My Simple Guide to Attending a Wedding on a Budget

2014 is the year of the wedding! One of my friends is attending seven weddings this year – either she’s in the wedding party or attending as a guest. Personally, I know of four weddings coming up within the next few months, and I’m attending two. So with all this hectic planning and preparing, it’s also important to know what to expect and what’s expected of you.

With some help from Lisa Sokolowski, author of A Bride On A Budget, I’ve compiled a list of how-to’s for the average wedding-goer on a budget.

Now, seven weddings is a bit much for anyone to handle – that’s seven different dresses! – but having the know-how to save where you can will help reduce the stress of each one.

Let’s start at the point you receive the wedding invitation. At that point, look up the reception venue to find out: (1) Is it at an outside venue, or is it in a hall? (2) How “fancy” is it? – If it’s a beach wedding, you probably don’t want to wear stilettos and a long gown. (3) What time of year is the wedding taking place? (4) What’s the capacity of the venue? (That will tell you roughly how many people are invited.)

Those are the big questions I ask myself when I receive a wedding invite. The answers to these questions will help you decide what kind of dress/shoes to wear, how much you should spend on your outfit, and how intimate the wedding will be.

I, for one, am always worried about giving gifts. What if they open it and say “What a cheapo!” So Lisa says that “An attendee’s gift should be equal to what they can afford to give. It doesn’t have to be equal to their plate. The couple budgets for the reception and invites guests based on the number they can afford, not based on who will write the largest checks. ”

Phew! I’m glad I asked!  No one wants to break their budget, even if it’s a family member who’s getting married. Both my cousins who I’m close with are getting married this year, and their two weddings are opposites in some aspects. So here’s how I’m planning for them:

Wedding #1 – Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Manhattan, N.Y., in October, and reception at Central Park Boathouse.

Yes, my family is Greek, and the movie is true to form. My cousin is marrying a Greek woman whose entire family is flying in from Greece. Her family = 150, Our family = 15. I’m in for a doozey with this one.

First of all, no matter how much I spend on preparing for this wedding, I have to remember that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – to experience a Greek wedding –  no matter how over-the-top it will be.

Since it’s a fall wedding at a “hoity-toity” hall with a plus-sized guest list, I don’t want to wear a brightly colored cocktail dress. I’m aiming to find a season- and age-appropriate dress (brown, gold, tan, burgundy, plum, etc., and knee-length or longer) and wear a cover-up and closed-toe shoes.

But it doesn’t have to cost me an arm and a leg! Thanks in part to prom season, I can find a cheap dress in the discount rack at JCPenny that matches my occasion. I like this one, but it’s still $54 online. (I keep checking the site, and it’s getting cheaper by the day!)Capture2

If I use my store card to pay for it, I can get an extra 15% off. I can also wait until I get a coupon in the mail (because JCPenny loves to send out coupons now) to get it even cheaper.

Another option for me is to wait until after the summer for the new styles to come out. That means the old styles will be on deep discount, and I can get one for a steal!

I already have black, closed-toe shoes, but if you need some, Target has a few cute pairs on sale for $11.99, and Payless has some for $15.

Wedding #2 – A Catholic Church in Caldwell, N.J., in November, and reception at Highlawn Pavilion in West Orange.

Juxtaposed from the elaborate wedding a month previous, this wedding will be more relaxed but still elegant and fancy.

I won’t spend as much money on a new dress, if I buy a new one at all, and will re-wear the shoes I already bought. The venue for the reception also is fancy attire, but there is less pressure to get dolled up. (Obviously I’m not going to pay to have my makeup done for either wedding. I can watch a YouTube video to teach myself, thanks to Michelle Phan!) With the more relaxed atmosphere, I can wear a brighter color dress with a shorter hem-line and some flats for comfort.

Rue 21 is my favorite place to shop for clothes. They have cheap dresses, starting at $24.99, and always have promotions and clearance items. This is a really cute dress, although it’s a bit short for a November wedding.Capture1

Conclusions

You don’t have to break the bank when you attend a wedding, even if you’re attending seven! Know how to find the good bargains and don’t feel obligated to spend a lot on a gift.

Lisa says that even being a bridesmaid isn’t always a burden: “Being a bridesmaid is a big financial commitment, but not everything is “necessary.” A bridesmaid has to understand that when she is saying yes to being in the wedding party, she is saying yes to not only attending the wedding and shower, but purchasing the dress and shoes that the bride requests and it’s often impossible to save on those.”

In regard to budgeting yourself, Lisa suggests that “If [you] only have $200 that you can allot for a wedding, then you need to make sure to spread that out over the course of the wedding events. There may be an engagement party, a shower, and the wedding itself. So $50 for the engagement party, $50 for the shower, and $100 for the wedding.”

If you have a couple of weddings to attend this year but are afraid of over spending, don’t fret. Do what feels right. Don’t worry about how much you spend on gifts and concentrate on what’s most important at a wedding: the love and bond between two people.

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