Summer may be synonymous with baseball and beaches, but for Jenn Sinrich, it's all about bells. Wedding bells, specifically. In the last few years, the Long Island City, N.Y.-based writer and editor has attended eight of her friends' big days and served as a bridesmaid in three. The ceremonies haven't just consumed her weekends – they've also put a strain on her bank account.
So far, she's spent roughly $5,000 watching her best pals get hitched, a heavy financial burden that's influenced the way Sinrich is planning her own wedding later this year. "I'm trying my best to be as understanding towards my bridesmaids as possible about costs and financial commitments," she says. "But you want them to celebrate your time in the same way you celebrated theirs."
Make no mistake: Weddings are expensive – for the guests.
By the time you've paid for wedding travel, transportation, lodging, food, clothes, and a gift, you've often invested several hundreds of dollars in someone else's once-in-a-lifetime event. Multiply that by the number of your relatives and friends who may be tying the knot this year, and you've seriously eaten into money you might have earmarked for a much-needed summer vacation or, like Sinrich, even your own future nuptials.
But you don't have to go broke. Here are nine ways to help save money on the weddings that you need to attend this season:
Be the early bird
As soon as you get the invitation, check out the registry – before the inexpensive items on the list are gone. If the couple has reserved a block of hotel rooms at a discounted rate, grab one while they last. Also take advantage of book–ahead flight, train, and car rental rates. Keep your wedding season budget on-track by planning ahead.
You don't have to buy a new ensemble for every wedding. Start with a nice shift or little black dress, and change the look by adding a shawl or jacket, accessorizing with a statement necklace or earrings, and mixing up your hairstyle and makeup. Guys have it easy: Change the shirt and tie, add a pocket square, and your basic suit has a whole new look.
Rent or swap couture
Let's be honest: You could likely rent 10 different outfits for the price of one designer gown. Check out dress rental sites like RentTheRunway.com, which feature high-end designer dresses and accessories available for rental for a fraction of their retail price. Or, if all of your girlfriends are in the same boat, swap outfits and accessories to refresh your wedding wardrobe. Hey, it's new to you.
Spend your credit card points
Weddings are great times to take advantage of credit card rewards programs by redeeming the points that you've accumulated for bridal shower gifts, wedding travel, or your attire. Or use a rewards credit card to pay for wedding-related expenses and build up points for future use. To learn more about travel rewards programs, check out How to Pick Travel Reward Programs: 4 Questions to Consider.
Spend the months before a wedding putting away a few bucks here and there. Skip the cappuccinos, stream a movie instead of seeing one in a theater, or even empty your change each day into a jar. Before you know it, you'll have saved the plane fare.
Choose your own hotel
It may be convenient to stay at the hotel where the wedding will be held, but you'll probably save money by booking a less expensive place nearby. Search discount sites like Priceline.com, Kayak.com, or Expedia.com for bargains.
Save on gifts
Corral other guests and pool your money for a big gift you wouldn't be able to spring for yourself. Don't know anyone else going to the wedding? Online crowdfunding sites like Honey Fund let you put in toward big-ticket gifts of the couple's choosing, like the honeymoon. You can also scan sites like eBay and Groupon for deals or, if you're crafty, consider making a personalized present.
If a bunch of friends from your area are going to the same wedding, travel in style by renting a luxury coach, and maybe even hire a driver. It may actually be cheaper and more fun than renting individual cars or flying. When you get to your destination, share a room to save on lodging.
Just say no
A wedding invitation isn't a command performance, particularly if the bride or groom is not a close family member or friend. You can politely decline the invitation, sending a lovely note that says how happy you are for the lucky couple but won't be able to attend their big event. Or, send a small gift that would cost a fraction of what you'd spend by attending the entire festivities.
Bowing out of someone's big day isn't always easy, but it can help keep spending in check. "I feel like for the first few years of working and going to weddings, I couldn't save much because all of my savings went to the weddings," Sinrich says. "I think the only way to cut down is to say no."
If wedding season has left your credit card statement in the red, learn how one woman was able to pay off her debt and rebuild her credit.