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How to attend back-to-back weddings without going into debt

A wedding ring on a bride's hand.

A wedding ring on a bride's hand. Photo Credit: TNS / Lev Dolgachev

During your 20s or 30s, back-to-back weddings can turn a joyful occasion into one breathless swipe of a credit card after another. These festivities come right when most of us are trying desperately to pay off our student loans, save for a house or move to a new apartment that’s more “Frasier” and less “Girls.”

Follow these tips to emerge from your next string of weddings without credit card debt haunting you.

  • Set your own wedding budget

No rules state you need to shell out $100 on every wedding gift, no matter how close you are to the bride or groom. Only you can determine how much you’ll spend on each wedding, says Lizzie Post, etiquette expert and president of the Emily Post Institute. Set your own spending limit and prioritize the people most important to you.

To start, choose a maximum wedding budget for the upcoming year or for the next several ceremonies you’ve been invited to. Include the total amount you plan to spend on travel, lodging, attire, gifts and additional pre-wedding events if you’re a member of the bridal party.

As you plan your budget, make sure to keep at least a few hundred dollars in an emergency fund, and try not to carry a balance on your credit cards.

  • If you can’t afford it, politely decline

Say you decide $500 is a reasonable amount to allocate to wedding costs for the year. You’ll now be able to accept invitations only to those events that fit your budget. That could mean attending your close friend’s wedding in a different city but not your acquaintance’s local one.

When you break the news, no need to explain that your budget is the culprit. A simple “no” RSVP and “I’m really sorry, but I won’t be able to make it” is fine, Post says. You should still send a gift, but use the tips below to save some cash.

Weddings also include many other events, such as engagement parties and bridal showers, and you have even more obligations if you’re a bridesmaid or groomsman. If you can’t afford to go, you are hereby permitted to decline any pre-wedding events, even as a member of the bridal party.

  • Keep gifts minimal

A “yes” RSVP means you’ll attend the event and bring a gift unless the invitation explicitly says otherwise. This tradition holds true even for destination weddings.

When you’re on a budget, consider contributing to a group gift, which might be an option through the couple’s registry.

Cookbooks and small household items are also solid lower-cost options, Post says.

As much as you want to celebrate your friend or family member’s love, you shouldn’t blow your savings on their wedding. Just as importantly, you shouldn’t feel guilty about turning down an invitation occasionally, even if that seems soul-crushingly awkward. A simple “no” on the RSVP should usually suffice. If you’re closer with the couple, say, “Between budget and schedule, I just really can’t make it work.”

Ask the best man or maid of honor how much the bachelor or bachelorette party will likely cost before committing to other events, such as engagement parties and bridal showers. You can decline them. It’s more important for you to be present with them on the big day.

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