Sure, you want to feel joy and love when receiving a wedding invitation. But a little postcard or email can also create a lot of costly pressure.
You may need to secure travel and lodging, shop for gifts and clothing, or lay off work. Or maybe you have the honor, and the added expense, of being in the wedding party.
This may soon be your reality as wedding season approaches and events that were postponed or rescheduled due to COVID-19 reappear on the calendar.
Before you dwell on these upcoming weddings, take comfort from Crystal L. Bailey, director of the Etiquette Institute of Washington, DC: “Your loved one wouldn’t want you to spend in a way that would put them in financial trouble.”
For less hassle and more celebration, here’s how to manage the financial burden of attending weddings.
REVIEW YOUR FINANCES AND FEELINGS
As you learn about upcoming weddings, “map your year,” says Bailey.
This planning is helpful if you are invited to multiple weddings, bridal showers, bachelor or bachelorette parties, and rehearsal dinners. If you’re inclined to say yes to everything, this mapping could show how much time (and money) “everything” will cost.
Also check your bank account balance or budget to understand what is available to spend after accounting for needs. Ideally, this financial reality check helps you prioritize spending, says Landis Bejar, a New York City-based licensed mental health counselor and founder of AisleTalk, which provides therapy to people getting married.
For example, you may find that you can’t host the bachelorette party out of state, but you can attend the wedding.
If you still feel compelled to overspend, “take inventory of where that expectation is coming from,” says Bejar. “That can usually help you navigate what’s important in your decision making.”
For example, perhaps this reflection shows that you simply long to get out of the house and celebrate after so much quarantine. This way you prioritize attending the wedding and feel less pressure to buy a new outfit for her.
FIND WAYS TO REDUCE COSTS
Prioritizing your values can help you save money. So if being at the wedding is the most important thing, you may be able to cut costs in these categories:
— Accommodation and travel: If possible, choose cheaper accommodation than the couple suggested, or hang with a local connection. Split costs with other guests by sharing a vacation rental or driving together. Pay for fewer nights by skipping the night before dinner and arriving on the day of the wedding.
— Bachelor and bachelorette parties, bachelorette parties, and other related events: It’s okay to politely pass these events if you give plenty of notice.
— Gifts: Matt J. Goren, a certified financial planner based in Chicago, suggests simply giving what you can, which will be easier to determine after reviewing 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 such a good friend,” says Goren, who is director of the CFP program at The American College of Financial Services. .
The most effective way to reduce wedding costs? Decline the invitation. That’s fine, especially 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 miss someone close’s wedding, 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, if you can’t make it to the destination wedding or shower, maybe you can send the couple champagne.
Remember: If you can’t afford the event, “it doesn’t mean you’re a bad friend or a bad person,” says Goren.
If you wanted to go but couldn’t come up with a relatively small amount of money, say for a local event, try to see the situation as a “wake-up call,” he says. After all, how would you handle an urgent expense, like a visit to the emergency room?
Use this experience as motivation to build financial security, says Goren, so you can pay for emergencies and weddings alike. Track your money so you know where it’s going and explore ways to spend less and earn more.
TALK TO THE GROOMING COUPLE
Let’s say you’re close to the fiancé and can’t afford the wedding or a related obligation, like being at the bridal party. “The worst thing you can do is let the fear of money override the friendship,” says Goren.
So, discuss your money concerns with the bride or groom early, ideally months before the event.
“Good friends will understand if you are honest and transparent,” says Bejar. Avoid complaining or making the conversation about yourself. Instead, ask what is most important to your loved one, then brainstorm and possibly compromise.
For example, maybe your friend appreciates your presence at the wedding more and is okay with you passing on the bridesmaid duty (and the hair, makeup, and clothing costs that can go with it).
Whether you find solutions or not, Bejar suggests recognizing 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: email@example.com. Twitter: @lauraemcmullen.
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