Weddings are a huge expense, not just for the bride and groom but for everyone, from the parents of the happy couple to the guests seated in the farthest corner of the reception hall.
In addition to the cost of participation, including travel to and from the event, hotel stay and appropriate attire, you'll be expected to bring or send a gift to the newlyweds. But the expenses don't stop there. With engagement parties, wedding showers and bachelor and bachelorette parties included in the mix, you can anticipate a whole additional set of participation and gift costs.
Multiply all that by the number of close friends and family in your life and it's easy to start feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of wedding attendance and what you'll be paying to partake. To help mitigate the costs and save yourself and your credit card from financial catastrophe, consider implementing some of these gift-giving guidelines for the big day.
Don't overspend. The misguided advice of "covering the cost of your plate" is just that -- misguided, particularly in today's day and age of overly-inflated wedding extravaganzas. Just because your friends have expensive taste doesn't mean you should feel pressure to match their spending choices. A wedding invitation is not an invoice. The price of your gift should be determined by your budget and your relationship to the couple.
Consider your presence. If you incurred significant expense to get to the wedding, scale back on the gift. A bottle of wine or even a congratulatory card can be sufficient. Your presence is the real present.
Team up. Going in on a group gift is a great way to give a nicer item from the registry without taking on the high price alone. Just be sure the friends you chose to split the cost with have a similar budget. If you agree to go 50/50 on a gift with a friend and he or she winds up choosing something pricey like a Dyson vacuum, you'll be on the hook for $150 to $200, which won't do anything for your attempts to save.
Think practically. Registries are a surprisingly practical aspect of weddings, since they identify the things the couple wants and needs. Don't be afraid to give one of the less expensive items, such as coasters, mixing bowls or salt and pepper shakers. These smaller gifts are often the most useful. For extra savings, pick up a discounted gift card online to the store where the couple is registered. Pair that up with a coupon from the paper or a flash sale and you'll maximize your savings.
Gift cards and cash. With so many couples living together before marriage and the barrage of gifts already given at the shower and other pre-wedding events, there may not be anything left on the registry in your price range. Instead, give what you can afford in the form of cash or a gift card.
Get creative. With three or four events for every one wedding, there's a lot to budget for gift wise. Stick to smaller and more personal items for the engagement party, shower and bachelor/bachelorette party. A small themed gift basket or a thoughtfully framed photo can go a long way.
Personalize. A great way to make an inexpensive gift work for a wedding is to personalize it. Things like monogrammed towels or custom stationary can be found cheaply online. For some more unusual and creative personalized gift options, search sites like Etsy.
Give an experience. If you know the couple well, you can gift them an experience like a class or a food tour you know they'll enjoy. Deals on experiences can often be found on the popular discount sites like Groupon.
Give a gift that keeps on giving. A subscription service like a magazine can be an inexpensive way to celebrate the couple long after the big day. With new issues arriving every few weeks, they'll be reminded of you while enjoying their leisure reads. Just be sure to pick something that piques their interests.
Contribute to the big day. A gift giving occasion isn't your traditional environment for bartering, but offering your talents instead of an expensive registry item, cash, or otherwise might be just what the happy couple needs. Perhaps you can help with dress alterations or by baking the cake or editing the wedding video. Use your skills to save on spending.
Weddings are meant to be a celebration. Don't let the stress of the financial commitment keep you from joining in on the fun. Use one or a combination of these tactics to give thoughtfully and frugally.
Stefanie O'Connell is a New York City based actress and freelance writer. She chronicles her struggle to "live the dream" on a starving artists' budget at thebrokeandbeautifullife.com.
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