Can't afford a friend's wedding? 4 tips for handling the awkwardness

Written by
Peter Dunn

I know it's expensive to plan a wedding, but what about the guests? It's expensive to attend a wedding these days what with travel, clothing, and gifts. And if you're in the wedding party, forget about it, you'll be spending thousands of dollars. So what if you can't? What do you do when your friend's wedding will make you go broke?

Here are my best tips for dealing with the awkward intersection of friends, money, and weddings:

1) Be honest. When your friend calls you up with the amazing news that they're getting married and you're their bridesmaid/groomsman and the wedding is across the country, you may externally celebrate, but internally you're panicking. That's okay, it's actually the appropriate response. For now at least. Wait a few weeks after the engagement news has died down a bit and then be honest with your friend. Hopefully, since you're friends, they'll already know you're on a budget and need to watch what you spend. Which leads to...

2) Understand what you're getting yourself into. When you're open with your friend ask her to lay out everything you'll be responsible for like travel expenses, hair and makeup, clothes, showers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, and anything else she/he expects of you. Once you have the full scope you can honestly tell your friend what you can and can't afford to do. Saying yes to being in a wedding is probably the right thing to do, but don't neglect your budget just because you feel guilty.

3) Decide if attending a destination wedding is right for you. It sounds kind of selfish but you have to determine personally if a destination wedding works for you. I've been invited to quite a few destination weddings, but I've only attended a few. Unfortunately, every time the decision has had absolutely nothing to do with the couple getting married. It's been based on my schedule and my budget. A very distant third was the people involved. I know it sounds horrible, but it's true. Saying no to a destination wedding is tough, but you know what isn't tough? Not spending thousands of dollars on a trip you can't afford.

4) Skimp on gifts. This is my favorite. It also sounds horribly harsh but hear me out. Let's say for a minute I was asked to be in a wedding across the country. I'd have to rent a tux, buy a plane ticket, rent a car, get a hotel room, pay for all my meals, miss work, and host a bachelor party. Know what all this means? You're getting a $25 gift card at your wedding. Sorry, man. My presence is the present.

All of you reading this who are planning your own wedding are probably beyond pissed right now. Yeah I get it, you're paying thousands of dollars for a wedding so what's a few hundred to a guest? But a few hundred to a guest may be the difference between making or not making their mortgage payment this month.

Whether you are planning a wedding or attending one, money has to be a factor in your decisions. Money isn't what your life is all about, but that doesn't mean it's an excuse you can use to make bad decisions. You have to make smart decisions all the time because you don't want to be the person still paying for the wedding in four years. Don’t let the awkwardness and guilt of the situation steer you into a financial bind.

Of course, the real answer to how do I afford my friend's wedding, is to just encourage them to break it off. Problem solved! Kidding. Want to hear me rail more on weddings? I knew you would. Listen to this segment from The Pete the Planner Radio Show on WIBC here:

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