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5 ways to save money in the post-COVID wedding boom

Now that things are slowly returning to normal given the widespread COVID-19 vaccine rollout, friends and families of engaged couples are preparing for a wedding boom across the U.S.

Wedding season can be expensive for guests, from attending the lead-up events to buying gifts and traveling to the event itself. The average attendee spends $244 on gifts and costs associated with the wedding day, and the price tag rises if you have to travel or you’re invited to the engagement party, bridal shower, and bachelorette or bachelor party. 

If your finances are tight right now, here are some tips for saving money as a wedding guest.

Know when to say ‘no’

During the coronavirus pandemic, half of surveyed couples had postponed their nuptials until 2021, according to The Knot 2020 Real Weddings Study.

You might feel pressured now to support your friends and family members by RSVPing “yes” to every wedding invitation — and all the events that surround it. But “it simply may not be feasible from a financial standpoint to attend every wedding, and that’s ok,” said Brittney Castro, founder and CEO of Financially Wise.

Check out your budget — or create one if you haven’t already — and figure out how much you can spend on wedding events this year. Apps like Mint can help you track expenses, too.

Then get used to setting financial boundaries. For example, maybe you’ll only attend weddings that are within driving distance, you’ll only attend one event for the couple, or you’ll only attend weddings of close family members.

Be realistic with your schedule and budget, Castro said, “so you can respectfully decline the wedding invite when need be.”

Consider increasing your income

A quarter of all adults in the U.S. are still having trouble making ends meet, according to a recent Household Pulse Survey. If you’re in this boat, attending even one or two weddings could be financially difficult. 

But if you can’t or don’t want to say “no” to a wedding invite, you could take on a side gig for some extra cash. Castro recommended selling items you don’t need anymore, or you could try working as a virtual assistant or walking dogs. People may need these services as they’re getting back to work.

Divide and conquer on costs

Saving money as a wedding guest is easier if you can share costs with someone else. For instance, you could share a hotel room or split cab fare with another guest, swap outfits with a friend who’s attending another wedding, and ask a friend to help with hair and makeup.

Splitting the cost of a gift is also a “win-win,” Castro said, because you might be able to choose a pricier gift from the wedding registry that might otherwise have gone unclaimed.

Two women are laughing and talking in the courtyard of a bar.
Two women are laughing and talking in the courtyard of a bar.

Cash in your rewards

If you’ve been stockpiling your credit card points or miles, it’s time to cash in and find ways to lower your travel bill.

“Many people may have accrued an excess of rewards over the past year by staying home and letting their travel points go unused,” Castro said. 

You might be able to buy hotel stays, airfare, and car rentals with those rewards, and the credit card issuer might offer discounts when you shop through their portal. Or, you might also convert reward points to cash and use it as your gift or apply it to your other wedding expenses, Castro added.

Try to plan ahead

Getting started early may be the difference between staying home and attending the wedding. Here are a few ways to plan ahead:

  • Create a savings goal and set aside the money you need for the upcoming wedding.

  • Monitor your expenses each month. “Cutting back on frivolous expenditures can add up in the long run,” Castro said.

  • Start hunting through thrift stores to find what you need for the perfect wedding outfit.

  • Reserve flight tickets, hotel stays, and car rentals early to score discounts.

  • Hit the couple’s registry ASAP to give you a better chance of picking a gift that fits your budget.

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