I grew up in Tennessee, went to college in California (Fight on!), and moved to Texas for work. That means my best girlfriends are literally all over the map. But, in my opinion, that's a huge perk!
So when the invitations came to be in their bridal parties – whether it was Napa or Nashville – I was obviously going to say yes!
I call 2016 my "Year of Weddings." I successfully supported my friends in six destination weddings (and three destination bachelorette parties) without over-drafting my bank account. It wasn't easy. But here's how I did it...
Planned Ahead with my Annual Bonus
All my friends got engaged well ahead of their wedding dates. So I had a pretty good idea going into 2016 I'd need extra travel funds more than the YSL handbag I'd been eyeing all year.
I put every penny I could from my annual bonus into a separate savings account for "wedding-related expenses." I also prepaid for the resort in Napa and bought two bridesmaid dresses. It felt great to check those larger ticket items off the list early!
Nancy Aidee PhotographyAuto-Deposited into an Earmarked SavingsAccount
After my bonus, I changed the auto deposit settings for my paychecks. I directed 5% of each paycheck into that wedding expense bank account. This decision was crucial for me, since I tend to spend everything I see in my "disposable" account on dinners and drinks with friends. Because I didn't have to personally transfer funds each month, I didn't even miss the extra cocktails! It's amazing how fast 5% adds up...
Made a Strategic Outfit List
Next to food, I spend most of my money online shopping. It's crazy how many things I think I'll NEED next season! (Can I get an amen?) I sat down and made an actual list of the outfits I needed for each wedding—rehearsal dinner dress, bridal luncheon dress, bridesmaid dress, Sunday brunch outfit, etc. First, I shopped my own closet to see what I could wear again for future events. Next, I made a list on my phone of the things I still needed to buy (bright colored club dress for bachelorette party 1, black bikini for bachelorette party 2, etc.). Then, I added in the specific bridesmaid dresses.
As I shopped, I checked each item on the list. This protected me from my usual habit of buying 10 "options" for the same event. If I loved it, I kept it. If I didn't, I returned it for something else I loved. Bonus: I saved money AND streamlined my closet!
Learned the Flight Game
FYI, flights are always cheaper on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – which is a convenient brain break in the middle of the work week. Booking off-peak times, like Thursday or early Friday, can also seriously reduce fares.
I took advantage of "working remotely" whenever possible. For one wedding in Washington, D.C., I saved $200 by flying in early Friday morning. I found the cutest local coffee shop in the city, and it ended up inspiring one of my best campaigns of the year! I didn't have to take a vacation day AND had some time to relax before the rehearsal dinner.
Made It a Girls Trip
Sharing a room with girlfriends was hands down the best way to cut costs. I loved the extra quality time with friends I rarely get to see. Plus, when you're looking at resort prices for the weekend, paying one-half or one-fourth of the room makes a huge difference.
Orange PhotographiePrioritized my "Plus One"
Sometimes the resort prices are worth it. Most weddings, I deferred my "plus one" to cut costs and room with my friends. Let's be honest, when you're in the wedding, you barely have time for your date anyway. But I prioritized bringing a guest for one super-romantic beach wedding. I knew everyone there would be in couples, so it was worth the investment to bring my date along.
Minimized Meal Splurges
The good news is when you're part of the wedding, you're usually invited to the rehearsal dinner, a bridal lunch, and the reception. That's at least three meals already taken care of! Food and drinks at destination locales can easily blow your budget. By minimizing my "fine dining" to one brunch or dinner, I still got to experience amazing restaurants without breaking the bank. PS – Cocktails by the pool add up! Check yourself before ordering that third round.
Aria StudiosHad to say "no"
Missing a wedding is the absolute WORST. I still regret having to say "no" to a special friend's wedding in Florida last fall. But the only way I could make the weddings I was in work, was to cut out traveling to weddings where I wasn't included in the bridal party. It seems like a brutal standard when you read it, but it was honestly the only way I could draw a line for my budget.
I wish I had all the money in the world to spend going to weddings. They're some of my happiest memories – where love, friendship, and a beautiful location all come together for a perfect weekend. Each one is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But the reality is, I ended up spending about 25% of my salary on weddings in 2016. Although it required a serious strategy, stricter budgets, and a few sacrifices, it was totally worth the investment.
And I know when it's time for me to walk down the aisle, every one of those girls – near and far – will be right by my side.
Style Me Pretty Contributor - Madeline Littrell is a corporate PR strategist and freelance writer. Born and raised in the South, she loves big hair, country music, and chicken fingers. Madeline lives in Dallas with her Sheltie puppy, Tennessee.