A bride and groom surrounded by wedding attendees.

How to enjoy wedding season without the financial hangover

From outfits and gifts to travel and parties, weddings come with a price tag — even when you’re a guest.

8 min read

For many, attending a wedding isn’t all confetti and champagne. According to a study by WeddingWire, 62% of wedding guests worry about the financial strains of the big day and nearly 18% contemplate taking on debt so they can attend. Yet, understanding how the costs of attending a wedding accumulate may help you set a budget so you can make preparations without worrying about too much financial strain.

Breaking down the costs of attending a wedding

Let's discuss the unspoken commitment when you receive a wedding invitation: the cost of attending. According to The Knot, the average wedding guest spent a whopping $580 on the matrimonial festivities in 2023 — a $120 hike from 2021. If you thought staying local might save your wallet, think again: Even hometown weddings had guests parting with around $250.

For those attending a destination wedding, the costs skyrocket. Driving out of town? That'll be about $680, thank you very much. Catching a flight? Brace yourself for an average expense of $1,600. And it seems that the younger we are, the deeper we dig into our pockets. Fortune reports that Gen Zers and Millennials are leading the spending spree, forking over an average of $1,211 and $1,191 respectively this wedding season. 

So, to better understand how to budget for such an event, let’s break down the costs so you won’t be nursing a financial hangover the morning after.

Tallying up the pre-wedding celebrations

Before the big day even arrives, wedding costs can start accumulating. Think: bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette weekends, and the myriad of toasts in between — all of which can make a serious dent in your wallet. The tradition of bachelor and bachelorette parties has evolved from simple night-outs to elaborate getaways, often in locations that promise as much Instagram appeal as they do fun. While memorable, these gatherings come with significant expenses, such as travel, accommodation, and an array of activities tailored to pre-wedding revelry.

Aviva's research sheds more light on this trend, finding that Brits spend an average of £779 to attend these parties in the UK, with figures soaring to £1,208 for celebrations abroad. The gender divide in spending is also notable, with men typically spending more than women — £920 compared to £652. As a result, about a third of invitees decline invitations to bachelor and bachelorette parties, predominantly due to financial constraints.

In the wedding party? You might be picking up the tab.

The financial implications of these pre-wedding celebrations deepen for those in the wedding party. The Maid of Honor and Best Man often find themselves fronting considerable portions of the party costs, not to mention the added expenses of bridal showers and other pre-wedding events. While the bride's entourage might collectively bear the bachelorette party costs, the Maid of Honor frequently shoulders the bulk. Similarly, groomsmen, led by the Best Man, navigate their share of expenses, balancing tradition with the expectations of modern-day bachelor festivities.

The added costs of a destination wedding 

As weddings have evolved into more elaborate celebrations, often staged in dreamy locales or bustling metropolitan areas, the financial costs for guests have increased. According to Fortune, the average wedding guest embarking on a destination wedding can expect to shell out $456 for travel and accommodation alone. This figure, however, only scratches the surface, as it doesn’t account for factors like traveling with children, exotic destinations, or the premium prices of urban settings. 

Likewise, a study by WeddingWire illuminates this contrast: Guests flying to a wedding shell out an average of $1,320 on travel, lodging, and meals. In comparison, those driving to the venue spend around $480, while attendees lucky enough to celebrate within their city or town manage a mere $65 for gas and food. 

The financial art of dressing the part 

A wedding isn’t just an opportunity for the happy couple to look fabulous; it’s also often expected that their guests will celebrate while looking their best. Many also feel the pressure to don a look that's not only memorable but worthy of those Instagram grids and Facebook timelines. Additionally, there's the expectation to blend in with — or stand out from — the wedding's theme or color scheme in just the right way, sometimes requiring bespoke or personalized outfits. 

But looking good can come at a cost. The quest for the ideal wedding outfit has become a significant expense, averaging $274 per guest. The investment in an outfit might seem steep, but it's also an opportunity for self-expression and celebration. Dressing up for a wedding is a chance to partake in the occasion's joy and festivity and honor the couple's day.

So, how do we look radiant without breaking the bank? The challenge is to strike a balance between societal expectations and personal budget. Creative options like outfit renting, thrifting for unique pieces, or even swapping garments with friends are emerging as savvy solutions. These approaches not only lessen the financial burden but also add an element of fun and sustainability.

Splashing out on a wedding gift 

So, hang on — how much should you spend on a wedding gift, actually? According to The Knot, the average spend on a wedding gift hovers around $150. This amount adjusts slightly based on the guest's relationship with the couple: Close friends tend to spend around $170, family members and wedding party participants about $160, and casual friends closer to $130. 

However, there's no universally "right" amount, and gift-giving should never strain your finances. Instead, focus on the thoughtfulness behind the gesture or find more budget-friendly, creative, and meaningful ways to celebrate the couple's union that resonate personally with you. Whether it's a handmade item, a service like photography or baking the wedding cake, or something sentimental that speaks to shared memories or an inside joke, the essence of a wedding gift lies in how it shows affection and support for the couple's new journey together.

How to attend a wedding without a financial hangover

During wedding season, it can seem like your money evaporates into thin air. From transport costs to finding the right outfit to the perfect gift and travel expenses, it can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Here’s how to attend a wedding (or three) while staying in control of your finances.

1. Create a wedding season budget

First, let's talk about budgeting — a word not often associated with wedding festivities but crucial nonetheless. Before RSVPing “yes” to every invitation, take a moment to review your finances. How many weddings are on the horizon? What are the potential costs for each? Creating a dedicated wedding season budget is helpful, factoring in all possible expenses, like attire, travel, accommodations, and gifts. This bird's-eye view will allow you to prioritize which events you can afford to attend and where you might need to politely decline.

2. Cash in on travel hacks for destination weddings 

If you're facing a destination wedding or an out-of-town celebration, look into booking travel and hotels as early as possible. Leveraging travel rewards, points, or miles can significantly cut costs. Consider alternative lodging options like Airbnb, or team up with other guests to rent a larger space. This not only saves money, but also adds a fun, communal vibe to the wedding experience.

3. Get creative with your wedding outfit

When dressing for the occasion, resist the urge to buy new outfits for each wedding. Get creative with your wardrobe, mixing and matching pieces you already own, or explore rental services for a fraction of the retail price. Remember, accessories can transform an outfit, allowing you to wear the same base piece with a fresh look each time.

4. Give gifts from the heart

While you might feel compelled to purchase lavish gifts to match the occasion, remember that your presence at the wedding is also a significant contribution. Consider group gifting with friends or family for a more substantial present without the hefty price tag for each person. Alternatively, think outside the box with personalized gifts with sentimental value over financial weight. Sometimes, a thoughtful handwritten note alongside a more modest gift can be much more meaningful.

5. It’s OK to say no

If you find yourself invited to multiple events for the same wedding (engagement party, bachelor/ette party, bridal shower, etc.), choosing which events to prioritize is perfectly acceptable. Remember, honesty is key. If you're close to the couple, they’ll understand your financial boundaries.

Ultimately, being a wedding guest shouldn’t jeopardize your financial health. With careful planning, open communication, and a bit of creativity, you can take part in the celebrations without the dread of post-wedding financial blues. It’s all about finding that sweet spot where financial responsibility meets heartfelt participation. 

Your money at N26

With N26, saving for wedding season couldn’t be simpler. With Spaces sub-accounts, you can easily put money aside for specific expenses, such as upcoming wedding travel costs. Use Insights to organize your finances, track your spending, and set budgets so you stick to your wedding season targets. Plus, push notifications help you monitor your account activity in real-time, empowering you to take care of your financial well-being. Opening an account with N26 takes just a few minutes, and there’s no pesky paperwork. Achieve your goals and build a more secure future today with a N26 account.

By N26

Love your bank

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