The postulate of gauge invariance in nature does not lend itself directly to implementations of lattice gauge theories in modern setups of quantum synthetic matter. Unavoidable gauge-breaking errors in such devices require gauge invariance to be enforced for faithful quantum simulation of gauge-theory physics. This poses major experimental challenges, in large part due to the complexity of the gauge-symmetry generators. Here, we show that gauge invariance can be reliably stabilized by employing simplified local pseudo generators designed such that within the physical sector they act identically to the actual local generator. Dynamically, they give rise to emergent exact gauge theories up to timescales polynomial and even exponential in the protection strength. This obviates the need for implementing often complex multi-body full gauge symmetries, thereby further reducing experimental overhead in physical realizations. We showcase our method in the $\mathbb{Z}_2$ lattice gauge theory, and discuss experimental considerations for its realization in modern ultracold-atom setups.