Is it just me, or are things out of hand?
I’m not talking about the current state of politics or the criminal price of avocados. I’m talking about the Trojan horse that's shaped like champagne and celebration, but then pulls a sneak attack on your savings account.
I’m talking about when friends get married.
Before you start thinking I'm a miserable miser who hates sharing once-in-a-lifetime memories, know that I love weddings. Love 'em. The music, the dancing, the awkward moment when you realize the flower girl definitely isn't walking down the aisle. I'm into sincere celebrations of love and commitment.
I'm just not into bankrolling your whole fairy tale experience.
Hear me loud and clear: Spend whatever money you want on your wedding. But be mindful of what you ask of your friends.
I truly don't mean to sound bitter about this, because really, we've attended SO many delightful weddings in the last two years. It just adds up.
YAY, YOU’RE ADULTING! I’m genuinely happy for you! This is a joyous occasion. I understand — really, I do — that this is a beautiful moment, a special time that our friends want to enjoy and share with their nearest and dearest.
But if you’re anything like me, they’re all doing it at once.
There’s the engagement party, and typically a small gift. Then there’s the bachelorette/bachelor party, which includes travel (often flights!), food, drinks, covering costs for the betrothed, entertainment and usually lingerie for the ladies (or, hey, lingerie for the gents — not my business). This all comes before the actual wedding, which may require a flight and hotel stay as well as a wedding present for the couple.
On average, a friend’s wedding costs us $888 from engagement toast to sparkler exit, according to a 2016 study from the Knot. That’s an average number. Bridesmaids often spend well over $1,000. And to be quite frank, I think that estimate is on the low side.
Here are some real thoughts I've actually had: Unfortunately, you getting engaged doesn’t all of the sudden make me rich?! It's like having a ring on your hand maybe made you forget that we went splitsies on buffalo dip that last time we “grabbed dinner.” You’re the same chick who wouldn’t spend the extra $0.25 to upgrade to name-brand orange juice for our mimosas. So I'm thiiiiiinking a $1,000 vacation is a little unrealistic for both of us.
Y'all, in the last year, I've been invited to two different bachelorette parties that would've cost me WELL over $1,000 each. And they would've been fun! For sure! I just ... I just can't. I have to pay my electric bill. :/ Yeah, it's annoying to me too.
OK, so I have $1,000 to spend without risking my lights getting shut off. But that's the cost of a luxury vacation for my husband and me, a contribution toward student loans, or a large chunk of my Get A New Car That Isn't Peeling Inside Fund. And yet, I feel like I can't say, "Well, that's not really a priority in our budget" without sounding like a jerk.
Who do we blame? Unrealistic standards of film? Social media? Chris B. Harrison? All of the above?
How about this one: ourselves. We are too consumed in ourselves to see what we ask of others in situations like this. We are the ones that condone it. With each like on Instagram, and with each carefully shot Snapchat, we ingratiate opulence as the norm and encourage a lifestyle outside of our means.
Or maybe we were told we are pretty princesses who deserve a fairy tale ending. I know I want one.
A message from the Department of Redundancy Department: If that’s how you want to spend your own money, good on ya! Do the thing! Just be conscious of what you ask of your friends. That's where I have the beef, as the kids say. You can't throw a super swanky soiree at the most expensive venue in town, and yet not provide transportation from the church for the wedding party. You can't have a $10,000 band, and yet have a cash bar. You can't have a destination wedding, and then be surprised that a lot of people can't come.
Well, you can, but it may sit and fester in your friends' souls for a while and eventually bubble up as a blog post topic.
I feel like this is coming across as a little judge-y, and that's not my intention. Like I said, I have no problem with you spending your money, I just get discouraged because I know that for a lot of us back here in reality, a $400 deposit toward your bachelor party house in some far-off city could go a long way toward rent. Or a new car.
It's awkward to ask your friends to spend so much money on you. It just is.
That doesn't make me a bad person, or even unsupportive, right? You’re my friend! You’re MY princess.
Yes, I love you. Yes, I want you to have the most perfect, memorable start to a lifetime of love.
Yes, I think that will happen regardless of whether or not I get you those Tiffany’s cocktail stirrers on your registry.
I don’t know when we started allowing a fantastical, exploitative industry to dictate the norms of something as incredibly sacred and important as marriage. I love drinking a little too much champagne and dancing the night away as much as the next girl, but I want to do it because I love you and because you wanted me to be there. Not because I felt obligated, financially or otherwise.
To help counter the onslaught of invites making their way to your mailbox, here are few ways you can save money on wedding season.
5 Ways You Can Save Money On Wedding Season:
1.) Consider a group gift.
- This may seem a little lame, but it’s a good way to ensure the wonderful couples gets something that they truly need without killing your bank account. Seriously, who decided how much we are supposed to spend on one another? Like no, Karen, I don’t want to buy you that glorious KitchenAid blender. I want it for myself. I’ve been saving for nearly a year and putting up with my aunt’s hand-me-down that makes a sound like an asthmatic cat when it blends. Get over yourself.
2.) Lower the bar for your gift.
- Seriously, it is absolutely acceptable to present a couple a gift in congruence with your mother, your sister, etc. You won’t be shunned. I’m a sentimental person — if you’re my friend, I want to give you a gift that is meaningful. Selfishly, I also want to give you something you use daily and have to think of me every time you use it. What I’ve learned to is find something very personal to our friendship that’s not necessarily on the registry, and also give something functional. I think it’s the perfect balance. For example, my friend recently got married (in a no-hassle, amazingly special way!) and I found a tea towel at Anthropologie that had a bunny wearing a dress that looked freakishly like her wedding dress. I saw it, I squealed, I purchased. And then she opened it, she squealed, she put it on her stove. I also went in with my mother and bought the newlyweds a high-quality pair of knives. Mind you, this is one of my best friends in the whole world — I would’ve spent double. But it wasn’t about the money. It was about the meaning.
3.) Re-wear a dress.
- Obviously, if you’re a bridesmaid, you don’t have this option. You just have to hope and pray that your bride friend is conscientious enough to not make you pay over $300 for a uncommonly formal dress you’ll never wear again. If you’re a guest, repeat an outfit, for goodness’ sake. I know, I know, someone might see you and remember or — heaven forbid — you’ve already posted in that one. But c’mon. This isn’t Lizzie McGuire (sadly). Nobody cares.
4.) Say no.
- OK, this one is obvious. Maybe a better way to say it is to pick and choose. You don’t have to go to the engagement party and the bach party and the wedding. You don’t have to go. The ’grams will be great. The FOMO will be real. But so will the extra $600 in your bank account. We're literally flying across the country this winter to attend a best friend's wedding. Happily. And you know what? Nobody's mad that we're going to have to miss the engagement party. Choose the event that means the most to you, make an effort, and have an amazing time together. I know, it stinks to “just be honest — if they’re really your friend, they’ll understand.” Because nobody wants to be the whiny poor person. But it’s YOUR money. Do what you want with it.
5.) Be a considerate bride.
- Put delicately, who … who do you think you are? Diana didn’t go to such lengths for her bridal shower, and she had much better hair. Do less.
And hopefully, your willingness to not be a diva bride will start a friend trend. They'll pick up on your consideration and selflessness, and ultimately save you money when they get married. Karma.
I talk big game, but my husband and I were COMPLETELY overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends and family leading up to and during our wedding. People freely gave time, energy, calligraphy skills, travel efforts and, yes, money. We are so blessed. And I have this feeling that people happily traveled to see us because they knew that we weren't inviting them in some pompous show of societal rules. It was small, intimate and incredibly FUN, and there were no obligatory guests, costly rituals or friend ultimatums. I was a big fan of our wedding. 10/10, would do again.
In what ways have you saved on friends’ weddings? How do you plan to stick it to the wedding industry when it’s your turn? I’m all ears.