Saying “I do” to a wedding invitation often involves saying “I do” to a host of purchases. Check these do’s and don’ts for ways to spend smartly as a guest – without skimping on celebrating the couple’s happiness.
Do set a budget
It’s easy to throw caution to the wind in the excitement of a friend or relative’s wedding. But guest costs add up. You may be looking at bridal shower and wedding gifts, travel and meal expenses, and clothing purchases. Be realistic and determine what fits into your overall budget. Then proceed with your planning.
Do shop early
If invited to a wedding, find out where the couple has registered as soon as you can, and go online or to the brick-and-mortar store and select a gift immediately. Shopping early assures the best selection – and one that fits your budget.
Do comparison shop
There is no requirement to purchase a particular wedding gift from the registry. If you find an item on the registry you wish to give, it’s possible to search for the same or similar product at a lower price either online or at other stores (this may be particularly appropriate for appliances, for example). If you purchase your gift this way, contact the store where the couple registered and ask them to note that the item has been purchased.
Do register for travel email alerts
If attending a wedding far away, these alerts from airlines and rental car companies will let you know of special offers during the times you’ll need to travel. Travelocity’s free FareWatcher service tracks roundtrip air fares for multiple destinations, and then notifies you of price changes. Sites like Kayak and Expedia help find lowest prices on hotels, rental cars and airfare.
Do check with organizations to which you belong
Think college alumni associations, warehouse shopping clubs and auto clubs – for discounted prices at hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies and other.
Do not overlook your credit card – to redeem points vs. making more purchases
If your card issuer offers these rewards, check to see what your balance is, and if you can redeem for cash, gift items or discounts on travel-related purchases. A word of caution: Be very, very careful of airlines’ offer of free roundtrip tickets for opening account and making a purchase. These cards often carry hefty interest rates. Charge only what you can afford to pay off in full each month. Otherwise, the deal is not worth it.
Do not forget about sharing
Work with others to give a group gift. If you know others who’ll attend the wedding or are friends of the couple, talk with them about sharing the cost of a gift. Along with items listed on the registry, splitting costs on a couple’s spa package or dinner at an upscale restaurant can make a wonderful gift.
Do not neglect your skills and talents
Make a personalized item (if you are good at a craft), create a photo album or collage or album of the couple (try enlisting their family members to get photos from years ago), or, if your budget really is tight, even write a heartfelt letter telling the couple why you think the two make a perfect match. It will create a greater impression than a set of towels will.
Do not feel you have to travel solo
If you don’t already have a travel partner for an out-of-town event, ask the bride or groom if they know other single attendees who might be interested in sharing costs for a rental car or hotel room.
Do not shop for yourself
Or at least shop carefully. Think carefully before buying a dress or suit you’ll wear only once. For women, remember it’s really possible to dress up the most basic outfit with jewelry, scarves or other accessories.
Covering the expenses of attending a wedding without taking a toll on the wallet may take some planning, but is possible. Remember that your presence – vs. your present – really is the best gift.
More expert advice about Finance for Couples
Photo Credits: Bomboniere e margherite by Maria Luisa Buccella via Flickr; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com