This is the third in a four-part series on paying for life’s milestones.We have discussed how to save money on throwing and attending birthday parties. Next week, we’ll explore how to save on funerals.


Saving money on your wedding day is easy. The courthouse couldn’t be a cheaper venue. But how do you save on the weddings of friends and colleagues? The costs add up quickly.

“We found that gifts, on average, run around over $100, and the cost is higher if it’s a close friend’s wedding,” said Kristin Koch, senior editor of the “On average, people spend $75 on attire and over $300 on travel. Destination weddings can run close to $1,000.” estimates that 40 percent of wedding guests are out-of-towners, and almost a quarter of all weddings are destination weddings, making costs of attending even higher.

People are also spending more on wedding wardrobes. “It is amazing how much people spend to attend weddings,” said Jennifer Hyman, co-founder and chief executive of Rent the Runway, a membership Web site that rents designer dresses and accessories. “You used to be able to buy one outfit and wear it to a few weddings. But now that photos are instantly on Facebook, you can’t do that anymore.”

Experts weigh in on how to keep costs down on your friends’ big days.


Rent your attire

Much like the bride, women often want new dresses for the occasion. But why buy a dress when you can rent it for as low as 10 percent of the cost of buying? In April, Rent the Runway launched its Weddings Boutique, which helps guests plan outfits for all the bridal events: brunches, showers, rehearsal dinners and the big day. The company also supplies free stylists who will plan outfits based on size, style, color and occasion. Renting dresses and accessories saves time and money, particularly for a bridesmaid tasked with finding her own gown in a particular color.


We forget that people are so busy judging the bride’s dress that they’re bound to forget about yours. Dress up something in your closet with vintage or rented accessories. The same goes for men: Most are lucky enough to own a suit they can wear again and again, but investing in vintage ties or using a service such as Tie Society, a Netflix-styled company that rents ties for a monthly fee, will defray costs during a long wedding season.


Plan ahead

As with all travel, plan ahead. Don’t wait for the save the dates to arrive. Look for flights and hotels the minute the Facebook announcement goes up. And don’t wait for the bridal party to supply information on where to stay or how to get there. You can often find a cheaper route on your own.

Avoid expensive lodging

It might be tempting to stay with the bridal party, but you can almost always find a less expensive alternative a few miles away. For lodging, consider using, a Web site that matches travelers with people willing to rent rooms or apartments on the short term. If you’re traveling alone, ask the bridal party to supply you with a list of other singles who might be interested in sharing a room.

Car rental alternatives

If you need to rent a car, consider peer-to-peer car-rental alternatives such as RelayRides. For singles, Koch recommends finding a friend or acquaintance before the wedding who is willing to share the rental car.


Know when to splurge

How much should you spend on a wedding gift? According to, the average cost of a gift for a family member is $146. Gifts for friends are significantly less at $79. And the age-old adage of price per plate as a measure for how much to spend no longer applies. “We use a 60-20-20 rule: Spend 60 percent on wedding, 20 percent on shower and 20 percent on engagement party,” Koch said. recommends $75-$100 for a co-worker, $100-$120 for a friend and $100-$150 for a close friend or family. But the value of what you buy isn’t always the same as the cost. See the next tip.

Get there first and game the registry

Be the first one to sign up for items on a registry, and be strategic. Choose an item you know you can find cheaper elsewhere. There’s no rule that just because you sign up for something on a registry that you must purchase it from that store. Get the brand and size details, and find it online from a discount retailer. Some stores will update the registry to show the item has been purchased. If not, tell the bride and groom so they can update it. Going online almost always saves money.

THE BOTTOM LINE Plan ahead to avoid exorbitant costs by stocking up on gifts, shopping around the registry and not spending on clothes you could rent or reuse. For destination weddings, remember that there’s no harm in sending your regrets (and a gift) if costs are too high.

End-of-April Sales on Shrubs, Books and Men’s Shirts

Shop the plant sale at Landon School next weekend for deals on azaleas ($40-$200), herbs and vegetables ($2.50 each), and wildflowers and perennials (quart-size pots from $6 to $9). Don’t miss the indoor shop for home and garden items, gifts and jewelry from more than 50 boutiques, including Dalton Pratt and Coco Blanca. Proceeds benefit student financial assistance programs at Landon. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday. 6101 Wilson Lane, Bethesda.

Through Thursday, seize your favorite book at Carpe Librum. The District’s largest used book sale helps fund educational programs for D.C. public school children and their families. Choose from more than 40,000 books, music and movies at the pop-up sale. Hardcovers are $4, trade paperbacks and CDs, $3, and DVDS, $4. 1030 17th St. NW. 11 a.m.-5 p.m Sunday; 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday.

Charles Tyrwhitt, British menswear specialist, has set up shop in the District. Stock up on shirts with its four-for-$199 offer. Pick among stripes, checks, gingham and solids in three cuts — slim, tailored and classic. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. 1000 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-594 -3529.

Eisenhower Consignment will celebrate its one-year anniversary Saturday. Look for buys on jewelry and art. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 4950-C Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria. 703-304-7845.

— Janet Bennett Kelly