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How to Budget for Your Friend’s Wedding Across the Country

Mar 13, 2018 - Posted by: Kelly Fleiner

As a Montanan, I feel we make most of our friends in Montana and stay in Big Sky Country for the entirety of our lives. We love it here and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Even when it is -22 degrees outside and there are a few feet of snow on the ground, we know summer is coming which makes it all bearable. But what about those friends we meet along the way who aren’t from The Treasure State and live scattered around the country or even the world?

For those of us who are of the “wedding summer” age, I am sure you know how expensive it can be to attend several weddings in one summer but what about those for which you need travel? There are even more expenses and it can add up quickly. I will personally make a trek to the east coast this September for a dear friend’s wedding in Maine and I could not be more excited. Expense aside, it should be a memorable trip to celebrate one of my favorite people marrying the love of her life.

So, how is a thirty-something who works full-time, owns a home, has three dogs and a husband, going to afford traveling across the country for six days?  Well, I will share my favorite tricks for hacking travel and how you can budget for a similar event.  

Planning Ahead

First off, give yourself time. I am lucky; my friend has had a long engagement so it gives the bridal party and guests plenty of time to save for the expense.  The farther out you can plan, the better. This will allow you to save more money and really create a good plan for all expenses associated with the wedding. 

Secondly, purchase your attire early. I have purchased my bridesmaid dress in March, and the wedding is not until the end of September. Again, this allows you more time to absorb the expense. Thankfully, most brides today realize how expensive wedding attire can be and usually find dresses around $100. If you save $50 from two paychecks, you have paid for your wedding apparel.  


Now the actual travel part is probably going to be the most expensive. Living in Montana, we know the most expensive part of traveling is getting out of state. We are flying which can be SUPER expensive. The On The Fly App has become my best friend as well as KAYAK.  Both allow you flexible dates and search for the lowest fare available. KAYAK even allows you to request an alert so you know when the cheapest flight is available. You can also use Google Flights to alert you and it links everything to your Gmail account. My final suggestion for airfare is to use American Express Travel. You can use this even if you are not a member and they find the best deals not only on airfare but also hotels and rental cars. 


Hotels, especially on the east coast, are expensive. Your priority is to find out whether the bride and groom have reserved a “block” of rooms somewhere. These rooms are generally at the wedding venue and because the couple has guaranteed so many rooms, they are usually offered at a discount. I highly recommend going this route, but be sure to make reservations early. The blocks often fill up quickly and have a cut-off date. Other options for lodging, while you are traveling for a wedding, are Airbnb or VRBO. The concept can seem a little weird to those who are most comfortable staying in a hotel, but I love to Airbnb.  I generally reserve an entire home (for privacy) and share the expense with another couple or friends who are attending.  We are going to use an Airbnb in Boston for two nights and share the cost with my friend and her husband.  We will each enjoy our own king size bedroom and private bathroom for significantly less than a hotel room would cost.

Rental Cars

Rental cars can be a major part of your travel expense as well. I personally love to have my own car when I travel for a wedding in case the bride and groom need a last-minute errand and everyone else is tied up. It makes for convenient travel and a way for you to have your space when needed. I have had luck with Expedia and American Express Travel when I rent cars.  I recommend checking your personal car insurance policy to determine your rental car coverage; you may not need to purchase the rental car company’s insurance. Also, most major credit card companies offer rental car insurance so if you make your reservation with a credit card, you are probably covered there as well.

Food and Drinks

Finally, food and drinks can be a MAJOR expense for any type of travel but especially for a wedding. So how do we budget for these items?  I will tell you, whatever you think you are going to spend, double it. No, I am kidding. Set your budget and stick to it. Use Groupon and Google Trips to find the best deals on restaurants and happy hours. I also recommend purchasing some alcohol in bulk to have in your room so you are not constantly paying for alcoholic beverages from the venue. This goes for bottled water and snacks as well.  Hit the grocery store and stock up. You will save money and have a happy crew.

The best advice I can give you about budgeting for wedding travel is to start early and research.  The more time you spend discovering the ins and outs of the area you are traveling to, the better you can budget. Also, anything you can prepay do it!  It will leave you more money for other fun things when you get to your destination.  Congratulations to anyone who is celebrating a friend’s wedding soon, it is truly a wonderful experience.

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