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18 ways to save money as a wedding guest

It’s wedding season, which means you may have already splashed out hundreds of pounds to watch your family or friends tie the knot this year.

But new research has found a quarter of guests can’t afford to attend the weddings they’ve been invited to, according to credit reporting company Experian.

His survey of 1,000 people in May also found the cost-of-living crisis meant one in three had to decline a wedding, stag do or hen do this year.

Here, Which? rounds up the best way to save money as a guest this summer.

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How much does it cost to attend a wedding?

Experian said the average cost to go to a wedding is £567.20 per head.

Here’s a breakdown of what this average cost is spent on:

  • Accomodation: £116.80
  • A gift for the couple: £115.10
  • On outfit: £113.20
  • Travel: £98.80
  • Beauty treatments: £67.30
  • Child Care: £56.

While these costs won’t apply to everyone – obviously those who don’t have children won’t have to pay out for childcare – many people would still consider attending an expensive wedding.

Top tips to save money as a wedding guest

We’ve rounded up our top tips to cut wedding-costs, and split them into related categories including travel, accommodation, outfits and gifts.

Travel

1. Share a car and search for cheap petrol

If you plan to drive to the wedding location, it’s worth seeing if you can offer any other guests a lift and split the cost of the petrol.

If you have a long drive ahead make sure you shop around for the cheapest fuel – comparison site Confused.com compares prices at forecourts and can be used to find cheaper options near you when you type in your postcode.

Our research has found supermarkets are the cheapest place to fill up and you could also take advantage of supermarket reward schemes.

And you can save money by avoiding premium pumps – for instance, super unleaded fuel can be between 10p to 15p a liter more expensive than other products.

  • Find out more: how to save money on fuel

2. Get a discount with a rail card

If you’re taking a train to the wedding, see if you qualify for one of the many National Railcards. Railcards cost no more than £30 a year, and can save you between a third and 50% off your travel, which is particularly handy if you travel by train a lot.

You can make extra savings by making sure you also travel off-peak.

For example, when we checked on Trainline, a standard off-peak open return from London to Edinburgh on a Saturday in July costs £160, but the same journey with a 26-30 Railcard would cost £106.15 – a saving of almost £55 .

There are nine main railcards available – all with eligibility criteria such as age, circumstances or who you’re traveling with.

(Source: Network Rail)

3. Buy tickets in advance and play the journey

Train companies typically release tickets 12 weeks in advance, although some go on sale even earlier. The longer you wait to book, the more likely the price will go up.

If you know you’re traveling a particular route on a particular day, you can set up alerts with many operators and Trainline so you’re emailed when advance tickets go on sale.

You can also try ‘splitting’ your journey, which means instead of buying one single ‘through’ ticket, you buy multiple tickets to cover its component parts. You can still make the same journey, in the same seat, with no changes. Some websites will sort this for you, including Trainsplit or Split Ticketing.

  • Find out more: how to save on transport

4. Book the evening taxi in advance

If the venue is in a remote location, you won’t be able to rely on a last-minute Uber or Bolt booking to get back to your hotel or the nearest train station.

Instead, it’s best to contact a local taxi company and book these journeys in advance, that way you can lock in a price beforehand, and see if you can split the cost with anyone else traveling from the wedding to the same place.

Accommodation

5. Book early

If the wedding is too far to travel home from on the same day, it’s worth booking or reserving nearby accommodation as soon as you receive your invitation.

Many hotels will let you reserve a room at a cheaper price, and cancel it for free further down the line if plans change.

Travelodge has a number of ‘saver rates’, which must be booked in advance – the earlier you book, the better the rate you get. Some saver rooms can be booked up to 12 months in advance.

Premier Inn also has an advance rate and you can amend your booking on a like-for-like basis until 1pm on arrival day, and a full refund if you cancel your stay at least 28 days before arrival.

  • Find out more: how to cut the cost of your holiday

6. Use comparison websites and book direct

Another way to find a deal on a hotel room is to use comparison sites.

When we put them to the test, Trivago found the cheapest price most consistently.

Meanwhile, Kayak, Skyscanner, TravelSupermarket and TripAdvisor all found the lowest price at least two out of five times.

Once you’ve chosen your hotel, it’s worth calling them up directly to see if you can negotiate an even lower price. This is because large booking sites charge a commission and rate-parity clauses prevent hotels from advertising lower rates on their website.

  • Find out more: best and worst hotel booking sites

7. Consider camping

It might be even cheaper to camp than stay at a hotel, particularly if you already own camping equipment or a campervan.

Depending on where the wedding is being held, there may be a local campsite nearby – most will have toilet and washing facilities.

If the wedding is being held in a rural location on land, you may be able to ask the organizers if there is any provision for camping.

8. Book as a group

If you know a lot of people who’ll be attending the wedding, opting for family-sized accommodation where you could all stay and split the cost could prove cheaper than booking separate hotel rooms.

This will vary depending on what’s available in the area, and how far in advance you book, so it’s worth checking several options on different booking sites.

outfits

9. Swap clothes

You don’t need to buy a new outfit for every wedding you attend; if you don’t want to wear something you already own, it could be fun to swap outfits with friends and family who are a similar size to you.

Elsewhere, some reselling apps such as Vinted have a ‘swap’ function, where you could accept a swap rather than money if you want to sell your clothes.

Alternatively, just restyling an old outfit with a different tie, jacket or shoes can make it feel different.

  • Find out more: how to save money on clothes and shoes

10. Shop second hand

Buying second-hand clothes and shoes is an easy way to save money, and it’s also a more environmentally friendly way to shop.

Expensive brands can often be found for a fraction of the price in charity shops, car boot sales, and online marketplaces such as eBay, or via apps such as Depop and Vinted

Our latest survey put Vinted on top for buying pre-loved items.

  • Find out more: best and worst places to shop second hand

11. Rent an outfit

Apps such as By Rotation, My Wardrobe HQ and Hurr will let you rent clothes for a wedding for a fraction of the cost of buying a new outfit.

This is a great tip if you are unlikely to ever wear the outfit again, and you could even rent out your own clothes to make some extra cash.

However, it’s important to consider the environmental costs of renting – such as dry cleaning and transportation – so you should look at the rental platforms terms and conditions to see what they are doing to mitigate those impacts.

12. Search for deals

If you’re still set on buying something new to wear, you can often save 10% just by referring a friend or signing up to a newsletter for many clothing brands.

Coupert and Pouch are free shopping tools that find and apply every voucher available in one click, and apply them to your basket.

You can also consider buying out of season. The wedding season typically runs from April to October, so you may end up finding a perfect outfit for a wedding in the end-of-season sales then wear the outfit the following year.

Wedding gifts

13. Use cashback sites

When you spend money on things such as wedding gifts, there are ways to get rewarded for what you spend. For example, cashback sites pay you a cash reward when you click through from them to make a purchase.

Websites such as Quidco and TopCashback offer cashback on a variety of goods and services, and experience days.

For example, you can earn 16.5% on Moonpig at TopCashback for any wedding cards, and up to 10% cashback on Bloom and Wild flowers.

You could also pay for your purchase using a cashback credit card; These tend to have a set cashback rate that’s applied to your balance.

  • Find out more: best cashback credit cards

14. Pitch a group gift

If you can link up with other wedding guests, it’s possible to get a bigger, more expensive gift. This can be particularly handy if the couple have asked for something pricey.

Apps such as Splitwise are great for tracking who knows what.

Alternatively, you could donate any amount you choose towards the couple’s honeymoon.

15. Offer services instead of gifts

Are you a talented painter, gardener, hairdresser or cook? Perhaps instead of buying a gift you can offer out your services to the happy couple.

For example, you could offer to do some DIY for them or drop them to the airport for free for their honeymoon.

Of course, if you really can’t afford any kind of gift, then simply don’t buy one – most people will consider your presence at their wedding to be enough.

Other expenses

16. Call in some wedding favours

As so many people are likely to be struggling with the costs of weddings, setting up some reciprocal favors when other people attend weddings can be helpful when it’s your turn.

For instance, if you’re a parent and you know other parents who will be attending weddings this year, why not offer to babysit for them? It means that when you have a wedding they can return the favour, and you’ll save money on childcare while you’re at the wedding.

17. Stick to a budget

If you set a budget in advance, you might be less likely to go overboard on things such as gifts, clothes, and other wedding-related outgoings.

Budgeting apps can help you manage your money, and if the wedding is something you’re saving up for, some banks have savings features that can do things such as ’rounding up’ every transaction and put it into a savings pot.

If your budget is tight you may have to say no to any events held before the wedding, such as a hen do or stag do.

  • Find out more: best budgeting apps

18. Spread the cost

For costs you can’t avoid to pay for outright, an interest-free credit card allows you to spread the cost.

Some credit card providers offer up to 24 months interest-free, which means you pay off a chunk of borrowing each month without paying extra interest.

However, you still need to make the minimum payment every month, and it’s important not to spend more than you can afford.

  • Find out more: Best 0% interest credit cards

Editor’s note: a previous version of this article suggested buying premium bonds as an alternative gift; this was not correct, as those over the age of 16 can only buy premium bonds for someone under the age of 16.

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