Budgeting for Wedding Season

Originally published in Mazing Magazine, Issue 6.

For those of us that have been through a stint of three or more weddings in a year, we know it’s a time of year to don our loveliest clothes, embrace old friends and glory in the sensuous air of love and lifelong commitment. It also (sorry married people) manages to seriously break the bank. Between the gifts, the outfits, the travel expenses, the vacation days, and the tips at the open bar (should you be so lucky), a bout of weddings can feel more like an obligatory cash grab than a celebration of one of the biggest days of your friends’ lives. Like, yikes. Let’s reclaim that.

As the DJ at the reception would like you to know, we are here to celebrate good times (come on!), so let’s bring it back now y’all (one hop this time) to the basics of preparing and budgeting for the inevitable party in the USA ahead. 

The thing about weddings is, even though it’s your friend’s special, unique day, the expenses that come with it are actually really predictable. Here’s the key: know what costs are coming so you’ve saved ahead of time, and don’t regret anything the day-of. 

Phase I: Save the Date

Thanks to your pals, you now have a carefully printed photo of the happy couple on your fridge to remind you of your impending capital investment, and you also have all the information you need to start laying out the basics of your plan.

“If you have a choice in what you wear, pick something you’ll feel good in.” 

Now that you know where and when it is, find out who else was invited. Wedding attending is a team sport. Find out who you can carpool with, who might split a rental car, and how many people want to go in on an AirBnB, and start booking. If you don’t know anyone, be brave and ask the engagees who else will be traveling in for the occasion. You can never have too many friends, right?

Phase II: The Attire

Let’s be honest, now that we’ve graduated out of proms and Greek formals, we all know weddings are the mainstage to show off how much hotter you got since these people saw you last. But don’t let the temptation of a new profile pic go to your head–new duds for the wedding day are more expensive than you think. My recommendation? Borrow and rewear. Don’t buy anything that’s perfect for just one occasion. 

If you’re in the bridal party and your wardrobe is at the beck and call of the newlyweds-to-be, hold on tight. That part of the budget might not be very flexible depending on the couples’ wishes, and you can swallow that now. Pro tip: if it’s from a popular retailer, you might actually be able to get the item(s) you need used online from Poshmark or similar websites. No Cindy, I cannot cut this bridesmaid dress short and wear it again. 

One thing I’ll say, make sure if you have a choice in what you wear, pick something you’ll feel good in. Nothing puts a damper on a celebration like uncomfortable clothing or regretting the heavily publicized photos that come out afterward. You have gotten a lot hotter since these people saw you last—rock it.

“Decide an amount that makes you feel loyal but not resentful.” 

Phase III: You’re Cordially Invited To

Now for what I like to call the pre-wedding: bridal showers and bachelor/bachelorette parties. For some of us, this might be more flights to book, more outfits to plan, and definitely more gifts to buy. Decide ahead of time how much you’re going to spend on gifts in total—the wedding, showers, and bachelor/bachelorettes included. Then give yourself permission not to overdo it. $50 is a safe ballpark for the wedding gift alone, but in my opinion you can make adjustments based on your extra expenses (hello airfare). Decide an amount that makes you feel loyal but not resentful. 

Also, give yourself permission to advocate for yourself. Don’t take that trip to Nashville if you’re not into it (do all 20 of us really have to go anyway?). And if you do, this is your chance to politely suggest to the party planners that we dodge any unnecessary shared expenses. Please, no custom t-shirts, please.

“Wedding should be joyful, not stressful.”

Phase IV: Here Comes the Bride

It’s the day of the wedding, and since you bought your flight, prepaid your stay, borrowed your outfit, and attended the parties, you’re basically home free. All you need to do is make sure you brought enough cash to tip those blessed souls working the bar and maybe even order your gift. 

Its an old tradition that you have up to a year after the wedding to send the newlyweds their wedding gift, but since the advent of two-day shipping, that’s probably not the best move. However you do have probably a good month after the ceremony before those two lovebirds start to wonder where their Pottery Barn monogrammed mug set is. If you want to push off this last expense until your next paycheck, feel free. 

Ok, you made it. Remember, weddings should be joyful not stressful, unless of course you’re drowning in the sorrows of your longtime singleness with no prospects on the horizon. But hey, I did my job here, that’s a topic for another article.