Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Your Turn: “I Can’t Afford My Friend’s Wedding”

I’ve answered a similar letter in the past, so this time, I’m giving the reins to you:

My good friend’s wedding is in May and I’m already stressing out over how I’ll afford it. I’m not in the wedding; I’m just a guest. She’s getting married in Michigan and my husband and I live in CT (as does the bride) and I’m guessing that the plane tickets will be around $200 each. Then there’s the hotel for two nights (hotels in Michigan are cheap, around $100 per night). Then we have to rent a car to get to the venue. I’m guessing that will be $150? Right there we’re talking ballpark $750. I don’t know how we can afford this and I don’t know how to tell her this. I guess I’m worried that she will be upset and think I am a bad friend since most of our other friends will likely go. But I’m terrified of taking this roughly $700 hit — we’re already in so much debt. What should I do? — Broke Wedding guest
32 comments… add one
  • JK

    JK December 26, 2011, 10:25 am

    OK, first off there isn´t (or there shouldn´t be) any shame in saying to your friend soon “I would love to be there for your wedding, but it is really impossible for me to afford that right now”.
    Next: if you really have your heart set on going to the wedding there are lots of ways to make things cheaper. Check airfare prices, sometimes you can get realy good deals booking enough in advance. Does your husband absolutely HAVE to go? You say several friends are going, is there any way you could share a room with them? Share the rental car? Maybe instead of a hotel room renta a house between several of you?
    There are ways to make travel a lot cheaper, and you have quite a lot of time to plan, find out, shop around for the best deals. I´m guessing your other friends would be quite happy to save money on their trip, as well.

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    • caitie_didnt

      caitie_didn't December 26, 2011, 10:51 am

      Good suggestions! May is still far enough away that she can score some cheap flights and make arrangements to share a car etc if her heart is set on going. Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with sending regrets; a good friend won’t want you to go further in debt for her wedding. But if the LW ultimately decides it’s not going to be possible, she should try to send her friend a thoughtful wedding gift.

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      • avatar

        JakDrake December 26, 2011, 8:02 pm

        “a good friend won’t want you to go further in debt for her wedding”
        Well said! that exactly what a true friend will do. I have been in similar situation and cannot afford the cost or the time go to many my friends wedding and no one make a problem of it.
        Attending a wedding is a choice, not a responsibility… besides, when I remembering my own wedding, with so many guest, its very hard to spot that someone is coming or not.
        Just, send them a thoughtful wedding gift, and surely they will treasured that.

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  • avatar

    Lake Girl December 26, 2011, 10:26 am

    It’s an invitation not a command. Sent a nice card with a sincere note expressing how you wish you could be there to share in the celebration. Tell her you are looking for to seeing the photos (most everyone posts photos online now) and hope to catch up when she returns to your home state for a visit. You could send her a present perhaps a gift card for the store where she is registered to avoid the hassle of mailing a present. And then stop worrying. My daughter is at the time in her life when many of her friends are getting married and some are out of state. She has declined some and is still good friends with all. The same happened with her own wedding. Some out of town friends and family couldn’t make the trip. It didn’t cause hurt feelings or affect the relationship.

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  • avatar

    Guy Friday December 26, 2011, 10:29 am

    Wendy put it best in the letter she linked:

    “You need to be honest with her and share everything you just shared in your letter to me while you express heartfelt regret over your inability to participate in her wedding. Any friend who makes you feel guilty or any friendship that is damaged because you quite literally cannot afford to attend her wedding — especially given our current economy — is not a friend or friendship that was truly genuine anyway. While certainly being disappointed, a good friend will understand your financial limitations and be grateful that you share in her good news even if you can’t be with her to celebrate in person. If you can afford to, I’d certainly send a nice gift and a very thoughtful card, and be very proactive and interested in seeing photos of the wedding afterward.”

    Look, speaking as someone who’s planning a wedding that’s happening not too long from now, I can say that there are definitely a large handful of people who I’m inviting to the wedding who I highly doubt will be able to make it for the same reason you’re citing here: they’re young, they’re still in grad school or recently out of it, and they can’t really afford the trip. And I debated heavily over inviting those people, because I didn’t want to have it come across like I was just throwing invites out there to people who definitely couldn’t come just to milk presents (though I would never expect anyone who can’t make it to even consider a present, but you know what I mean.) But already I’ve had one friend of that group who told me she had been saving up since I got engaged so she could afford the wedding, so if I had just assumed she couldn’t make it we both would have been disappointed!

    The point is, I’m not unique in this. A lot of people invite long-distance friends with the understanding that they’re taking a long shot that they might be able to attend. Or, alternately, the wedding is so overwhelming for this couple that they may not have ever done the math and recognized what the cost was for you. Either way, if you call your friend and explain it to her, I’m sure she’ll be sympathetic and understand, and perhaps even apologetic for making you feel stressed about it in the first place!

    (Also, maybe this is just me, but I’d MUCH rather be invited to something that it turns out I can’t afford to make than not invited to something it turns out I could. The former makes me feel like I was considered, and the limitation is my choice; with the latter, it feels like they just didn’t want me there.)

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  • avatar

    sue clearly December 26, 2011, 10:38 am

    Thanks for this. In response to JK, no, I am much better friends with this girl, although my husband and I hang out with her and her hubby regularly. I think my husband may be offended if I suggest leaving him home….and I’m guessing doing so would cut my trip in half….something I fear I still can’t do financially.

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    • JK

      JK December 26, 2011, 11:20 am

      In that case, definitely send your regrets and a gift. Shop with time for better prices. And you can give it to her in person close to the wedding (saving on delivery costs).

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    • avatar

      cporoski December 26, 2011, 12:43 pm

      Sue:

      Really look at the suggestions. If you hang with these friends regularly, then you should try your hardest to make it there. Can you save $150 a month for this? try to eat in more? again, JK’s suggestions are great. You have time to save and find deals. Most people regret what we don’t do and not what we do. If you really don’t have two pennies to rub together (we have all been there) then you can send your regrets with a very thoughtful note.

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      • avatar

        sue clearly December 26, 2011, 1:01 pm

        Yes, we already strictly eat in, only. Saving $150 a month is difficult, really, given my hubby’s employment situation and our current debt. When we could put that $150 toward our utilities and debt and my husband’s continuing ed schooling. Until he gets a job, we’ve been cutting corners as is. The plane ticket, car rental (I think I would have to kick in money if I were carpooling with someone else), and splitting a hotel room I think is still too much for us right now. I think I’ll prob just tell her in person and send a nice gift.

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      • avatar

        cporoski December 27, 2011, 8:46 am

        Honestly, if the wedding is out of town, then you are not expected to come. just explain that you care but just can’t afford it. A thoughtful note goes a long way.

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  • avatar

    Bossy Italian Wife December 26, 2011, 10:44 am

    When you get an invitation to a wedding, your attendance is not mandatory. You are ALLOWED to say “no,” politely, and explain why. She may try to offer you a solution — like sharing a room, or something along those lines. So consider that, too.

    Save up a little money to give her a nice present instead of strapping your finances to attend the wedding. We all have limitations, and you shouldn’t fret about having boundaries. Of course you WANT to go, that is why you are upset you can’t go. But take the emotion out of it and try to present it to your friend that way.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie December 26, 2011, 11:45 am

    It would be huge social blunder if the bride held a grudge against the LW for not attending at her financial ruin. You have to be practical when the distances are this great. My wife’s goddaughter got married few years ago in Iowa and we live in Calif. I’d only meet the bride once before so I stayed at home and we gave the couple a nice gift in place of the my plane ticket. It worked to everybody’s advantage.

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  • avatar

    AnotherWendy December 26, 2011, 11:45 am

    I couldn’t afford several weddings I was invited to and after putting one on a credit card I never did it again. I paid for that wedding trip too long, with interest. Tell her you can’t make it due to travel and cost, and all will be fine. Since you said you are already in so much debt, don’t feel like you need to make up for not going with an expensive gift. Get something you can afford that they have registered for and write a thoughtful message on the card. Learning to say no to things you really want but really can’t afford will ultimately put you in the best financial position. Too much debt totally sucks! 🙂

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  • avatar

    sue clearly December 26, 2011, 12:08 pm

    Thanks everyone. I also forgot to mention that my husband is out of work right now which adds to financial strain.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom December 26, 2011, 12:38 pm

      So your friend should certainly understand your situation. She probably knows that it’s unlikely you’ll be able to go but wants you to know she’d love it if you could attend. It’s always a sticky situation when you send out invitations to people who you realize probably can’t attend. You don’t want someone to feel unwanted while at the same time you don’t want them to feel pushed into something they can’t do.

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  • landygirl

    landygirl December 26, 2011, 12:44 pm

    Send your regrets. Don’t feel bad, you shouldn’t over extend yourself. I’m sure your friend will understand.

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  • avatar

    Bethany December 26, 2011, 12:45 pm

    I got married this fall (and all of my guests had to travel to my wedding) and I have to tell you that from a “bride” point of view, I would not have been hurt if someone could not have come because they can’t afford it. Everyone knows the state of the economy, and if she’s a good friend she knows your husband is out of work. Be honest. Tell her you would LOVE to come, but right now you don’t think you can swing it. Maybe she might know of someone you could share a hotel/rental car with, and might hook you up with them.
    I knew that people might not be able to make it to my wedding- that’s the chance you take when you get married out of state, and not everyone can come. People have all different reasons- work, money, fear of flying, whatever, and chances are she probably is already planning on some people not being able to come. Just be honest, she’ll appreciate a conversation with you a lot more than a simple “no” reply on the rsvp card.

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  • avatar

    mf December 26, 2011, 4:11 pm

    First of all, do some research on travel costs. Maybe you can find a cheap rental car or a deal on airfare. If not, would you consider staying only one night instead of two? Do you have any friends you can crash with? Are you willing to attend without your husband? It could very well cost you $700 to attend her wedding, but there’s no point in freaking out about it until you figure out what the cost will actually be.

    If it turns out you truly can’t afford it, give her a big hug, tell her you’re sorry you can’t make it, and send back your RSVP by the requested date. (Please, PLEASE don’t be one of those people who don’t RSVP.) The bride probably understand if you can attend (unless she’s crazy bridezilla). I’m planning my wedding now and I know that if a friend told me she couldn’t attend for financial reasons, I’d be 100% fine with that. In fact, it’d be kind of a relief, because it would save me the cost of their dinner, etc.

    Be sure to send card and, if you can swing it, a nice gift. And after the wedding, be sure to ask her lots and lots of questions about the wedding and honeymoon. She’ll probably be dying to talk about so I’m sure she’d appreciate it if you’re willing to listen.

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  • avatar

    kali December 26, 2011, 4:39 pm

    Wendy – You’re turning the ‘reins’ over to us – as in we’re controlling the horse. The other ‘reign’ is that of a monarch or beauty queen…

    Just had to get that off my chest. Thanks!

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    • avatar

      steph December 26, 2011, 10:55 pm

      Who cares? Come on.

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  • avatar

    MiMi December 26, 2011, 5:17 pm

    I’m not sure that a bride who plans an out-of-town wedding is so expecting everyone to make the trip. How about you and your husband have the couple over for dinner before or after the wedding to celebrate their marriage? You can go with an affordable theme, like “Sopranos Night” with Dino or Old Blue Eyes singing in the background and a spaghetti dinner or a tongue-in-cheek “Leave it to Beaver” making a tuna casserole while wearing an apron and greeting your guests at the door with a martini theme? You can make your invitation to a special meal part of your in-person regrets. Don’t moan about your finances, that’s your business, just “so sorry we can’t make it to the wedding but we’d love to celebrate with you! Can you come to our place on (exact date) for dinner?”

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  • rubyroo

    Ruby December 26, 2011, 8:20 pm

    I don’t think there is an obligation for you to go to a wedding.
    When you’re invited, it’s a request for you to be there, not a demand.
    You have every right to turn down the invitation and I don’t even think you need to tell her why. All she needs to know is that you’re unable to attend.
    I think the proper protocol, however, is to still send a gift even if you can’t make the wedding.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark December 26, 2011, 10:05 pm

    Several years ago, I had to miss my best friend’s wedding in Buffalo, New York. (They had a civil ceremony there in the States and a legal wedding in the much hipper Canada as my buddy has dual citizenship.) As we both live in California — and I had JUST been laid off, it was simply an extremely dicey proposition for me to attend… I felt terrible. Awful. Horrible. The worst. Moreover, I was deeply embarrassed to be unmasked as such an abject LOSER! …But when I finally came clean about things — Sam was actually quite cool about it. And really, the truth of the matter is — that there are often so many people at weddings that my absence while a bit of a bummer to be sure, wasn’t exactly all that earth shattering. In the end, I was able to do he and his husband-to-be an even bigger favor in that I house sat for them and their INSANE dog while they married and then honeymooned in Thailand for two weeks. In a perfect world, I would have loved to been there. But then, more often than not, this is NOT a perfect world.

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray December 27, 2011, 6:47 am

      BGM, I missed seeing your posts during our two days of DW confessions. Too scared to confess to us, eh?

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 27, 2011, 12:01 pm

        I’ve been traveling too much to be online the past few weeks. First, I production designed a short film in Northern Florida for a week before hitting Dallas to spend the holiday with my family…including my super adorable 15 month old nephew…

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      • parton_doll

        parton_doll December 27, 2011, 1:13 pm

        You were definitely missed friend 🙂 Hope you had a great holiday.

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  • avatar

    oldie December 27, 2011, 12:12 pm

    It’s simple, don’t go to the wedding. You say you are already way in debt and can’t afford to spend another $700. So, just don’t do it. There are things like a house and a good college education, which are worth young people carrying, what borders upon too much debt. A wedding, not even your own, is not a good enough reason. Your life will be much better going forward if you don’t spend money that you don’t have on things that are not absolutely essential. The wedding of a sister or a bff might well fall into the realm of an unavoidable necessity. The flying distance wedding of a ‘good’ friend really doesn’t. You already know what you need to do on this one, I think you are just looking for permission to say no to your friend. You certainly have mine.

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  • theattack

    theattack December 27, 2011, 4:52 pm

    I haven’t read the other comments yet, but your cost estimates are more negotiable than you are tallying up. Hotels may be around $100 a night. Go stay at a Super 8 or something else. You can find something decent for around $40-50 a night, possibly even with a continental breakfast. You might not have a mini-fridge or a microwave or Wi-Fi or HBO, but you’re just looking for a place to stay. This will cut your costs enormously.

    Renting a car _could_ be something you have to pay that much for, but check other options first. Is anyone else near the airport that could drive you to the location? Will any other friends be flying in from anywhere (even if you don’t know them) that you could split the cost of a rental car with? Is there public transportation that could get you there cheaper? What about things like a Greyhound bus?

    And you can look around for deals on plane tickets. See if anyone you know (like parents) have frequent flyer points they’re not planning on using. And plane tickets should be cheaper if you buy them months in advance, like now. Go for the absolute cheapest tickets possible through the cheapest airline possible, and it may not be that expensive.

    I don’t know if you’ll be able to afford it after cutting these costs, but you are calculating this trip without trying to cut corners to make it. Many families travel by cutting deep into corners. My family has never taken a vacation without packing stuff for sandwiches. I don’t know if you’re allowed to pack food in check-in luggage or not because I don’t fly often. But if you can, pack some tortillas (since the won’t get squashed like bread), and some peanut butter & jelly. Bring a box of cereal and granola bars if you can’t get a place with a continental breakfast. Print out coupons for restaurants for dinner time, or eat cheap fast food.

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  • avatar

    Jillie Z December 28, 2011, 10:27 am

    You’ve already gotten a lot of great suggestions, and your friend should already understand your financial situation if you’re already that close. I had a long-distance wedding, and was surprised and pleased when friends could make it, and totally understood when people couldn’t afford to make the travel arrangements. I would tell her up-front that you’ve tried to budget it but it’s not going to work, and then offer to help with as much of the wedding planning as you can, to show her you care and that you do want to be a part of her celebration. One of my best friends couldn’t attend, but she helped me put together favors, send out invitations, planned my bachelorette party, and when i think about my wedding, she always comes to mind even though she wasn’t at the event itself.

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  • avatar

    Michelle December 28, 2011, 11:43 am

    i would just be polite and say that you would love to go, but it’s just not in the budget. honestly, she should understand this. $750 to go to a wedding is just crazy. heck, even if you were the maid of honor, that’s just too much imho. i’m getting married in the spring and live 2000 miles away from my family. only a few will be able to come, and i wouldnt expect anyone to go into debt to come!

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  • avatar

    evanscr05 December 28, 2011, 2:40 pm

    Breathe. It’s okay, I promise you. I got married in September, and when I traveled home to Indiana for my brother’s wedding in July, I got to see a very good friend that I hadn’t seen in a while. We were hanging out one evening and she got very emotional and started crying because she was so upset that she could not afford to make the trip to Virginia for my wedding. Do you know what hurt me the most? That she stressed herself out so much over something so completely understandable. I absolutely missed seeing her at my wedding, but how much of a bitch would I have been if I had gotten upset with her that she could not afford it? I gave her a hug, and told her I understood, because I did. If this friend of yours is a good friend, then they will of course be disappointed that they won’t be able to see you at their big occasion, but more than that, they will understand and not let you beat yourself up over it. If they do anything other than understand, I would not consider them to be a good friend. Hell, one of my bridesmaids lives in Hawaii and was upset when she thought she wasn’t going to be able to afford to come. I would have been a horrible person if I’d thrown a fit over that. I told her that if she couldn’t make it, I guess I’d just have 4 instead of 5 bridesmaids standing up their with me.

    Just remember this: never ever let other people’s lives and occasions make you feel like are not a good or worthy person if you’re life or finances don’t match theirs.

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  • avatar

    Jiggs December 30, 2011, 2:58 am

    As a former sort-of-destination bride, like your friend, I will add that any non-crazy bride and groom will understand why you can’t make it. They might be disappointed because they love you and want to see you there, but they’ll understand.

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