Attending as a guest is definitely the lowest-pressure way to be part of a wedding. You’re out of the loop on the planning chaos, you aren’t shelling out additional money for bachelorette weekends and bridesmaids dresses — and you still get to show up, wish your loved ones the very best in their new romantic adventure, and go a little crazy on the dance floor. You get all of the fun without a lot of the stress that the bridal party and close family members experience. It’s not all Jordan Almonds and the Electric Slide, though. While being a guest is kind of the easy way out, it’s all relative. As the bridal industry grows (thanks, Pinterest!), so does the cost of attending a wedding.

wedding guests

According to a rep from NerdWallet, the results of a recent survey by the credit card information hub indicate that the average American spends an average of $128 on a gift alone for the wedding of a close friend. It’s easy to imagine just how easily all of the other expenses can rack up — especially for weddings on the larger, fancier end of the spectrum or if you attend multiple weddings a year. We talked to NerdWallet consumer savings expert Courtney Jespersen and etiquette expert Jodi Smith for advice that will help you conserve spending as a wedding guest without crossing into tacky territory. Check out their specific tips below.

1. Set a wedding budget. If you’re not part of the wedding party, you might not think to plan how much you’ll be spending — but if that average above has you clutching your wallet to your chest, then a budget is probably a great place to start! Do a little mental math about how the gift, travel expenses, and wedding attire will add up, then work those numbers into your regular budget for the month or year. Per Jespersen, this is especially important if you have a destination wedding on your calendar or are planning on attending multiple nuptials in a short period of time.

2. Consider the big picture. Jespersen recommends an extra dose of intentionality for those attending weddings at particular times of the year. Weddings that take place during the holiday season or within a few weeks of a big family vacation are going to feel even more financially stressful, but if you start thinking about things in the big picture early on, you’ll save yourself that “oh no!” moment. Factor these time-related elements into your wedding budget from day one so you won’t blow all your disposable cash too fast.

3. Start planning travel early. The sooner you start exploring transportation and accommodations options, the more likely you are to get a good deal. Per Smith, you should begin researching travel costs as soon as you hang that Save-the-Date on the refrigerator. Don’t forget to look closely at the couple’s wedding website to see if there are any cost-saving options already in place for guests.

4. Don’t worry about what the hosts are spending. Forget any formulas you’ve heard in the past about what you “owe” the couple as one of their guests. “No need to wonder or worry about how much the host is spending per plate,” Smith affirms. “The amount you spend on a gift is dependent on your budget and your relationship with the couple.” Trust us — the hosts will be too busy celebrating their vows to spend any time calculating whether or not the price tag of your gift is equal to what they paid for you to attend their special day.

5. Consider a group gift. Take some pressure off of your own bank account by inviting a few friends or family members who are also attending the wedding to share the cost of a pricier present from the couple’s registry. Sometimes, it’s better to get one big gift than several small ones!

6. Use credit cards wisely when gifting. There’s a time and place to use plastic, but keep in mind that when you buy wedding gifts on a credit card, you’re paying for the cost of the gift and interest. Find out if any of the stores that you typically frequent offer rewards programs or credit cards that will help you with the cost of gifts. Jespersen also suggests shopping for gifts using your credit card’s bonus mall, “An online portal that offers cardholders discounts and extra rewards points for shopping.” If you shop on credit a lot, there very well might be rewards and cash back just waiting to be used. Why not cash in on them to buy your loved ones an amazing wedding gift?

7. Use the registry as a guideline. If the price points of the items on the registry are making you nervous, Smith suggests using it as more of a jumping-off point than a shopping list. View the registry to get a sense of the couple’s tastes, then look elsewhere for a present that will fit your budget and their aesthetic.

8. Give a gift card. There are multiple schools of thought on whether or not a gift card is an appropriate present for a newly married couple, but if you fall on the “pro” side of that argument, you may want to check out gift card exchange sites to see if you can buy a certificate for less than face value. No one will have to know that you got a deal! Jespersen notes that a gift card is an especially good, budget-friendly solution for you when there are no affordable gifts left on the registry, since it allows you to choose your own price range.

9. Borrow your attire. An upcoming wedding might seem like a great opportunity to treat yourself to a new outfit, but when you consider the fact that formalwear is part of the much longer list of expenses you need to cover as a wedding guest, you might be less likely to shop. Smith suggests scoping out friends’ closets for fashion options that might fit or visiting local consignment shops for gently worn alternatives.

How do you save money (gracefully!) as a wedding guest? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)