09:40 17 April 2013
Wedding season is upon us, and while most of us enjoy being invited to share in the nuptials of our nearest and dearest, what isn't exciting is the sheer cost that comes with being a guest.
So, if the latest 'save the date' card landing on your mat has filled you with dread, here are 10 top tips to cut the cost of being a wedding guest.
1. Plan ahead and budget
The good news is that you will usually have plenty of time to plan ahead for a wedding so use this time to draw up a budget. Be realistic about what you're going to spend for each wedding and stick to this budget.
2. Save up in advance
Even saving just a small amount a month will make a difference and the earlier you start, the better. Consider opening an easy access savings account - this will give you the freedom to dip into your account when you need money for wedding expenses.
For example, the Coventry Building Society Online Saver pays 2.00% including a 0.40% bonus for 12 months. You can open the account with £1 but be aware you can only make four penalty-free withdrawals a year.
Alternatively, the Scottish Widows Instant Saver pays 1.70%. It can be opened with £1 and you can make unlimited penalty-free withdrawals.
3. Borrow wisely
It's ideal not to borrow at all but if your savings don't stretch far enough and you are going to rely on plastic to see you through, at least apply for a credit card that offers a long 0% period on purchases so you can spread the cost and then pay it off in manageable chunks.
For example, the Tesco Clubcard credit card for purchases would give you 16 months to pay off your spending interest-free, while the M&S credit card would give you 15 months. Just remember to clear your balance before the 0% period ends.
4. Cut the cost of hen/stag do celebrations
As well as the wedding itself, you may also be invited to the hen do or stag do. If this involves attending a number of events over a weekend and they are simply not affordable, see if you can just go to some of them to save money. For example, rather than spending the day at a spa and then going out for dinner, agree to meet those celebrating at the restaurant in the evening.
5. Dress to impress for less
There are plenty of ways you can look a million dollars without having to spend that. For a start, you could borrow an outfit from a friend. Alternatively, the occasion-wear section on eBay has a number of bargains.
Keep your eyes peeled in the months leading up to the wedding for sales at your favourite high street stores. Also check whether there is a voucher you can use before making a purchase. MoneySupermarket, for example, is currently offering £10 off on full price orders of £70 or more at Oasis.
6. Pay less to get your hair done
Paying to get your hair done for a wedding can cost a small fortune and significantly increase the overall cost of being a wedding guest.
If you're prepared to take the risk, some hair salons offer standby appointments if they get a cancellation. You will pay a fraction of the price as they simply want to fill the appointment slot.
Or why not look into getting your hair styled with a student hairdresser - these appointments are fully supervised by a senior stylist and, again, will be significantly cheaper.
7. Reduce travel costs
Booking your travel in advance is essential to make sure you get the best deals. Trains tickets are usually released 12 weeks before travel and the more flexible you are with the times you travel, the cheaper it will be.
Even if you have left it until the day before you set off, booking your train ticket online will often be cheaper than just turning up at the station on the day.
TravelSupermarket's train tickets channel (http://www.travelsupermarket.com/c/train-tickets/) rel="nofollow" will find the cheapest ticket for your journey - and won't charge you a booking or card fee.
The same goes for flights. Budget airlines tend to release flights for the following summer at the end of the current summer holiday period and this is when they will be cheapest.
If you leave it too late, it could be worth looking into chartered flights sold by tour operators. Seats on these flights are often discounted last minute as they need to be filled.
Remember to factor in baggage limits when you book your flights. It may be worth giving your wedding gift to the happy couple when you return home - they will have baggage limits too and are likely to be already stretched with the items they have flown over for the wedding.
Finally, if you plan to drive, offer other guests a lift and split the petrol costs.
8. Cut your accommodation costs
Book well in advance if you'd prefer to stay in one of the hotels nearest to the wedding venue as these tend to get booked up first. Rooms may have been secured at a discount for the wedding party, but bear in mind that this may not be your cheapest option.
TravelSupermarket compares all the leading hotel sites so use this tool to help you find the best deal for your requirements. If you're going to the wedding alone, consider asking a friend to share a room with you and split the cost.
It is also worth considering B&Bs in the area, and if there is a large group of you, consider apartment or cottage options as this will often work out to be cheaper.
9. Pay less for food and drink
It's likely that a lot of the food will be provided for at the wedding, but this is often served late in the afternoon. Make sure you eat something before you head off so that your rumbling stomach doesn't force you to buy something in between the ceremony and the wedding reception.
Many weddings will only pay for drinks up to a certain limit so make sure you have budgeted for this. It can be a good idea to only bring cash with you and not cards, so that you don't end up spending more than you can afford to.
10. Use your creativity to save money on the gift
Finally, even if the couple have included a wedding list, the most memorable gifts are often the ones that have had time and care put into them.
You could, for example, put together a photograph album of non-posed photos taken at the wedding, or make a memory box that includes items from the wedding and preparations - such as an invitation and the music score from the ceremony.
Alternatively, could you use your own talents as a gift? At a recent wedding I attended, one friend spared the couple huge expense by playing with his professional band for free, another friend used her skills as a make-up artist and a third friend designed the wedding invitations.
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