When it comes to summer spending, Americans are accustomed to setting aside extra funds for vacations, child care, cooling costs and kids' activities. Increasingly, there's another line item that should be added to budgets starting in June: wedding guest costs.
According to the latest American Express Spending and Saving Tracker report, the average person expects to attend three weddings this year, with each event costing an average of $703. That means some Americans will spend over $2,000 on other people's "big days."
An expense of that magnitude can set consumers back significantly if costs are not closely considered. Consult the following advice from experts and expert wedding guests to save money on everything from travel and gifts to attire.
Make it a vacation.
Travel-related expenses take the biggest bite out of guest budgets, especially since most weddings occur over the weekend and require guests to travel during peak times. "If you're flying to attend a wedding, take a few more days to extend it into a vacation," suggests Anna Coats Payne, editor for Marry Me Tampa Bay, in an email interview. "If you fly in on a non-peak day like a Tuesday or Wednesday, the fares are typically a lower rate." While you may save money on airfare, you'll pay more for lodging, rental car fees and food expenses, so keep this in mind as you prepare your budget.
Go beyond the booked rate.
The discounted hotel rate negotiated by the bride and groom is not always the best deal, especially if the hotel is expensive to begin with. "Couples often marry at more upscale venues and 4-star hotels, which also come with a higher room rate," Payne explains. She also suggests looking at lower-cost hotels located near the wedding venue. "While you'll be giving up the convenience of walking downstairs to the reception, you can also save hundreds of dollars during a wedding weekend."
Rent a room or home.
Renting a home and splitting the cost with other couples is another way to reduce lodging costs. Websites like HomeAway.com and Airbnb list thousands of available properties for less than $100 per night in some cases. Anastasia Stevenson, a florist and event designer for DIY Wedding Planner in Los Angeles, rented an antebellum-style home through Airbnb for a friend's wedding in Chattanooga and split the fee with two other couples. "I spent only $125 a night on lodging and had the equivalent of what would have been a $500-a-night suite in a luxury hotel," she says in an email.
Compare prices on registered gifts.
When it comes to gifting, sticking to the wedding registry may seem like the safest option. However, depending on where the couple is registered, you might find better prices on similar or identical products elsewhere. David Bakke, contributor to personal finance blog MoneyCrashers.com, recently saved money by buying off-registry. "I purchased my gift at Amazon for about $50 less than what it was going for at the registered retailer," he says. Bakke reminds guests to contact the store where the couple is registered to have the item you purchased removed from the registry.
Search for extra savings.
Lisa Batra, founder of online consignment shop MyKidsThreads.com, also prefers to shop around for registered gifts. "When shopping for a registry item, I can typically find it elsewhere at a lower price, plus add a coupon on top and have it shipped to them directly," she says in an email. What's more, this online gifting strategy reduces the hassle of traveling with a gift and saves the couple from relocating it from the reception venue.
Make something yourself.
Hand-crafting something can result in a highly-cherished gift, especially if you take utility into consideration. "Since the bride and groom were going to a mountain cabin immediately after the wedding, I made them a gourmet gift basket," says Stevenson, referring to the handmade gift she created for the Chattanooga couple. By considering their plans after the wedding, she was able to save money and offer a memorable gift for immediate use. "Something thoughtful and useful in a sea of gift cards really showed them how much I cared and also didn't break my bank!" she says.
Rent your threads.
Many experts and seasoned wedding guests agree that when it comes to your budget, attire should be a low priority unless you're part of the wedding party. In addition to accessorizing clothes you already own to create different looks for each wedding you're scheduled to attend, many wedding guests turn to rental sites to find glamorous threads for less. "I'm saving money on an out-of-state summer wedding this year by renting my reception dress from RentTheRunway.com," says Candice Straughter, editor for the Nashville lifestyle and beauty blog NaturallyStellar.com.
[See: 10 Ways to Save on Your Wardrobe.]
Shop end-of-season sales.
You can also take advantage of seasonal sales to snatch up new clothing for you and your family for less. "I bought my kids' outfits early during spring clearance when the stores were getting rid of Easter clothing," Straughter adds. Looking ahead to July Fourth sales, you can likely find spring and summer dresses and dress pants on the sale and clearance racks for 40- to 60-percent off.
Though these wedding guest spending hacks can help you save hundreds of dollars, you can avoid the expense entirely by simply declining the invitation. You don't have to attend every wedding to which you receive an invite, and should always keep your budget in mind before you RSVP.
Kendal Perez is a spokeswoman for CouponSherpa.com, a popular source for online, in-store and mobile coupons. She also blogs at Hassle-Free Savings and enjoys yoga, decluttering, craft brew and obsessing over her dogs.