How to be a thrifty and fabulous wedding guest

Weddings can mean stress, high expectations, and – if you’re not careful – spiraling expense. No, we’re not talking about the bride and groom; we’re talking about you, the wedding guest!

After hunting down the perfect outfit and arranging travel to some far flung location for the ceremony, you then have to worry about accommodation. Presents for the happy couple don’t exactly come cheap, and don’t even get me started on the hen or stag do!

As with all great attack strategies, we need to look at the wedding day from all angles so your wallet doesn’t leave you feeling jilted at the altar…

Your outfit

Choose simple, ‘dress up or dress down’ attire

Little black dressBe it black tie or bohemian, semi-formal or smart casual, it seems like every wedding has a different dress code. You might think that this means a different outfit every time, but this may not be strictly true.  While a bridesmaid or usher basically has to wear whatever the couple tells them to, guests have a lot more options.

Instead of buying a new outfit for each wedding you attend, opt for something neutral and alternate your look with accessories. You can pair a simple cocktail dress with fake pearls and heels for black tie, then wear it with a cardigan and flats for a more casual ‘do’. As for men, one well-fitted suit in a neutral colour such as grey is a wise choice; you can alternate it with different tie and top pocket handkerchief colours.

Try upmarket charity shops

Charity shop clothes rackCharity shops are wonderful, but shopping at the ones in affluent areas tend to yield the best results for formal dresses, suits, and timeless vintage wear.

If you’re pressed for time, you can still have a mooch on the Oxfam online shop, which tends to sell some beautiful – and cheap – gladrags!



Have a rummage through a mate’s wardrobe

Trying on dressesThis is a bit obvious, but it’s surprising how many people don’t consider borrowing their outfit off a friend. If they’re of the same or similar body type as you, chances are they’ll have an outfit you can borrow for the wedding. Be cheeky and ask what their shoe size is too!

If you do borrow your friend’s threads, make sure you return them in good condition. Getting your friend’s dress or suit dry cleaned after the wedding as a way of saying thank you is still likely to be cheaper than buying a brand new outfit.


Revamp your old bridesmaid dress

Have you got a big, poofy-out and slightly outdated bridesmaid dress lurking in the darkest reaches of your wardrobe? Give it new life by taking it to your local seamstress and making it a bit more fun and frivolous. If you’re a dab hand with the ol’ sewing machine, Parisciel has 55 cracking ways you can bring that bridesmaid dress bang up to date.

Your travel

Get the details in advance

Many couples start making wedding plans long before they even send the invitations out. It’s not impolite to ask where they plan to get married, especially if they’ve hinted at getting hitched abroad. Knowing sooner rather than later means you can keep an eye out for the best deals on train/plane fares, or budget accordingly for fuel nearer the time.

Be a train-savvy twosome

Train in stationIf you’re attending the wedding with a plus one and you’re going by train, you can save a tidy sum on fare by picking up a Two Together railcard. At £30 per year, it might not be worth picking it up if you’re not travelling far. If you both use trains together regularly however, you can save hundreds of pounds a year on train fares.


Car pool with other guests

If the happy couple have set up a Facebook event page for their big day, there’s no harm in putting up a post to see if anyone would like to share a car ride to event location. Whether you’re driving or hoping to hitch a ride, splitting the fuel costs between several people makes sense.

If you’re driving, it might be wise not to invite passengers to the full capacity of your car. Each guest will have luggage they’ll need to stow away in the boot.

Your gift

Skip the gift registry

It can be all too tempting to use your betrothed buddy’s wishlist as an excuse to splurge, but there’s no point if it’s going to leave you high and dry.

If you see something on the list that you absolutely must buy, the savvy thing to do is to get it elsewhere for cheap. All you have to do then is call the store that’s overseeing the registry list and let them know the item’s been purchased elsewhere so they can remove it from the list.

Go in on a gift

pretty giftThe amount of gizmos and gadgets that are added to Wedding present lists expands by the day! Split the cost of a gift with a friend (or group of friends) who are also attending the wedding.

A nice but pricy pressie can become a budget-friendly gift if you split it with your friends.

It also means more money for you to spend on the big day!

Make a pressie

You could opt to make the couple a gift – how about a lovely hamper basket full of sweet treats and maybe their favourite wine? Or a handmade wedding album or a homegrown plant? Pinterest has tons of ideas you can try.

Give the gift of your mad skillz

girl taking photoAre you a DJ on the side? Are you a whizz with a professional camera or can you make beautiful cards and stationery? If you’re hard up, why not offer your special abilities to the bride and groom? You could be saving them a fortune.

Just make sure you’re honestly really good at whatever you’re offering. We don’t want a swarm of angry married couples if you do a naff job!

Give the gift of awesome friendship

Offer to help the bride find her jewelry, run errands for the groom, deal with their annoying relatives (as long as it doesn’t involve creepy Uncle Bob). Whatever you can do to minimise the stress leading up to and on the big day is bound to go a long way with the newlyweds.

The hen and stag do

4 lady friendsIf you’re part of the hen or stag party, do a little research to see how to save some cash on entertaining the troops. Even if your fellow bridesmaids or ushers don’t show it, deep down some of them will likely be glad to save a few bob where possible.

There are companies that can oversee all the hen/stag proceedings for you, but they can cost a fortune…and for what? Extra time to stress over everything else a wedding entails? With a little know-how, sorting out the pre-wedding blowout yourself can be pretty straightforward, as well as miles cheaper.

The stag and his entourageWhether it’s a spa day for the bride or adventure weekend for the groom (or vice versa), the good ol’ daily deals websites can really save you a packet. The deals search engine Deal Zippy can help you track down any spa packages, glamping or experience days in a snap!

If the a weekend away somewhere is on the cards, log on to Yelp and check out the best bars, restaurants and fun things to do in advance. Local Yelpers are often very proud of their home city and sometimes post about BOGOF deals and other thrifty offers at their local hangouts.

If the bride want to keep things low-key, there’s lots of fun things they and their entourage can do at home. One Fab Day has a marvellous guide for homebird hens.

Your accommodation

Shack up where possible

Hotel towels

If you can bear to share your sleeping quarters with other people, do it. It can save you a pretty penny, for sure.

Piling into a hotel room that sleeps a big group of people is cheaper than booking your own room.

Even if you don’t share your room, sharing the hotel will still help the ol’ coffers; if you need to get a taxi back, you can split the fare with other guests.

Consider not staying in a hotel

People tend to choose hotels as a default, but it might be cheaper to rent out a room in a nearby house, or rent the whole house with friends.

If you plan on staying near the wedding location for a couple of days, renting a house means you can cook and save money on eating out. It might also be cosier to relax in a house with someone’s personal touches versus a ten-a-penny hotel room. Check out AirBnB to see if there are any cheap houses to stay in near the wedding venue.

And finally…

Learn to Say “No”


We get it.

You like the bride and/or groom a great deal (or maybe you don’t, but you feel like you have to at least pretend).

Whatever the case, a part of you might feel obliged to be the best wedding guest you can be, and to heck with the consequences.

As your friendly neighbourhood money geeks, we’re here to tell you that:

  • You’re not a bad person for thinking of any excuse to give what’s likely to be stupidly expensive stag or hen do a miss
  • You’re not a bad person if you begrudge getting the couple an expense gift, especially if they can barely remember when your birthday is
  • You’re not a bad person for bowing out of a wedding that might put you in debt.

No one wants to be a wet blanket, especially when it comes to someone’s big day, but you owe it to yourself to protect your finances, for better or for worse.

Explain the situation to the bride and groom. Chances are they’ll completely understand. Who knows? They might curb some of the more frivolous plans to make it affordable for you to attend…because that’s what friends should do.

Posted by in Budgeting