Recently, a friend surmised that he wouldn’t need to bring a gift to an upcoming wedding because the bride and groom know that he’s broke.
I told him there is a special place in the DMV line for people like him.
But I did understand where he was coming from. Being a wedding guest is incredibly expensive, and I know what it’s like to be tight on resources. Still, there’s a gracious way to be a broke guest.
Nifty (but thrifty) gift ideas
Volunteer your services: Months in advance, explain to the bride and groom that you’re short on cash, but you’d love to help them with the wedding. Don’t just offer “to help out,” name something specific! Offer to be the designated wedding Instagrammer, set up the night-before-the-wedding BBQ, or plan the after party. Or, if you have a talent, offer to design the invitations, create the wedding website, or even DJ the event. Using your skills to help make the wedding great is better than a crockpot any day.
A gift from the heart: If volunteering your services sounds like a waking nightmare, consider writing the bride and groom a heartfelt letter and pairing it with a photo you took of them in a nice frame. Again, this requires some planning ahead (you have to take that photo, after all), but it’s a lovely gesture that any bride and groom would appreciate, especially if they’re aware of your financial situation.
Go in on a bigger ticket item: Chances are, you’re not the only broke person invited to this wedding. Set a personal dollar limit (even if it’s just $15 or $20) and ask around to see if friends would be willing to go in on a bigger item with you. That way, you’ll be able to contribute something substantial while keeping costs down.
Grab a modest gift certificate: to a store they’ll need to visit (Target, Home Depot, somewhere they’re registered) and pair it with a card explaining that you’d love to give more, but you’re not in a good financial position to spend, and you sincerely wish them the best and love them. Making some sort of gesture is better than doing absolutely nothing.
Wait until you’ve got the money. Luckily, conventional wisdom says you have up to a year after the wedding to give a gift, so you can still have time to do something from the heart—you’ll just have to foot shipping costs.
Most importantly: Don’t just ignore the gift-giving part of a wedding. The bride and groom WILL notice and it WILL be awkward.
Traveling light (on your wallet)
Get that miles credit card: Last year, I switched over to using a credit card that amasses sky miles, and it was totally worth the minor hassle. I’ve traveled almost exclusively on “free” air miles since the switch. Attending a wedding is a much easier financial pill to swallow when you’re using air miles to cover airfare. (Just don’t forget to pay down that credit card!)
GasBuddy: If you’re driving, get the app called GasBuddy, which tells you where to find the cheapest gas in your vicinity. And the app is free!
Airbnb: This one is sort of a no-brainer, but renting a room in someone’s house is way cheaper than getting a hotel. Or, go in on an entire place with friends. Just remember to blow up the air mattress BEFORE you go to the open bar. (I speak from experience.)
Dress to impress (your budget)
Borrow the clothes: If you don’t have a suit, tux, or fancy dress, put out a call to your friends on social media to lend you one. Big expense saved right there—as long as you manage not to spill red wine all of over it.
Put it on that miles card: If you’re IN the wedding and have no choice but to drop a giant wad of cash on your tux rental or bridesmaids dress purchase, at least put it on the credit card that will fly you to the wedding for free.
Sell that Sucker!: If you’ve purchased your wedding outfit and know you won’t re-wear, sell it immediately, while it’s still wedding season! Ebay or the app Poshmark are the ways to go online or take it to your nearest consignment shop, like Buffalo Exchange.
And, of course, don’t forget to take advantage of all the free food.
To the bride and groom! And to you, for being such a considerate, thrifty guest.