How to Survive Wedding Season and Not Go Broke!
Repeat after us: Group gift
Can't afford a nice gift from the registry but don't want to go with the lame salad tongs or a single wineglass? Go in on one of the pricier presents with a few friends (or other members of the bridal party). Everyone can spend less -- and give more.
Need a place to crash for the weekend? Suck it up and share. We're not suggesting you split a double with another couple (you're not in college anymore -- and let's face it, even then it was dicey). But ask the hotel if it has a two-bedroom suite. It often costs less than two separate rooms, says Sharon Naylor, author of Bridesmaid on a Budget: How to Be a Brilliant Bridesmaid without Breaking the Bank. You might have to share a bathroom, but we think you can handle that.
Embrace the “block"
Many couples block out a bunch of rooms at certain hotels for a discounted rate, so be sure to check their wedding website -- or ask -- before you book. No luck? Offer to do it for them. You'll seem like a real pal, and the 15 minutes it will take could save you a bunch of money (did we just sound like a Geico commercial?). Plus, that way you can help pick the accommodations.
Avoid peak travel times
If you're flying to the wedding, consider taking off a summer Friday (or Monday) to avoid having to travel on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, the most popular times, when fares are higher. If you must travel during prime travel times, check out our tips for scoring a deal during peak times here.
If there was ever a time for the early bird to catch the worm, it's registry time. To come in under budget, hit the registry early (like, months early), before all the lower-priced options (or at least the good ones) have been taken.
Follow this gift guide
Set aside a budget for each couple, depending on how close you are, so you don't overspend. A good rule of thumb: Spend $100 to $150-plus on besties and close relatives, $100 to $125 on second-tier friends and relatives (think: You're close enough to attend the ceremony but not to be part of the affair), and $75 to $100 on coworkers and distant friends/relatives (the “we wouldn't have invited them, but..." types). Then divvy it up like this: 20 percent on the engagement gift, 20 percent on the shower gift and 60 percent on the wedding gift. If you opt to spend 100 percent of your budget on one gift (which is perfectly acceptable), bring it to the shower, where the couple is most likely to open gifts in front of guests (thus making you look like a very generous duo).
Rent your threads
Ladies, don't worry about buying 12 dresses for 12 different weddings (all with the same guest list -- argh). Check out RenttheRunway.com -- it's like Netflix for dresses. You can wear a standout designer dud for a fraction of its price, and you'll never have to worry about where you can get away with wearing it again. In the wedding and not excited about shelling out $300 on a purple taffeta bridesmaid dress you wouldn't be caught dead in if you had a choice in the matter? At sites like PearlsPlace.com and eBay.com you may be able to score the bride's pick for less. You can also ask the manufacturer to give you a group discount, or at least throw in the tailoring for free. After the wedding, help out another broke bridesmaid by selling your gently used dress on eBay. And a word for the guys: One gray or navy suit will get you through the entire season. Trust us, no one's gonna notice. Just wear nice shoes, okay?
Buy in bulk
Wedding gifts are kind of like formalwear -- you can never find something great and affordable when you need to. So if you know you have four wedding gifts to buy this summer, keep your eyes open for deals. If you see an amazing serving platter for half off when you're picking up dish towels at Crate & Barrel, grab four and you're all set for the season -- sans all that last-minute gift-buying stress.
Be a tourist
Before you head out to a destination wedding, try this little-known secret that Naylor let us in on: Contact the local tourism bureau (which you can find at TOWD.com) to get a visitor's packet filled with discounts and coupons for everything from hotel rooms and restaurants to tourist attractions. Be sure to mention you're part of a wedding group, and you might score additional discounts on spa treatments and transportation services.
If you're facing a tidal wave of engagements this summer, partaking in all of the related events and making it to all the ceremonies simply might not be an option. That may mean bowing out of a bachelor party here, a destination wedding there and even turning down an invitation to be in the bridal party if you just can't swing it. So here's the deal: Don't feel guilty about having to take a pass on certain events (but don't get upset when the bride and groom don't show up for yours either). When it comes to coworkers (or your fourth cousin three times removed, who lives across the country), send your regrets along with a nice serving platter, and save your cash (and days off) for your best buds. And if you're in the wedding and can't quite keep up with the financial expectations, just be up-front with the bride or groom about your budget limitations from the get-go and offer to help in ways that require your time instead of your money, like volunteering to be the point person for out-of-town guests. Bottom line: Anyone who matters will understand your situation. Find more tips for organizing your social life here.