NEW YORK - Weddings are expensive, even if you're not the one walking down the aisle.
Chantay Bridges expects to spend more than $4,000 to attend the weddings of three close friends this summer.
That tidy sum is going to dresses, shoes and gifts, as well as tuxedo rentals for her husband. Two of the weddings also require plane tickets and hotel stays. But there are still more costs she can't plan for yet, such as spa days, spontaneous group dinners or other events that are likely to happen as the big day gets closer.
"It's really hard to figure out all the expenses," says Bridges, a real estate agent in Los Angeles. "Stuff comes up all the time."
Being invited to a wedding can put a major dent in your finances. Ditching the wedding often is not an option. New outfits and cash-stuffed envelopes add up. So does the cost of travelling to out-of-town celebrations. But advance planning can help you from going broke.
"I'm big on relationships. I have to be a part of their big day," says Bridges. "You can always make more money."
Bridges has been putting away $400 a month since save the date cards started rolling in.
"I said, 'Oh my God, we actually have to save up for this.'"
Saving should start even before the invitation hits your mailbox. Begin when a close friend or family member gets engaged, says Kelley Long, a Chicago-based certified public accountant and member of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission.
Don't forget to set aside money for expenses beyond the main event. You may need funds for wedding shower gifts or trips for bachelorette or bachelor parties, says Long. If you can't afford them, don't feel obligated to go, but let the bride or groom know early that money is tight.
And when weddings are out of town, ask the couple to be married if they know anyone with a spare bedroom who could host you, says Long. Or rent a house with other guests, instead of staying at a hotel, says Kevin Kautzmann, a certified financial planner at EBNY Financial in New York. If that's not an option, try looking for cheaper alternatives than the hotel the soon-to-be newlyweds selected.
A side job is helping Jackie Murtha pay for the six weddings she's going to this year. The Cranford, New Jersey, teacher tutors two or three times a week and will use that money to pay for the weddings. She expects to spend more than $4,000 on dresses, cash gifts and overnight bachelorette parties.
If you have more than one event to go to, Kautzmann recommends wearing the same outfit more than once to save money.
But that may be harder to do in the age of Facebook and Instagram. "You don't want to be seen in the same dress twice in pictures," Lauren Lorenzo, a publicist at New York public relations company LKPR, who has four weddings to go to this summer.
Instead, she scoured sale racks for dresses. She bought three for a total of $150 at a department store, using a coupon. She will have less control over the cost of a bridesmaid dress she has to buy for one of the weddings.
Still, she expects to spend $3,000 this summer on weddings.
Lorenzo has cut down on going out and stopped herself from a buying a purse she wanted.
"It's a rough time trying to save all that money," she says.