You all know how it is: a friend gets engaged and you’re so happy for them and you believe in love all over again, so you jump in head first, RSVPing yes to each and every invite from the engagement onwards. That is, until you get totally overwhelmed by all the money you’ll have to fork over. Which sucks when you have next to none to begin with. But you don’t want to sit out on all the parties leading up to the wedding, such as the engagement party and the bridal shower and the bachelorette party. But all these celebrations cost those dolla dolla bills, not only for gifts and whatever you’re doing but for transportation, potential hotel stays, your outfit(s), your makeup and hair and food, etc.
And I get it, because I have been there before. And it sucks. Because sure, you want to be happy for the bride to be, and you want to be there for all those Insta-worthy bonding experiences from these events leading up to the big day. And when you’re already broke because you’ve been waiting on paycheques for months on end (#payme), it puts you in a shitty position.
Back in my twenties, I was invited to the wedding of a girlfriend I had become fast friends with. It felt really good to be included and invited to such an important day in her life and I accepted the invite immediately, not putting any thought into how much I’d be paying for it — by simply saying yes — in other ways later.
Anyways, I’ve learned from my mistakes and so I’m going to act as your fairy godmother and pass along my wisdom to you. Because you can attend, but if you’re broke, you need to be realistic — with the bride, but most importantly, with yourself. Here’s how to navigate wedding season when you’re broke.
- It’s okay to say no: To being a bridesmaid. To attending a wedding in a different city or country. To attending a bachelorette party that requires you to deposit $500 — (more or less, but let’s be honest, probably not less) — into the bank account of the maid of honour. It’s okay to decline, because you are human and people get it. And you don’t need to justify your ‘no’ very much, unless you feel comfortable doing so. But once you commit and say yes, you have no right to mope, complain and passive aggressively hint that it’s all too pricey and unaffordable. If you say no, by all means, own that shit. This is a great way to practice speaking up and being authentic. The following will suffice: “Thank you for asking/including me/inviting me, but I’m sadly unable to afford it at this time. Can I do something with you/the bride/etc., at a later date to celebrate?”, or “I’ll set up a drink/hang with the bride for a later date”. The exception being at the wedding ceremony of course, because you certainly can afford pleasantries.
- Something borrowed: If you’re a bridesmaid, there are ways to cut on costs. Let’s start with the dress. Ask the bride if you can rent a bridesmaid dress, which hello!, guys have been doing similarly by renting tuxes for years. My go-to is The Fitzroy, which delivers rental dresses across Canada, and allows you to shop from their website based on size (0-16, YASSSS!), colour or dress code. Firstly, it’s an affordable way to get a suitable dress (in a similar colour to the bridesmaid dresses instead of spending a fortune on a dress you’ll never wear again) and accessories (think bags, purses and even fascinators if you’re still in that Meghan Markle phase). If you’re not in the wedding party, renting a dress for bridal functions is also easy on the wallet. Plus we all feel beautiful when we wear something new. Hit that!
- Gifting without guilt: As far as gifting is concerned, DIY is a great way to show the couple how much they mean to you. Never underestimate the power of a homemade gift, or getting something affordable (for you) that’s not on their registry like a gift you can personalize on etsy.ca by a local, Canadian designer. This is a cheap and chic way to look more thoughtful without having to stress over the actual dollar amount (“pay for your seat”) and how it reflects on you as a person. Sure, most couples want money, but no one is going to write you off as a friend for giving something from the heart. And if they are, then maybe this isn’t a friendship that you should be a part of.
- Sharing services: Splitting an Uber or Lyft with other guests who may live near you or going in on a gift with someone else are other simple, small ways to make a big difference when it comes to your budget.
If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it’s to just do you without shame or guilt or FOMO. Don’t worry about being judged or written off as a friend if you just can’t do it or you have to change your plan. I wish I could tell the twentysomething me that it’s okay to say no, or give a gift of less than $300, or to not blow $100 or so on a friend you only speak to once a year’s bridal shower, or a bunch of money to celebrate the bride at an over the top bachelorette party when you’re not even invited to the wedding to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, it can be fun, but it can also feel super uncomfortable when you don’t have the means that others do. So don’t feel pressured to do what everybody else is doing. You can still do you, and show up for the bride and groom, gracefully.