How to Spend Less When Attending Out-of-Town Weddings

In a 48-hour period last week, we received two unexpected wedding invitations, heard about two more engagements, and attended a pre-wedding event – all for weddings occurring this summer!  We had thought it was going to be another slow wedding season for us, but we are now planning to attend at least two out-of-town weddings – one in Boston and the other in Madison, WI.


Since 2010, we have attended TEN out-of-town weddings.  We want to keep attending them on our limited budget so we have to look for ways to spend less everywhere we can.  In this post I’ll share with you the strategies we have employed over the past few years that have helped us “save money” on these trips by spending less or getting more value.




I think that lodging gives the greatest potential for spending less on trips out of town – staying in hotels can cost hundreds of dollars per night, but if you’re lucky and you can crash with someone it could be free.


Stay with family/friends. We first look to see if we can stay with family or friends for part or all of a trip; if we can we will have both free lodging and the opportunity to spend time with loved ones.  We have stayed people we know during all or part of six of our ten wedding trips.  With family we don’t worry so much about overstaying our welcome, but with friends we try not to stay more than a couple nights in the same place.  We have even stayed one night with a family member of another wedding attendee – someone we had never met!


hostel room

our hostel room in Hamilton, ON

Look at “alternatives.” If we have no family or friends in the area and the hotel costs are high, we look for non-traditional lodging.  For us that has meant staying in private rooms in hostels during two of our trips.  The price was quite good and it was definitely more interesting than staying in hotels!


Go for the discounted rate, but check around.  Sometimes for remote wedding locations there is no local option aside from hotels and motels.  We weigh the advantages of staying in the hotel the bride and groom have chosen (with the discount) against the other options, if they exist.  Even if the discount does not represent the lowest rate available to us, sometimes it is worth it to stay in the same hotel as the other guests so we can have more time with friends and family.




Transportation is another big opportunity to spend less, depending on how flexible you are.


packed up for our road trip

all packed up for our road trip

Driving over flying: Kyle and I have determined that if our destination is within a 14 hour drive of Durham we will consider driving over flying.  The decision hinges on how much money is in our Travel account and how much time we can take off from work.  Last summer we really wanted to go to Chicago for a wedding and the only way we had enough money for the trip was if we drove and brought much of our own food.


Flying for cheap: Standard save-money-on-flights tips apply here, including being flexible with dates/times (we take a LOT of red-eyes from CA to NC) and using credit card rewards.  We are hoping to use our Delta frequent flyer rewards on our tickets to Boston this summer.  One strategy we’ve used twice is to fly into a bigger, more remote airport and rent a car to drive to our final destination.  We flew into Phoenix for a wedding in Flagstaff and into Buffalo for a wedding in Ontario.  I’m so grateful that a friend gave me the tip about Buffalo because it saves us a couple hundred dollars over flying into Toronto and we had no idea the cities were close enough to do that!


Local transport: We are lucky that whenever we fly to LA we are able to borrow a car from Kyle’s parents for our local transportation.  In some other cities no car rental is needed because of the good public transportation.  Whenever we have to rent a car, we look for the cheapest little economy model we can find and don’t buy the extra insurance.  We have also considered sharing a rental car with other wedding guests who have to fly in.


prom dress and tuxedo

prom dress and tuxedo



While I’m certainly not a clotheshorse, during our busy wedding season in 2010 I did find myself buying several new dresses – it was a combination of changing body size and being invited to spring/summer/fall and day/evening weddings.  But if at all possible, I try to wear something I already own to weddings, given the constraints of the time of the wedding.  In fact, I wore my prom dress (almost 10 years old!) to a black tie wedding a year ago and received several compliments on it.


This is maybe a dirty little secret, but we have also bought second-hand formalwear.  For the same black tie wedding, we bought a tuxedo for Kyle that used to be a rental.  He got a bunch of compliments too, it was apparently surprising that someone his age knew what black tie meant!



crab and cheese for breakfast? yes, please!

crab and cheese for breakfast? yes, please!



You may think that attending an out-of-town wedding means you have to eat out for every meal, and sometimes you can’t avoid that.  To cut back on the number of meals you have to eat out, I recommend 1) attending all the wedding events because there will likely be food served at them and 2) accepting complementary food when offered.  Many hotels/motels and even hosts will offer breakfast because it can be such a low-cost meal for them.  We’re not too proud to turn down meals that friends offer to treat us to when we see them during a wedding trip, either.


When you do have to purchase your own food, go for value.  On a couple trips we found all-you-can-eat buffet breakfasts and really got our money’s worth!  Often when we fly we bring snacks with us to stave off the temptation to eat airport fast food on layovers, and on one driving trip we brought several days worth of food with us in a cooler.




I always try to get a good deal on a registry gift.  We have a set amount of money to spend on each wedding gift, so instead of trying to save ourselves money we just try to get a great value for the bride and groom.  We have learned to only buy items from Macy’s that are on sale and to always use the 20% coupons that Bed Bath and Beyond send out (affiliate links – thanks for using!).  Of course we always search for online coupons for discounts or free shipping.



looking at downtown Toronto from the Islands

looking at downtown Toronto from the Islands



Because my love language is quality time, when I attend a wedding I want to spend as much time as possible celebrating the marriage with the bride and groom and anyone else we know, so our first choice of “entertainment” is just to hang out with other wedding guests or local friends/family.  When that’s not an option, we look for free local activities like going on a hike (in the Smoky Mountains) or visiting an amazing park (Toronto Islands).  When we visited Chicago we ended up going to several museums and other landmarks that we had to pay for, and in retrospect I wish we had bought some flavor of city pass, so in the future we will consider that.



at the Grand Canyon

at the Grand Canyon

Make It a Mini-Vacation 


Since attending weddings eclipses our vacation choices, in cities that give us the opportunity, we try to fit in more fun vacation-type elements into our trip, which may or may not involve extending the trip.  For instance, when we went to Flagstaff we visited the Grand Canyon and when we went to Ontario we visited Niagara Falls.  We have turned a family wedding into a week-long vacation in southern California and stayed several extra days in Chicago because it was our first visit ever to that city.


What are your strategies for spending less money on attending weddings or out-of-town events?  I’ve only listed the ones we have actually done so I’m sure there are many more!  Do you ever try to add value to your trips for weddings?


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42 Responses to "How to Spend Less When Attending Out-of-Town Weddings"

  1. We have 2 out of town weddings later this year, we are already saving for them so we will have enough money for accommodation and any other items we may need.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..The A-Z of Saving Money Book Launch

    1. Emily says:

      We basically save continuously for these types of events because you can have only a few months’ notice sometimes and that’s not enough for us to get the savings together. Did you create a special savings rate for each of these weddings at the time you found out about them?

  2. I have used a lot of these over the years, I especially like making it a mini-vacation. We did that for a wedding in Vermont a couple of years back.

    For food, we also like to bring as much as we can with us, but we also load up on fast food coupons to keep costs down. This is pretty much the only time we eat fast food, so we have to make a conscious effort to hold onto the coupons.
    Greg @ recently posted..10 Ways to Save Money While Keeping Fit

    1. Emily says:

      I’ve never thought of using fast food coupons – I didn’t even know they existed! Where do you find them? We never eat fast food except while traveling (sometimes).

      1. We get them mostly through the weekly saver ads. Since, as you mention, we try to go easy on fast food, we generally can find buy one get one coupons through in the ads. I think there are a few online sites that have them as well.
        Greg @ recently posted..What Does Your Beer Say About You?

  3. This was us when we first got married. The first few years we had a ton of weddings each summer and they usually involved travel of some sort and were in quite a few to boot. Lodging was always the big issue for us as we could usually drive to where we needed. Several times the family sprung for the hotel cost which was great. Other times we would just find the cheapest rate and bring food with us so we could limit our food spending.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Confessions of a Former Fast Food Employee

    1. Emily says:

      Sounds like my strategies are old hat to you! We don’t get a ton ton of wedding invitations, but most of them are out-of-town so we end up traveling a lot.

  4. My best friend is (finally) getting married later this year. We are going to make a week-long trip out of it, staying at my mother’s. But the night of the wedding, we are going to opt for a room close to the venue so 1)we we can drink and 2)I don’t have to drive the hour home after the reception winds down after midnight.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Viggle: The App That Pays You to Watch TV

    1. Emily says:

      We did something similar when we went to Chicago. For most of the trip we stayed with friends, but the night of the wedding we got a hostel downtown so it would only be a short trip back to our room since we knew the reception would go rather late.

  5. Great post! I have 2 weddings to attend this year, both will be out of state for me. Fortunately, I have family/friends I can stay with, so that will cut down on the costs.
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted..Egg-freezing to extend fertility

    1. Emily says:

      I love it when that works out so that it can be a visit, too.

  6. You’ll find that as you get older, it will be baby gifts instead of wedding gifts, then birthday party gifts for toddlers and kids. That is kind of where I am right now, but I remember the days of having a wedding to go to several times a year. I like the idea of making a mini vacation and visiting local attractions, and I’ve had some of my best road trips going to weddings.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..The A-Z of Saving Money-Ebook Launch and $250 Giveaway

    1. Emily says:

      I’ve already bought a few baby shower gifts. 🙂 It’s a bit different though since (I think anyway) it’s atypical to travel to a baby shower or even to be invited to an out-of-town one, except maybe for family.

      I love road trips because Kyle does 2/3 of the driving and I read aloud to him. 🙂 On our trip to Chicago we read a good chunk of a Harry Potter book. It’s also a great time to talk and get to know people better.

  7. This might not come out right, but for us one of the best ways to save money on out of town weddings is not to go. We’ve pretty much only gone to those where we are in the wedding party or we are one of a very small number of invited guests (because we are so close with the couple). And quality time is the big reason that we don’t like to go. At a big wedding, you might get to spend 5 or 10 minutes with the bride and groom. Tops. That’s not quality time in my book. I’d rather buy a plane ticket to visit them at a later date than deal with all the hassle and expense of a wedding for no quality time with them. We’ve never had an issue with friends understanding our reasoning, and many are glad when we get to spend time with them other times.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..A-Z of Saving Money EBook And A Giveaway

    1. Emily says:

      I definitely agree that the bigger the wedding the less time you get with the bride and groom (unless you’re in the wedding party) and that you get a lot more time if you visit on another occasion. But still, we love attending weddings. We try to get more value out of it in all the ways I listed here like seeing other people and of course it’s likely that we’ll have friends among the other guests. But if we were financially able to attend a wedding that we couldn’t get any other value out of except witnessing the wedding, we would very likely still do it.

      (This might come out wrong, too…) I think you and your husband and I and mine just place different value on weddings and the meaning of the presence of the community. After all, you two eloped and we did the traditional church wedding with not one but two receptions so we could include more people. We just believe that bearing witness to the vows and celebrating with a couple at the start of their marriage is very important. When we got married we entered a covenant, and our community (at least those parts of it that have a similar view) participates in supporting our covenantal marriage, starting with witnessing it and continuing throughout the rest of our lives. Of course you can be part of a community that supports a marriage without witnessing the wedding, but I think it’s wonderful to be there are the inception to celebrate with them as well. It’s such a significant day for the bride and groom (well, those of them who believe it is) that we want to be part of it so we can remember it with them later on, especially when they encounter rough times. It’s not as romantic as eloping or having a very small intimate wedding – but there’s just another purpose.

      And just practically, we have missed out on attending weddings in the past because we couldn’t afford the flights, and it is a major regret. I rarely regret things that I have done but I have several regrets of things I didn’t do, chiefly missing out on important events in the lives of my friends and community.

      So I agree, in $ spent / minutes with the bride and groom, attending a large wedding is a pretty bad deal. But we just put so much weight on those particular minutes that we’re willing to spend (as little as possible) to experience them.

  8. cashrebel says:

    Making weddings into mini vacations is an awesome strategy, especially if they get married in a fun place. Another good tip for us single folks is to split one hotel room 4 ways with friends. It drops lodging costs down to aound $40 depending on the place
    cashrebel recently posted..How To Justify Buying A Brand New Car Every 5 Years

    1. Emily says:

      We have slept many people to a hotel room in the past, but now that we’re married we are willing to spring for privacy. 🙂

  9. Me and the BF have an out of town wedding coming up and we’re thinking of driving instead of flying because it’ll be way cheaper. But I don’t think there are any hostels where we’re going, it’s a super small town with a think one hotel so options are limited.

    1. Emily says:

      Sometimes the choices are really limited, but that can be good because that means everyone will stay there and the party can go on all weekend!

  10. Jose says:

    Your tips are good for any kind of travel in the states. We frequently go to Miami to help my parents. It’s a 14 hour trip from Fuquay NC. We drive it, the cost of airfare and a car rental are about three times what it costs in gas to drive. Since we need to go there several times a year it makes sense to drive. I have to admit that a 14 hour drive can be torturous!
    Jose recently posted..When Death Do You Part – Is Your Family Prepared?

    1. Emily says:

      We drove from Durham to Miami once (and back). It was a VERY long trip! Takes the whole day but flying taking a weirdly long time, too, so if you can spare the extra hours it’s worth it to drive.

  11. Leigh says:

    I’m going to an out-of-town wedding this summer. It is a local friend who is from out-of-state who plans on hosting a local reception. I have friends near the wedding location, so I’ll spend some time catching up with them as well. I probably wouldn’t have gone because of the second local reception and how expensive flights alone are (~$800 round trip), but I was able to snag flights on miles with only having to pay the taxes.

    I’m not sure if I’ll have another wedding to go this year yet or not. So far, I’m planning one big trip late in the year to Japan. I would probably work it into my budget if I was invited to more weddings and just pay less extra against the mortgage since I am saving so much and weddings are a one time thing for most couples. I have a feeling that I could have two out of town weddings to go to in 2014 or 2015, so it’s good to use the vacation time now for my own trips.
    Leigh recently posted..Updated Savings Plan

    1. Emily says:

      Wow, those are very expensive flights – I’m glad you were able to use your rewards. A few friends and family members flew out to our wedding ceremony and also attended the reception we hosted in their local area, and we thought that was very nice.

      It’s nice that you can look so far out to plan your travel. Weddings are our priority and while it’s definitely more common to have year+ engagements now, we still have many friends who get married within half a year of getting engaged, so that doesn’t give us much lead time.

  12. AverageJoe says:

    Wow, I’m SO glad that I don’t have any weddings to attend any time soon! I love your tips. I can’t think of anything to add, but really like the idea of coupling the wedding with a bigger vacation. For me, weddings aren’t usually restful or calming, and when I’ve had to go to an out of town wedding and then right back to work, it’s felt more like a job than a getaway.
    AverageJoe recently posted..Squeezing More From Your Vacation – Two Guys and Your Money #032

    1. Emily says:

      I agree that some wedding weekends are the opposite of restful – we’ve flown from NC to CA after work on a Friday for a Saturday wedding and taken a red-eye back on Sunday night to go to work on Monday morning on a couple occasions… We’re pretty useless that day! At least we do get Sunday to spend with family/friends in those cases.

  13. Pauline says:

    we share a hotel room with my sister or cousins if we don’t have family nearby. Since we only sleep for a few hours we don’t mind. If you book the room as soon as the wedding is announced you can get a great hotel rate.
    Pauline recently posted..Investing in farmland: my coconut investment

    1. Emily says:

      That’s a great option if you know other people going to the wedding, especially family. We are in the bad habit of only officially deciding to attend most weddings near the RSVP date (though we tend to go to them all, lately) so that isn’t exactly early to book.

  14. […] Pop from Planting Our Pennies suggested a completely different tactic on my post on spending less when attending out-of-town weddings: “This might not come out right, but for us one of the best ways to save money on out of town […]

  15. SarahN says:

    I have just started getting invites to out of town weddings – and this one is so remote, all the accommodation is a minimum of $300 a night! Shocking! And seeing it’s my friend, I don’t expect my BF to contribute to that cost at all. And we could drive home from there, but a 2hr drive after a night of drinking – well I wouldn’t want to do it. But you make some interesting points, for the next few

    1. Emily says:

      Maybe it’s worth it to take a cab back?? Or some other form of public transport? Or you could share a room with another couple people. Or it’s just worth it to pay!

      1. SarahN says:

        OH wow, I think a cab would definitely be more than a hotel room! And sadly I don’t know anyone at the wedding (well I didn’t til the Hen’s). But all worthy considerations, for sure!

  16. […] @ Evolving Personal Finance writes How to Spend Less When Attending Out-of-Town Weddings – I list all the strategies we use to spend less money when we attend out-of-town weddings. […]

  17. […] @ Evolving Personal Finance writes How to Spend Less When Attending Out-of-Town Weddings – I list all the strategies we use to spend less money when we attend out-of-town weddings. […]

  18. […] How to Spend Less When Attending Out-of-Town Weddings was featured in the Festival of Frugality #381. […]

  19. […] How to Spend Less When Attending Out-of-Town Weddings was featured in the Carnival of Money Pros and the Financial Carnival for Young Adults. […]

  20. That’s the good thing about out-of-town weddings. You get an excuse to travel and take a vacation. Even though it’s only for a couple of days, at least you get some days away from work.

    1. Emily says:

      It’s a nice little break! And we certainly see places we wouldn’t have gone to without the prompting, like Niagara Falls.

  21. […] How to Spend Less When Attending Out-of-Town Weddings […]

  22. […] Eric from Narrow Bridge Finance suggests several alternative lodging schemes that are cheaper than hotels (expands on my strategies for out-of-town weddings). […]

  23. […] How to Spend Less When Attending Out-of-Town Weddings […]

  24. […] WI from July 4 to July 7 for a wedding and to see some friends.  This trip was very different from the ones we usually take (like our recent trip to Boston) and really made me appreciate both styles of travel.  I really […]

  25. […] I wasn’t buying too much stuff just for the reason of frugality, and we were doing a lot of domestic travel to weddings that we really valued attending, so the idea seemed to support our lifestyle choices at the time. […]

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