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Financial planning tips

July 05, 2017

How to attend a wedding on a budget

Are all your friends getting married – and inviting you to a huge expense? Here’s how to share their happiness without draining your bank account.

Wedding season is the perfect time to reconnect with old friends and make unforgettable memories with people you love.

But the cost of attending weddings can be significant. Research conducted by American Express south of the border found that it cost an average of $703 (or $930 CAD) to attend a wedding in 2016 – and the average person surveyed went to 3 weddings a year. 

Don’t fret, however. With a little smart budgeting, there’s no need to choose between a wedding celebration and your bottom line. Read on to learn how to keep your costs down so you can focus on the fun instead of the bill.   

Budgeting for the wedding gift

Of the expenses that go along with attending a wedding, the most unavoidable is the wedding gift. “I recommend spending $100 as an average if you’re attending on your own or as a couple,” says Cristie Rosling, a wedding and event planner and owner of Umbrella Events in Vancouver. “If it’s a family member or you’re very close to the couple, you’ll probably want to give a little more.”

Attending the wedding as a couple can help make the present more affordable, since you’re splitting the cost with your partner. If you’re attending solo, consider going in on the present with a few friends. Together you’ll be able to purchase a generous gift at a lower cost per person.  

Budgeting for a destination wedding

If you’ll be travelling a significant distance, you may need to plan for a larger-than-average budget. A destination wedding typically means paying for airfare or train tickets, hotel and travel insurance, if you’re leaving the country or even the province. 

To help your money go further, consider making your wedding budget do double duty by planning a vacation around the big day, recommends Kelley Keehn, a personal finance educator from Edmonton. Add a few extra days for sightseeing or excursions onto your trip, and you can cover some of the wedding costs with your vacation budget. 

If you’re the only one in your family who's close to the happy couple, consider attending solo or with a mutual friend. You’ll save on travel expenses and may also avoid other costs (like boarding your pet) that you’d have to pay if your whole family went to the wedding. 

What if you’re part of the wedding party?

Taking part in your friends’ special day is an honour, but it also carries a very real financial commitment: It’s customary for bridesmaids to buy their dresses, for example, and for groomsmen to buy or rent their tuxes. You’ll also want to contribute to at least 1 celebration for the bride or groom, such as a bridal shower or bachelor party. If you’re a bridesmaid or the maid of honour, you may also be asked to pay for hair, nails and makeup for the wedding. 

If you’re a bridesmaid on a tighter budget, ask to buy an off-the-rack dress in the wedding’s colour palette to save money. Be honest about your spending limitations if the bride would prefer custom-made bridesmaids’ dresses. If you can, opt to do your own hair and makeup on the wedding day, or ask the bride to try to find professionals in your price range. 

When it comes to pre-wedding parties, keep it affordable by hosting a local soiree or even a low-key brunch or dinner with friends, instead of a pricier weekend getaway. 

Working weddings into your savings plans

If you know you have some weddings coming up in the next year or so, start saving for them now in a tax-free savings account (TFSA). With a TFSA, you can put whatever you take out this year back into your account the following year, so it can continue to grow to help pay for your next big-ticket expense.

Consider other cost-cutting methods as well: If you'll be seeing many of the same people at multiple weddings, you could use a wardrobe rental service to avoid buying multiple outfits. Or rent or buy a variety of statement accessories to dress up the same outfit differently for each wedding. 

Most important, don’t micro-manage every penny. “Do your best to save up and have some forethought, but be generous,” says Keehn. “When it comes to these experiences and memories, don’t be afraid to splurge a little! These are the times to enjoy your money.”

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