Money Mic: I Can’t Afford My Friends’ Weddings


People have a lot of opinions about money.

In our “Money Mic” series, we hand over the podium to someone with a strong opinion on a financial topic. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome the opportunity to spark a constructive conversation about money. 

Today, one woman opens up about why, given her income and the way she spends, she feels like she can’t afford her friends’ weddings.

Whether you’re a money maven or still learning the ropes, we share these stories to let you know you’re not alone. This is just one person’s story; for LearnVest-approved advice on what we recommend you do if you’re in a similar situation, check out our note at the end, full of sound financial advice from a Certified Financial Planner™.

When I moved into my first studio apartment in Brooklyn in the fall of 2009, my dad tried to prepare me for my new adventure.

After helping me set up furniture, he handed me some yellow envelopes with string ties he’d bought at Staples. He told me that when he first learned to budget, he used the envelope system.

Even after four years working as a publishing assistant and living with roommates in New York City, I wasn’t the best saver, so my dad was trying to give me a fresh start—into each envelope went what should be budgeted for that expense each month. The trick was not to steal or borrow from each envelope to help another.

Together, we took a Sharpie and labeled them. Rent. Utilities. Leisure. Incidentals. He’d witnessed the flurry of weddings I’d been invited to over the past few years—along with the mild meltdowns that accompanied them as I scrambled to come up with the cash for yet another bachelorette—so for our final envelope, we wrote in all caps: WEDDINGS.

Unfortunately, when I’d run out of money for food or leisure within a few weeks, I’d end up dipping into that envelope earmarked for friends’ weddings (summer wedding season seemed so far away in winter!), which is why the system ultimately didn’t work for me. I’ve since tried documenting my expenses with a spreadsheet to get better at budgeting … and I’m still working on that.

Three years later, I’m trying to accept my fate: While I love participating in and attending my best friends’ weddings, I just can’t afford it.

I’ve attended nine weddings in the past three years, which may or may not sound like a lot, but all told, I’ve spent a total of about $5,000 on gifts, bridesmaid dresses, travel, hotel stays and other incidentals since I’ve been in my 20s.

How I Pay for It All

I just turned 29, work in publishing and live alone, so I don’t have a lot of extra money to begin with. When wedding season nears, I try to pack lunch, limit dinners out, babysit most Friday nights and swear off cabs. As a wedding guest, I re-wear dresses all the time and alter past bridesmaid gowns to wear to other people’s weddings. (Though when pictures are plastered all over Facebook, this can be tricky!).

A snapshot of my current financial situation: My rent eats up about 50% of my paycheck. I’m not managing to save right now. (I do, however, have about $25,000 saved for retirement.) I’m hoping to pay off a little over $4,000 of credit card debt by the end of this year. I don’t even use the card: It’s tied to my overdraft, so if I run out of money at the end of the month, it dips into that, which is where those problems are coming from. 

When I’ve been really strapped, my parents have loaned me money to cover my portion of a bachelorette party or assisted with travel expenses (and let’s not forget Mom loaning me her dresses!).

For instance, they recently paid about $80 for an Amtrak ticket to Boston for a wedding. I’m lucky in that my parents offer when they see how strapped I am, and are supportive. They wish I had a better plan to afford these things, but realize how much it all adds up and are happy to help when they can.

Spending $5,000 on weddings isn’t that terrible over the course of a decade, but I could have used that money to pay off the credit card debt I’ve accumulated in the same time frame.

I Skipped My Friend’s Wedding Because of Money

A close friend and I joke that we are calling this “the summer of going into debt for our friends’ weddings.” Another friend has decided to only attend the shower or the bachelorette party leading up to a friend’s nuptials, but not both.

If I’m close with the bride or groom, I will usually spend $50 on an engagement gift, about the same for the shower gift, and anywhere from $125 to $150 for the wedding gift. Hotels usually cost around $150 a night.

This summer, I finally reached a tipping point. A plane ticket to Indiana for my friend’s wedding cost $400 and I really couldn’t afford it. This happened once before when a good friend got married in Minnesota on Memorial Day Weekend, and I had to say no—the trip would have cost upwards of $600.

I agonized over this latest one for weeks, wondering if I could take a few more babysitting jobs to make it happen. But finally I realized it would be too much. I let her know I wouldn’t be attending. Lucky for me, she completely understood, as did my friend several years ago.

The Brides Have Been Respectful, But …

I’m lucky that, like the Indiana bride, most of my friends try to be sensitive to their guests’ budgets when planning their weddings.

For instance, a Boston friend had her shower and bachelorette party all in the same weekend, making it much easier for out-of-towners to attend. Another friend chose fashionable bridesmaid dresses from discount site The Outnet, and they were on sale for $98.

Because my friends have been so considerate, it’s not like one super-expensive wedding has busted my budget or made me resentful. Rather, it’s the onslaught of invites all at the same time.

What I’ve Gotten Out of All These Weddings

In a strange way, I never really felt like I had a choice in terms of spending. I tried to cut corners where I could in terms of doing my own hair or borrowing a dress, but it seems like such an important part of someone’s life that I rarely thought about not participating.

On a beautiful summer night in Cape Cod I got to crack into a delicious lobster after spending the day with college friends.

At a wedding last year, my brother-in-law and I wowed the dance floor with our rendition of the “lift” from Dirty Dancing (I fell, but it was a great memory).

At the wedding of a friend since nursery school, another old classmate’s parent gave me a ride—and if I closed my eyes, it was like she was taking us to the Bronx Zoo at age 6 again.

I’m grateful for having been included in these monumental occasions in my friends’ and family members’ lives. If or when I get married, I likely won’t have a big party for myself—I clearly have some work to do in terms of my own financial planning, and would rather put the money toward my future.

Editor’s Note: What Should You Do If Weddings Are Strapping Your Finances?

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what LearnVest recommends: 

  • LearnVest Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) Sophia Bera says, “Never go into debt to pay for a friend’s wedding. This may mean you can only go to one of your friends’ weddings this year, or you may have to say no to being a bridesmaid, or sacrifice going to the shower and bachelorette party to make it for the big day.” She suggests trying to save by using frequent flyer miles, hotel or credit card rewards and sharing hotel rooms with friends. But, Sophia our financial planner notes, “The real problem with the author’s situation is that she’s not getting out of credit card debt because she keeps saying ‘yes’ instead of ‘no.’ To get out of her current situation, she’s going to have to trim her budget, say no to going to weddings for a while and generate more income. Babysit more? Sell your stuff on Craigslist? Can she tutor? People always forget that trimming your budget might not be enough, that you may need to make more money to pay for these extra expenses.” 
  • Estimate how much you’ll need for this year’s wedding season, all told, and divide that sum by 12. That’s how much you should be socking away each month. You can keep track of your progress in your account on, and even create a special folder for it. LearnVest also suggests you spend no more than 30% of your take-home pay on rent; in Jane’s case, reducing the 50% she’s spending on rent would probably create some much-needed breathing room in her budget. We recommend you balance your budget with the 50/20/30 rule, which means you should spend no more than 50% on all your essential expenses, like housing, groceries and transportation; at least 20% on financial priorities like paying off debt, saving for retirement and building up an emergency fund; and no more than 30% on “lifestyle choices” you can control, like going to restaurants or, ahem, weddings. Here’s more on making the best budget for you.

Thanks, Sophia!

Readers, what do you think: Are weddings taxing your budget big-time, or do you think the bigger wedding season hurdle is trying to live by a budget in general? 

  • Mznatural

    Love this post, I haven’t gone to that many weddings but I do feel that once the wedding starts there are a few things to follow (baby showers, baptisms, house warmings, etc) .  I’m a big believer of do what you can afford to do and your friend / family (if they’re you’re real friend) usually or should get it.   Love the extra advice added at the end of this article. 

  • I don’t think it’s realistic to expect Jane to move somewhere where she spends 30% of her take home pay on rent.. it’s New York. 

    • Brooklyn, anyone?

      Might not sound fun, but it’s a rite of passage for a lot of people: Move to one of the boroughs and get a roommate or two … done. 

    • aprjoy

      Yeah, it’s near impossible if you live alone and aren’t in, say, finance. I know people say to get a roommate, but I’ve lived by myself since my junior year of college, and I do not do well living with others. I’d rather stretch my budget than constantly be on the brink of losing my sanity…I’ve heard enough horror stories about Craigslist roommates and fallouts with college friends.

      • I live by myself in Manhattan as well. I have a tiny studio. I decided not to get roommates after my college experiences. Google “why i’ll never live with a stranger again” – I’ve written a whole blog post on it! 

  • Shazzer

    If you are 29 years old and still borrowing money from your parents, you have to seriously reassess your priorities! With $5k in credit card debt, the response to ANY wedding invitation should be NO! Or at least get a roommate.

    • Grace

      That was a very judgmental statement.  Some people have parents who have the means to help their children once in awhile and don’t mind doing so.  The author is living in NYC with a job that doesn’t pay a lot of money and is still in the process of learning the best way to budget her money (which is the case with many of the people who frequent this site).   

      • Particularp

         At what age should you be expected to manage your money responsibly? The average person should be graduating college by 22. I can understand parents helping out for a few years as someone gets on their feet, but at 29 something seems to have gone wrong here. Her parents wont be around forever and how long before those means start affecting their own retirement? Most families are uncomfortable speaking about money, so while her parents may find the means somewhere to support her when needed, their financial situation may not be as solid as they make it appear. Parents should be teaching money management as soon as a child understands what it is and communicating openly about their financial situation. It sounds like this isn’t the case here.

        • Jane Hopke

          I know you notice the speck in this woman’s eye, but ya know, maybe you should work on the log in yours?

          Everyone figures things out at their own pace…some take longer than others to make the committment to get their acts together financially.  Life is not a one-size-fits-all.

    • Urbanblissed

      I completely agree! The author of this piece is a trainwreck. If she wanted her own place in NYC then need to choose a real (STEM) career. Her parents are her enablers….& the pathetic whining @ weddings is just boring. If she had a real career, she wouldn’t have time for the self indulgance. Girl, good luck with that!

  • Js

    I can really relate to this post. I recently agonized
    over hitting send to spending $550.00 on the plane ticket for a wedding. It was
    a really tough decision and unfortunately through the grapevine I came to find
    out the bride and bridesmaid were not happy that I was not there. Money is such
    a tough subject, some people are less sympathetic that others but I know for my
    personal situation I’m trying really hard to be in a better financial situation
    and spending over $700 on a 2 day trip would not have worked for me.

    • Iroinic3500

       agree.  I went to EIGHT weddings in 2011, and said no to 3.  I did lose the friendship of one person in the process, which did hurt but was worth saving the money in the end.  Unfortunately, she do not understand how budgeting involves giving some things up (she used her student loans to buy a sports car, weekend getaways, and lots of MAC makeup).  I guess sometimes you need to pay the price of responsibility.

      • Rae

        Responding ten months later…but I know what you mean. People who are happy to live in debt and live off their credit cards don’t get it when you turn down an invitation because you are trying to be responsible and save and invest.

  • Alison

    3 gifts?  First - I’d spend a lot less on the gifts, just continue to make sure they are thoughtful.  Your attendance is a gift in and of itself and *most* brides would rather be surounded by friends than stuff. Also, I’d prioritze the actual wedding and skip out on the pre-parties, especially when travel is involved. 

  • C-Oz

    You buy engagement gifts?  That’s crazy.  Unless it is a very close friend or family member I just attend the wedding and purchase one gift and no engagement parties or showers.  For me showers are for close family and friends.  I’m on a tight budget!  To go on a bachelorette event it cannot cost me any more than a normal night out with friends.   
    You are allowed to say no to things.  I had a friend who went $10,000 in debt from feeling obligated to be in or attend every one of her sorority sisters’ weddings.  

    • Marie

      Agreed. I have never given anyone an engagement gift, and no one in my social circle expects that. If my financial situation was as tight as hers, I would not spend as much for the shower and wedding gifts, especially if she is traveling, buying bridesmaid’s dresses, etc. Your friends will still love you even if you give more modest gifts!

      I am getting married soon and what I would love most is for all of my family and friends to come. If someone can make it but can’t bring a gift, them being there is still a gift to me!

    • ranavain

       I was beginning to wonder if I was the only person wondering what the HECK an “engagement gift” is? You’re getting married, you get one gift! If you are my sister or very good female friend, you can get a $25 shower gift (that is a perfectly reasonable price for a piece of lingerie, since you wear it about 20 seconds anyway!)

      If you find yourself going to tons of showers, you could just have a standard cute shower gift that you bring that costs like $15… a pair of knee high stockings, say, or even just a Frederick’s gift card.

      $150 on a close friend’s wedding gift seems ridiculous! $50 is appropriate for that. And nobody gets engagement gifts. Who does that?

  • lepm16

    Here are my spending standards for weddings:
    Engagements parties and wedding showers are not habits in Canada (or maybe just the french culture). I wouldn’t even consider buying a gift to those, maybe just my meal.
    As for bachelorettes, all participants of the bachelorettes pays their share. I don’t get why a wedding party has to pay for these expenses.
     If you are traveling for a wedding, you shouldn’t give a big gift or no gift at all. Your presence should be enough or the equivalent of about the price of your meal and your guest if it’s not too far. As for in town, then I would spend a little more. Unless i’m in the bridal party, then price of meal is acceptable in my mind.

    • Buckigrad94

      You must NOT know how much these meals can cost. I was at a wedding where the kid’s meal (Chicken tenders and French Fries) was almost $50. My niece got a happy meal and played with her new toy for under $4. I can’t imagine how much the adult meal was. I dont think a $50 gift covered my meal.

      One of my cousins got married quickly in his early 20s and I was very impressed. Neither bride or groom could afford an expensive wedding but it was probably one of the nicest I have ever been too. His friends bought the beer and her friends made the food and cake (the bride eats Vegan so food costs more). There friends decorated her parents backyard. It was bueatiful and fun. Best yet, 9 years later they have 4 boys and are STILL married. I want to know how many of these friends are still married in the above articles? 

      Oh well, decisions about money and friends/family are never easy. Still trying to get the hang of it.

  • ProBmaid

    I’m really glad to see an article like this. I can really relate as I have been trying to more successfully manage my wedding season budget over the past several years and like Jane I live in New York, where it is hard to save anything at all. Saying “no” is really much harder to do (especially if you’re the sole friend doing it) than it may seem. But, as always, hindsight is 20/20, so there are a few weddings I now know I should have passed on but donned the big poofy $300 dress instead (debt ensued). Another tricky part about being in a wedding is that expenses/incidentals are often misrepresented upfront, i.e. promises of “my family is paying for this, I am paying for that” don’t always pan out. So I’ve found not counting on those sorts of statements outright and just saving what you can as you lead up to the various pre-wedding events is helpful as you are less prone to panic (and famine!) if/when the expected spend exceeds what you were hoping for. I’m definitely going to try the Money Center for the 2013 season!

  • chulainna

    A big part of the problem is bridesmaid’s dresses (and tux rentals)! I just don’t understand why someone would ask their closest friends to spend $100+ on a piece of clothing they can never wear again (even though the author has figured out how). The best wedding I was ever involved in was very frugal and placed no financial demands on me as a bridesmaid. The men wore suits they already owned; the women wore black dresses they already owned. The bride’s cousin did everyone’s hair as her wedding gift. It was about being there, and being supportive and helpful, everyone using their talents (I sang) to aid in their big day. I did give a gift, and split a hotel room with 3 other friends, but bridal-party costs were nil. If more friends chose this approach for their weddings, we could all save so much money (at the expense of bridal shops, I suppose).

  • Laura

    Culture is a big factor here.  I am Mexican and in my family when people get married its a family affair.  There are friends but 90% of the 200+ attendees are somehow related to you. But thats leading me down another path all together, my point is there are no engagement parties, and no bridal showers either.  Nevermind flying anywhere for these things (I would but it would have to be a VERY good friend).  I have grown up in America and still cannot understand having multiple gifts to buy a couple for the same event.  Its all a wedding, they get one present. If I cannot go to the wedding because its out of town, then I send a gift.  I just recently had to say no to the wedding of a good friend, and while I wish I could be there this weekend, she understand that a cross country flight is out of the question for me (being a graduate student doesn’t help much in the budget department).

    I am in my mid 20′s and I could not possibly borrow from my parents, especially for a wedding expense.  Maybe for rent, but definitely not a wedding expense.  I don’t want to sound mean, but this author needs to grow up and asses priorities.

  • JackieAU5

    LOVE this article! Weddings have become such a production over the past 10 years or so. Did our parents have the expectation of flying all over the country simply for a bachelorette party? Probably not. It’s just getting out of control. Now I understand why last year my cousin was obsessed with keeping her wedding, shower, and bachelorette as least expensive as possible. Props to her and more brides should keep their guests fiances in mind when planning all of these events. If you can’t afford it, you just can’t go…bottom line.

    • Kristen

       I completely agree! Why weddings have gotten so out of hand in this economy is beyond me.

  • aduck

    Don’t even get me started on “destination weddings”. 

    • JackieAU5

      I’m on the fence about destination weddings. I absolutely understand that most guests cannot attend but I think that’s the point. They don’t expect people to attend and they are OK with that. my friend got married in Aruba with close friends and family that really wanted to go and were thrilled about it. But even her grandparents didn’t make it and she was OK with that. When they returned they had a catered BBQ that was super fun that everyone attended. I think the problem lies in the expectation of unrealistic couples. I think the crux of wedding argument in this culture is the expectation.

    • Mara

      I always thought that if the couple wants a smaller, out-of-town wedding, they should be willing to pay for airfare and/or hotel for the bridal party they expect to attend.  They couple is saving money by not having an in town wedding for 100 people, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to cover some of the guests’ airfare/hotel costs. 

  • Cassie

    In the past3 years we’ve been to almost 15 weddings. This average is going to continue at least through next year. We’ve moved out of state this year, but already attended 2 weddings before moving, and each of us decided to fly home to attend one more wedding this summer. In all that time we’ve only skipped 1 wedding. But, each of us put down about $1,000 between airfair, wedding gifts, etc for just those two weddings this summer. We’re engaged now ourselves, so looking back at all of the money we’ve spent on other people’s weddings – and the fact that we won’t be able to afford anything nearly as nice as any of the weddings we’ve been to…I sort of wish we had been a little bit more choosy about which weddings we’ve attended in the past. Or at least been more shrewd about attending the showers, bachelorette parties, leading up to the events. It seems with the money we’d have saved, we’d have just a little bit more for our own wedding. 

    • Barb1015

      I say if you cant afford a shower,engagement and a wedding gift.Atleast go to the wedding and spend atleast 50 bucks on a gift if you can.Thats all we do now.Too much with a family and kids to worry about to spend money on stuff like this.Its noones obligation to buy all these gifts.

  • graceE

    Such a tough situation- I lost a friendship over deciding not to be in my friend’s destination wedding (she was my bridesmaid and very close to me). The flight and hotel would have cost over $2600 and we just couldn’t swing it because we are investing in my husband’s business.  She was very dissapointed and hasn’t really spoken to me since.  I know in my heart that I made the right decision and it really made me sad that I couldn’t be there.  I do think that brides need to be understanding, especially when it involves a flight and gift for the engagement, shower, bachelorette and wedding.

  • KP

    This is so true. First wedding I was in? Maybe spent $200 and then unpaid ‘labor’ if you will. Next wedding? A bridesmaid. Between the dress, unpaid labor, trips to NYC, food, presents, shoes, accessories, etc. I think I put between $800-1,000 into hers. I am a Maid of Honor in two weeks. I have also done the wedding planning, graphic design, will sing at their wedding, and am doing the bridal and maids makeup. I think all in all if I sat down and again, un paid labor, just added receipts from the whole experience I’m well over $1,000. 

  • ALR

    Just wait untill all those couples start having kids!  I was invited to seven baby showers this year…

  • Mara

    I very much appreciate the sentiment of this article.  Weddings and associated events can be incredibly expensive!  My husband and I don’t go out very often, so even spending $50 is a big deal for us!  Let alone $500+ between a dress or tux, bachelor(ette) party, and shower and wedding gifts.  We recently had to opt out of attending my cousins’ wedding in a different state because we could not afford it. 

    In terms of destination weddings, I always thought that if the couple wants a smaller, out-of-town wedding, they should be willing to pay for airfare and/or hotel for the bridal party they expect to attend.  They couple is saving money by not having an in town wedding for 100 people, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to cover some of the guests’ airfare/hotel costs. 

    Weddings are joyous events, but it is definitely important for the couple to be considerate to their guests and set realistic expectations.

  • Sk1630

    No one should go into debt over someone else’s wedding, and brides should be conscious of what they require of you, financially.  I have been in six weddings over the years, and each bride was very respectful of everyone finances, and did things like pick a dress we could wear again, helping us locate inexpensive shoes, having a lower-priced bachelorette party, or getting a group discount on bridesmaid dresses.

    If I ever felt I really couldn’t afford the task of being a bridesmaid, I’d let the bride know my situation.  If they are really your friend, they won’t want you to go into debt for them.  I’ve already had some good friends ask if I’d like to be in their future weddings,and have said no because I think I’ve already spent enough on the ones I’ve been in!  I’m engaged now and need to spend my money on my own life. 

  • Kristin

    I think that the global reach of friendships has a lot to do with the pain of weddings. I went to an Ivy+ college and have friends all over the globe. Even if they get married in their hometown (most of them are from the US), that could be in Texas, California, Massachusetts, Ohio, etc. Only once have I been to a wedding that did not involve an overnight stay somewhere. When many of these wedding customs were developed, you might attend the weddings of those who were close by. Now people are getting married later, have friends from everywhere, and scatter to the winds.

    My cousin got married recently. She was from RI, he was from IA, and they live in UT. It was not a destination wedding, but most of the guests had to fly/drive pretty far from somewhere.

  • sue

    I got to the point where one gift is all I give. My best friend from high school had six different themed showers.  SIX everything from a “kitchen”, “Christmas” showers to a private toy shower. On top of travel and my bridesmaid attire it was overwhelming. From that winter on I made it a rule that I attend one shower and buy one gift. If they don’t understand then I guess I was not meant to be a bridesmaid or a guest in the first place.

    • Shazzer

      6 showes is beyond the pale

  • deb free

    oh – this article needs to go viral.  i feel like all women feel this way, but are too afaid to admit it.  meanwhile, then you get married yourself and you see how ridiculous the wedding production is! 

    i’ve attended about 60 weddings in the last 10 years.  thought i was done with the bulk of my girlfriends getting married, but i just inherited a whole new gang of friends via my husband and have many more to attend. 

    it should be taught in schools that WEDDING GIFTS should be a budget category that everyone needs to save money for.  not for their own wedding (that’s yet another separate category), but attending or being a part of someone else’s wedding.  i have had to turn down several weddings in the past several years as budget-wise it just wasn’t feasible for me.  i was fortuante to be bridesmaids for friends who were very considerate of budget and usually covered larger costs like the bridesmaid dress, hair/makeup, hotel room, or all of the above.

    as for the budget – i calculate how much i would spend on the bach gift, bridal shower gift and wedding gift per couple each year.  i typically get invited to at least 5 weddings a year, but more recently it has become 7-8 per year.  and more and more have become far away weddings (i.e. the girl’s hometown, not necessarily a destination getaway type of wedding).  and i turn down all out-of-town bach parties.  so i just assume i’ll need to spend $X per wedding on just gifts alone.  Then my husband and i decide which out-of-town weddings we can afford and only commit to saving for 1 out of town wedding – not 2 or all of them.  and maybe we can piggy-back off a vacation for us, etc.  we budget how much we think we would spend on airfare (we have all traveled enough or attended enough weddings to know about how much we actually spend on these events or just resesarch it online, that and hotel and car rental costs).  then we divide by 12 and sock away money automatically from our paychecks to this savings bucket.  we’ve honed down the amount we need to save as it seems to hit that target every year – we are constantly dipping into this bucket, but there is always enough funds to cover the next gift or trip, so it has become a regular item we account for just like our rent and utility bills.  this way we don’t go into debt.  

    overall, we have had to have an overhaul in our lifestyle and become more frugal and try to earn more money by getting raises at work.  but we have learned to turn down weddings we cannot afford to attend and literally tell our friends, we can’t afford it.  if they are true friends they will be understanding.  if they are too self-centered, maybe they aren’t such good friends afterall.


  • LenaJ10

    Several years ago, I was asked to be in the wedding party of my best friend who was having a destination wedding.  I spent over a $100 on a dress that I despised (and donated to charity within days of the event) but my friend (whom I should mention was extrememly broke and could not actually afford the wedding expenses) thought was relatively “cheap.”  Next, she rented a vacation home near the beach where she held the ceremony and then enlisted/begged family and friends to stay in the home instead of a hotel  - sharing rooms and even beds on the nights before and after the wedding - so that they could help pay the rental expense.  Then she asked if I and the other bridesmaids could host a bachelorette party in the vacation home instead of paying for an outing at a local restaurant as orginally planned and give her the difference to pay for wedding costs.  We reluctantly agreed.  Several years later, I’m still bitter that I agreed because I missed the one opportunity I would have had to enjoy the nightlife in the beach community where we were staying.  At several other occasions during the wedding trip – I was asked to dip into my pocket to pay for liquor because my friend couldn’t cover those expenses and I again reluctantly agreed because I was already too miserable with the situation not to at least have a beer or a glass of wine to distract me from the madness!  All told, I went about $400 over budget, had a lot less fun that I’d expected and learned two very valuable lessons - first, that it is perfectly OK to say ”no” without feeling guilty and second, that even your so-called best friend will abuse a friendship by preying on your emotions in order to get what they want.  Lucky for me, my circle of close friends is small and the majority of them have no plans to be married anytime soon.

  • Laura R Yamin

    Great post

  • Bd

    I didn’t know people felt obligated to do so many events. I don’t do showers/engagement parties or even bachlorettes if I have to travel to them.  I give one gift at the wedding and try to spend what I can comfortably afford ($75 if I go alone, $150 if with a date).   

  • Kathryn

    As a senior citizen I am disheartened by the costs of these weddings to the guests.    It has gotten way out of hand..and is not necessary to make a good marriage.     My daughter was the last of her crowd to get married ( at age 41).   Because of their finances she and her fiance chose to have a small wedding (26 family members) at a local restaurant.   She had no shower or bachelorette party.    None of her friends acknowledged her day with a gift/ and or a card and only one threw a card at her …after telling her off on her wedding day for not being invited.    And yet my daughter attended all of their bachelorette parties, showers, and weddings and gave gifts.   She was also in several wedding parties.         So I caution all of you young ladies to think about your finances before you go blindly spending for a friend’s wedding.      

  • Camera

    Wow, you just wrote my story. I’m spending 8.3% of my annual income for ONE wedding I’m a bridesmaid in this fall. She is my best friend, but she is KILLING me financially. :(

    • Bitter :(

       I spent a whole month living away from my husband for my “best” friend’s wedding. We are no longer speaking… not to mention the close to $300 I spent to cover 6 of her 9 bridesmaids’ costs when I had no job (oh and those 6 were her three sisters, two cousins, and friend since infancy)

  • Grace2some

    It appearsyou can cut back on gifts.  What is an engagement gift for if you already bought a shower and wedding gift?  You are not furnishing their future lifestyle.  No matter how close someone is, it is still the thought that counts.  Additionally, the fact that you are a bridesmaid or even able to make the wedding if it is long distance is a wonderful thing – remember that your presence of sharing is your present.  Nobody is obliged to give a wedding gift, especially if you can’t afford it.  

  • NYCPrepster

    I think the unpaid labor is a gift.  If you are helping out a bride and groom that much with your time and talent, then there is no need to give a gift.  I am sure or hope that the bride and groom also appreciate all that you did  or are doing for their wedding.

  • mtrlgrl

    Wow you are spending way too much on gifts that is ridiculous! We joke with our friends about what they gave us (2 bachelors in college chipped in on gold electric can opener) when  we got married.  When  they got married it was later and we all had money and we got them something more expensive but we tell them we loved the can opener and used it for years and years.  It was not about the gift but the friendship.   Money is about choices all ways!  You need to make better choices.

  • Attyinaz

    I am stunned at the shallowness of these so-called friends, who dump those who don’t want to go into debt for a wedding. Weddings have gotten out of hand. It should be a time for celebrating, not a time for seeing how much stuff you can get and how much you can spend. All of that money go toward a downpayment on a house or a condo. This generation has mixed up “needs” with “wants”. Nobody needs a destination wedding. Nobody needs 6 showers. Just so wasteful and materialistic.

  • MZB

    Some weddings are definitely out of control, but on the flip side I have been lucky that most of my friends acknowledge the huge burden with travel, gifts, dresses, parties and any other event I may or may not be expected to do.  When my best friend got engaged, she went through a stage of ‘ you haven’t been there for me through the planning, I expect more’ and I basically ignored her.  I had to have a conversation of — this is what I can afford, deal with it.  Three years later when I got married, she was pregnant and living in a different country.  I told her I didn’t expect her to be too involved and she wasn’t. I mean the reality is some brides need to GROW UP.  It is a day about you and your husband not about the gifts, party, dresses and excess.  Even now, If I can’t afford a lavish gift or crazy amount of travel I just explain my situation to my friend and most of time (if they are a good friend) they understand.  Bottom line______ weddings should not be a financial burden– just do what you can and move on!

  • Smithlawyer

    Just say no to all out of town weddings unless it’s immediate family.  It’s a fair, evenhanded rule that doesn’t require you to evaluate the depth of the relationship.  There is absolutely no reason to give an engagement gift.  That’s what a shower and wedding reception are for. 

    • megs

       Seriously!  I read this article and some of the previous comments and found myself thinking:   “engagement gifts??  really?  is this a thing?? am i totally backward??”  I got married about a year ago and received some very lovely engagement cards, but that was it.  Even those were not expected!

  • Scurvyjoe

    I don’t think “luck” has anything to do with people “understanding” someone else’s finances.  Either they understand, or they are selfish inconsiderate a-holes.  I would definitely rethink my friendship with anyone that expected me to drop hundreds of dollars that I didn’t have for their special princess day.

  • Kievjaguar

    Just do not do it! Usually young brides (18-30 y.o.) dream about weddings. It is not the biggest day of your life. Every day is a biggest day because we never know what future we will have.  The most important for a bride and groom what happens after the wedding, not during it.
    Buy a beautiful card and write to the bride you would love to attend, but it is not possible (do not write about finances, will sound like you are trying to justify yourself). If she drops you, she was never your friend, but just an acquaintance.

  • apushkal

    Take a look at some of the etiquette books and you’ll see that actually the only kind of party you’re really expected to bring a gift to is a shower.  Most people don’t know this and would be offended if you didn’t.  If you have nerve you can save money and still be correct, but you may suffer the consequences as so many of these people did, whose friends valued putting on a show more than their friendship.
    BTW Why are brides getting all the flak?  Do their fiancés know anything about all these plans, or do they just show up on the wedding day?  

  • In our crowd of friends, it seems to be parents lately who keep pushing for the big weddings that end up causing friends and relatives to spend more.  My best friend wanted a very simple wedding – with immediate family and a couple friends each for the bride and groom.  Instead, she got guilt tripped into having a big wedding and while her parents paid for a lot of the party, they certainly didn’t cover the travel expenses or hotels for the 100+ guests that came in from out of town to go to the wedding.  
    We spent 4x as much attending my best friend’s wedding as we did on our own - – and while I’m glad that I was there for her, I know I’m not going to drop that kind of money on anyone I’m not super tight with.  

  • I can definitely relate to the above article.  I’ve been fortunate enough to stay with friends or family for the majority of out of town weddings which I have attended.  In most cases, my attire has consisted of clothing items I could wear again to church, job interviews, work, on dates, etc.  I have also learned that budgeting for gifts is most important especially when multiple presents are expected (engagements, bridal showers, hen parties, etc.)

  • The “never get into debt for a wedding” advice is some great advice.  Until your sister decides she’s getting married on a beach in San Diego and there’s no way to say “no” to that one…  Fingers crossed I can save enough cashola in the next 6 months!!

  • Erin O’Sullivan

    I average 4 weddings a year and I do not give wedding gifts. It simply isn’t possible to buy bachelorette gifts, engagement gifts, shower gifts and wedding gifts while also paying for hotels and car rentals. My gift to them is a nice note and my presence. 

  • Val

    Baby, I feel your pain. My biggest beef is the “destination wedding” where nobody lives at the wedding location, including the bride and groom. My former best friend held hers in New Orleans since she was “from there” — although she was actually from a town four hours away (and we’d all lived in Los Angeles for over a decade). I’ll share the litany:

    – As a seamstress, I spent hours helping her research  patterns and fabric and came up with a lovely pure silk bridesmaid’s dress that could’ve legitimately been worn again for about $85 in materials (and I would’ve sewn it myself and saved the cost of a seamstress), then at the last minute she instead chose a $360 polyester no-possible-way-to-wear-it-ever-again custom-order dress — and she ordered them late, incurring a $60 per-dress rush fee which she didn’t cover for us. Oh, and custom wear-once shoes. Bridesmaids (all seven of us, for a 35-year-old bride) paid all themselves. Bridesmaids’ outfit cost: about $500 apiece.

    – She scheduled events over seven days, with a couple of days off midway for “people to go sightseeing;” requiring nine days including transit to and from. (Note to brides: this is not a vacation for your guests, it’s an obligation. If we want to stick around to sightsee, we’ll add days before or after. Don’t schedule downtime in the middle so that we have 2-3 extra hotel nights, 6-9 extra restaurant meals and 2-3 more missed days from work or vacation days eaten up.)

    – She booked an expensive hotel in the French Quarter, getting us a group rate but still costing hundreds for the eight nights we had to spend there.

    – She planned events like a “Southern ladies wearing hats and gloves” luncheon, requiring the purchase (and packing) of a hat and gloves I never wore again. Even buying in in LA’s cheap downtown garment district, it still cost another $75.

    – I opened a store credit account for her in my name (I had fabulous credit; she had terrible — and no money for any of this affair) for a $3000 designer wedding dress she had her heart set on, and loaned her another $1500 for a last-minute liquor tab at the reception (none of her family apparently had the money), then she ignored our agreed-upon six-month repayment schedule and I hounded her for six months before she began to pay me back. I incurred a couple hundred extra in interest charges by the time she finally paid it off 18 months later.
    – As a seamstress and professional digital artist, I’d already been hit up for alteration of wedding-week clothing, design and photo retouching of her save-the-date card, design and layout of a wedding-week-itinerary brochure, designing and sewing her veil, retouching other wedding-related photos… (If you’re thinking, “just say ‘no’,” trust me, this fiasco taught me that very thing.)

    Between lost wages (I’m self-employed, no paid vacation), airfare, hotel, meals, bridesmaid outfits and the like, her wedding cost me about $3,000. Even her hometown friends, while at least able to drive there, still had to stay in a hotel and eat restaurant meals for the seven days. The idea that the cost for her more than 100 guests to attend the wedding was likely between $20,000-30,000, is beyond comprehension.

    Destination weddings are the epitome of narcissism. If you want to go to a beautiful locale for your wedding, do it for your honeymoon, by yourselves; or cover expenses for a handful of your closest friends. Don’t make your hundred-plus guests pay thousands for your fantasy. 

    As I mentioned, this is a former friend — the friendship didn’t end because of the wedding, but I’m guessing you can guess why it eventually did. :)

    Thanks for reading!

    • ET


      Except that the location was different, I would think we had been bridesmaids in the same wedding!! We lived in Los Angeles, wedding was in Connecticut. By the way, the bride stayed with her soon to be in-laws, everyone else had to get a hotel room. Our dresses were (wait for it) $800 BEFORE alterations!! I hosted the very elaborate shower, which the bride pretty much dictated to me. And I never saw even one picture from the wedding, because although she had her lingerie pictures developed and framed, she claimed that she never had her wedding proofs completed, even after I begged her so that my aging parents could see the photos. Like you, I also drifted away from my friend because she became obsessed with a lifestyle that she couldn’t afford and I wasn’t interested in. I’m now 51 and feel absolutely no guilt whatsoever in saying, ‘Sorry. That’s just not in my budget right now, but I know you’ll have a wonderful time!!’

  • Sarah

    This hit home for me as I’ve been in 10 weddings in the last 5 years, as well as attending about 8/year for the last 4 years.  It is a huge part of my finances and prevents alot of non-wedding adventures.  I’ve embraced a few rules, I only attend either the bach party or a shower.  I only give a shower gift (which I cap at $40) and a wedding present, which is typically dicated on how much I spent to travel to the wedding.  I wear basically one versatile dress all summer, and one rehearsal dinner dress.  Nordstroms has great inexpensive dresses! 
    Finally, having been a bride myself recently, I think its really important to set the tone as a bride.  Don’t require several parties in your honor, make sure to tell your friends that there’s no need to travel for a shower or bach party.  Don’t plan a bachelorette party on a holiday weekend in some tropical city that no one lives in.  Don’t require them to pay for hair dos or shoes.


  • HB

    Perhaps I am an anomaly here, but I just don’t understand why one feels as though they HAVE to attend or be in all of the weddings they are invited to.  I, too, am on a shoestring budget, but I tend to decline more invitations than I actually accept, BECAUSE I can’t afford it.  True friends should be understanding if you cannot afford to attend. 

    • Val

      Absolutely; although this plays into the “nice girl” can’t-say-no syndrome many of us have, and the bridezilla complex that only worsens with our society’s worship of All Things (and Behaviors) Kardashian-like — I’ve said no to several non-local weddings and have been massively guilted, chastised, friendships quickly drifted away. Some of these invitations were from women I honestly didn’t know that well, now having their wedding in a far-away, gotta-fly-there state — who seriously needed a head-thwap for giving grief to somebody put in the embarrassing position of saying, I don’t have the money. I still declined, but under a lot of guilt (and sure enough, all ended their friendship based on my declining to attend). 

      Brides need to get that there are other considerations besides their own. There’s only a short list of people I’m willing to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to get to their wedding, for (realistically) about a ninety-second interaction with the bride.

  • Katie P.

    Yes, weddings are expensive and I have had to miss my fair share of them, but I think you’re missing the point.

    We spend our money first where our priorities are. If the weddings were all that important to you, you could find a cheaper living situation (spending a full half of your monthly income on rent is quite a bit), eat out less year-round, etc. Like your dad told you, it’s about budgeting. Find a way to NOT dip into your other budgets to pay for things and be strict with yourself about staying within your budgeted expenses.

    If you absolutely cannot find a way to do that, then you need to be more realistic about your budget for each thing and re-prioritize. Take some things completely out of your budget. Weddings just might be one of those things, but don’t blame your spending behavior on weddings. Accept that you cannot afford weddings because of the lifestyle you have chosen.

  • Luci

    “an engagement gift, about the same for the shower gift, and… the wedding gift” I’m only aware of the bridemaid outfit and a shower gift as typical. Anything else would be very generous but not in my budget.

    If it’s out of town, I’d ask to stay with someone who lives in that area. A hotel stay would be 2 days tops, anything else I’d anticipate not attending (like the poster of an extended required stay to attend a tea and sightseeing tour).

  • Achill

    Some shoestring budget you’re on. My rent costs me 5.6% of my before-taxes income. I have the fiscal responsibility of a kid in a candy store and I still manage to save.

    • What if she doesn’t make as much as you? If I wanted to live alone in my area it would cost at least 1,200 a month, which is over 50% of my income. Sometimes roommates are a liability and you end up on the line for the whole rent anyways. 

  • fauwl

    This is such a common problem.  I just was just in a very good friend’s wedding who lives in another part of the country. 

    Between airfare, dresses, 4 presents (engagement, shower, bachelorette, and wedding) I spent well over $1,000.  I absolutely loved seeing her and sharing her special day, but even though I could afford to do it, I’m not sure I would make that choice again.  It just adds up so quickly.

    I think that many brides would be understanding if you declined to be bridesmaid.  In the end, having a larger wedding party increases the bride and groom’s expenses too.  In the future, I will definitely think twice before making that commitment.

  • vcgal

    I can relate.  In the last 6 years, my husband and I have gone to well over 30 weddings.  Yes, thirty.  I was in grad school at the start of this onslaught.  One year, I spent over $2,000 on just one wedding (I was a bridesmaid) at a time when I only made $15,000/year.  I have a decent job now, but it’s still expensive.  I hate to think how much we’ve spent in total on those 30 weddings.  There’s guilt in saying no, and the sense of missing out on a loved one’s special day.  My husband and I have only said no to 3 weddings we’ve been invited to.  For one of them, the bride-to-be cried and made me feel really, really guilty for saying no, but her wedding was 3,000 miles away from our home, and we just couldn’t afford it.  Luckily, most of our friends are married at this point, so there won’t be too many more weddings in the future.  But now our friends are all having babies – which means showers, birthday invitations, etc.  Does it ever end?

  • Tsullivan179

    Thank you SO much for writing this article!  I’m in my late twenties and it seems like good friends are getting married every other day.  I love and adore my friends and I have a really hard time saying “no” to the wedding and any of the special wedding events.  My boyfriend and I realized that our “vacations” have revolved around our friends’ destination weddings.  In the last year we’ve been to Arizona, Costa Rica, and Silverthorne, Colorado (we live in Denver, so that was more doable).  One of my longest standing friends is getting married in Thailand this year- and I can’t go.  She gave me about 6 months notice, and truth be told, I couldn’t afford to go but I would’ve charged it.  It turns out I wasn’t able to get the time off of work.  I couldn’t say no to my friend, but my boss did for me.  Just like the author said about weddings, “it seems like such an important part of someone’s life that I rarely thought about not participating.”  Still, I feel guilty about not being able to attend my friend’s special day.  However, if the shoe were on the other foot, I would not want anyone to go into debt for my wedding.  It’s not worth the stress and anxiety!  So maybe I just need to consider that the next time I can’t afford to go??  Thanks again for the article, I’m glad others are in the same boat.

  • Blogcabinkitchen

    In the UK bridesmaids are not expected to buy their own outfits – the bride is expected to cover it all. I always wondered how American brides could afford such huge gangs of bridesmaids! At my wedding we covered the cost of my bridesmaids’ (3) outfits, hotel room and food expenses for the weekend. 

  • Blogcabinkitchen

    In the UK bridesmaids are not expected to buy their own outfits – the bride is expected to cover it all. I always wondered how American brides could afford such huge gangs of bridesmaids! At my wedding we covered the cost of my bridesmaids’ (3) outfits, hotel room and food expenses for the weekend. 

    • Val

      That’s the way to do it! Next time you get married, call me. I’ll be your bridesmaid. :)

    • Alexzandria85

      I agree. I really wanted one of my close friends in my wedding and paid her expenses so that she could be. I don’t think it’s fair to expect people to come up with a lot of money if they can’t afford it.

      •  This is what I’ll be doing for a couple of my bridesmaids. I can’t imagine them going into debt to be at my wedding.