Survive Wedding Season Debt Free

I have surpassed the threshold of having multiple friends I grew up, or went to school with (making us all about the same age) getting married in what seemed like—all at once. There was a span of about three years where I attended, or was in fifteen weddings—the expenses crushed my finances.

I never calculated the actual amount I spent, the shock may have given me a heart attack, but I would venture to guess I spent an average of $750 for each of the 5 weddings I was in and roughly $200 for those I attended, making the total over $5,000. What I could have done with $5k…

These were figures from…ahem…ten plus years ago. Today, according to a 2010 survey, bridesmaids spend an average of $1,695 per wedding.

42 percent of wedding guests will spend $100-$500 per wedding, and 13 percent plan to spend more than $1,000 according to a recent National Endowment for Financial Education survey.

With summer right around the corner, wedding season is upon us. So if you have a slew of weddings to attend this summer, proper planning can help you “be there” for your friends and family without going into debt. I’ll be sitting this season out, as I don’t have a single wedding to attend.

In the Wedding

I always looked at being in someone’s wedding as an honor; after all they picked you to play a role in their special day. But the expense of being in a wedding (especially an out of town one) can be a real budget buster.

A breakdown of expenses to consider:

  • Your bridesmaids dress. It’s worth looking into whether the bridal shop will negotiate a group discount for you and the other girls. Also consider having a local tailor or your handy seamstress mom alter your dress instead of the outrageously priced bridal shop.
  • Accessories (shoes, jewelry). See if you can find some cute costume jewelry for the bridal party online or at a local department store and they show it to the bride—she might just love it! Payless shoes prices on dyeable’s can’t be beat buy your shoes there instead of the pricier shoes at the bridal shop.
  • Hair and makeup. DIY all the way!
  • Bridal shower / bachelorette party. Work with the rest of the bridal party to plan fun, memorable events instead of lavish ones. Split the costs and see if the bride’s family can help in some way.
  • Wedding / shower gifts. This is when being creative can pay off. Give the happy couple a framed photo from their dating days, print it out in black and white and select an elegant frame. Create a DVD set to music with pictures of them—these are always a big hit! Or, select a bottle of wine in your price range and accompany it with a poem of well wishes for the newlyweds.
  • Travel expenses. This is often where you get hit the hardest and it’s an expense you just can’t get away from. Check out This site will track ticket prices on the flight you want to take and then send you an e-mail the minute they drop.

Attending the Wedding

While the expenses are slightly less than being a member of the bridal party they still add up. The key here is to plan, plan, plan!

  • Buy registry gifts early. Many of the “less expensive gifts” are snagged early on for showers. Buy your wedding gift early and find something the couple wants that fits your budget. Another way to save is to visit to see if you can find a gift card for any of the stores where the couple is registered. You can buy the card at a discount and save money on your purchase.
  • Rent a dress. If you are attending several nuptials with the same gang you won’t want to wear the same dress. Consider renting a dress from This site rents out designer dresses, starting at $50.
  • Travel plans. Watch flights and consider booking your hotel through a discount site to save where you can.

Bottom line weddings are expensive. If wedding season is hitting you hard and you are struggling with debt, all the savings tips in the world won’t help you from making your debt situation worse. You may have to be honest with your friend and let them know about your situation, if they are truly your friend they will understand. Make plans to celebrate with them after the wedding and offer your help with wedding planning instead; you will be involved without the expense!

Have you ever gone into debt over wedding expenses?

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About Suzanne Cramer

10 Responses to “Survive Wedding Season Debt Free”

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  1. A good friend of mine is getting married in about a year. I’ve already decided I’m not spending more than $1,000 on her wedding. That’s including gifts. As her maid of honor, I’m trying to think of frugal ways I can show her how important she is to me. I’ve got plenty of time to figure it out. Fortunately, she’s aware of my money values and respects the fact that I won’t waste a ton of money on her nuptials.

  2. Kathy says:

    Since I am actively paying off my debt, I cannot see spending a ton of money on gifts. Especially since I don’t have the extra money.

    So, since I am an avid crafter, I make most of my wedding gifts. Over the past several years I have given a decorated box full of 50 handmade greeting cards. If you add up the price of 50 Hallmark cards, this is a mega savings for them. And everyone could always use cards!

    I’m attending two weddings next month & I offered to make their Thank You cards as their gift. The first friend said yes (since I had already made her invites, RSVP cards, favor tags, etc). The other friend said she already bought hers. So, I racked my brain & decided to buy her a Scrapbook Album, rub ons, ribbon & cardstock so she can scrapbook the event (small wedding with friend doing photos). I will also lend her my services to help her put the scrapbook together. I thought that it was a unique gift (for both her & myself) and she’s one who would appreciate it.


  3. Charlie says:

    At my wedding 10 years ago we incurred about $4,000 debt from the wedding alone. Thankfully my one of my good friends from college had a dad in the Cayman Island’s and gave us a 7 night ocean front hotel room in the Cayman Island. That saved us about $400/night or $2,800 for the whole week. Only unfortunate thing was that we flew into our honeymoon resort on September 9, 2001. We were in the Cayman Islands and woke up to the horror of two planes being flown into the twin towers. We were wondering if we’d ever get back home.

  4. Carol in Mpls says:

    I’m well past “wedding season” for almost all my friends, but the idea of spending 1K just to be in a wedding simply floors me! To make it Personal Finance related, I’d say that maybe folks in their 20s and 30s need to add a line item to their budget for some dedicated savings for these events. Not unlike a vacation.

    There are so many ways to celebrate the happy event without wiping out the bank accounts of your friends. The destination wedding fad was not really happening in my time, other than an out-of-town trip, which was usually to the bride’s hometown. No week-long stays in Hawaii or cruise ships, etc. I do think that’s pretty galling to plan a destination wedding and then expect guests to cough up hundreds/thousands of dollars, along with vacation time for just one event.

    • @Carol Love the idea of including “weddings” in the budget for those of age. And, I agree that it is asking a lot of someone to come up with the money to attend a destination wedding…unless it was for my very best friend…I always turned those down.

  5. I’ve spent my fair amount of money on other people’s weddings, especially since I live several states away from my hometown and closest friends. However, I was maid of honor in my friend’s wedding last year and I did all of the bridal party’s makeup (as well as the mothers of the bride and groom). Added bonus, the bride’s mom paid to have the bridal party’s hair done. That way we all saved a ton on expenses! Getting help like this from friends can make a huge difference for everyone involved. I think all of the tips you mentioned are really great and I’ve included them in ReadyForZero’s Monday Shout Outs: Wedding Edition (

  6. Kelsey says:

    I usually always give a gift worth about $50 for any wedding– having a set budget can help prevent me spending too much money.

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