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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

How to afford wedding season this summer

How to afford wedding season this summer 


You open your mailbox and there it is, an oversized, cream-colored envelope with a heart stamp. It’s your fourth one of these this year. For some, it means bachelor and bachelorette parties, bridal showers, flights to your friend’s hometown halfway across the country, and then the wedding itself – which often includes costs associated with gifts and lodging. You sigh and frantically wonder how you’re going to afford this one.

It’s probably no surprise that wedding season can be rough on your vacation time, your wallet and frankly, your mental health. So, what’s a 20 or 30-something (who frankly probably already has student loan bills and not the highest paying job yet) to do?

Step 1: Start saving (and put it in a different account)

Whether or not you’ve seen the first pictures of your friend’s bling on Instagram or gotten a save the date – wedding season is coming. Maybe it won’t even be so bad this year, but sooner or later, you’ll be that person with seven different weddings to attend in a three-month period. Yikes!

Instead of waiting for the panic to set in, start saving now. Even if it’s just one percent of each paycheck, make it a habit and stick it in a savings account. It’s best if the savings account isn’t linked to your checking account. This way, you won’t be tempted to skim off the top. You should also do yourself a favor and make sure the savings account earns at least 3-4% APY. Might as well make your money work for you a little bit.

As time passes and if this fund potentially grows, it should be less stressful to budget for a wedding or pre-wedding event. You won’t need to take hefty chunks out of your monthly paycheck because you have a side account specifically dedicated to wedding costs.

Step 2: Try travel hacking

This step should only be considered if you have a strong credit score and are good with credit cards. Don’t be tempted to do this if you’re an impulse shopper who would use a credit card to rack up debt.

However, those that know they’ll be spending some quality time on a plane in the upcoming year might want to take advantage of a credit card bonus reward or two. Plenty of credit cards, particularly airline branded ones, offer a promotion to spend a set amount of money (usually $3,000) in a pre-determined time period (usually three months) and you’ll get bonus miles that are good for at least one domestic round-trip flight. You can look for similar cards that offer hotel points too.

Some of these cards do come with an annual fee, so be sure to pick one that’s waived for the first year. (You can set a reminder to cancel before the second-year fee kicks in). Also, try to get one that entitles you to one free checked bag – this helps save on bag fees for the wedding travel when you’re packing all different kinds of outfits between the rehearsal dinner, reception, and celebratory brunch.

Be sure this isn’t increasing your spending (the credit card company hopes it will) and that you can still pay off the bill on time and in full each month. Otherwise, you just nullified the entire point.

Step 3: Learn how to say no

You don’t have to attend every pre-wedding event. You don’t even have to attend every wedding. If you and the bride and/or groom haven’t spoken (or at least texted) in the last six months – don’t feel guilty sending your regrets that you won’t be able to make it.

Don’t feel strong armed into attending every bachelor, bachelorette or bridal shower either. Sometimes you just need to say no, and your friend will appreciate it even more if you are able to make it to their big day – the wedding.

Step 4: Shop registries on holiday weekends

I’ll let you in on a little secret, the places many people register (Macy’s, Crate & Barrel) are all stores that often discount products during holiday weekends. Keep your eye out for advertisements for sales around Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Then, troll wedding registries to see which items happen to be on sale. You might be able to find a $100 priced item for $60 or a $75 one for $50. It’s an easy way to keep a little extra money in your pocket, but also look like you didn’t cheap out on the gift front. Win-win!

And the earlier you do this the better, so a registry isn’t completely picked over by the time you arrive.

Read more: How much should you spend on a wedding gift?

Step 5: Pocket the money for your future self

If you include pre-wedding events like bachelorette parties and bridal showers, and factor in hotels, flights, gifts, and formal attire, being in a wedding can easily cost you $1,000 to $1,800.1

Multiply that by probably 10 weddings in your twenties. That’s $10,000 to $18,000 you’ve spent on other people’s weddings!

Or to put it in different terms: If you invested $15,000 and let it sit for 40 years and assumed an 8% return, it could potentially turn into a cool $325,867.82.

As you come up with your own ways to get creative about saving money on other people’s weddings, be sure you’re putting those savings away for your future self. Don’t let the $50 you saved on wedding gifts or the $1,000 you pocketed by saying no to a Vegas weekend getaway in your checking account. Consider investing it, putting in an IRA or 401k, or tucking it into a high-yield cash account for a trip you can finally take that doesn’t involve someone else saying, “I do.”

1 Wedding Wire, This Is the Actual Cost of Being a Bridesmaid, July 2017.


Alex Noonan, CFP®


Alex Noonan is a Senior Financial Professional at Empower. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, he provides a wide range of financial planning services for clients who are enrolled in the Personal Strategy managed asset program. 

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