Wedding season is here and your social media timelines are probably flooded with bridal updates and new engagement announcements spurred by the romantic fervor.
Along with wedding season brings wedding costs — even if you’re only attending the wedding as a guest or the bridal party and not actually getting married. From travel to outfits and presents and more, if you aren’t careful, your good friend or family member’s special day could take a toll on your wallet.
Here are 5 tips to help you save on wedding party expenses without being a cheapskate or worse, irritating the busy happy couple with your financial concerns:
1) Start saving the moment you hear about the engagement.
Most engagements will last about 14 months long, according to The Knot’s 2014 Real Weddings Study, so you’ll have a little time to get your finances in order before the big day. You may need some money earlier for outfit deposits or shower/engagement parties, but it’s not like you’ll need the extra money tomorrow.
Tuck a little money away each paycheck specifically for any costs you may run into as a wedding party member. Once you get an idea of how much you’ll actually need, you can ramp up or cut back your saving accordingly, but it’s better to have saved too much than not enough and have to reach for a credit card to tide you over.
2) Be first in line for the gift registries.
As soon as you know where the happy couple has created their gift registries, get online and/or into their selected stores.
Bridal registries are typically filled with a wide variety of items, some pricier than others. So if you’re on a tight budget, check out the lists early to snag the perfect present in your price range.
If you miss the early shopping boat, but see an item on a registry that’s a little outside your budget, shop around before buying it. Many big name retailers will match a competitor’s lower price if you can find proof the item is being sold for less. Signing up for store emails or downloading mobile apps may also grant you access to new member discounts and exclusive sales to help you score a more affordable present.
3) Use card rewards for travel and lodging.
Traveling out of town, state or even country for the big affair? Book your travel and lodging reservations as soon as you can and better yet, book them with credit card reward points or miles if you have them available.
The earlier you book, the less expensive flights will be and the more your hard-earned rewards will cover. And good news, rewards are also getting easier to redeem, as many issuers do away with redemption minimums, expiration dates and travel restrictions. Many people let their card rewards go unused, so take the wedding as an opportunity to proactively use them up.
Don’t have a pile of credit card rewards to use — or even a rewards credit card, for that matter? Take advantage of one of the reward card sign-up bonuses offered by many major issuers. Tens of thousands of free miles could go a long way towards paying for your plane ticket to that destination wedding. Just apply several months ahead of time and know that you generally have to have above-average credit to qualify for high-end rewards cards.
4) Be resourceful with wedding day attire.
Guys, you probably have it easiest when it comes to wedding attire. Unless you absolutely can’t, rent your tux. There’s no sense in paying big bucks for a fancy suit you’d rarely wear again.
Girls, we know clothes can get expensive and wedding attire is no different. I was in a wedding during my last year of college and even though we avoided expensive boutique dresses, between dress alterations, accessories and hair/makeup, bridesmaid outfit costs added up fast.
To save a few bucks, present the bride with more affordable dress options while you’re all shopping around or ask if it’s OK to do your own hair and makeup, so long as the finished look fits what the bride has in mind. Professional hair and makeup prices can quickly exceed $100 and in my experience, the results aren’t usually worth the cost.
5) Still have cost concerns? Speak up.
If you’ve cut costs and saved all your pennies for your friend or family member’s big day, but still feel in over your head, let the engaged couple know ahead of time, not when you are about to pick up an outfit or go out for the bachelor or bachelorette party.
And don’t be afraid to say “no” to something, advises Emily Co, a writer for women’s lifestyle website Popsugar. If you can’t afford all the bachelorette party activities or the travel costs to another engagement party, it’s OK to respectfully decline and save your money for the big day events.
Plus, the last thing you want to do is keep your concerns to yourself, bite the bullet and keep swiping your credit card for things you can’t actually afford.