Receiving a gorgeous wedding invitation in the mail is thrilling, and it’s an honor to be chosen to celebrate such a special occasion. But along with those good feelings come some worries: How will you afford the travel, gifts, outfits and other expenses associated with being a wedding guest? Here are nine smart ways to help you stay on (or under) budget.

1. Buy a group gift

When you pool your money with friends to buy a wedding gift, you can actually spend less; for example, let’s say the bride and groom really want a camping tent that’s on their registry. Buying it on your own would be out of the question, but buying it with five pals? Suddenly the gift that was too pricey costs less per person than what you’d intended to spend on a single gift. It’s a win-win!

2. Don’t wait to hit the registry

If you wait until the last minute to buy a gift, you’ll find what’s left are the extremes (the $15 pot-holder set and the $400 espresso maker). Look early and you’ll have choices in your price range, and you won’t end up spending more than you intended.

3. Don’t overdo it on gift buying

Weddings often come with multiple parties leading up to the main event. But don’t feel the need to bring a gift to every soiree. If you’re invited to an engagement party, there’s no need to buy a gift, unless it’s customary with your crowd. If you’re invited to multiple showers for the same bride, pick which shower is most important and bring a gift just to that one.

4. Provide a service

Do you have a skill that could translate into a wedding gift? Offering to do hair and makeup, or designing save-the-dates or invitations is a great way to offer your time and talent,” says Tionna Van Gundy, owner and lead wedding planner at Wedicity, a Chicago planning company. “It could save the couple hundreds of dollars,” and save you a bundle too. But only make an offer if you’re truly proficient. Lots of people love to bake, but unless you’ve been formally trained, don’t offer up a buttercream fantasy. Otherwise, you’re likely to wind up with more tears than tiers.

5. Make a gift

“If you are crafty, DIY your wedding gift,” suggests Van Gundy. “A handmade gift from the heart is always better than buying a blender off of a registry!” Some ideas: a framed photo you took of the bride and groom, decorative pillows for their new couch, a wood bench.

6. Take advantage of travel discounts

If enough of their wedding guests need to buy plane tickets and reserve rooms, the bride and groom will often arrange for them to be eligible for reduced group rates. Look on the couple’s wedding website for details, or ask if they’ve arranged any special deals.

7. Book airfare early

If there’s no group discount to take advantage of, don’t delay in making your plane reservations. Fares will likely creep up the closer you get to the wedding date.

8. Get a roommate

“Split hotel room costs with a few friends who will also be attending the wedding weekend,” says Van Gundy. “Also, look into nearby Airbnb rentals —rates can be significantly less expensive if a small group rents a house or condo together.”

9. Be fashion savvy

Keep a little black dress or neutral-toned dress in your closet, says Van Gundy. “Instead of purchasing a new dress for every wedding you attend, break out that dress and mix it up with fun accessories!”

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