There’s a code of honor when it comes to weddings: if you came to mine, then I will go to yours. Even if yours is on the other side of the country, and especially if you boarded an airplane to get to mine.
I don’t think I need to point out the flaw in this reasoning.
Other people’s weddings are expensive. This past year my husband and I collectively attended five weddings, two in the state where we currently live and three about 2,000 miles away in the region where we grew up. And that was it. That was our travel budget for the year. All gone.
So this isn’t going to be a story about how to save money on your own damn wedding. Today I’m going to tell you how to save money on other people’s weddings.
Your presence is your present
My husband and I have a rule: if we have to buy plane tickets to your wedding, then we are not buying you a gift as well. You’ll get a thoughtful card and maybe a couple of Tubmans instead. We’ll be perfect wedding guests, showering you with attention and well wishes and taking lots of fun pictures. We won’t get sloppy drunk, and I won’t embarrass you by fighting your recently-divorced cousin over the bouquet. But don’t expect me to even glance at the wedding registry if I just shelled out $500 to get there and back without missing more than one day of work.
Weddings are about coming together to celebrate and support a new couple as they embark on their life together. That support and celebration should not be contingent upon an expensive gift or financial contribution.
When we got married, we wrote on our wedding website something to the effect of: “We understand that many of you might have financial priorities more pressing than a wedding gift at this time. Your presence is truly more important to us than your presents.”
We didn’t want to live with the guilt of knowing that one of our financially strapped friends had to go on the ramen and cereal diet for two months just to afford to buy us a damn Williams Sonoma bamboo cutting board. We just wanted to enjoy our wedding day with the people most important to us. And any other reasonable couple will feel the same way.
If you feel bad about not buying a gift, consider writing a lengthy, heartfelt letter to the couple instead. I guarantee they’ll be more touched by the gesture than they would by owning a sterling silver garlic press.
No one cares how many times you wear the same dress
Do not fall into the trap of thinking you need to wear a different cocktail dress to every wedding you attend. While it can certainly be fun to keep changing it up, it gets very expensive very fast.
I’ve worn the same clearance-rack sheath dress to three different weddings now. Nobody gave a damn, or if they did, they wisely kept it to themselves. When that dress got a little tight around the thighs (ahem: because I’ve been working out like a beast and my muscles are getting huge, of course) I replaced it with another clearance rack dress and proceeded to wear it to another three weddings in a row.
No one cares.
Invest in a simple, flattering dress that you can change up with a belt, scarf, or accent necklace if you’re worried about getting the fashion doldrums. Pick two inexpensive dresses and alternate. Shop at secondhand stores for gently used designer dresses for a fraction of the price. Masculine type people have it even easier: wear the same suit over and over again with different discount ties! Strut your frugal stuff like the badass bitch you are and take pride in saying “This old thing?”
Split the costs with other travelers
Remember how fun it was to have slumber parties when you were a teenager? Great! Time to relive the magic.
Split an Airbnb with as many other people as it takes to make it affordable for you. I guarantee whatever discount price the couple has negotiated for a block of hotel rooms will be more expensive than what you can pay by renting a house with eight people you’ve been dying to reconnect with since college.
Take public transit to the wedding from your accommodations, or shove as many of you as possible into a cab. Volunteer to be the designated driver if everyone else will pitch in to rent a van for the evening. Sadly, you can’t get a group discount on airfare, but you can spread the costs out a bit for most other aspects of travel.
Prioritize wedding events
If that opposite-coast wedding invitation was shortly followed by an invitation to the bridal shower and then the bachelorette party and then the rehearsal dinner, all temporally spaced across a period of six months to make it maximally difficult and expensive for you to attend all four, then my precious and prettiful platypus, you’re going to have to choose.
It is utterly unreasonable to expect anyone who is not a blood relative to buy more than one round-trip plane ticket or gift for the purposes of celebrating your nuptials. And even with blood relatives, it’s pushing the bounds of common decency. So if you can only make it to one, a good friend will understand.
Think of it this way: the couple has generously provided you with your choice of events to attend. So pick the one that fits best with your schedule, budget, and priorities and feel justified in skipping the others.
Like I said: priorities.
Sometimes it’s ok to just say no
Some of you are just like, “This whole discussion is moot: if you can’t afford to attend a wedding, then don’t fucking go.” Well yes, technically that is an option of course, you rude and heartless motherfuckers.
And if you absolutely cannot make a trip to someone else’s wedding work, then please don’t go. Don’t put yourself in financial hardship just so you can witness your high school bestie legally bind herself to another human for all eternity. It’ll be ok. She will forgive you. And if she doesn’t, then she’s not the kind of person you want to waste your time and money on anyway.
But be gracious in sending your negative RSVP. If finances and not lack of interest are the thing preventing you from attending, write a thoughtful note of congratulations with your sincere regrets about not joining in. Your friends will understand.
For more of our exciting yet tasteful advice on all things wedding related, read on: