How much does it really cost to be a wedding guest?

wedding guest invitations

Wedding season is coming up, and you know what that means – a fridge covered in wedding invites, choices between chicken or veggie options and dancing to cheesy disco classics. But as much as we love supporting friends and family on their wedding day, if you have more than one wedding to go to in a year the cost of attending can stack up fast. That’s why we’ve put together a list of ways to pinch those pennies while still having a great time as a wedding guest.

How much does it cost to attend a wedding?

The cost of the average UK weddings have now risen to a whopping £30,355, so it’s no wonder the cost has gone up for guests too. While it may not seem like it at first, the cost of attending a wedding adds up fast. When you take into account the travel costs, wedding gift, a new outfit (those big hats aren’t cheap), hen dos and accommodation, it’s easy to spend a small fortune.

In fact, guests in the UK spend an average of £400 per wedding, with pricier weddings costing them up to £1,015 according to Provident. That’s a lot to spend to wish a couple good luck on their nuptials, and if you’re going to several weddings a year it can really throw your budget out of whack. 

So what does all this money go on, and how can you cut costs?

Hen do or hen don’t?

two women toasting on holiday

Hen dos and stag nights used to be dinner and drinks with friends, maybe a night of clubbing before the bride and groom took the plunge into married life. However, in recent years engaged couples have kicked it up a notch, planning social-media friendly getaways packed with pricey activities, hotel bills and sometimes even a plane ticket.

Not only does this require booking off even more precious annual leave, but you can end up spending a fortune before you even make it to the wedding. From visits to Disneyland Paris and paintballing in Prague, hen and stag dos are now just as big as the wedding day itself.

If you don’t believe us, in 2018 The Scottish Trust Deed found that over £1 billion had been spent on hen dos alone in the UK, costing each guest an average of £507. David Baddeley, CEO at Scottish Trust Deed, says:

“We’ve definitely seen a rise in enquiries from clients who have used credit to fund requests of the bride and groom. Guests knowingly but reluctantly immerse themselves in debt through fear of upsetting their close friends.”

But we can promise you that you won’t be the only one looking at the hen do itinerary and cringing, thinking sadly of your bank balance and the money you were saving for your own holiday.

To save money, the answer is simple – say no! Be realistic about what you can afford, and if a gals trip to Ibiza isn’t on the cards for you, be honest and RSVP with apologies. After all, there’s no point splashing out on the hen do only to find you can’t afford to go to the wedding.

Delicately suggest cheaper alternatives…

Plus, there are plenty of affordable, fun things you can all get together and do which don’t involve a plane ticket. We have a great list of experience day voucher codes which can save you money on a night out the bride or groom will never forget.

Why not gently suggest a fun cocktail-making class, a great value luxury spa day or a night at a disco cabaret show? There really is something for everyone and every budget to enjoy. Take a look at our latest deals for Groupon, Virgin Experience Days, BuyAGift and many more to plan an unforgettable experience on a budget.

It’s the wedding day that counts

group of people toasting champagne

Another increasingly common trend is having several parties in the lead up to the wedding. From the engagement party to the hen do, bridal shower, dinners and get-togethers at the destination or staycation wedding, some newlyweds seem to spread out their wedding days over as many events as possible. All this added up really can cost a fortune, especially if there’s the expectation for more gifts and no free bar.

Again, the solution is simply to put your foot down. What counts is the wedding day itself, not the precursory parties. If you can attend without it putting a dent in your budget, by all means, go along to support the happy couple, but if attending means another reason to buy them an expensive engagement gift and a fancy dinner, don’t feel bad if you have to give it a miss. You can always find a time to celebrate with the couple in a more private and budget-friendly setting so they know you support them without having to go to yet another mini party before the big day.

Closet full of clothes, nothing to wear

formal wear shoes

It can be all too tempting to treat ourselves to a different look for every wedding – especially if everyone getting married is from the same circle so you end up seeing the same fellow guests time and time again. But don’t fear outfit repeats. Recycling your outfit can save you a bundle, plus it means you get the chance to wear old, trusty favourites for some surefire compliments.  

Alternatively, why not shake it up and go for a skirt and top combo rather than a dress? This means you can change up your look by mixing and matching, giving you a fresh new look without the price tag. Even just mixing things up with new accessories, such as a new hat or shoes, can make an outfit look brand new. Equally, men can just change things up with a new shirt and tie, but keep the suit the same.

Alternatively, why not try a ‘rent a dress’ service from sites like Girl Meets Dress and Hire the Catwalk? It’s easy enough for men to rent suits too. Look your best for less, no one will ever know…

If you really can’t resist a new look, take a look at our top fashion voucher codes to find that gorgeous signature piece from top brands like Debenhams, John Lewis and New Look at fantastically reduced prices.

The wedding gift minefield

wedding gift table

Another emerging wedding trend is the couple asking for cash donations instead of a classic wedding gift. We can’t blame them – with the high cost of weddings, honeymoons and property, they probably need cash far more than a new set of towels. That said, this can quickly become awkward and uncomfortable, especially if they can see your name next to your donation amount. But don’t feel pressured – you won’t be the only one who opts to give £25 rather than £100.

Or forgo the cash gift altogether and give them something classic and thoughtful to show your support and love for the couple without writing a cheque. Something cheap and simple like a photo album, romantic picnic basket for two or personalised keepsake may not be what they asked for, but that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate it. Explore our gifts voucher codes to find something which suits their taste and your budget.

The overnight wedding

hotel room

Another common, often unforeseen cost of attending a wedding is the travel and accommodation. Unless you’re lucky, a lot of weddings are held at a special location, often requiring a train ticket or long drive (or, if they’re really pushing the boat out, a plane ticket.) From rustic countryside weddings to exotic destination weddings, there’s almost always a fee attached.

To cut costs, the key is to book early. These days we know about most weddings about a year ahead of time – the second you RSVP, start looking at tickets, hotels and B&Bs.

Don’t feel you have to stick to the accommodation the couple recommends – feel free to look further afield to see if you can find a better deal elsewhere. We’ve got plenty of voucher codes for hotels across the UK which will have you sleeping easy knowing you got the best deal.

If you’re lucky enough to live reasonably close to the venue, make the choice to leave a little earlier and get home rather than booking a hotel room nearby or splashing out on a taxi. Or, if it’s not a free bar, save even more by avoiding buying booze and driving yourself home responsibly.

In terms of travel, the earlier you book, the better the price is likely to be. Whether you’re catching a train or coach, see if there are any railcard discounts you can get, or if it would be cheaper to travel early or off-peak. If you’re booking a plane ticket, use a price comparison site to find the cheapest deal and check out our cheap flight deals to see if there are any more ways you can save.

Don’t miss out – have fun on a budget

newly weds

Weddings are wonderful events full of fun and love, so it’s worth spending a little to support your loved ones and send them on their way to married life in style – but if you have four or five weddings you’ll be heading to this year, we hope these money-saving tips and tricks help make the experience more affordable and less stressful.

Got any more wedding guest budget tips for us? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re a bride planning her wedding, why not take a look at our list of gorgeous wedding dresses under £300 from top high-street brands? Find your dream dress on a budget.

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