Skip to Content

7 Tips for Surviving Wedding Season with No Budget

Weddings are expensive. For everyone. If you're on a budget (or just broke AF), here are 7 tips for you to still be a fantastic guest and not break your bank in the process.

I might physically implode if I read one more money-saving article that tells me to “quit buying $5 coffees everyday.”

If money is tight, you are not spending $5 on coffee, you are not going to eat every night for dinner, and you are definitely not a stranger to the concept of couponing. Let’s get to some real advice that might actually be helpful!

Wedding season is upon us, and at our age, that means at least 90% of our Saturdays from now until autumn are completely booked.

Weddings are notoriously pricey, not just for the happy couple, but for the guests as well. A gift, a possible hotel stay, a new outfit; it all adds up.

1) Set expectations early.

Particularly if you are part of the wedding party, it’s crucial to be upfront. Sometimes there are a slew of expectations put on the wedding party, so be clear if a $100 per person bachelorette party is something you cannot attend.

You might feel like kind of a buzzkill bringing up money, but it’s a reality of life and of weddings. It’s much better to set up those expectations early on rather than cancel last minute or spend the money anyway and feel resentment over it. You aren’t going to enjoy the bachelorette party anyway if you know you’ll need until next July to pay it off.

2) Don’t explain yourself.

It’s a natural response to apologize when you have to say no to someone, but let me be clear: it is not your responsibility to have extra funds lying around so you can jet set to Mexico for your friend’s wedding.

You are responsible for your bills, your student loan payments, feeding yourself, and saving for retirement. Those things absolutely come first and there’s no reason to apologize for that. A good friend or family member will definitely understand.

Further, the couple getting married probably doesn’t want to hear an explanation. They are stressed out about planning the small details, so they don’t need to hear an explanation of your financial situation (nor is it their business).

Leave it as short, sweet, and positive as possible: “I won’t be able to swing that $300 bridesmaid dress, but can I help out with centerpieces!”

3) Help in any way you can.

I had just about the simplest, no-frills wedding possible. Even with very few details that needed sorting, things got stressful and I needed all the help I could get.

Some of the most meaningful memories of the lead-up to the wedding was how supportive my friends were. One friend helped me make the bouquets out of fresh flowers from the farmer’s market, two of our friends wrote nearly the entire ceremony from start to finish, and one of them got ordained to marry us.

Several of our friends flew from other states to be there, which meant everything to us. Their presence was the only gift we needed, and I imagine that’s how most couples feel.

Don’t underestimate the value of your presence, your time, and your creativity.

4) Check out the registry right away.

In my opinion, it’s more than alright if your gift is your time and creativity. However, if you prefer not to arrive empty-handed, don’t put off looking at the registry if the couple put one together.

Likely, they included some pricey items as well as several smaller items. Scoop up a few of the smaller items right away so you aren’t stuck buying an espresso machine.

No need to feel cheap if your gift is some wash clothes and a whisk: those are on the list because the couple needs them.

5) Or, skip the registry.

Not all couples do the registry thing (in fact, I’m not sure if I know anyone who has), so if there is no registry or if all the smaller items are already claimed, do not overlook how great a homemade gift can be.

The possibilities are quite literally endless. I am still craving one of our favorite gifts, which was three bottles of cherry bounce, a homemade boozy beverage.

Alcoholic beverages can be quite easy to make if you plan ahead, and they can be inexpensive depending on the ingredients you choose. If the couple is less into drinking than we Wisconsin folk, look into other homemade treats like jam, preserves, or even candles. It doesn’t have to be expensive; the time and personal touch you put into it are what’s valuable.

You can also create a personal gift for the couple based on an inside joke or something they really love.

One idea for an extra-personal gift is to compile old family recipes from grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and create a family cook book with them. You could do the same with general life advice from each family member, funny stories, or predictions for the future. Who wouldn’t want to keep a book like that around forever?

6) Collaborate with others.

There is no way you’re the only person who has limited funds to spend on this wedding – seek out those other people. You can carpool to the wedding, share a hotel room, and even go in on a gift (or create something homemade together).

You don’t necessarily need to know the person. If there’s a Facebook group for the wedding, you can post a comment there asking if anyone wants to carpool (might be a little tacky to publicly ask strangers about going in on a gift, so save that for a private convo). You could even directly ask the couple if they know anyone to carpool or share a hotel room with; they will probably have a good sense of which attendees would get along.

7) Stay positive.

Weddings can be stressful for everyone, not just the happy couple. Ultimately, the day is about them. Keep the focus on what you can do to help them out and be supportive of them, not on what you can’t do or what you wish you could do.

Even if you cannot physically be there, write a heartfelt card about how happy you are for them and how excited you are to see pictures (again, not an apology or explanation for why you aren’t there!).

They might not remember who bought them the espresso maker five years from now, but they will probably remember who brought endless positivity and support into their special day.

[Tweet “How To Survive Wedding Season When You’re Broke AF”]

About the Author

Natalee Desotell

Natalee graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013 with a triple major in Political Science, International Politics & Economics, Languages & Cultures of Asia, and a minor in Global Public Health. After a couple years in the working world, she recently returned to her alma mater to study Cartography and Geographical Information Systems. A self-proclaimed public health nerd, her dream job is to communicate epidemiological information visually through beautiful interactive maps and graphics. She enjoys iced black coffee, punk rock music, and surprising people.