Sure, you want to feel joy upon receiving a wedding invitation. But one little postcard or email can also pack loads of pricey pressure.
Perhaps you must secure travel and lodging, buy gifts and attire, or miss work. Or maybe you have the honor — and extra expense — of being in the wedding party.
This may be your reality soon, as wedding season looms and events that were postponed because of COVID-19 reappear on the calendar.
Before stressing about upcoming weddings, take comfort from Crystal L. Bailey, director of The Etiquette Institute of Washington, in D.C.: “Your loved one would not want you to spend in a way that would make you financially struggle.”
For less struggling and more celebrating, here’s how to handle the financial load of attending weddings.
Check your finances — and feelings
As you learn about upcoming weddings, “map out your year,” Bailey says.
This planning is useful if you’re invited to multiple weddings or showers, parties and rehearsal dinners. This mapping could show how much time and money attending “everything” will cost.
Also check your bank balance or budget to understand what’s available to spend after accounting for needs. This reality check helps prioritize expenses, says Landis Bejar, a New York City-based licensed mental health counselor and founder of AisleTalk, which provides therapy to individuals getting married.
For example, maybe you realize you can’t swing the out-of-state bachelorette party but can attend the wedding.
If you still feel compelled to overspend, “take inventory of where that expectation is coming from,” Bejar says. “That can usually help you navigate what’s important in your decision making.”
For example, perhaps you simply yearn to get out of the house and celebrate after so much quarantining. So you prioritize attending the wedding and feel less pressure to buy a new outfit for it.
Find ways to cut costs
Prioritizing your values may help you save money. So, if being present at the wedding is most important, you may be able to trim expenses in these categories:
- Lodging and travel: If possible, choose a cheaper accommodation than what the couple suggested, or crash with a local connection. Split costs with other guests by sharing a vacation rental or driving together. Pay for fewer nights by arriving the day of the wedding.
- Related events: It’s OK to politely pass on bachelor parties, showers and other events if you give plenty of heads-up.
- Gifts: Matt J. Goren, a Chicago-based certified financial planner, suggests simply giving what you can, which will be easier to determine after checking your finances. “If someone is going to think you’re a bad friend because you only gave them what you could afford, then they’re not that good of a friend,” Goren says.
The most effective way to cut wedding costs? Decline the invitation. That’s fine, particularly if you’re more of an acquaintance than a close friend or family member, or if you don’t want to go.
If you must pass up the wedding of someone you’re close with, Bailey recommends calling or writing a note. Thank them for the invitation and consider sending a gift.
Bejar suggests seeing if you can participate in other ways. For example, maybe you can have Champagne delivered to the couple.
Remember: If you can’t afford the event, “it doesn’t mean you’re a bad friend or a bad person,” Goren says.
If you wanted to go but couldn’t come up with a small amount of money — say, for a local event — aim to see the situation as a “wake-up call,” he says. After all, how would you handle an urgent expense, like an emergency room visit?
Use this experience as motivation to build financial security, Goren says, so you can afford emergencies and weddings alike. Track your money so you know where it goes, and explore ways to spend less and make more.
Talk with the engaged couple
Say you’re close with the betrothed and can’t afford the wedding or a related obligation. “The worst thing you can do is have the money fears override the friendship,” Goren says.
So discuss your money concern with the bride or groom — soon, ideally months before the event.
“Good friends will understand if you’re honest and transparent,” Bejar says. Avoid complaining or making the conversation about you. Instead, ask what’s most important to your loved one, then brainstorm and possibly compromise.
For example, maybe your friend most values your presence at the wedding and is OK with you passing on bridesmaid duty (and all that may come with it).
Whether you find solutions or not, Bejar suggests acknowledging the importance of this milestone. “Brides and grooms want to feel special,” she says.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Laura McMullen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.