Smart Consumer: Why wedding invites don't have to spell trouble for the guests...
For the couple, it's the happiest day of their lives -- but for the guests, it can be a real strain, writes Lisa Jewell
You've just been invited to a couple's big day and while you're flattered to have been included, you can't help thinking about the costs involved.
It's a sensitive subject -- especially if you're invited to a lot of weddings in quick succession. Smart Consumer knows of a couple who were invited to nine weddings in one year and eventually had to turn down the ninth invite because of budgetary problems.
A survey by Halifax bank earlier this year showed that the typical wedding guest spends €515 and attends two weddings a year. That means shelling out a total of €1,030 a year on witnessing friends or relatives tying the knot.
But if money is tight, how can you still attend a wedding but save a few bob?
1 Well, let's start with the biggest expense on the list -- what about accommodation?
The easiest way to save money here is to stay in your own bed rather than a hotel bed. If the wedding is less than an hour's drive away, you could organise a taxi, which would work out a lot cheaper than a night's accommodation.
If it's a little bit longer of a drive, you could be radically un-Irish and not drink at the wedding.
"It's worth considering -- you can save a fortune by not staying over and to be honest, most of the time you stay in accommodation for a wedding, you don't get to appreciate it," says Lisa Treanor, who is a bride-to-be and has her own blog, www.brideandjoy.ie.
"You're up for breakfast the next day and then you're gone."
If the wedding is further away from home or overseas, you won't have any choice but to book accommodation. But there are still ways to economise.
"Check out the group purchasing sites that have popped up over the last year," says Lisa.
"You may not get accommodation in the hotel where the wedding is but there may be deals nearby. Also, don't assume that the guest rate you're given by a hotel is the best rate -- look at hotel booking websites to see if you can get a better deal."
Another good idea is to look into sharing a cottage or apartment type accommodation with friends or family.
For example, Markree Castle in Collooney, Co Sligo, charges €130 for a double room with breakfast for an upcoming Saturday-evening stay in September.
But if you were to stay in one of their Homefarm Cottages for one night, the total cost would be €260 for a three-bedroom cottage that sleeps six to seven people.
If you're sharing accommodation with friends, see if you can carpool for the trip down. With the rising costs of petrol, you could easily save €60 to €80 by sharing transport.
And while some people are still snobby about staying in a B&B, it offers great value.
For example, one night's stay at the Lyrath Estate Hotel in Kilkenny for an upcoming Saturday-evening in September costs €180 for a deluxe double room with breakfast included. A room in the nearby Dunromin B&B costs €30-38 per person per night.
Total saving: Up to €150-200
2 Okay, but what about the really important stuff -- like what to wear to the wedding?
This is much more of a vital issue for women than it is for men, who can usually wear the same suit to dozens of weddings (only having to change their tie to make it look different!)
It's possible to get a decent-looking suit for a good price -- for example, Marks and Spencer's cheapest suit on sale in Ireland comes in at €80 and they also do a tuxedo version for the same price. If it's formal evening-wear at the wedding, it makes sense to hire out the suit as you won't be wearing it in your daily life.
The same applies to ladies who need a frock for a super-fancy wedding. Divine Boutique in Malahide and Maynooth started hiring out full-length dresses a couple of years ago when staff realised that less women were buying them but wanted to hire them instead. Costs start at €80 up to €150 to hire a dress that would retail for around €500-600.
"Women feel they can't wear the same dress if the same group of friends are at the weddings they attend," says Amy Croffey.
"But you can wear the same outfit if there are different people at each wedding.
"A lot of women are using innovative ways to get more out of their outfit -- dressing it up or down with different accessories."
Unfortunately the advent of Facebook pictures means you're more likely to be spotted wearing the same dress to more than one wedding.
You can also find out what wedding outfits your friends have and swap clothes between you.
Total saving: Up to €300
3What about the beautifying process -- how can I still look drop-dead gorgeous on a budget?
"This is one way you can definitely cut back on costs," says Lisa Treanor. "There are lots of styling products like straighteners which mean you can do a good job on your own hair.
"There are tutorials on YouTube on how to do upstyles but it's a good idea to try them out a couple of days in advance."
Most other beauty routines can be done at home for little or no cost, including nail-painting, false tan and make up.
Total saving: Up to €80
4How can I avoid that morning after the night before when I realise how much I spent at the bar?
Only bring along enough money that you've budgeted to spend on drink and don't bring your credit or debit card -- otherwise you'll be using your liquidity to buy liquids.
Don't get dragged into buying rounds and alternate soft drinks or water with your alcoholic drinks -- it will save you money and save you from a bad hangover!
Total saving: Up to €70/80
5But what about that all-important wedding gift -- how can I cut back on that without looking like a cheapskate?
It's a difficult one alright -- you do need to factor in that the wedding couple have spent a lot on their big day including the cost of feeding and entertaining you.
Having said that, though, couples do have reasonable expectations of what their guests can afford and it's okay to spend less than you might have done in the Celtic Tiger years.
"People aren't giving as much as they used to -- the average would have been €200 from a couple but now they're cutting back to around €150 or less," says Amy.
"A lot of couples would prefer a cash gift or a voucher as they've already got a lot of home wares by the time they get married.
"It is slightly easier to give a lesser value present if there is a wedding gift list as there are different priced presents on it."
Lisa says, "A new trend is being able to contribute money towards a couple's honeymoon.
"It's something that they'll really enjoy and it's a good option if they don't want to get too many practical gifts.
"We've all heard the stories about the couple who got 15 toasters!"
Companies that offer this 'honeymoney' facility include Sunway Holidays and Shandon Travel.
Total saving: Around €50-€100