Get ready, these tips are pretty scrappy.

As a woman who loves an open bar, I’m generally a fan of wedding season. I like the flowers and the old friends and the ring bearer and the women ministers and the dancing and the afterparty and the too-long awkward speeches and the open bar.

But, as you know, this kind of fun comes at a high cost of time and money. Travel is expensive. Nice clothes are expensive. (Day-after dry-cleaning bills are expensive.) Gifts are expensive. See also: bachelorette and bachelor parties, wedding showers, engagement parties, rehearsal dinners, Jack and Jills. If you’re actually in the wedding, just forget it. Close up the 401(K). Don’t think I hadn’t thought hard about going into one of those paycheck-advance places to fund the 2015 wedding season specifically. That was the Year of Nine Weddings In Three Months.

OK, sorry, enough of the complaining. The good news is there are ways of celebrating your friends and having fun without maxing out your credit cards. I wish I’d looked them up in 2015 instead of today, but here they are. The best ways to save money for a wedding that’s not even your own. 

Red tent

Rough it in the outdoors

You’ve probably done this already: Hook up with other friends going to the wedding and get a multiroom Airbnb. Crash on each other’s hotel room floors. Camp out?

We know this sounds very, very unclassy, but think about it. With a tent and a sleeping bag and jug of water, you’re portable and cheap. Hang your nice clothes in your car, use your rearview mirror to fix your hair, and now you’re all ready for the ball.


Hack the registry

Just cuz your fancy friends have EXQUISITE taste in registries at West Elm and Williams & Sonoma doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Are they registered for specific dinnerware? Celadon is Celadon, no matter where you buy it. Do some deal-sniffin’. It’s worth the bit of extra effort.


DIY your gift altogether

Before I got married, this idea seemed like a macaroni-art-on-Mother’s-Day cheat on a gift. It seemed cheap and, honestly, dumb to me.

But then I got married, and it turns out gifts hardly matter. At least, they hardly mattered to us. I mean, we are grateful for the gifts, but they were so secondary to everything else happening that day. Your friends really just want to be with the people they love. And so the gesture really is the most important aspect of your gift. So a nicely framed photograph, a photo collage on a map, some other sentimental DIY thing that calls back to a memory or an important event or moment, that really is valuable to your friends. You honestly don’t have to spend $100 on dishtowels — especially if you don’t have that kind of money. Your friends don’t want you to suffer for them. (Probably.)

Bangle bracelets

Have just a few wedding-wardrobe staples

This is easy and obvious, but it can be a really fun excuse to go shopping when you need to get a dress for a wedding. Resist that temptation. I mean, sure, buy a dress for yourself if you really want to. But this is a place where your budget really can be cut.

A suit with a couple of ties should suffice for men. (They have it so easy, don’t they?) Ladies, we don’t need 200 different dresses. With a little creativity, you can make one dress do some work for you. Stick to basics as a foundation: A black dress can pair well with any of the shoes or bags in your closet, and if you change up your accessories from wedding to wedding, you’ll be wearing a whole new outfit every time for much less cash than if you’d bought a summer dress for each occasion.

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