If you’ve ever been included in a wedding party, you probably had to spend a big chunk of money on everything that went into the day. From the outfit the couple requested you wear, to the pre-wedding getaway to any self-care activities the group did together on the wedding day, the costs can really add up. But even if you’re only participating as a guest, the occasion can get expensive quickly. If you’re curious about how much you should spend on a wedding if you aren’t in the wedding party, a couple of experts have some advice for what to expect.

First of all, the good news is that the exact number that you should spend is really different for everyone. Trish Simitakos, wedding planner and owner of Trish Star Events, tells Bustle that you should expect to shell out, “as a rule of thumb, 10 percent of your pre-tax weekly salary.” Someone who has a lot of financial obligations or who isn’t making a lot of money at the moment shouldn’t feel obligated to drop a large percentage of their income on the big day. “This is a wedding, not a fundraiser, and ultimately you ‘should’ be invited because the couple wants to share their celebration with you,” says Simitakos. With a little careful planning, you can find out what amount works for you specifically. “The key is to make a budget for yourself, and stick to it,” she says. “There are many creative ways to participate, without going broke.”

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So what kinds of things should you budget for? Any travel expenses and wedding gifts are probably the main two costs you’ll be incurring. If it’s a themed wedding, you may need to buy clothes for the occasion. But these obvious expenses aren’t the only ones, Simitakos says. “It’s the little things that can derail you, but don’t let it stop you. Just plan ahead.”

For example, if you’ll be staying away from home in order to attend the wedding, you’ll want to plan for the cost of eating in restaurants the entire time, rather that buying groceries. If you plan to get your hair or your nails done, that should go into the budget as well. Even taking time off from work, Simitakos says, could take a toll on your bank account if you won’t be using paid time off.

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Thinking outside the box can really save you some cash when it comes to buying gifts for a friend’s wedding. When you’re browsing for the perfect gift for the happy couple, browse the clearance section of a fancy home store to find the perfect special piece. Or, get even more innovative. “Did you know that big box retailers like Costco sell gift cards at a discount?” says Simitakos. “Typically, that is a 10 percent savings, but can be as high as 20 percent.” But don’t actually gift the card, she says — use it to purchase a gift for the couple getting married. “If you are really under a very tight budget, you might be surprised by the selection of items at your local antique, thrift, or consignment store,” she says. “Just make sure the item is current, and in great condition.”

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Even if you feel like buying a gift is out of the question for you at the moment or you just can’t budget for a wedding shower or party, don’t let this keep you from attending the ceremony itself. A simple heart-felt card or framed photo of you and your loved one who’s getting married is a perfect substitute for an expensive gift. If the couple is going on a post-wedding honeymoon, offer to babysit, petsit, or even plant-sit. “Go to the wedding, and only the wedding,” Elizabeth Tulipana, owner and founder of Anticipation Events, tells Bustle. “It’s the most important of all of the events.”

If you truly want to attend the wedding of a friend or family member, just do your best to save a little money here and there in the months leading up to the event. But don’t be afraid to show up without a store-bought wedding gift or a brand new outfit. Your presence is probably the only thing that matters to the happy couple.



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