The Wedding Economy

Attending one wedding can cost over $1,000—here are 4 ways to avoid overspending

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Between travel, accommodations, gifts, a new dress or a tux rental, and that extra bottle of champagne for the shower — going to a wedding these days quickly gets expensive. In total, the average cost of being a wedding guest can range from almost $400 to over $1,000, according to a 2018 survey of 2,228 adults by

Members of the wedding party should expect to spend an average of $728 on a wedding, while in the northeast attendants should expect to pay even more: $1,070. Distant friends are more likely to keep costs low and spend $371 on average, according to the survey. For close family members or friends, the average is $627.

Given the high cost — $1,070 is enough to cover a month's rent in a one-bedroom apartment in Richmond, Va. — analyst Robert Barba suggests you check in on your finances before agreeing to attend.

"The associated costs add up fast and can wreak havoc on your budget if you're not prepared," Barba said in a statement. "You shouldn't go into debt to celebrate others. If you feel you can't afford the financial burden of attending, think twice before RSVPing."

Indeed, most Americans can't cover a $1,000 emergency expense with savings, and a 2017 survey by GoBankingRates found 46 percent of survey respondents aged 18 to 24 had no savings in the bank at all. Relying on credit cards can be dangerous: The average American now holds a credit card balance of $6,375.

Don't let wedding season set you back. Here are four tips to approach invitations with a budget in mind.

1. Start saving early

Most engagements last from 10 to 15 months, according to a 2017 report by Wedding Wire. Use that time to open a designated savings account for the event and stash away money when you can, Bankrate suggests. Then you'll be prepared to handle the costs without going into debt.

Even if you haven't received an invitation yet, there is nothing to lose and only financial security to gain by planning ahead.

2. Plan for travel

Many credit card companies offer up travel rewards and perks for spending with their card. So, if you've been planing to apply for a new credit card, considering a card with travel rewards can be a smart way to pay for airfare for a destination wedding.

When used carefully, travel rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Uber Visa card from Barclay can be a way to build your credit and travel cheaply.

Eric Rosen, a travel credit card expert for The Points Guy, cautions against overspending to reap rewards: "No matter how valuable the points you earn are, they do not make up for the massive interest rates many of the best travel rewards cards charge on balances," he tells CNBC Make It. So don't spend more than you can afford to pay the next month.

As billionaire Mark Cuban found out in his early 20s, racking up credit card debt can be a mistake that's hard, and expensive, to rectify.

3. Be thoughtful about gifts

Deciding how much to spend on a wedding present is tricky. Pamela Eyring, president of the Protocol School of Washington tells Moneyish you should think of it like this: "A minimum amount to budget would be $20 for a co-worker, $50 for a friend and $100 or more if family."

Typically, engaged couples will list gifts they'd like as wedding presents on a registry. But, if the couple's choices are too pricey for your budget, or if all of the affordable options have been nabbed already, don't be afraid to shop off the registry, etiquette expert Lizzie Post says. She recommends opting for a sentimental gift instead of an expensive one, like a simple picture frame engraved with the couple's wedding date.

If you're uncomfortable veering off the registry, try to buy early, when there are still affordable gifts to pick. Or split a larger gift with friends, financial planner Andrew Damcevski suggests.

4. Don't be afraid to say no

If the wedding isn't worth saving and spending for, it's okay to prioritize your financial future instead.

"A lot of our financial mistakes happen when we don't want to be seen as something — cheap, cold-hearted or the type of person who places money over family or friendship," personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary writes.

But if the burden is too great, she recommends just saying "no" to that wedding invitation. "When it comes to decisions like this, you have to count the cost," she writes. "If it's too high, unapologetically live within your means."

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