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Bride and groom enjoying a toast at their wedding reception.

Be Our Guest: Surviving Wedding Season on a Budget

May 10, 2016

Warmer weather has arrived, which means one thing: wedding season is in full swing. According to a 2015 American Express article, 79 million Americans attended a wedding in 2015, spending an average of $673 on things like airfare, dining, hotels and dressing up. That’s up 18% from 2014 and 21% in 2013. While the overall cost of attending a wedding is loosening our wallets, there are some budget-friendly ways to survive wedding season.

If you want to save on gifts:

Hit the online registry. Although the most preferred wedding gift is cold, hard cash, it’s common for guests to get a gift off the couple’s wedding registry. So, what’s the problem? If you don’t get in early on the register, you’ll find yourself looking at one that’s picked over, with only the most expensive items remaining. Solution: check out the registry early. Remember that cheaper registry gifts go fast, so go online right away. Another solution is to team up with your friends and get a big ticket item. That way, you’re getting one of the couple’s more expensive items, but you’re splitting the cost. Look at sites like SplitABill to make it a little less painless. 

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Stagger your gifts. If you have multiple weddings this season and are anticipating a major pinch in your wallet, take a breath. It’s know that you have at least six months to make good on your gift. Get creative and add a tag that says, “Happy Anniversary” and use this time to stagger your gifts over the upcoming months when your budget isn’t so strapped. Remember, if you do forgo the gift on the big day, at least bring a card to give the couple a memento of your celebrating their special day.

Bring cash. A nice card with any amount of cash is always a welcome gift. Especially if the only items left on the couple’s registry are spendy. Grab a card, enclose the money and you’re golden.

Give time and talent. If you’re desperate and can’t afford a present, forgot it altogether and give the gift of your time and talents. If you’re close with the couple, perhaps do the bride’s hair and make-up, or help arrange the centerpieces. Their wedding day is usually hectic, so any way that you can help cut the couple’s wedding cost, might be the perfect solution.

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Think outside the box. An out-of-the-box solution is if you’ve maxed out your credit cards on plane tickets and hotel rooms, remember to put your rewards to good use. Many reward points can be traded in for products or even gift cards that make appropriate gifts in a pinch. 

If you want to save on looking good:

Attending a wedding in style can be expensive. Why shell out hundreds of bucks on a cocktail dress or new suit if you don’t have to? An easy answer is to rent the thing for a quarter of the price. When it comes to wedding attire, it’s best to become a renter. Prices typically range from $40 to $200 for the weekend and it certainly beats trips to the local mall to find formalwear.

Organize a Dress-Swap. Another idea is to gather your friends for a dress-swap. If you have a closet full of dress that you’ve already worn and don’t want it to the common denominator in Facebook photos, call up your friends and organize an exchange. Another option is to rent designer clothing from websites like Rent the Runway or Bag, Borrow or Steal. These sites allow you to rent apparel and even accessories for a few days at a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay retail.

If you want to save on travel:

The average amount wedding guests spend on airfare is on the increase, at $225, up 125% from 2014. Travel to a destination wedding can put a serious strain on guests, but if the bride and groom insist, you might have to break out the credit card. Before you book, ask who the confirmed guests are. By booking travel and lodging with a large group of people, you might be able to get a better rate.

Look into off-peak travel times which may help considerably, both with flights and train rides. The wedding couple may have booked a block of rooms at a high-end hotel, but finding a half-priced hotel down the block is a perfectly acceptable way to cut down on wedding weekend spending. If you do book somewhere else: make sure to inform the couple of your plans – especially if you’re a member of the wedding party.

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Surviving Wedding Season with Children:

Children can be a lot of fun at weddings, but long periods of sitting still and being quiet can be challenging for young children who naturally have short attention spans. Often boredom kicks in, they become restless, hungry and overtired, which can lead to tears, tantrums and frustrated parents. Two parts of the wedding day may be the trickiest for the children: the ceremony, and the speeches. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when celebrating with children:

Use a parent’s room. You can ask your venue if there is a room which parents can use – a quiet place in a separate room or area where parents can take their children if they need some time away from the excitement or need changing.

Be prepared. When it comes to the ceremony and speeches, you may want to provide your child with a favorite snack, toy, or blanket to help keep them happy and entertained. Also, an activity bag might be considered: a sticker book and stickers, a sketchbook and pencils/crayons, activity book, treats, etc.

Wedding season can be a fun time of the year celebrating with family and friends, but it can be expensive, too. Use these budget-friendly tips, and make sure you’re around for these important life moments by talking to a Farm Bureau agent today!