Be a wedding guest for less

If you're at an age when friends or friends' children are getting hitched, then you'll be all too aware how much these celebrations can set you back.

A recent survey by American Express has revealed that guests in the UK spend on average £470 on each wedding - that's nearly a third of the average monthly income. When it comes to the wedding gift, the poll found that people spend on average £74, with Londoners being the most generous and splurging £95 on a present.

Here are a few ways to keep your wedding guest budget down.

What to wear

Buying an outfit for a wedding could be your biggest expense – even if you plump for high street rather than designer clothes. But you can save money by hiring an outfit. That way, you can wear this season's designer dresses at a fraction of the retail price, you'll never be seen in the same outfit twice and you don't have to worry about the dry-cleaning bill.

GirlMeetsDress.com has a dedicated section on its website for wedding guests.  Outfits on the website at the time of going to press include a Diane Von Furstenberg lace dress, which retails at £275, on hire for £49, and an Amanda Wakeley long black gown, retailing at £995, on hire for £109. The usual hire period covers Friday to Monday, or you can pay £10 more for a seven-day hire. You can borrow three dresses initially and just pay for the one you wear.

Wishwantwear.com offers a similar service and you can narrow down your dress search by putting in your body type - hour-glass or pear-shaped, for instance.

Both sites hire out accessories, with hats and fascinators starting from £20. For a wider range of hats to hire, try Get Ahead Hats, which has more than 4,500 designer hats in 18 showrooms, with prices starting at £45.

Buying dresses secondhand or at discount prices is another way to keep costs down. Take a look at eBay for both new and secondhand dresses, while TK Maxx offers designer labels for up to 60% less than the RRP.

If you like charity-shop prices but don't fancy rummaging through the clothes in store, Oxfam's online shop (oxfam.org.uk) includes brand-new dresses and shoes, plus a more limited range of suits, shirts and shoes for men.

For style on a budget, accessorise a dress you've worn before in a different way with jewellery, new shoes or a pashmina.

"With guest wear, it's worth checking on the high street and certainly worth buying a well-fitting, understated basic dress and then going to town on statement-making accessories," says Susi Rogol, editor of Bridal Buyer magazine.

For a black tie event, the question is whether to hire or buy a dinner suit, complete with cummerbund, bow tie and formal shirt.

"I normally recommend that customers requiring black tie outfits more than three times a year invest in buying a dinner suit," says Dave Shaw, spokesperson for Moss Bros.

The starting price for hiring a jacket, trousers, shirt, bow tie and cummerbund at Moss Bros is £55 for a single day's hire but assuming the wedding is on a Saturday, you can generally collect your outfit on Thursday and return it on Monday. Dinner suits to buy start at £149 including a two-piece suit, shirt and bow tie.

Where to stay

You're better off booking well in advance if your wedding trip means you'll have to fork out for an overnight stay. With more people sending out 'save the date' cards, you usually can book at least two or three months in advance and can make the most of special deals. You'll be spending most of the day at the wedding, so there's no need to book a fancy hotel.

Rather than stay at the hotel where the wedding party has set up camp, with prices at a premium, look out for special deals from budget hotel chains such as Travelodge. Its current summer savers offer, which runs to the end of July, offers around 350,000 rooms at £29 or less. For example, a double room In The Regent Hotel in Leamington Spa was just £24 at the time of going to press.

For something a bit more stylish visit airbnb.co.uk, which features everything from B&Bs through private rooms to entire houses. For example, a double room in a terraced house in Cheltenham costs £40 a night for two people. Save more money by pooling together with other guests and renting a whole apartment.

Consider using Tesco Clubcard points to book a room at hotel chains such as Best Western, Barceló, Ibis and Novotel. You can boost your points, so £10 in

Clubcard points will be worth £30 of Clubcard hotel vouchers (tesco.com/clubcard/deals). You can also get money-off vouchers if you have Nectar points and book through Expedia.

For those who prefer to leave things to the last minute, try websites such as Laterooms.com, Lastminute.com, Trivago.co.uk and Booking.com.

Cutting travel costs

If you're travelling by train, plan ahead and book your tickets well in advance to take advantage of the cheapest fares. With fares issued up to 12 weeks in advance, the trainline.com says you can save 43% on average over buying the same ticket on the day – for instance, you can pay £14.60 and save £80.90 on a single fare from Leeds to London.

You can find out when advance tickets go on sale to your chosen destination by visiting thetrainline.com and signing up for its ticket alert email.

Offering a lift to other wedding guests and splitting the petrol is another way to cut costs. Alternatively, consider hiring a minibus if there are several guests travelling from the same area. For example, Nationwidehireuk.co.uk quotes £300 to hire a 17-seater for two days – that's only £17.65 per person plus petrol.

Buying a gift

According to American Express, a third of guests will buy a present off the couple's gift list, while another third will give money – which means a third are choosing what could be the cheaper option of buying the gift elsewhere.

If you prefer to buy off the gift list, check it out as soon as it goes online so cheaper items are still available or club together with others to buy a more expensive gift on the list.

Buying a personalised present is one way to make a cheaper gift seem special.

Notonthehighstreet.com is a good place to start, with a dedicated wedding gift section featuring anything from personalised chopping boards and cushions to framed prints and champagne flutes – prices start from under £20 – or take a look at Gettingpersonal.co.uk.

Browse online at stores such as John Lewis, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Zara Home, Matalan and even Tesco Direct for gifts on a budget. Splashing out on good-quality wrapping paper, gift bags or boxes will help upgrade your present.

Another way to save money is to offer your skills to the bride and groom - perhaps you could step in as the wedding photographer or bake the wedding cake in lieu of a present.

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