Did you know that October is the most popular month to get married? And that September is a close second? It’s true, according to TheKnot.com. May and June used to take the cake, but now, as summer fades, we’re heading into the heart of wedding season.

A recent Bankrate survey revealed that the average Gen Z and millennial wedding guest will spend about $1,200 this year on wedding-related travel, gifts, attire and grooming. Gen Xers ($974) and baby boomers ($667) came in a bit less, mostly because they’re planning to attend fewer nuptials.

If you’re a member of the wedding party, chances are that you’ll spend considerably more than those averages. Or if you have a lot of friends getting hitched — I’ve spoken with some popular people who are invited to 10 or more weddings this year. Our survey didn’t include bachelor/bachelorette parties or bridal showers, either, so make sure to account for those costs if you’re lucky enough to score an invite.

Or unlucky, as the case may be

Interestingly, our survey results suggest that a wedding invite may not always be a welcome occurrence, especially financially. More than a third of 2023 wedding guests that we surveyed (36 percent) said they planned to be more conservative with their spending due to the state of the economy. Some 21 percent said the costs associated with attending a wedding will strain their budgets, and the same percentage indicated they feel pressured to spend more than they’re comfortable.

While 18 percent admitted that they’re likely to take on credit card debt in order to be present, I fear the true cost will be much higher than that. For instance, 47 percent of credit cardholders (35 percent of all U.S. adults) already have credit card debt. I don’t want to tell people they can’t have any fun, but the truth is, if you have credit card debt, anything you buy is adding to that burden — directly or indirectly. With credit card balances and rates both at record highs, it’s advisable to avoid this high-cost debt if at all possible.

But that doesn’t have to mean skipping the event(s) entirely. Start by drawing up a good wedding budget, especially if you’re at an age when a lot of friends and relatives are getting married.

There are plenty of ways to save money on wedding costs

  • Redeem your unused gift cards. We found about half of U.S. adults have unused gift cards, and the average value is $187 per person. You could buy a wedding gift with one of your unused gift cards, or you could potentially give the newlyweds the card. You could even use it yourself to offset wedding-related costs related to travel, attire and so on.
  • Similarly, take advantage of your credit card rewards, frequent flyer miles and hotel points. You might be sitting on a stockpile of potential value that you could use to travel to the festivities for free (or close to it).
  • Also, if you’re traveling out of town for a wedding, consider tacking on a few days and making that your vacation, rather than racing in and out for the wedding and incurring costs and stress without getting a real break.
  • Choose carefully: If you’re being asked to travel for a bridal shower, a bachelorette party and the wedding and you can’t squeeze all three into your budget, consider picking the one or two events you’ll find most meaningful.
  • Cut your clothing budget by repurposing pieces you already have, shopping at a thrift store or renting your attire.
  • Go in on a group gift instead of buying something on your own. Pooling resources can help you afford something more expensive that the happy couple would appreciate, and it can lessen the scrutiny on how much each individual contributed.

Finally, sometimes the best RSVP is a polite “sorry, I can’t make it.” If attending is too much of a stretch financially or logistically, you can probably bow out. Try to do so without harming the relationship and consider sending a small gift to show your appreciation.

The bottom line

A mailbox full of wedding invitations can be a good problem to have, but there can also be real consequences, such as accumulating credit card debt, feeling pressure to overspend and tying up a lot of your vacation time. Employ these strategies to enjoy the festivities without the financial hangover.

Have a question about credit cards? E-mail me at ted.rossman@bankrate.com and I’d be happy to help.