Nuptials Pricey for More Than Bride, Groom

Managing the Costs of Attending a Wedding

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]

Date: May 31, 2010

Contact: Paul Golden 303-224-3514, [email protected]

DENVER—Ashley Clark is one cost-conscious bride. Thanks to some research and savvy budgeting, she planned her entire March wedding for less than $7,000, about a quarter of the average U.S. wedding budget of $28,3851.

"We started planning our wedding 16 months before the date," says Clark, the 23-year-old newlywed. "I did a lot of research before we booked any vendors to make sure we were getting the best price possible. And I bought tons of things on sale and [borrowed] from other brides."

Cost-conscious wedding guests and attendants would be wise to follow Clark’s lead. In tough economic times, many people weigh the costs of attending weddings carefully, especially when faced with multiple invitations and limited cash.

According to a recent online poll commissioned by the National Endowment for Financial Education and conducted by Harris Interactive in May 2010, 56 percent of adults2 said they were not at all likely to limit the number of weddings they attend in the next 12 months because of economic factors. And from pre-wedding parties and gifts to attire and travel, costs can really add up. Forty-two percent of those planning to spend money to attend a wedding in the next 12 months expect to spend $101 to $500 per wedding, and 13 percent expect to spend more than $1,000 per wedding.

Stick to a Budget

Before accepting a wedding invitation, take a close look at your finances and determine whether you are able to attend. Be sure to consider any other weddings you're in, or plan to attend, during the year. Then, establish a wedding season budget.

"Coming up with a precise dollar amount and detailed spending plan will help you to stay on track with your spending,” says Patricia Seaman of NEFE. “The last thing a bride and a groom want is for a friend or family member to go into debt because of their wedding."

Pre-Wedding Parties

Guests and attendants typically can expect to be invited to an engagement party, a bridal shower and/or bachelor and bachelorette parties. Save money on pre-wedding presents by pooling your money with a friend or two, bringing a thoughtful homemade gift or making food or a drink for the event. And stick to fun, inexpensive gifts for bachelor and bachelorette parties.

If you are an attendant in the wedding, it may fall on you to throw a pre-wedding party. First, be honest with the bride and groom about the number of people you can accommodate. Clark was happy to discuss the guest list for her bridal shower with her maid of honor.

"I asked her how many people she could afford to accommodate and sent her a list of people that I would like to have invited,” Clark says.

Next, be realistic about your budget. If you can’t afford to spend big bucks on a pre-wedding party, opt for a more casual celebration instead. Host the event at your home, invite guests to bring food and drinks to share, and serve appetizers and dessert instead of an entire meal. Clark transformed a formal rehearsal dinner into a casual cookout at a local park.

"We had about 30 people come and we spent less than $100 on all the supplies for the night,” Clark says. “It was a really laid-back evening and everyone enjoyed themselves."

Wedding Gifts

In most cases, the bride and groom will be registered for a wide variety of gifts at different stores. Choose a gift from the registry that you comfortably can afford. If you're struggling to find an item that fits your budget, consider buying the couple a gift card at one of the stores of choice or pool money with another wedding guest. Rather than give a monetary gift, offer the bride and groom your help in planning the big day.

Krystal Bennett, a graphic designer who is invited to 10 weddings this year, is offering her design services as gifts to the brides and grooms. She’s designing bridal shower and engagement party invitations and RSVP cards as gifts.

"In this economy, it's beneficial to offer your services instead of buying monetary gifts,” Bennett says. “And in the end, it’s more personal to the bride and groom."

Homemade gifts also make affordable, yet memorable, options.

"There’s nothing wrong with homemade items,” says wedding and event planner Joyce Scardina Becker. Becker has been married for 16 years and she still uses a crocheted bed covering that she received as a wedding gift from her aunt.

Wedding Attire

Buying a brand-new outfit for a wedding and partaking in any pre-wedding pampering can prove costly. If you are invited to be an attendant, be upfront with the bride and groom about what you can afford to spend before you become locked into a pricey investment. Clark asked her bridesmaids about their budgets early on.

"I asked [my wedding attendants] their budgets before I even started looking at attire for them,” Clark says. “Then, I only looked at dresses underneath their price point.”

Have a friend do your hair and make-up instead of having it done professionally, and don't be afraid to decline any extra beauty services that might run up your budget. For female guests faced with several weddings and a limited wardrobe, choose a single outfit and accessorize it differently for each wedding. Keep an eye out for sales and shop early to avoid last-minute decisions. Or, consider borrowing clothes or accessories from a friend.

Travel and Other Expenses

The key to saving money on travel expenses is to book your reservations early. As soon as you receive a “save-the-date” card in the mail, start looking for deals on airfare, rental car and hotel accommodations. Compare rates at discount travel websites such as Travelocity® or KayakTM. Traveling off-peak hours and days may help lower an airfare. And be sure to consider the cost of checking your baggage.

Ask the bride and groom whether they have reserved a block of rooms at a hotel near the reception site. If their choice is too pricey, research other nearby accommodations. You may land a better deal by opting to stay at a separate hotel from the wedding party. Also, consider staying with family and friends. Before booking a rental car, ask whether the bride and groom will be providing a shuttle service for wedding guests. If not, consider carpooling with other guests or taking public transportation. Don’t forget to include child care costs such as hiring a babysitter or nanny into your spending plan. If the bride and groom have relatives and friends with young children, they may be offering child care to their guests.

Finally, remember that being present at your loved ones’ celebrations is what matters most. If you factor in all the costs of attending and then adhere to your budget, you can focus on enjoying the wedding instead of worrying about how much it cost to get there.

"A wedding is about witnessing a milestone celebration,” Seaman says. “Don’t be one of those guests crying tears of regret for overspending your budget, instead of tears of joy for the bride and groom’s new life together.”

Harris Interactive Survey Methodology 
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of NEFE from May 10-12, 2010, among 2,596 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, click here.

1 2009 The Knot Real Weddings Survey by The Knot Inc., a media company devoted to weddings

2 Those who indicated likelihood to limit number of weddings they will attend in the next 12 months



  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

    Direct: 303-224-3514
    Cell: 303-918-3620
    [email protected]