Here are two thoughts on wedding season, just now on the horizon. Both may provide some conflict to wedding guests this year.
1. It's wonderful to see two people stand up in front of friends and family, and declare their love and commitment to one another. Toss in a sunny spring day, plenty of food and drink, and the happy couple toasting their good luck with loved ones on hand - well, it really doesn't get much better than that.
2. Weddings are unfortunately expensive for nearly everyone involved (the five-year-old ring bearer gets off pretty easy, but that's about it). If you're invited to a wedding this year, you'll spend, on average, $703 per wedding on things like airfare, gifts and clothing, according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. So, go to three weddings this year and you're looking at over $2,000 to wish the newly married couple well.
"While being part of a wedding party is an honor, the pre-events and day-of costs can add up," said Jed Scala, senior vice president, consumer lending at American Express. "On the upside, the 'big day' itself can provide guests with a reason to indulge, enjoy a night out and even travel if it's a destination wedding."
But if you live in, say Phoenix, there's really not much you can do about buying a plane ticket to a wedding in Philadelphia - if you want to go, you've got to pay the price. Ditto the $200 or so you may spend on a new dress or tuxedo rental.
But where you can save money on is in the gifting department. With a little foresight and creativity, you can give the happy bride and groom a nice, thoughtful gift without breaking the bank.
Where to start? How about somewhere practical, like in the bathroom, wedding experts say.
"Buy very nice bath towels," says Mark Wilcox, editor at WeddingIntro.com. "Aim for towels that are super soft and plush and durable. They are like buying Starbucks - an affordable luxury. And since they will be used regularly, towels are a constant reminder of your relationship with the married couple."
Make it personal, Wilcox advises. "Go to Zazzle.com," he says. "They specialize in making affordable and personalized items. While I often recommend them for wedding preparation like invitations, they are an under-used resource for gifts."
To really save cash, roll up your sleeves and create the gift yourself. "This is your moment to show your friends how much you care," notes Luvleen Sidhu, co-founder and chief strategy officer at BankMobile. "Create a vision, try and make a personalized champagne flutes, or engrave a wine box. Maybe even paint a wooden plaque with the date of the wedding or a common interest the couple shares, like, 'We interrupt this marriage to bring you football season.' The more creative you get the more the married couple sees that you really took the time to tailor the gift to them."
Teaming up on a big gift can not only cut costs, but also gives the loving couple a household gift they really need.
"I work with national furniture chain called Nadeau and we've seen a trend recently in people coming in and chipping in to buy a couch or large piece and then others coming in and buying pillows," says Jenna Menking, partner and chief executive officer at the Gotham Group in New York City. "That way, the gift becomes something used daily and provides a constant reminders of the givers."
"We've especially seen a trend in our southern stores," she adds. "We've also seen people do the pillows on Zazzle with messages to go with the furniture."
Or how about this? Simply take something you basically already have, and turn it into a wonderful, low-cost wedding gift. "I recently received some pretty exciting news that my big sister just recently got engaged," says Kara Brook, founder of Waxing Kara, a honey products retailer in Owings Mills, Md. "My sister is the Tina Fey to my Amy Pohler, and I thought that this would be a perfect occasion for a honey gift to complement her sparkly new ring, which is what I do. So in reality, my 'Bride to Bee' gift is really inspired by my amazing sister."
As long as it's a gift from the heart, and chosen carefully, a wedding gift shouldn't really be valued by a price tag, anyway. Think about that the next you go wedding present shopping, and then spend accordingly.