Financial stress shouldn't get in the way of celebrating.

By Jillian Kramer
August 19, 2019

Weddings aren't just stressful for the couple tying the knot: Attending a couple's ceremony and reception can cause financial stress for guests, too, who have to pay for gifts and—in the case of destination weddings or bachelor or bachelorette parties—accommodations and airfare, too. As Ronya Corey, CFP, managing director of wealth management advisors at Merrill Lynch, explains, "When we RSVP 'yes' to a wedding, we're signing up for numerous costs that we often don't realize: travel expenses, hotels, attire, pre-wedding celebrations like bridal showers, and, of course, the gift—or three. Wedding guests can expect to spend hundreds—and sometimes even thousands—of dollars just to attend the wedding. And these numbers can soar higher for members of the wedding party or those who participate in any pre-wedding celebrations."

That's a lot to spend. And if you don't have a plan in place to help you pay for any wedding-related expenses, someone else's best day could be your worst day—financially, that is. With the help of these expert tips, you can budget for others' big days so that they don't have to be financial disasters. Here are five ways you can save and save up for wedding season.

Start saving early.

The right time to start saving? It's when you receive those save-the-dates, says Corey. "To deal with the steep costs of wedding season, planning early is essential," she says. "That way, when you do hit those five consecutive summer weddings, you won't feel like you're in a financial crunch." Corey suggests you create a budget for only weddings. "Start by mapping out total estimated costs for the season, and steadily work up to your goal by stowing away a set amount of funds each month," she instructs. "Identify money-saving trade-offs you can make along the way to hit your budget goals, such as cutting out nonessential expenses like Uber rides and Starbucks, or temporarily saying 'no' to that weekly takeout order." Stash away that extra money as well as bonuses, tax refunds, or holiday cash gifts in order to meet your wedding-savings goals, she says. Later, "if you have leftover funds to spare, you can always roll over funds to the next splash of weddings that hit your calendar," she adds.

Don't overextend yourself.

When it comes to both your time and money, it's okay to say "no," if doing so helps you meet another goal, says Chantel Bonneau, CFP, wealth management advisor at Northwestern Mutual. "Don't set yourself up for financial failure because you fear missing out," she says. "If you have priorities such as paying off a credit card, contributing to retirement, or saving for a house—or even your own wedding—you have to keep your eye on the prize and not accumulate more debt or forego retirement contributions just to attend every wedding."

Be frugal when it comes to travel costs.

If you're headed to a destination wedding, "identify opportunities to save at every leg of the journey," says Corey. For example, a room on Airbnb could be less expensive than a hotel—even one that's been blocked off for guests. "Or, call in a favor and ask to stay with a local friend," she says. "In all cases, nail down travel [plans] far in advance to capitalize on early-bird deals and avoid higher costs. The earlier you book, the more likely you are to save."

Pool your money.

By the time the wedding rolls around, you've likely already bought several gifts—for the couple's engagement party, the bridal shower, and bachelorette or bachelor party. And another gift for the wedding itself might be more than your budget can bear. If so, "consider a group strategy for some of the gifts," suggests Bonneau. For example, she says, "a group of friends may opt to pool [together their] money and buy a gift from the wedding registry."

Be creative with gift-giving.

"Scouring wedding registries can be stressful—particularly if the items are expensive and the options limited," points out Corey. So, "if you're tight on cash, consider opting for a gift that is affordable but meaningful." For example, you might offer services—such as helping with day-of duties or assembling welcome bags—or homemade-but-meaningful presents. "You might even curate a creative experience filled with activities the couple enjoys," Corey suggests. "And nine times out of 10, it's these creative gifts that stand out from the pack."


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