Sure, you want to feel happy on receiving a wedding invitation. But even a small postcard or email can add up to a lot of costly pressure.
Perhaps you should secure travel and accommodation, buy gifts and costumes, or miss out on work. Or maybe you have the honor — and the extra expense — of being at the wedding party.
This could soon be your reality, as the wedding season looms and events postponed due to 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 DC: “Your loved one won’t want you to spend in a way that leaves you struggling financially.”
For less struggle and more celebration, here’s how to handle the financial burden of attending weddings.
Check Your Finances – And Emotions
As you learn about upcoming weddings, “map your year,” Bailey says.
This plan is useful when you are invited to multiple weddings or to showers, parties, and rehearsal dinners. This mapping can show how much time and money “everything” will cost.
Also check your bank balance or budget to understand what is available to spend according to your needs. This reality check helps prioritize expenses, says Landis Badger, a New York City-based licensed mental health counselor and founder of AisleTalk, which provides therapy to individuals who are married.
For example, maybe you realize you can’t swing an out-of-state bachelorette party but attend a wedding.
If you still feel compelled to spend more, “take an inventory of where this expectation is coming from,” says Bader. “It can usually help you navigate what’s important in your decision making.”
For example, maybe you are longing to get out of the house and celebrate after so many quarantines. 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 can help you save money. So, if being present at the wedding is of paramount importance, you may be able to deduct expenses in these categories:
- Accommodation and Travel: If possible, choose cheaper accommodation than the couple suggests, or crash with local connections. Split the costs with other guests by sharing the vacation fare or driving together. Pay for fewer nights by arriving on the wedding day.
- Related events: It’s okay to pass politely at bachelor parties, showers, and other events if you take a lot of precautions.
- gift: Matt J. Goren, a certified financial planner based in Chicago, suggests giving everything you can, which will be easier to determine after examining your finances. “If someone thinks you’re a bad friend because you’ve only given them what you can give, they’re no good a friend,” says Goren.
consider the fall
The most effective way to cut wedding costs? Decline the invitation. That’s fine, especially if you’re more familiar with a close friend or family member, or if you don’t want to go.
If you have to pass off 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.
Badger suggests seeing if you can participate in other ways. For example, you might be able to distribute Champagne to the couple.
Remember: If you can’t stand the incident, “it doesn’t mean you’re a bad friend or a bad person,” says Goren.
If you want to go but can’t come up with a small amount—say, for a local event—aim to treat the situation as a “wake-up call.” After all, how do you handle an immediate expense like a trip to the emergency room?
Use this experience as inspiration to build financial security, Goren says, so you can afford emergencies and weddings alike. Track your money so you know where it goes, and find ways to spend less and make more.
talk with the engaged couple
Let’s say you’re close to a fiancé and can’t afford a marriage or related obligation. “The worst thing you can do is let the fear of money destroy the friendship,” says Goren.
So discuss your money worries with the bride or groom – soon, ideally months before the event.
“Good friends will understand if you are honest and transparent,” Badger says. Avoid complaining or talking about yourself. Instead, ask what’s most important to your loved one, then brainstorm and possibly compromise.
For example, maybe your friend values your presence at the wedding the most and it’s okay to pass on the bridesmaid duty (and everything that comes with it) to you.
Whether or not you find a solution, Badger suggests acknowledging the importance of this milestone. “The bride and groom want to feel special,” she says.
This column was provided by personal finance website NerdWallet to The Associated Press. Laura McMullen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.