Getting invited to a destination wedding tends to elicit a two-part reaction. First, there’s the excitement about visiting a new locale and attending a glamorous event there. Then, the dread sets in: How much is this going to cost me?
Destination weddings can be a blast, but they also generally require extra time and money from guests. Still, there are ways to make the experience less pricy.
Below, personal finance experts share 10 tips for minimizing the costs associated with attending a destination wedding.
Join up with a group
“Find travel mates!” suggested Pamela Capalad, founder and CEO of Brunch & Budget. “If you have friends or other folks you know also attending the wedding, often renting a bigger Airbnb with more bedrooms can bring the lodging costs down significantly, especially if you’re willing to take the fold-out couch.”
In addition to sharing a room or house with fellow wedding guests, you might also consider going in on other expenses together, like splitting a rental car.
Combine the event with other vacation time
“If the destination is a place you’d want to vacation, it might make financial sense to extend the wedding trip extra days to save money on flights back and forth, and also save on travel days and PTO,” Capalad said.
Extending the visit into a full-on vacation also allows you to fly there and back on weekdays when the flight costs are lower than those peak weekend prices.
“Typically, hotels and vacation rentals offer better rates for extended stays,” said Gina McKague, owner and founder of McKague Financial. “So, if you like the location, stick around a few days post-wedding and take advantage of cheaper lodging rates.”
“Most destination weddings are hosted in great vacation areas,” McKague said. “If you know you’re going to be attending a destination wedding, ensure you book your travel and lodging early. This will allow you to take advantage of the discounted room block and cheaper airfare.”
Capalad suggested looking up flights and lodging as early as six months before the wedding, if possible.
“That way, you’ll have the most options for lodging through places like Airbnb (with generous cancellation policies) and you’ll be able to watch plane ticket prices for a few weeks,” she said.
Don’t splurge on your outfit
“Since you’re the guest and not part of the wedding party, there’s no need to spend money to buy a new outfit for attending the wedding,” said Kara Stevens, founder of The Frugal Feminista and author of “Heal Your Relationship with Money.” “Look through your closet before going online or to the boutique for wedding-appropriate attire.”
If you want to wear something you haven’t worn before without paying a lot, consider buying secondhand through websites like ThredUp or borrowing an outfit from a friend or a clothing rental service.
“Check out rental sites like Rent the Runway and The Black Tux, which allows you to borrow designer gowns and nice suits for a fraction of the cost of buying one,” McKague said.
Make a budget
“Budgeting for a destination wedding should be done like any other budgeting ― write down your needs versus your wants,” McKague said.
She recommended determining what you’ll need to attend the wedding in terms of lodging, travel, food, clothing and gifts.
“Start budgeting as early as possible,” McKague added. “This way, you can know how much to set aside each paycheck for you to comfortably attend the wedding. Weddings are supposed to be a time of love and laughter. You wouldn’t want to attend a destination wedding while worrying how much debt you’ll be in once you get home.”
Book alternative accommodations
Remember, you don’t have to stay at the same hotel as the wedding party. Even with room block discounts, lodging can get expensive, so consider other options.
“You can search for nearby hotels that are cheaper in cost (after you consider how you’ll get to the wedding) and see if it makes sense to book there,” Stevens said.
Compare transit options
Just as you compare accommodations, make sure to do your research when it comes to transit to and from the destination. Take a look at the monetary and time costs for each option.
“If the destination wedding is within the U.S. and you can drive there, you may want to weigh the pros and cons of long-distance travel versus flying, especially with the cost of gas prices now,” Stevens said.
Many companies are still offering hybrid and remote work arrangements, which means you might not have to request very much PTO to go to a loved one’s destination wedding.
“With employees opting for WFH, attending a destination wedding in another country may not require you to take as many personal days as work-from-office arrangements do, which will also save you money in the long run,” Stevens said.
Don’t splurge on your gift
Couples know they’re asking a lot of their guests when they choose to tie the knot in a faraway location. In this sense, your presence can quite literally be a present.
Stevens believes you should consider the extra time, airfare and hotel costs required to get you to the celebration to part of your contribution. In many cases, the couple might even explicitly say that they don’t expect gifts.
If you still want to give them something, however, you can consider spending a little less on the wedding gift than you normally would.
“No need to spend an extra couple hundred dollars,” Stevens said.
Revenge travel might be all the rage at this stage of the pandemic, but the fact that it’s coinciding with an economic downturn means there might not be room in your budget for an expensive destination wedding.
“I know it can be hard to say no to a wedding, but if it will put you in a tough financial position, it’s OK to RSVP no and send a gift,” Capalad said. “You can find other ways to celebrate with the couple when they are back in town.”