Personal Finance

Wedding bells don’t have to ring ‘cha-ching’

Wedding season always seems to break the bank... no matter your age. Last year, I counted up how much I spent on wedding and bridal shower gifts, and I was blown away by the total amount.

But does it really have to be this way? A combination of proper etiquette and good ideas can alleviate some of this burden. For example, here’s a tip that may not be obvious to everyone: giving the bride (and/or groom) a gift at a shower doesn’t necessarily mean you need to buy another one for the wedding. (Yes, this is what the etiquette experts say!)

Here’s another etiquette reminder: You have up to 12 months after the wedding to give your gift. If it’s not in the budget the week of the wedding, put $5 or $10 aside each week or month until you can afford the gift you want to give. (It will make for a nice surprise when the happy couple receives a surprise gift after the wedding.) If you want to have it on the wedding day, plan ahead and do the same. Typically invitations are sent six to eight weeks before the wedding, giving you plenty of time to save.

When it comes to what to give, I always honor and buy what is on their registry. This way I know I am getting them exactly what they want.

But let’s be honest… I am not the only person who has waited until the week of the wedding and all the reasonably priced items are already checked off the list! Then what?

That is when I consider giving a cash gift or a gift card to one of the places they have registered. For me and my husband, the cash we received helped us afford the rest of the things on our registry that were not purchased. And for one of my friends, this money went towards paying for her honeymoon.

Then there’s always the option of going in with friends on one of those bigger-ticket items like a Dyson vacuum or KitchenAid mixer. Ask other couples how much they want to spend and if they would be okay splitting the cost of an item. If they say yes, then comb the registries for what you can afford. This will allow you to give a top-of-the-line gift without the over-the-top price tag.

Finally, I know many readers are avid DIYers. I’ve seen some awesome and very affordable alternatives that have left the bride and groom speechless. (Pinterest has seriously changed the game in terms of DIY gifts.) Here are a few ideas:

Make a homemade gift

. I could devote a whole blog to different ideas, but here’s one that stands out. At a wedding last summer, the bridesmaids co-wrote a poem they read at the rehearsal dinner. They printed and framed this as their gift – personal and very touching.

Commemorate the couple

. Did they meet at a Royals game, a Halloween party, or do you have a great photo taken during memorable times together? Frame the occasion, and they’ll remember it — and you — forever.

Let it grow

. One of the coolest gifts I’ve seen is a small tree sapling to plant at the couple’s first home. Is there anything more fitting?

As with any purchase, thinking and planning ahead is the best way to avoid a heavy blow to your gift budget. And although the gift is nice, remember the happy couple will be thrilled just having you there to celebrate the big day and create long-lasting memories…you can’t put a price tag on that.

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click