Wedding Etiquette in 2018 and how to Attend – Without Going Broke

In 2015 I was asked to be a grooms-maid in a friends wedding in Virginia, and I was so excited to get to be a part of something so big. I spent $300 on the dress picked out by his bride, then another $120 trying to fix it because the shop measured me wrong. Add on another $650 for the flight, hotel, and wedding gift, and I was officially in my first wedding – and broke.

Over the past 3 years I have been to six weddings (two of which I was a bridesmaid in) and I am the maid of honor for one this summer and a bridesmaid for one in the spring. No joke – my boyfriend calls me 27 dresses and our closet is beginning to look like it. I have hit that point in my life where everyone I know is getting married, and as exciting as it is it really does add up fast. As someone who has been trying to balance finances and keep my loan repayment plan on track, weddings are easily something that can throw you off balance. Here are a few tips around wedding etiquette and what you can do to keep the cost down – but still be there for your friends.


A question asked by women all over the world on a daily basis. Today weddings typically come with a dress code; formal, informal, hell sometimes even themed. To avoid spending $100+ every time you want to attend a wedding, try one of these options instead:

For just attending the wedding, Lulus has been my best friend through all of this. I have found most of my dresses off here, and typically for less than $80 each. I actually found a crushed velvet floor length gown on here for $39 once, and boy was that a hit.

For attending as a guest or bridesmaid, I suggest checking out sites like Rent the Runway – where you can rent designer dresses for much less than buying one. Poshmark is another great place to find gently used – but much cheaper – bridesmaid dresses as well.

If your bride is letting her party choose the dress I strongly suggest a shop like David’s Bridal. Boutique shops are often more expensive and carry specific designers, where as chain shops sometimes offer deals / discounts during wedding season.

Also last thing – if you need alterations look for a local out of home tailor. I found a woman through a friends mom who does seamstress work on the side,  and in going to her instead I save $70+ each time.

Standards for Gift Giving

While weddings are a celebration of two people in love, the stress of it all can sometimes bring out the worst in people. I have seen friendships end over things like this, and while it seems like such a petty thing we all know that weddings are expensive. To avoid causing the couple any more stress on their wedding day and at the same time not break the bank, follow these guidelines:

For the shower, my standard is a $25-$50 gift. It’s even better when they have a registry, because you can pull together some of the cheaper things to make a cute, themed gift look like more. If they’re requesting a honeyfund, I will either give the cash or do some other thoughtful gift like a travel kit or something valued around $30.

If you’re a bridesmaid, sometimes the bride will say that throwing the shower and being apart of the wedding is gift enough. If not, consider how much you’ve already spent on the wedding and what you can afford, and then decide from there. If you’re bringing a plus one, you have to account for them as well. Here is my typical gift amount:

Close Family and Friends / part of the wedding: $100 per person

Attending a wedding: $50 – $75 per person

It’s Okay to Say No

While most brides will not be upset by the size of your gift and instead just happy you were able to attend, sometimes even that is too much. I have had to say no to wedding invites in different states before; travel expenses add up quickly and most people will understand.

Saying no to being a bridesmaid is a bit harder, especially when that person feels you’re important enough to them to include in their wedding. If you say yes, go into it eyes wide open and be prepared to spend a good chunk of change; I’d say the average for a local wedding is $500. If you want to be a part of it but are on a budget, set the expectations with the bridal party around what you can afford. DIY decor save a lot of money for the shower, and if you’re throwing a bachelorette party make sure to charge attending girls a little extra to help cover the bride.

Saying no to someone you care about can be extremely difficult, especially when it’s something you don’t want to do, but have to. If you’re sure you can’t attend or be part of the wedding, let them know in a timely manner and give the person the conversation they deserve; honesty and respect are key.

Never EVER No Show A Wedding Event

While it can get expensive to attend a wedding and you may not have the money, if you RSVP yes then you shouldn’t back out. Couples are spending tens of thousands of dollars to throw a wedding, and an empty seat at the table is also a wasted plate of food they had to pay for. Same goes for bridal showers; the bridal party typically pays per person, so if you can’t attend make sure to let them know. If something comes up, try to give at least 24 hours notice and still send an appropriate gift.

I hope these tips will help you navigate the wedding season a bit easier! While it sometime can be stressful, I love to see the people I care about so happy; it makes it all worth it.

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