How to be a wedding guest on a budget

My name’s Amy and I’m addicted to… TV wedding programmes. Don’t Tell the Bride, Say Yes to the Dress, I Found the Gown, you name it, I’ll watch it (much to my husband’s annoyance). But let’s face it: nothing beats the real thing.

That’s why when three of my closest friends announced they were getting married this year, I couldn’t have been happier. Then the reality of going to three weddings, plus three hen dos, hit me – I had one expensive year ahead.

We have a great guide for expectant brides and grooms to save money for their big day – see 50 cheap wedding tips – but what about the guests, how can they be MoneySaving?

I’ve managed to save some money here and there along the way in the run up to the weddings I’m attending this year and in previous years, so I thought I’d collate a few of my top tips, in the hope they might help some of you going through a pre-wedding season cash flow drought.

Speak up about your hen/stag do budget

I’ve found that when there’s a hen or stag do, before any money is actually exchanged there is a lot of going back and forth on an epic email/Facebook/WhatsApp thread, about ideas and possible costs.

So while a long weekend in Barcelona might sound lovely, if you’ve only got the budget for a night in Bognor Regis, then it’s now you need to speak up. After all, if you can’t afford it, chances are there’ll be others thinking the same thing.

And the more of you that say something, the more likely whoever is organising it will reconsider their options and possibly downscale their ideas to accommodate everyone.

Also, hen/stag dos can run into two nights, so don’t be afraid to say you can only attend for one night to save on accommodation costs.

Book travel in advance or car share

If you’re staying in sunny Blighty, it’s likely travel costs aren’t included in the overall price. So if you have the option to car share, the cost of petrol will normally be far cheaper than a return train ticket, and the person driving will appreciate the shared cost of a journey they were going to make regardless.

Also see our Cheap Petrol and Diesel guide for tips on cutting costs and improving fuel efficiency.

If train travel is the only option, make sure you book in advance, check if you can save money using a railcard, and use our TicketySplit nifty tool to see if you can save money by splitting your journey.

Also, an early morning train on the Saturday is likely to be cheaper than traveling in rush hour after work on the Friday. See our Cheap Train Tickets guide for more tips on keeping your spending away from the buffers.

Think outside the box for accommodation

If you have to travel somewhere for the wedding, accommodation is usually an unavoidable cost. And as weddings are notoriously in peak seasons, over a weekend, this can end up leaving your wallet a little lighter.

Often the bride and groom will have sent a list of recommended accommodation with the invitations. But if, like me, a quick search of the cost of said accommodation brings you out in a cold sweat, then you need to go off the list.

First off, do you need to stay in a hotel? Do you have any friends/family that live nearby who you could stay with, even if it’s only for one night?

If that’s not an option, search online to see if there are cheaper hotels or B&Bs in the area than the ones listed on the invitation. Alternatively, consider Airbnb, hostels, or even university rooms outside of term time.

One of the weddings my husband and I are going to this year was going to cost £180 for two nights in the local Travelodge. But after a quick search on Airbnb we’d bagged ourselves two nights at a house in the centre of town for £64. We’ll also save money on food as our stay includes access to the kitchen, so we won’t need to eat out.

See our Cheap Hotels guide for more on how to save £100s with top hotel comparison sites, mystery mega-bargains, cheap-yet-clean hostels and much more.

Don’t feel pressured to buy an expensive wedding gift

Before I got married, I thought it was a massive no-no to go off the wedding gift list, if one has been sent out. But we got some absolutely gorgeous presents from people who had done just that, for whatever reason.

So if you’re faced with a list of things that would put Kim and Kanye’s gift list to shame, don’t be afraid to go for something more in your price range, opt for something homemade, or perhaps offer to do something for the wedding instead of buying a gift. You could make the favours, invitations, cake, or take the pictures.

See our Great Cheap but Lovely & Thoughtful Wedding Gifts forum thread for inspiration.

Buy an outfit from charity shops or in the sales

If you don’t give a monkey’s about whether you’re pictured in the same outfit at three different weddings in a year (damn it Facebook), then obviously the cheapest thing to do is to wear something you already own.

You could always switch it up with different accessories – handbag, shoes, jewellery or even just styling your hair differently.

If you must have a different outfit, consider looking in charity shops. I once wore a dress to my cousin’s wedding that I’d bought for £3 in a charity shop.

Another MoneySaving trick is to wait for the sales. I kept an eye on a dress in the January sales this year that I knew would make a great wedding outfit, but was way out of my price range. I held off and waited until the third mark down before I finally swooped in at a price I could substantiate.

It’s a risky strategy, as your size might be gone for example, but when it pays off it’s such a good feeling!

Don’t be afraid to say no

Finally, don’t be afraid to say no. If you can’t afford both the hen/stag do celebration and the wedding, don’t torture yourself – just don’t go. I am sure your friends or family will understand.

Do you have any tips or cost-cutting tips for going to weddings? Please let us know via the comments section below or on our forum.