The cost of attending a wedding is expensive. How to decide if you can afford to be a guest.
The first weekend in October, I attended my eighth wedding of the year. Of those eight weddings, one involved an international flight, two took place in the state, and the rest — except one — required an overnight stay in another city. While my own Instagram was flooded with couples, bouquets, and confetti-covered champagne flutes, I soon noticed that I wasn’t the only person who seemed to be spending every other weekend at a wedding.
According to The Knot, the United States is in the midst of a big wedding boom, with data indicating that around 2.6 million weddings were expected for 2022, compared to an average of 2.2 million years pre- pandemic. This research also found that 75% of couples who got engaged in 2021 set a wedding date for 2022. “What’s happening right now is the impact of Covid,” says therapist Landis Bejar, founder and director of the marriage counseling service AisleTalk in New York. . “Guests were inundated with all these invitations for weddings that were postponed, events that were already on the calendar, and for new engagements that happened during the pandemic. We are really bombarded.
What’s tricky about this year in particular is that this boom in weddings and the events surrounding them – bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette weekends, welcome drinks, post-wedding brunches – it’s that they also come at a time when our time, energy and money are more valuable than ever. “Between inflation and the impact of Covid on our bank accounts, a lot of people are suffering financially,” says Bejar. “It’s not personal and it’s not a secret. There’s a systemic phenomenon going on right now where we can’t say yes to as many things as we want, whether it’s from a financial standpoint or because of the logistics of travel and the fact of to be in a large group. Beyond the potential health risks of socializing, many people find that they no longer have the physical or emotional energy they once had, which means spending several days celebrating can be taxing. many ways.
But what should a guest do? Even without the implications of the pandemic and the economy, weddings come with their own set of complex emotions and expectations. According to Elaine Swann, etiquette expert and founder of the Swann School of Protocol, you’re entitled to more autonomy than you probably realize. “I don’t think anyone should be forced to attend something they just don’t want,” Swann says. “Whenever you don’t want to attend something, don’t. That’s it.”
Luckily, it’s possible to save your time and money during a busy wedding season without breaking any friendships in the process – you just have to be careful.
Have empathy and put yourself in the shoes of the couple
With the multi-billion dollar wedding industry showing absolutely no signs of slowing down, it’s easy to label many weddings and related events as unnecessarily difficult, over the top and, in some cases, a bit inconsiderate over time and guest money. However, when it comes to deciding what you’re comfortable sacrificing to attend an event, Bejar thinks it’s important to pause and think about marriage from a couples perspective, before feeling resentful about having to make a difficult decision. . Weddings, at heart, are a celebration, a community gathering and, for many, a cultural tradition. Donut walls, expensive venues, and signature cocktails aside, there are plenty of reasons why these events mean a lot to people, especially in 2022.
Bejar suggests considering the period during which the couple may not have been able to celebrate as they had hoped, as those years of frustration and disappointment can influence the weddings people are planning right now. “Couples focus on making up for lost time,” Bejar explains. “People don’t know how many other wedding invitations you’ve received this year or even in the space of a few months. No couple who’s invited you to their wedding feels or would care when he would try to celebrate his love.
While empathy is an important first step in understanding why today’s marriages are the way they are, Bejar says it doesn’t necessarily need to inform your final decision. Rather, it’s a useful exercise in understanding why people are asking so much of their guests right now.
Figure out what you can afford mentally and financially
When it comes to your personal resources – emotional, physical, and financial – only you can determine what you have. Most of us aren’t used to ranking our friendships by importance, but to decide if you can afford to attend a wedding, you’ll need to assess the value of everything and everyone involved.
“Like friendship, time and money don’t exist on the same axis,” says Bejar. “When making decisions about weddings, it can be helpful to start with what elicits the least emotion, which is usually your budget.” Bejar suggests doing a cost-benefit analysis, in which you ask yourself the financial cost of attending the event, followed by the emotional cost of attending or not attending.
“It’s important to look at all of these factors and ask yourself: Is there any part of this that I can participate in?” she says. “The conversation about not being able to attend a wedding is very different from a conversation about being able to attend a bachelor party.” If you’ve decided that your attendance at an event is non-negotiable, then you can do things like research budget accommodation, research flight sales, and see if you can borrow or rent an outfit instead of buying something. again. .
Give wedding party invitations the thought and care they deserve
While being invited to a wedding, destination or otherwise, can be an expensive affair, being asked to be part of someone’s bridal party comes with a whole new set of costs and expectations. According to Swann, it’s important to know exactly what the bride and groom want from their procession before accepting. “A lot of times we get really excited and emotionally involved, and we say yes, even though we don’t know what that entails – and then you find out you have to take a $5,000 trip to Mexico for a bachelor party. daughter,” she said.
It is also helpful to understand what is traditionally expected of those participating in a wedding procession. For example, according to Swann, bridesmaids can expect to pay for their own dress and shoes, but should have the option of doing their own hair and makeup, unless paid for by the company. bride. By taking the time to think about what you can afford before giving an answer, you won’t end up disappointing a close friend by having to shirk some obligations in a few months.
If you’re not at the wedding but find yourself invited to singles and bachelorette events that seem out of your budget, it’s best to talk to the event planner rather than the person who gets married. Even if you’re not the only person who feels like a plan is getting a little too expensive, Swann cautions against speaking up for others, as it can feel like you have a mentality. crowd. Instead, she suggests speaking up for yourself — and your financial situation — and offering concrete solutions that might make the event more affordable, like cooking brunch at your Airbnb instead of going out to eat, or making a more flexible dress code so people feel less pressure to buy something new.
Decline invitations the right way. Here’s how to RSVP.
How you respond to events can make a big difference in how your decision is received. According to Bejar, the most important thing is to give as much notice as possible as soon as possible. “There are few things more irritating to newlyweds than having to chase someone away,” she says. “These people are trying to round up the head count so they can get back to suppliers, and now it’s not only emotionally difficult not to be there, but you’re also making it a logistical problem.”
So you know you don’t want to go and the time to share the news has come. Now what? The best way to respond, according to Swann, is to follow the example of whoever sent the invitation. If you were invited to RSVP by mail, do so. Likewise, if you received an invitation through a couple’s wedding website, update your presence there. Bejar also recommends having a face-to-face conversation with the couple, if you’re close, as the tone can easily be misinterpreted in the text.
As for how much detail you need to share, that will vary from situation to situation. If you pass up an invitation from a casual acquaintance or colleague, Béjar and Swann think it’s fine to politely answer “no” without explanation. When it comes to declining invitations due to your budget, Swann suggests considering the situation carefully, as it can put pressure on couples to find a way to make the event more affordable for you. , either by covering some of your costs themselves, or by calling on you. favors, such as carpooling agreements or discounts on accommodation. “If you’re really tired or exhausted – or just don’t want to go – don’t give them a reason to try to fix it. Just decline and send best wishes,” says Swann.
On the other hand, Bejar thinks it can help to be upfront about your finances if you’re talking to a close friend or family member. “If you keep to yourself the fact that your RSVP has to do with finances, people are left to their own devices to interpret why you’re not coming,” she says. “Vulnerability almost always connects people. In fact, it often prevents what everyone fears in these conversations: someone getting mad at you. The pandemic has also left many couples far more empathetic to people’s unique circumstances. In the same way that friends and family might have been upset that a couple ran away or had a small guest list, most people are now more understanding about declined invitations than they are. they may not have been in the past.
When navigating the minefield that marriages can be, it helps to keep coming back to what they mean to couples. “Remember that the most important thing your presence represents is your support for their union and your recognition that this is a special time for them,” says Bejar. “When you have important conversations like these, it’s important to get back to the heart of the matter, which is: even though I can’t come to your wedding, I want you to know that it’s important and that I’m happy for you.
Gyan Yankovych is a Sydney-based journalist focusing on lifestyle, culture and friendship.
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