Here’s the Average Wedding Guest Cost & How to Budget for It

Keep your balance in check this wedding season.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
by
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Jan 10, 2024

If you've attended a wedding, you know the price of being a guest adds up. From outfits to accommodation, there's a lot to consider. Since you'll need to set aside some cash, knowing the average wedding guest cost is crucial. This figure can determine how much you're required to spend, help you create a realistic budget and prioritize accordingly.

But of course, creating and sticking to a budget is easier said than done. That's why we've tapped finance and wedding planning experts for their professional advice for guests. With the help of our 2023 Guest Study, we break down the average cost per wedding guest, tips for protecting your financial well-being, money-saving tricks and what to do if you're not sure you can afford to attend. Gone are the days of asking, "How much does it cost to attend a wedding?" Use our most recent stats as your official finance survival guide for the 2024 wedding season.

In this article:

Average Wedding Guest Cost

Based on an internal study of 1,000 guests who attended at least one wedding in person in 2023, the average cost per wedding guest was $580—an increase of $120 compared to 2021.

The average wedding guest cost fluctuates depending on factors like location, the type of wedding and the guest's relation to the couple. The average guest spend for a wedding based in their hometown (that didn't require travel or lodging) was $250. The average cost to attend a destination wedding for those who drove out of town is approximately $680, and guests who flew to a wedding reported an average spend of $1,600.

Travel Costs

The location has the greatest impact on the cost of attending a wedding. Guests who needed to travel out of town for the wedding spent more because of increased costs on gas, flights and hotels. An additional cost added to the 2023 study was childcare, which is an average of $130 for traveling guests and $30 for in-town guests.

Accommodation Costs

When it came to finding accommodations, price is what guests prioritized––85% of people surveyed said price is the most important feature when deciding where to book their accommodations. Of the 63% of respondents who paid for accommodations, just over half stayed in a hotel, while 16% booked a vacation rental (like Airbnb or VRBO) and 8% chose to stay in a traditional bed-and-breakfast or inn.

Fun Fact: You don't have to stay in the hotel the to-be-weds suggest. Our study found that the main reasons guests didn't stay in the lodging recommended by the couple is because they wanted lower cost options or preferred to stay with friends/family.

Attire Costs

Our research revealed that finding attire for a wedding is a top challenge no matter the guest's travel method. This frustration has been negatively impacted by the current economy as well. 42% of respondents said their attire choices took a hit because the economy made them change what they're willing to spend.

Gift Costs

The average wedding gift spend is $150, which is $10 less than in previous years. This gift wedding cost per guest changes depending on the person's relationship with the happy couple. Close friends typically spend $170, family $160, wedding party members $160, a guest's date or plus-one $140 and a casual friend $130.

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When asked if the current economy affected the guest's gift choice, 28% said yes. What's interesting about that stat is of that 28%, 63% spent less on their gift while 15% spent more.

How to Prioritize Financial Wellness During Wedding Season

You should embrace the opportunity to celebrate the lovebirds in your life, but it's also important to protect your well-being as a wedding guest. This includes your financial goals and responsibilities. It's okay to splurge as long as you can comfortably afford to. If you're able to divert the cost of usual discretionary expenses like dining out to cover the cost of a wedding gift or your cab fare to and from the venue, even better.

Making a few swaps here and there can help you set a healthy budget that'll allow you to enjoy the wedding celebrations without putting other financial goals—such as saving for a home or paying off debt—on hold. Follow these tips for a wedding season with no surprises or financial worries.

Take stock of your finances.

Checking in with your savings goals, loan repayments and other financial commitments is essential before setting a budget to attend a wedding (or multiple weddings). Calculate how much money you can put toward wedding guest expenses after regular bills, savings and loan contributions. From there, you can determine if any adjustments need to be made.

Start saving early.

Prepare for your wedding guest expenses well in advance of the big day. "Use the first save the date as your cue to start saving money," advises Lauren Bringle, Accredited Financial Counselor at Self Financial. Since save-the-dates go out six to eight months before the nuptials (and even earlier for destination weddings), you'll have plenty of time to start putting money aside. Just $10 a week for six months will give you roughly $260.

Take advantage of credit card points.

The average wedding cost per guest doesn't have to be a scary number. Credit card points are an often-underutilized resource. Bringle suggests either saving up points to cover your wedding guest expenses or using them strategically so they serve you after the celebrations. They can go toward cashback for necessities or rewards points that help you take a lower-cost vacation later.

Keep on top of your budget.

If you're wondering how to lower the cost of attending a wedding, you have to stick to your budget. "Track your spending and make adjustments as needed," Allison Davis, wedding industry pro and Founder and Creative Director of Davis Row, says. Online services and apps like Mint, Monarch and YNAB can help you organize and track your finances. Don't despair if the original budget you set isn't working out—sit down, relax and reevaluate.

Make the most of your trip.

If you're spending money on flights and taking time off work to attend the couple's wedding, why not turn it into a vacation? Stay a few days after the nuptials to explore the area and unwind. You get to watch your loved ones tie the knot, and you'll score an awesome vacay—it's a win-win.

How to Attend a Wedding on a Budget

For many, budgeting to attend a wedding isn't as straightforward as putting some extra cash aside for a few months. Sometimes, it's necessary to make compromises or be more picky about our hard-earned dollars. Read up on these clever tips to save money on your wedding guest costs (without too many sacrifices).

Choose your attire wisely.

You don't have to buy a new outfit just because you got a wedding invitation. The easiest way to save money on your attire is by wearing something you already own—but that's not the only way. Davis suggests renting a wedding guest outfit instead of buying a new one. Or, as Bringle advises, you could do a clothing swap with friends to mix things up.

Don't leave things to the last minute.

"Waiting until right before the wedding for anything (flights, gifts, etc.) limits your options and could result in you paying more out of necessity," Bringle says. Instead, search for early deals on travel and accommodations. Look out for upcoming sales so you can score a great bargain.

Use the couple's registry to your advantage.

The couple should have options on their wish list for a variety of budgets. By using their registry to find a gift, you can give the couple something they want while spending within your means. Nowadays, many soonlyweds include experience and cash funds on their registries, where you can decide how much you want to give. "Even if it's just enough to cover a couple rounds of drinks or an excursion during the honeymoon, you know your gift will contribute to an experience they'll never forget," Bringle tells us. (Psst. Here's how to find a couple's wedding website, which most likely will have all their wedding registry information.)

Join forces with fellow wedding guests.

"When it comes to travel and accommodations, try to see what costs you can split with friends who are other guests," Davis suggests. "Maybe you synchronize your flights to split a ride from the airport or road trip to the destination together." Contributing to a group gift is also a great way to spoil the newlyweds with one of their big-ticket registry items (without taking on the hefty price tag yourself).

Plan for pre- and postwedding events.

If you're very close with one or both of the to-be-weds, you'll likely receive wedding shower and bach party invitations. You should factor these extra costs in when you receive your wedding invite. "Before responding to the invitation to attend or especially to participate as a wedding party member, consider if you can afford to invest the energy, time and money that's required," Nadia S. Anderson, Certified Public Accountant and Founder of Virginia Grace Events.

What to Do If You Can't Afford to Attend a Wedding

If your day-to-day financial responsibilities don't leave lots of wiggle room, you might wonder whether you can afford the average cost of attending a wedding. Before you decline the invitation, remember that the couple didn't invite you with the expectation of a gift or a trendy new outfit. They asked for your presence to share their special day with you.

If the wedding is local, see if you can shift some things around to attend. Prioritize the essentials, such as your travel to and from the venue. "I suggest that wedding guests focus on thoughtful ways to show and share love with the couple," Anderson says. If that means only showing up to the ceremony and reception, that's okay. Additionally, wedding gift etiquette permits you to send a present for up to two months after the wedding, so you can always mail the newlyweds your congratulations later.

For out-of-town weddings, declining the invite might be what's best for you and your financial situation. Sending your regrets should be handled lightly. "If you decide you can't afford to attend a wedding, send well wishes and warm thoughts for a lovely celebration as soon as you know that you can't attend," Anderson advises. You don't need to detail exactly why; knowing you can't afford to be there may add to the couple's stress. "I suggest sending a gift and encouraging note before the wedding date and plan to connect in person to celebrate the couple after the wedding," Anderson adds.

Naoimh O'Hare contributed to the reporting of this piece.

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