Though the main events are the ceremony and reception, the cost of being there to see the day unfold can send guests running for the hills. You’ve got to get there looking nice with gift in hand — a task that’s easier said than done. What if the wedding is across the state — or across the country, for that matter? Is it worth it to book a room at a fancy hotel, buy a new gown you’ll only wear once, splurge on the Waterford crystal?
Yes, but you have be smart about it, as I learned when I said yes to an invitation for my sorority sister’s wedding. I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world, but my budget said otherwise.
To help you cut costs, two experts share their tips on making it to, and through, a weekend of celebration that will inspire tears of joy — or maybe pain after a night of dancing in high heels.
Stay at home: “If you're heading to a wedding with lots of friends, consider booking a house or apartment through AirBnB or VRBO instead of reserving individual hotel rooms,” says Emily Thomas, creative director of Southern Weddings Magazine. The websites provide a list of homeowners in the city of your choice willing to rent out rooms or their entire home at a daily or weekly rate. Guests get access to normal home amenities like a kitchen and washer and dryer, things not easy to find in a hotel for a reasonable price. “The price per person will almost always be less, and you might have the ability to cook meals, which is another great way to save money!”
Flying high: If you can’t carpool, Thomas suggests perusing airline booking sites such as Kayak or Hipmunk, which collect available flights from multiple carriers to provide the best rate. “Make sure to clear your cache after researching and before booking,” she suggests. “Booking sites record your web data and some use this info to raise prices when you're interested in a flight.” Additionally, Southwest Airlines periodically runs $59 one-way ticket sales. Just be wary of blackout dates, which typically fall on weekends and holidays.
From all of us: “Definitely go in on a gift,” says Birmingham-based wedding planner Anita Kanellis. “[Guests] can spend five or six hundred dollars traveling and then a gift on top of that, not to mention a shower gift. That’s a lot of money.” Gifts like cookware or luggage are a good idea. “Sometimes these place settings are a couple hundred dollars, so you can even split that cost. Be modest, but nice.”
Get gussied up: Although weddings aren’t a regular occurrence for most people, it’s still important to make some sort of investment in your attire. But leave your tails at home. “A tuxedo isn’t always required unless it says ‘black tie’ or ‘black tie optional.’” says Kanellis. “For guys, if they’re in their 20s and they’re just out of college, they’re probably going for a lot of job interviews — they probably have [invested] in a suit that they can wear.” Change out the shirt and tie and you’ve got a “totally acceptable” outfit, she says.
Women, Kanellis says, should “invest in one good dress that they can change accessories and wear over and over and it doesn’t look like the same thing.” And don’t underestimate the power of shopping another friend’s closet, adds Thomas. “A ‘new’ dress, clutch or accessory can make you feel like a million bucks without spending nearly that much.” To really want to make a splash, if only for one night, browse sites like renttherunway.com, which allow you to borrow designer pieces (and even undergarments!) for a fraction of the retail cost. You can even consult with a stylist to find the best look for the big day.
When it’s all said and done, your presence will ultimately mean more than any gift or cute outfit. Remember — you were invited because you are an important person in the couple’s life. And now that you are armed with economical wedding wisdom, feel free to make memories that will last longer than a cookware set.