A version of this article originally appeared on Learnvest.com.
From ice sculptures to swans to a $1,200 cake, picture-perfect weddings can quickly break the bank. (Read this for what a wedding really costs.)
But what about the 120 million people who attend weddings each year? From gifts to plane tickets to hotel rooms, costs can seriously add up. According to Sharon Stimpfle of WeddingChannel.com, 60 percent of your gift budget should go for the wedding gift, 20 percent for the shower, 15 percent for the engagement gift, and 5 percent for the bachelorette bash, to which you should bring something cute but small.
If you are not invited to the engagement or bachelorette party, feel free to reassign those funds to the wedding and shower gifts. Remember that the bridal shower is all about gifts, so wrap yours nicely and be prepared for the bride to open it in front of you and all of your friends.
Aim for Average
But that’s it. You don’t have to spend more than that, even if your friend is throwing a Great Gatsby affair. “Most brides and grooms…don’t expect over-the-top, elaborate gifts from their guests, especially those…in their twenties and thirties,” says Anna Lucia Richardson, a wedding planner.
LV Tip: Once you receive the invite, be the first guest to buy a gift from the registry. That way, you’ll have your pick of items in your price range. Plus, you’ll receive brownie points for being so on top of your game!
Plan Your Travel Early
This summer, many airlines will make you pay surcharges of up to $30 for traveling at “peak times.” But this summer, more days are “peak” than aren’t. So get your tickets the moment you decide to go to the wedding.
Use Your Rewards
Use credit-card rewards points to purchase gift cards or gifts from the registry. You may also be able to use points toward travel and hotel costs.
Group gifting is a great way to collectively give something that you might not otherwise be able to afford on your own, says Richardson. If each person pitches in the $70 he or she would have spent otherwise, you can communally purchase something much pricier. Ideally, each person should contribute the same amount, Richardson says, in order to split those brownie points equally.
Just Be Nice
This is a very stressful, emotional time for your engaged friends, so do everything you can to help the couple feel special and unburdened. The gifts that they’ll look back upon most fondly aren’t necessarily the most expensive. Offer to help the bride find her jewelry, run errands, and ask if there’s anything you can take off of her plate. Also, never forget that a nice note goes a long way, so remember to break out your stationery.
Gift Your Services
We know a bridesmaid who created a 15-minute video to air during the reception dinner in lieu of another gift. It was a major highlight of the night, a priceless gift that the newlyweds will cherish forever. (More so than the coffeemaker we bought them.)
If you can’t go to a wedding—whether for financial reasons or otherwise—don’t feel bad. Just follow up with a phone call and send a small, simple gift to show your appreciation for being invited, says Stimpfle. Your gift doesn’t have to be expensive—it can be something creative rather than from the registry.
More than anything, remember that many couples understand the financial burden of expensive plane tickets and hotel reservations. What they’ll appreciate most are your good wishes. Click here for more tips on how to survive wedding weekends with your wallet intact.
—Written by Farnoosh Torabi
Related links from LearnVest:
- How I Squandered My Wedding Cash—Without Even Trying
- The Engagement Ring: Is It Tacky to Pay for It Myself?
- Sign Up for LearnVest’s Debt-Diminishing Financial Bootcamp