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Til debt do us part: 12 ways not to go broke as a wedding guest

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

In the thick of wedding season, it pays to be unpopular. Weddings cost the bride and groom (and often their families) big bucks, but as anyone who’s ever been a wedding guest knows, it can get pretty pricey for those invited, too. From travel to gifts to all the pre-wedding celebrations, including showers and bachelor parties, wedding season could turn into a summer of debt.

Before you’re completely tapped out, here are some practical ways you can stay richer, not poorer as you celebrate your friends’ I do’s.

How to save on the wedding gift

For better or for worse, you do need to show up with a gift. Etiquette experts at The Knot suggest giving based on your relationship with the couple instead of how much you think your plate costs at their venue. Wedding guests typically spend a little over $100 per gift. If you’re related to the couple or in the wedding party, expect to spend closer to $200.

To get the biggest bang for your buck, raid the registry early and find something within your budget. If you’re attending the wedding with friends, go in on a group gift with them.

Another idea is to re-gift your gift card. It’s not as tacky as it sounds. On sites like Raise.com and Giftcardgranny.com, you can sell your unused gift cards and use that credit toward buying another gift card that you can use for the wedding gift. For example, I’d sell my $50 Starbucks gift card and use that credit to buy a gift card from Bed Bath & Beyond where my friends are registered. If it means I’m saving money on the couple’s new coffeemaker, I’d happily go without my Starbucks fix.

How to dress to impress without breaking the bank

Guys generally have it easier with their attire. With a staple black or navy suit, men can just switch up their tie and shirt. For ladies, swap outfits with friends by raiding each other’s closets, or consider renting a dress from Rent the Runway. Right now, the unlimited subscription is 20% off their $139 monthly price with code Unlimited20 — not cheap, but certainly worth it if you were planning on spending more than that.

Women can also invest in a little black dress worn with different accessories. Trust me, no one will notice the difference, and the bride will be glad you didn’t wear white.

How the wedding party can cut back on costs

If you’re always the bridesmaid but never the bride, be upfront with the bride-to-be about your budget and back out if you need to. If she’s your real friend, she’ll understand that you can’t afford a lavish shower and bachelorette party, and find other meaningful ways to include you in her special day.

Men on average, spend more ($732) than women ($438) on bachelor parties, according to a 2016 Knot Survey. So if you have to bow out of a weekend in Vegas, offer up your services on the big day instead. You can help with favors, decorations, take photos, be an usher at the ceremony, or even offer to be a designated driver at the reception.

How to save on travel

If your friend’s wedding day has turned into a wedding weekend, pull out those suitcases and your credit cards. As soon as you get that “Save the Date” you can try to save some bucks by booking your travel as early as you can. Reserve a room in the hotel room block the wedding couple has secured for a 10% to 20% discount.

For flights, don’t forget about your precious credit card rewards points. Many cards allow you to redeem your points for travel. You can even transfer the points to other loyalty programs that partner with your credit card’s company.

Don’t have a car but need one to get to the party? Plan ahead to carpool with a friend and don’t forget to offer to pay for gas. Or rent a car from someone in your neighborhood on a site like Turo.com. It’s a peer-to-peer car sharing site with amazing rates. In fact, I’ve rented a BMW SUV on the site for less than half the price of what it would be at Hertz.

What are some ways you’ve saving as a wedding guest? Share your tips with me or in the comments below.

Jeanie is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Reach out by email jeaniea@yahoo-inc.com; follow her on Twitter @jeanie531.

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