4 Costs That Surprised Me As A Wedding Guest

This summer I’m invited to a wedding. A good friend of mine is getting married to her longtime boyfriend. For the ceremony, the couple has chosen a beautiful small village in the southwest of Switzerland, close to where they live. 

So lately I’ve been busy trying to find the perfect wedding gift for the bride and groom. That’s when I started asking myself: how much money do I actually have available? And is the wedding gift really the only big expense I will have to make? 

Unfortunately, no. In the course of my preparations, I realized that wedding guests have to bear many other costs.

Here come 4 hidden expenses that I wasn’t aware of. Check them out so that when you’re invited to a wedding,  you won’t be blown away by the total cost.

First things first: The Wedding Gift

Before I go into detail about all the hidden costs, let’s start with the most obvious expense, which is the wedding gift. Americans spend an average of $100 on a gift, according to Insider.com. If they’re family members, they shell out $127. 

By comparison, in Canada the average expenditure is $120, Germans spend $100, Australians spend $88, and in the United Kingdom and France, people pay an average of $75. 

Does that mean you have to pay just as much? Not necessarily. The amount you spend on the present for your best friend, sister or colleague depends on many factors. How close are you to the bride and groom? What kind of celebration are they planning? And what is your budget?

It may even come down to something far more petty. I asked one colleague about this, and I won’t name them, but they said that one of their siblings spent over $1000 on a pair of watches for the bride and groom at another sibling’s wedding. This colleague got a gift card from that same sibling for their wedding. I’m not suggesting you show that kind of preference for one person over another, but some people do use gifts to make a statement.

How to save on the wedding gift

I knew I didn’t want to spend more for the wedding gift than $80. So I looked at the wedding registry to find a gift that would suit my budget. But since many of the inexpensive gifts were already taken, I reluctantly bought a $110 gift – spending $30 more than I wanted to.

Later I found out that a group of friends gave a high quality espresso machine. If I had joined in the gift, I would have only paid $60.

So if you’re just looking for a wedding gift, buy off-registry or team up with other guests. Just be sure to read the invitation or ask the couple to confirm that you’re allowed to go off registry.

Alternatively, you can contribute to a honeymoon and cash wedding gift registry to make sure you don’t overspend your budget.

If that’s too dull for you, feel free to get creative! Create your own gift basket with thoughtful, yet inexpensive gifts for the bride and groom. You’ll see your personalized gift will be greatly appreciated by the newlyweds – and you’ll stay under budget.

1. Hidden cost: Attire

Admittedly, when I received the wedding invitation, I was very excited about the opportunity to buy a new, chic outfit. Just like a lot of wedding guests are. So far so good. 

But what I didn’t realize was how much money I would actually spend on attire. According to The Knot, 32% of American wedding guests spend the majority of their budget on clothing and accessories. (Only one thing is more important: 37% spend the most money on the wedding gift.) 

To put it in numbers: Female guests pay an average of $121 for their dress, shoes and bag, while male guests spend an average of $110 on a new suit and shoes. 

How to save on wedding attire 

Imagine being invited to not one, but two, or three weddings this year. If you spend between $110 and $120 for each celebration, you’ll quickly be up to $330 or more. 

Well, you could spend that money on your next vacation, a new piece of furniture, or a new cell phone, couldn’t you? Then put on an outfit you’ve worn to a party before. No one will hold it against you if you save on your clothes and instead spend your money on your travel or a gift. 

If you’d rather wear something new, you can rent a dress or suit and return it after the event. This will cost you less than buying new clothes and guarantees you a trendy outfit!

If you’re more in the mood for a high-quality vintage piece, take a look around thrift stores. There are countless refined second hand stores that specialize in festive fashion, both offline and online. 

The easiest and safest way to track and manage your wedding guest costs is to create a budget. How? Try a budgeting app to find out how much money you actually have available (and how much of it you want to spend). 

Wallet by Budgetbakers‘ Bank Sync will help you get a quick overview of all your income and one-time expenses. The app will categorize your spending and give you a true overview of your overall capital. This allows you to set a realistic wedding guest budget.

Without a planned budgetTotal costWith a planned budgetTotal costSavings 
$121 $121 $65$65$56 

2. The Bachelor / Bachelorette Party

Now it gets really expensive, especially when you’re good friends with the newlyweds. Because in this case, it’s very likely that you’ll participate in the bachelor or bachelorette party. And I’m sure you don’t know how costly that can be. 

According to Bridemagazine, the hen or stag parties can cost up to $365 per person, including travel, accommodation and outfits.  

My costs were a little lower, but still very substantial. All together I paid $280 for the bachelorette party.

How to save on the hen or stag party 

Try to discuss with the organizers how you can reduce costs. Start looking for hotel discounts, group tickets and free activities. And most importantly, stay in town. This way you and your friends can reduce the total cost by half.

So make sure you 

  • stay in town 
  • or redeem travel rewards for discounted airline tickets and hotel stays
  • do your shopping online and earn cash back 

Without a planned budgetTotal costWith a planned budgetTotal costSavings

3. Accommodation 

When it came to finding accommodation, I knew that it wouldn’t come cheap because of the location of my friend’s wedding. But I had no idea how expensive my hotel room would actually be.

Since I didn’t look for a room early enough, I had to make do with a small selection of accommodations. So I ended up paying $357 for 3 nights in a 3 star hotel. A large sum that I didn’t see coming. Could I have found a suitable place to stay for less money? Probably yes.

How to save on accommodation 

According to The Knot, of 70% of wedding guests paying for lodging, just over half stay in a hotel, while 29% book an Airbnb. A further 18% choose to stay in a traditional bed-and-breakfast or inn.

In Switzerland, you can find Airbnbs starting at $47 per night, or $141 for 3 nights. That’s a whopping $216 less than what I pay at a mid-range hotel. 

Besides, it is worth looking for accommodations where you can use or earn hotel points. Also, use price comparison sites. The most favorable option is to ask the bride and groom, their family or any other wedding guests from the area if you can stay with them and if they have obtained any discounted accommodation.

You won’t be the only one. 36% of guests choose to stay with friends or relatives from the area. 23 % book accommodation where they can redeem hotel points. 

Without a planned budget Total costWith a planned budget Total costSavings 

4. Travel 

Since I hadn’t planned a budget with all possible costs, I wasn’t aware of the travel expenses. So after I booked my hotel room, I bought tickets to the location without the chance of early booking discounts or price comparisons.

I booked my tickets two weeks before the event. That’s when it struck me once again that I hadn’t realized the total cost of being a wedding guest: I had to pay $210 for the travel.

How to save on travel expenses 

Wedding portal Knot found that guests who went to an out-of-town wedding spent up to 4 times more than those who didn’t travel.

I know that as a guest you unfortunately can’t choose the location of the event yourself, but you can make smart choices in getting there. 

Book transportation as far in advance as possible. Booking a train in advance can save you up to 61% on average against buying a ticket on the day of travel. If you want to travel by plane, be flexible with the airports and use air miles and points if possible. 

Without a planned budget CostWith a planned budgetCost Savings 
$210$1,043$84$471 $572

A final word 

As you can see, I could have saved a lot of money if I had been aware of the total cost, and created a budget ahead of time. 

If you’re invited to a wedding this year, set reasonable spending limits for gifts, outfit, bachelorette party and bridal shower, lodging and travel. Build guest expenses into your budget with a savings account dedicated to a planned expense. Budget apps like Wallet will provide you with reminders to help you not exceed those goals. 

Also, try to save before you go. According to NerdWallet, 39% of Americans say they have skipped or considered skipping a wedding because they could not afford it. You don’t want to be one of them. So start planning now and record all possible expenses.

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