How to Budget as a Guest for a Busy Wedding Season

When the invites start coming in, the costs can stack up quickly. Here are some guidelines for managing a wedding attendance budget.

Attending the weddings of family and close friends is a delight, an occasion for making life-long memories—and an expense. Recent inflation has driven up prices in many sectors, and the wedding industry is no exception.

If you anticipate attending even one wedding this year, you can expect to spend significant amounts on transportation, lodging, your wardrobe and a gift for the couple: A new survey estimates the average cost of attending a wedding will be $611. If you have two or three weddings on your calendar, you can quickly feel the strain on your household budget. Indeed, the same study found that 18% of respondents expect to take on credit card debt to cover expenses.

“Attending a wedding should be a joyful occasion. It’s not a reason to go into debt, especially if you have competing priorities, such as saving for a down payment on a car or home. Or paying off student loans,” says Karen Pryor, Financial Wellness Relationship Manager at Regions Bank.

Fortunately, there are many ways to anticipate and manage the expense of attending and participating in the weddings you attend—and respectful ways to decline invitations when the smart financial decision is to stay home. Here are a few guiding principles to follow.

Start Saving Before the Invites Arrive

It’s never too early to start earmarking some extra cash for a wedding budget, especially for young people who can expect to see many relatives and friends take their vows in a few years’ time. The average age of marriage is 31, according to one recent study, so newly independent people often have plenty of time to watch a wedding fund grow.

“You can put your money into a high-yield savings account, money market or CD that will generate a return within your time horizon,” says Pryor. “If you have several close friends who you expect will marry in the next few years, you might even see a modest return.”

Research Travel and Accommodation Options

Travel and lodging account for the largest cost of wedding attendance. As soon as you know the destination, you can set up alerts from airlines to monitor fares prior to booking. “If you have a credit card with sky miles or bonus points for airfare bookings, a purchase can help build up to a discount for your next destination,” says Pryor. The same caveat applies: Avoid using a card balance you can’t pay off in a timely manner.

Research can pay off on lodging as well. “Many wedding planners will reserve a block of rooms for the event, but they won’t necessarily get the best price,” Pryor advises. “It’s worthwhile to call the hotel directly and see if you can get a better rate. You can also explore home-sharing options nearby if you have friends who are also looking for less expensive accommodations.” If you’re driving to the venue, try to connect with other attendees who need a ride and can share rental costs.

Shop for Deals on Your Wardrobe

Everyone wants to look their best at a wedding, but dressing to impress does not have to involve designer or tailored outfits. “Online shopping has really changed the game,” says Pryor. “At the same time, there are many options for renting outfits, or buying pre-owned dresses that will be usable for multiple weddings.” If you have several invitations for one season, you can avoid relying on one outfit through clothing swaps with friends or taking an old outfit to a tailor for repairs.

Remember That Declining Is a Respectful Option

A wedding invitation is not a demand. If attending is beyond your budget, there are other ways to celebrate the couple’s nuptials. “It’s important to take emotion out of the decision-making process here,” says Pryor. “If you’re putting all of the wedding expenses on a credit card at 23%, it’s probably not your best option.”

Instead, Pryor suggests considering “out of the box” ways to celebrate the union. “You can tell the couple you’ll take them out to dinner when they’re home, and they should bring the wedding photos. You can also offer to help with the planning, which can be a lifesaver, especially for people planning their own wedding.

“You can always decline gracefully, but if you accept, make sure you follow through on your obligations,” Pryor counsels. “Accepting may mean you need to find where the additional funds are coming from—without going into debt.”

Three Things to Do

  1. Start your planning by getting a sense of your budget and spending patterns.
  2. Do your research on travel and lodging options and look for friends to share costs if necessary.
  3. Explore your options, even if it means declining the invitation and finding another meaningful way to celebrate the wedding.


This information is general education or marketing in nature and is not intended to be accounting, legal, tax, investment or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate as of the date written, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements of individuals are their own—not Regions’. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and for current tax rules. This information should not be construed as a recommendation or suggestion as to the advisability of acquiring, holding or disposing of a particular investment, nor should it be construed as a suggestion or indication that the particular investment or investment course of action described herein is appropriate for any specific investor. In providing this communication, Regions is not undertaking to provide impartial investment advice or to give advice in a fiduciary capacity.