There’s nothing like the sweet smell of June flowers, recently-popped champagne, and the sheen of nervous sweat you get charging a plane ticket you can’t afford. That’s right folks, it’s officially wedding season.
I’ve got my first wedding of the year next weekend, which is right on schedule. According to wedding site The Knot, June is the second-most-popular month of the year for weddings, after September and October, which are tied for first. And as you likely know if you’ve ever been to one, attending just one wedding a season can be expensive, with guests spending between $400 and $800 per wedding on average, depending on their closeness to the happy couple, according to the personal finance site Bankrate.
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And that’s just to get you there, to say nothing of how to survive gift registries, your seating assignments, and your rehearsal dinner hangovers. Here’s how to make it through wedding season with your budget (and your pride) intact.
Wedding Season Survival Tips
Weddings tend to be the perfect storm for blowing a hole in your budget. It shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise that not only does sentimentality provoke over-spending, we also tend to underestimate how frequently these sentimental occasions occur. It is relatively easy to deny yourself an extra round of beers or pack your lunch for a week, but it is very difficult to tell your childhood friend there’s no way you’re spending $600 to fly back home for their wedding shower (unless your childhood friend sucks now, which is probably worth investigating!).
Even if you have budgeted properly (Bankrate actually advises guests to start putting away a few bucks a month as soon as the rock hits the ‘Gram), there is still the matter of making it through the weekend, and back to work, in one piece.
Fortunately, there’s an easy remedy for making sure you start stashing away a wedding fund sooner rather than later.
1. Track Wedding Countdowns by Day, Not Year
If you’ve got a lot of weddings in 2019, a calendar that displays the whole year on a single page (like this one) may be a particularly wise investment. People procrastinate a lot when it comes to wedding spending, in part because weddings tend to be planned months in advance.
Defeating procrastination is easier if you reorient your thinking, even slightly. In a 2015 study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers found that when subjects view an upcoming event in terms of “days away” instead of “months away” — even when the time frame is as long as 30 or 40 years — they behave as if the event is about 29 days sooner, on average. That’s almost two extra paychecks to squirrel away some wedding funds.
2. Shoot for the Middle of the Registry
Aside from travel costs, your biggest cost is probably going to be the wedding gift (although, if you need to buy something to wear, apparel is also likely up there in price).
The average wedding gift is about $100 for friends (easy to remember!) and a little more for family members. As for what to get the happy couple, the rise of the registry has taken a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. (Traditionally, it was the bride’s mother who reigned over the gift selection, but due to shifting gender norms and retailers marketing the hell out of registries as a way for them to make money, this tradition has fallen out of favor.)
As to picking the best gift out of the registry? There is actually one interesting study which may offer some guidance.
When it comes to wedding registries, a 2014 paper in the International Journal of Electronic Marketing and Retailing found that guests tend to bifurcate into two camps: the show-offs and the cheapskates. The show-offs go straight to the top of your registry to get to the most expensive stuff to enhance their reputations, while the (understandably!) budget-conscious people go to the bottom of the registry and work their way up. Gifts that fall close to the average price in the registry, however, appeal to neither camp, and so are less likely to be the most picked over.
3. Take Care of Yourself
Finally, aside from the budgeting aspect of making it to the wedding, there is the physical element as well. To make sure your body survives the 72 hours of non-stop travel and drinking that a wedding weekend usually entails, I called up Men’s Health fitness editor (and frequent/beloved wedding guest) Brett Williams for a few survival tips. He did not disappoint.
“Drink Pedialyte,” Williams advises. “It’s absolutely essential for making it from the rehearsal to reception festivities. My group of friends have taken to stocking up every wedding weekend to the point that it’s like a run on the local CVS or whatever.”
Indeed, Pedialyte’s restorative properties have been vouched for so much that the drink’s parent company even pushed out a special alternative for adults. In addition to making sure you’re hydrated, Williams also recommends throwing some high-protein snacks in your luggage just in case.
“You also want some snacks like energy bars,” he says. “Obviously you’re eating the dinner generously provided by your host, but if you’re celebrating throughout the weekend, you need to keep your stomach filled and your energy up. Don’t want to put yourself in a bad spot.”
Williams’ advice will help you avoid over-imbibing, which is an obvious risk during wedding weekends when skipped lunches and open bars are most common. Fortunately, tossing back a few too many is easily atoned for, A Practical Wedding informs me, by sending a bottle of champagne or some other small gift to the couple’s honeymoon suite. Let’s just hope drunk you is smart enough to avoid trying to grab a mic.