Going to weddings is really fun… it can also be really expensive.

There’s the transport costs of trains or taxis to remote venues, the hotel, your wedding outfit, drinks for the evening, and the gift. It can quickly become an incredibly pricey weekend.

In fact, a 2019 study found that a third of millennials who pay rent can’t afford to go their friends’ weddings.

It’s an awkward thing to bring up. Of course you would prefer to go to the wedding and support your friend on their big day – but if it means getting yourself into serious debt, or struggling to pay for essentials, then it isn’t worth it.

The average cost of being a wedding guest is more than £500, it isn’t surprising that many guests find themselves either having to scrimp and save, or in some cases get into debt, to pay to attend a wedding.

If you really can’t afford it, it’s a tricky conversation to have to have. How do you bring up the issue, and ensure you aren’t damaging your relationships in the process?

Rob Crump from online printing service Printster has revealed five things to say and do if you can’t afford to attend:

Let them know ASAP

‘You must let the couple know as soon as you realise you cannot afford to go to the wedding,’ says Rob.

Although it is very easy to put off difficult conversations, in this situation it can be fatal to your friendship.  

‘The couple will need to inform the venue, the catering team and readjust the seating plan for guests who can’t make it,’ Rob explains. ‘The sooner you inform them then the less trouble they will have to go through in readjusting everything.

‘Typically, couples don’t pay everything upfront, so they will be able to make certain adjustments freely but that’s only up until a certain point. If you wait until the week before the wedding, they may end up losing money.’

Be transparent

You’ve done the maths and come to the disappointing conclusion that attending this wedding wouldn’t be sensible. Perhaps you have outstanding bills to pay or simply cannot afford to spend any extra money this month, whatever the reason the disappointment is inevitable.

While you needn’t go into too much detail with the happy couple about your financial situation, being transparent and open is important.

‘Explain that although you would love to come and celebrate the special day, it simply isn’t feasible,’ Rob advises. ‘Be open, apologetic and honest. Ultimately, being truthful works as damage limitation.’

Have the conversation in person (if possible)

Simply sending off an RSVP card with a ‘no’, can lead to further questions and shock from the couple, particularly if you are a close friend or relative.

‘If possible, try to arrange to have the conversation in person, as this will allow you to explain yourself properly and talk things out,’ Rob says.

‘If you aren’t able to meet in person, then at least have a phone call or video chat in order to explain. Sending a text or an email is risky, as you can never be sure how the person has interpreted your words.

‘They may read something as more standoffish than you intended. Try and avoid anything which could jeopardise the friendship.’

Offer an alternative

While you may not be able to jet off for a destination wedding, don’t think that you are out of options to celebrate the big day. Offer to be supportive in other respects as this will show you really do care about the wedding.

‘You can help talk through plans and ideas for the wedding itself, help with chasing up other RSVPs or, if you can afford to, take the couple out for a celebratory dinner,’ says Rob. ‘It is possible to show your support without physically being at the wedding day itself.’

Send a gift

Sending a gift on their wedding, perhaps to the venue itself, is a lovely way to let the couple know you are thinking of them.

Buying the couple something on their registry may be nice, however a more personalised gift is arguably more of a thoughtful way to show your appreciation.

‘Making your own gift would be a personal touch, although if you’re time poor then have a look online to send a personalised gift,’ says Rob.

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