If you're a guest at the union of one or more happy couples this summer, you're excited to celebrate with family and friends. But just because you've said "I do" to attending a wedding doesn't mean good financial habits should be tossed aside like the bride's bouquet at the reception.
"As soon as you receive an invitation, you should establish a budget and think about how much it will cost to attend," says Shawnette Fraser of TD Canada Trust in Calgary, Alta.
A TD survey released this spring found four in 10 Canadians expect to attend at least one wedding this year. One in seven will attend as a member of the wedding party, which can put added stress on the wallet.
One in five confesses they're not well prepared for the costs of attending a wedding and expect those costs to be a "considerable" drain on their household budget. Almost half expect to spend between $100 and $500 but one in eight plans to spend more than $1,000 — a price that one in four will pay if in the wedding party.
When establishing your budget, include all associated expenses such as wedding and other gifts, pre-wedding festivities like bachelor and bachelorette parties, wardrobe, grooming, transportation, accommodation and child care. If it's a destination wedding, remember to include what you expect to shell out at your destination.
The next step is to work backwards to establish a savings plan. If the wedding takes place in six months, for example, consider setting aside $16 a week rather than trying to come up with $400 in one fell swoop. One way to do that is to cut back on discretionary spending, such as taking your lunch to work instead of eating out.
Redeeming points collected through a reward credit card can offset some of the expenses, such as travel, accommodation or wedding gifts. "Use the card for daily purchases but make sure you pay off the balance before it's due" to avoid interest charges, says Fraser.
If you don't already have a reward credit card, consider choosing one that best reflects your motivation for collecting points. "Some cards will get you on a plane quicker ... while others offer more flexibility and allow you to redeem points on a variety of things," she says.
Finally, if you know where you'll likely spend money — such as the store where the couple has a gift registry — sign up to receive e-mails or texts that alert you to sales and promotions.
Sometimes, an honest assessment of the costs involved in attending a wedding may mean declining the invitation. According to the TD survey, 17% have made up an excuse to decline a wedding invitation because they couldn't afford to attend. That figure jumped to 24% among those asked to be in a wedding party this year.
"Sometimes it's OK to decline a wedding invitation," says Fraser. "Just don't do it at the last minute."