Why I Have A Wedding Fund For Someone Else’s Wedding

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
If you’re a twentysomething, there is a good chance that the front of your refrigerator — the adult version of a friendship bracelet — has at least a couple invitations and save-the-dates decorating it. At least that’s my experience. Since my first year out of college, I've attended four to six weddings a year and have been in multiple bridal parties. I made a rule early on that if I was invited, I should attend. It’s a rule that I followed up until this year, when I had two weddings back home in North Carolina on back-to-back weekends and had to decline one for my sanity. That’s a total of 18 weddings in four years.

About a year into watching my friends say “I do,” I had to ask my parents for a loan to attend one of the big events. They were willing to help out, but I realized that wasn’t going to work in the long run. If your parents are paying for your night out with friends and an open bar, something is wrong with your math.
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In 2015, the average cost of attending a wedding was $673 per guest.

Weddings are expensive — and not just for the bride and groom. In 2015, the average cost of attending a wedding was $673 per guest, and if you are in the bridal party? Well, you really better start saving. If you are attending the shower, engagement party, bachelorette party, and wedding weekend (it's never just a day anymore), you can expect to spend just short of $1,000 celebrating the couple. Financial experts are advising millennials to save 15% of their income per year, but with most of our money going to student loans, rent, and food, few are actually saving that much — and it gets even more difficult when you factor in all those weddings.

When I first sat down to figure out how to afford all these celebrations, I was living in NYC on an entry-level salary. There wasn’t necessarily a lot of extra money to spend, but I was determined to figure out a way to make it work. At first I tried picking up some extra side jobs, but sometimes having a full-time gig you love is all you can handle while having a life (and time to go to weddings). Next, I made a promise to myself that I would save $500 before the next wedding, but it’s hard to make a vague goal a reality.

So I sat down and really looked at my money. I was already contributing to a 401(k), a vacation fund, and my nest egg. The logical solution was to dissolve my vacation fund and use that money for attending weddings, but I still wanted to have a chance to travel the world in my 20s and 30s. If I wasn’t willing to give up either, I would just have to spend less in my day-to-day life. I created a new budget that included a wedding-guest fund, and started contributing 6% of every paycheck.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
At first I really felt that extra 6% — 32% of my budget was going straight to short-term or long-term savings, and I had to cover NYC rent. There are still weeks when money is tighter than I would like, and I think about dipping into the wedding-guest fund. Instead I will request we go to cheaper restaurants, or I'll decide to just stay in, so I can leave that 6% untouched until I need to buy those bridesmaid shoes, or book that flight cross-country. For the last three years, I have managed to only touch that fund during wedding season. While sometimes I find myself panicking and doing mental math when I see another letterpressed invitation, I remind myself to breathe easy knowing that I’ve already planned for that wedding.

I haven’t found there to be a “normal” cost for attending other people’s nuptials. I’ve been to weddings that were planned and communicated early enough that I could find cheap airfare and wear an outfit I already owned and spend less than $400 on the whole affair. I’ve also attended weddings that required multiple events and flights and gifts, and my out-of-pocket cost was closer to $1,000. I’ve yet to attend a wedding in NYC, where I live, so the cost of airfare always has to be budgeted. The cheapest one set me back $257.23, while the most expensive wedding cost $1,518.50 (but I will admit my mother paid me back for a couple of the expenses — about $300 — since it was a close family friend).

My friends and family have made fun of me, saying things like “You know, normally wedding funds are meant for your wedding, right?” But I laugh it off. I check "yes" on that pre-stamped RSVP card and know that the next time I’m barefoot on the dance floor, laughing with my best friends and sipping on champagne, I will be guilt-free — at least financially.
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