By Christine DiGangi/Credit.com
As Vince Vaughn's "Wedding Crashers" character famously asks, "Which do you like better? Christmas or wedding season?" Better question: Which is more expensive?
If you're attending more than one this year, weddings can be more costly than the holidays. It doesn't have to be that way, but you need to take time to set aside the excitement of receiving a wedding invitation and consider how the event fits into your social and financial bandwidth. You should be confident in your decision to attend (or not) when you RSVP.
Do you have to travel?
Going to an out-of-town wedding involves more than a night in a hotel. Depending on the day, time and location of the nuptials, you could be looking at a very costly trip. Here are a few of the costs you may have to budget for when going out of town:
Taking time off work
Meals while traveling
Attire (if traveling to a place with weather conditions very different from your home)
A lot of these expenses can be reduced by good planning: The best time to shop for plane tickets is about six weeks from your travel dates. You may be able to ask a friend or family member to watch your children or pets; and if you have friends or family who live near the wedding, you can ask to stay with them instead of in a hotel.
Are you bringing someone?
There's a lot to consider when inviting a "plus one" (first, make sure you've been given the option), not least of which is cost. If you ask a significant other or good friend to accompany you to a wedding, talk about expectations when extending the invitation. If you're traveling, perhaps you offer to cover the hotel room if the other person pays for his or her plane ticket. It all depends on the relationship, but asking someone to come with you shouldn't turn into an awkward financial situation.
Also, if you're attending as a couple, you should give a gift that reflects that, said Jodi R.R. Smith, an etiquette expert. The gift should come from both of you, but your date shouldn't have to contribute.
Because bringing a "plus one" could increase the cost of your attendance, make sure you really want to bring that person. Smith suggests contacting the couple and asking if the crowd will be mostly couples (in which case you'd likely want company), or if there will be other singles to chat with. If you'll have plenty of people to hang out with going alone, it may be worth saving the money.
Don't forget about gifts
Whether or not you go to the wedding, you should send a gift. Three factors determine how much you should spend:
First, you set your spending limits based on your budget, not on the lavishness of the wedding or anyone else's expectations, Smith said.
Second, decide whether you're going. If you're not going, it's appropriate to spend a little bit more on the gift: Consider the money you're saving by not attending, and perhaps you'll realize you can spend a bit more on whatever you send to the newlyweds. If you're going, the expenses associated with attending should also impact how much you spend. Even if you're incredibly close to the couple and want to give them an expensive gift, you may have to be more frugal in this area after spending money to travel to their wedding.
Finally, your relationship with the couple plays a very important role in how much you feel you should spend on their gift. You don't need to spend a lot of money on an acquaintance, but you don't need to break the bank for your sister, either. Smith said you should think of what you've contributed overall: Have you given a gift for a couple's wedding shower or engagement party? Factor those costs into what you budget for the wedding gift.
Don't be afraid to think outside the box, either.
"The stricter your budget, the more creative you need to be," Smith said. She also had a very firm rule when it comes to attending weddings: Never go into debt. Not only is it financially burdensome, it can have long-term credit implications (you can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com to get a picture of how debt affects you) and you don't want to taint a wonderful thing like a friend's wedding with resentment.