My wedding guest guide: how to join the celebrations without breaking the bank
We have several BIG party phases in our lives: 18ths, 21sts, 30th, 40th and all the subsequent decade birthdays. The wedding season breaks this cycle by spanning over a decade of our "millennial heyday" (i.e. mid-20s to mid-30s).
For me, weddings trump birthday parties: they are a time of celebrating love, friendship, and the union of two people. However, this decade of celebrations comes at a time when most of us are trying desperately to save for a house, paying off our seemingly never-ending student debt, but also (if you're anything like me) trying to enjoy our hard-earned income with holidays, hobbies and enjoying London's pop-up culture.
While planning a wedding is expensive, you hopefully only organise one. On the flip side, being a wedding guest can be an almighty financial headache - not just from drinks, but the cost of hen/stags, accommodation, travel and gifts multiplied by each wonderful friend you have.
Having consulted friends of both genders, being a wedding guest costs on average £600-700 but can soar to £1,000+ if there is an abroad element. Shocked by that total figure? Let's break it down:
- Hen/stag do = £200
- Accommodation = £200 (based on two night stay)
- Travel = £100
- Gift = £50
- New outfit/suit hiring = £100
However, MoneyLens can show you how these costs can be managed. Let's look at what can be done.
It's that word again... budget
Online budgeting has become so user-friendly there's no excuse not to be doing it. Open a specific wedding fund either by using a separate current account or perhaps something like Monzo's Bucket with regular standing orders (you can read Flora Munrow's review of Monzo here, if you've not come across it).
Ensure whatever account you use is completely separate to your day-to-day account so you can't be tempted to spend the money on anything else.
Think about where you could cut expenses to save more effectively - cutting out takeaway coffees and buying lunch will save you £1,300 a year, according to research from vouchercloud.com. You can also start to "Save my Change", where banks round up each spend to the nearest pound and put the remaining money into your saving account. Pennies always round up to pounds.
As wedding season usually starts in May, use the winter months as prime saving time to cut down on eating and drinking out so you can reap the reward of guilt-free enjoyment in the summer.
Also think about where you can prioritise your budget. If you are saving on paying for accommodation by staying with family or friends for example, you can use that allocated pot to pay for a larger present or go on the hen/stag. Your budget doesn't have to be rigid, it can be moulded to each wedding setup.
Sharing is caring
You're attending a wedding to spend time with your friends and family, right? Generally you'll attend a wedding with at least one person you know, so split your expenses so you can both enjoy yourselves for half the cost:
- Are you regularly travelling to weddings with the same group of people? Buy a "two-together" card for 25% off travel. It only costs £30 but you should be able to recoup the cost instantly.
- Share car journeys to avoid expensive train fares.
- Look to travel off-peak on trains (avoid Friday evenings at all costs, trains can be half the price if you go between 2-4pm on a Friday).
- Look at Airbnb and local pubs for cheaper accommodation options. If you get a group together in one place, you can also split the taxi fare to and from the venue.
- Club together with your friends to buy a bigger gift. I'm sure your friends would rather you got something they really wanted by going in together rather than offering little gifts.
Prioritising: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) not allowed
Become comfortable with saying no. Your friends understand that everyone has other commitments and budgets other than their wedding, so it is okay to say no to the engagement party/hen/stag/bridal shower if you can't afford it. Your friends would much rather you come to their actually wedding day and have a great time than try and financially muddle your way through all these various parties.
Make a holiday out of it (pay for flights/trains once)
So the wedding is abroad, and with it soars the expense. Why not make the most out of your flights and take your holiday either before or afterwards? That way, you pay for one return ticket but get your own holiday and enjoy all the celebrations?
While money and budgeting can be stressful, not all is lost. The key is being in control and being completely transparent with yourself. Set yourself a budget for each wedding and then spend it in the areas you want to. Just remember, we are all there just to celebrate two people falling in love.
Cheers to that!
Read more: The joy of not spending money