, or do you need to borrow money from friends and family?
According to a 2012 research study, people get better fulfillment from life experiences than material things. Although attending a wedding is pricey, the experience might be a worthwhile investment. However, if being a wedding guest will put you in serious debt, it’s simply not worth the money. In other words, don’t be like that British lady.
Split Expenses With Friends On Destination Weddings
If you’ve decided to attend your friend’s wedding, it’s time to start being smart and economical about the things you’re purchasing. When it comes to accommodation and travel expenses, see if you can go halfsies with a friend. You can share a hotel room, split an Uber, or buddy up on a car rental. If all the wedding guests are staying at some pricey four-star hotel, try finding a cheaper AirBnb nearby instead.
Skip A Party Or Two
There are a lot of pre-parties to attend leading up to a wedding, from the bridal shower to the bachelor/bachelorette parties. Although they’re fun, they’re also really pricey — especially if your pals love dragging you to expensive clubs or shelling out ridiculous money on limos.
According to the aforementioned Priceline.com survey, 24 percent of guests spend $800 to $1,000 on the bachelor or bachelorette party. Avoid this by simply skipping one or all of the pre-parties. After all, it’s the actual wedding ceremony that should be your main priority, not taking an expensive, last vacation with the groom or bride to be.
Get Cheap With The Gift
OK, hear us out — it’s normally considered a faux pas to spend less than $100 on a gift, but there are ways to step around this unfair and archaic rule. If your friend has a bridal registry, try to buy your gift early. You can choose the cheapest gift on the registry and not get stuck buying that $300 pizza oven.
Another tip is to chip in on a group gift. If you’re attending with a group of friends, pick out the most expensive item on the registry and split the cost amongst a bunch of you. Divided between five people, that $300 pizza oven now only costs you $60. Not only will the bride and groom be elated that they got such an expensive gift, you’ll also save cash.
However, if $60 is even a little too much for you, another suggestion is to offer your services in place of a traditional gift. For example, if you take awesome photos and have access to a professional camera, offer to take wedding photos for free, or, if you’re a talented baker, offer to make their wedding cake.
One of our favorite money saving tips comes courtesy of Ashley Eneriz of Everyday Finance, who suggested gifting a D.I.Y. basket for when you want to be extra cheap.
“I received a fun gift basket of microwave popcorn and classic movies in a large popcorn bowl,” she wrote. “I have also given the gift a basket full of bath and body necessities, such as razors, toothbrushes, shampoo, etc. The receiver loved the gift because it meant she did not have to buy those items for a few months, and I loved that I was able to give something nice that cost me close to nothing.”
Reuse Or Borrow Your Outfits
Instead of splurging on a new dress or jacket, try reusing whatever you have in your closet. For women, a simple black dress is all you’ll need. For guys, a nice dress shirt, slacks and a sport coat should be appropriate for any ceremony. If you, literally, have nothing to wear, hit up your friends and see if you can borrow a dress or jacket for the event. If you’re in the bridal party, this gets tricky. Typically, bridesmaids have to wear whatever the bride chooses for them, and that goes for the groomsmen, too.
If the required clothing is unreasonably high, ask the bride and groom if they can pitch in and help. It’s not uncommon for people to use a portion of their wedding budget on helping out their closest friends who will be standing closest to them during the ceremony.
When All Else Fails, It’s OK To Say ‘No’
If you absolutely can’t shell out the cash to attend the wedding, don’t be afraid to simply say you can’t come. Sure, it’s a little awkward, but there are ways of getting around it without hurting your friend’s feelings.
First of all, never turn down an invitation over email. Show a little respect by sending either a handwritten note or giving them a call. Be honest about why you can’t come, and offer to help them in other ways — like helping to plan the wedding or offering your creative ideas to that can help cut their overall budget.
You can also make it up to them later. If your friend is having a destination wedding in Los Angeles and you live in Chicago, offer to fly out to their city in the future for a celebratory dinner. Chances are, they’ll understand. If they get mad, you might need to reassess your friendship. After all, no wedding is worth going into debt for.
All images via Getty