How to Budget for Wedding Season

wedding-season

New research sadly shows that the average American will be approximately $703 poorer after attending a wedding—one wedding, that is. Now, if you’re Mr. or Mrs. popular and have your share of weddings to go to (because, for whatever reason, all your friends decided to get engaged at the exact same time), you’re on track to take a serious financial hit if you plan to attend each and every one of them.

But why shouldn’t you attend the weddings of your friends, family and colleagues? There’s the free booze, fancy finger food and plated, filet mignon dinner, weddings are a good time–and, if you’re single, who knows who you could meet? So if you’re feeling the heat from the train of wedding invitations that seem to arrive weekly, here’s how you can be the guest of honor without breaking the bank.

Plan ahead

If you know you’re leading into a year or two where you will likely have a lot of weddings, start saving now. Create a savings account for each expense—travel, gifts, festivities—and put a little aside every single month. “Not only will you earn interest on these funds, but it will likely result in less dough going on your credit card, which will help save you money in interest too!” Kelsa Dickey, financial coach at Fiscal Fitness Phoenix says.

When the invites roll in, take a look at your budget

Before you say “yes,” to any wedding, analyze your budget to see what you’re even available to attend. If it’s not feasible to attend each and every wedding you’re invited to, narrow the list down to the most important events and graciously decline the others. As you compare each event to your financial situation, consider the option to pick only one event per couple (for example, attending the shower and wedding, but not the engagement party.). And, remember, it may be necessary to forego a vacation this year to be able to attend (and afford) all these extra weddings.

Prioritize each event by the relationship

It’s completely understandable that you may not be able to attend every wedding you’re invited to this year. The issue may be as simple as checking your schedule: You may already have something else planned for that date. If not, consider looking at the relationship you have with each couple whom you receive an invitation from. Family should usually come first, unless there are underlying family dynamics that could pose a problem. “Make a list of each event, starting with the most important on top,” Deb Erb, owner and event planner for Simply Events Inc., suggests. “Once you have all weddings listed, you can start shortening your list to only those you can realistically commit to.” If you have numerous invites and need to cut back, take engagement parties off your list, however, if you can attend, purchase a small congratulatory gift for the couple.

Stalk the registries

Most of the time, a couple’s wedding registry will be completed and available for viewing months (sometimes a whole year!) before their wedding date. This gives you ample time to take note of what they’re looking for and then hunt for a sale. Just because they registry might link to a certain item on Bloomingdales or Bed Bath and Beyond doesn’t mean you have to purchase it from there. Another store or website, like Amazon.com, might sell the same exact product for even cheaper. Remember: In the end, your friends are going to love the gift you gave them because it came from you and because they added it to their registry—they won’t care where you sourced it.

Pool your resources

Chances are, you have six or seven weddings to attend in one season and all your friends are also invited to those weddings. “Let’s face it, marital bliss spreads through friend groups like wildfire and everyone somehow gets engaged within months of each other (just wait for baby season the following year or two, it gets even crazier!),” says Jennifer Bluemling, co-founder of Borrowed by Design, a fundraising site for nonprofits through selling and renting formal dresses. “Instead of lamenting this phenomenon, embrace it by banding together and chipping in on a fantastic gift for the newlyweds.” After all, they invited your bright, vibrant self to the wedding, not your wallet.

Save on your dresses

One of the biggest pressures of attending weddings that all your friends are also attending is finding a different dress for each one. After all of the Snapchatting and Instagramming has taken place, you have forever proof of what you wore to each event. But the good news is you don’t have to buy a dress at full retail. “Nowadays you can take full advantage of the sharing economy with sites like Rent the Runway or Borrowed by Design,” Bluemling says. “They have gorgeous dresses that can be rented or purchased at a fraction of the cost.” Plus, if you’re looking to save the world by helping young girls and women with your purchase, head over to BBD and have your dress equal a donation back the community.

Be flexible when it comes to accommodations

Planning travel arrangements can be time consuming and pricey, so it’s helpful to know what you’re looking for before you begin. “If you’re attending a destination wedding, it can be really tempting to stay the entire trip at the swanky resort where everyone else will be, but opt for cheaper spot instead,” Dickey suggests. “An Airbnb or VRBO may be even nicer, have more space and cost significantly less.” If you do want to stay at the hotel, consider sharing a room with someone else to cut down on cost. Lastly, be flexible when it comes to your travel dates. Arriving a day earlier or later can cut down on the cost of the flight. “Set alerts using Skyscanner, Airfarewatchdog or google flights so you can wait to pull the trigger when a great deal presents itself,” says Dickey.

DIY as much as possible

This comes in handy big time when you’re the maid of honor or bridesmaid and are responsible for helping with the shower or engagement party and all of the decorations, favors and games that go along with it. For endless inspiration, check out Pinterest—you’ll find tons of boards for every single thing you never even thought of—from breathtaking floral decorations to unique centerpieces made from mason jars. You’ll be amazed by how much you can save by putting your creativity to the test!

Jenn Sinrich is an editor in New York City, a self-proclaimed foodie always looking for the healthier version of all recipes, a passionate lover of all things cheese, a friendly New Yorker, Bostonian at heart and proud Red Sox fan. Love cats? Cheese? Mac n' Cheese? Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.