Dear Lifetise: I can’t afford to be a bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding

Dear Lifetise, my friend is getting married in November and I’m one of her bridesmaids. We’ve been friends since primary school and I love her, but the wedding is turning into a nightmare for me financially.

She and her boyfriend have only been together for a year and they got engaged 2 months ago, so it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. They looked at some venues in the UK, but everything they liked was booked up, or too expensive. So they’ve decided to have the wedding in Jamaica.

They got a really good deal on a wedding package. The whole thing is costing them less than £6,000. That includes their flights, their accommodation in a lovely all-inclusive resort and all the wedding ceremony stuff. It’s less than half the price they expected to spend in the UK.

I’m glad that they’re getting their dream wedding. Trouble is, I can’t really afford to go and I don’t know what to do. I agreed to be a bridesmaid before they decided on Jamaica. I thought it would be somewhere in the UK. That would have been ok. I could afford a weekend in the UK.

Instead, I have to pay for my flights and accommodation, which come to nearly £2,000. (I’m single, so I can’t even share the cost of the room). Plus, they’ve asked us to be there for a whole week, so I have to take that time as holiday from work. 

I know that it will be an amazing holiday, but I just can’t afford it. It’s much more than I would normally pay on a holiday just for myself. I’m going to have to put it all on a credit card and hope that I can pay it off. At least the resort is all-inclusive, so I won’t have to pay for anything when I’m there. 

I want to be excited about it, but I’m just really stressed about how I’m going to pay for it. I don’t want to be a downer on my friend’s wedding, but every time she talks about it, I just get a sinking feeling. How can I feel better about it?

yours, Holiday Blues


Dear Holiday Blues

How great that your friend is managing to save so much money on her dream wedding. So how about she spends some of that money saved on covering the costs for her bridesmaids to attend?!

It is one thing to ask guests to travel somewhere in the UK to attend your wedding. Although even the costs of that can easily run into a few hundred pounds. 

It is a whole other thing to casually switch up the venue to the Caribbean and still expect you to fork out for your own travel and accommodation. Now, I have no issue with people who choose to get married abroad. Often it makes a whole lot of sense. But it needs to come with a massive let-off for anyone (family and friends) who cannot afford to come.

As the bride and groom, your job is to tell everyone that, whilst you would love it if they could join you, you appreciate that it is a huge ask. I think this should basically be at the top of the wedding invitation, in big fat writing: “PLEASE DON’T COME TO OUR WEDDING UNLESS YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY AFFORD IT AND REALLY WANT TO SPEND THAT MONEY.”

I’ll admit, it’s not particularly romantic as far as invitation designs go, but neither is bankrupting your mates. 

Some folks will be able to afford it, and will love making a holiday out of it. Great. Many others cannot. If you want any of those people at your overseas wedding, you’re going to have to pay for their company.

So, back to your dilemma, Holiday Blues

I find it astonishing that your friend, who you have known since you were 5, has not once asked you if this is financially doable for you. £2,000 is a helluva lot of money. Does she know it’s going to cost you that much? Is your friend putting pressure on you to attend? Or have you actually guilt-tripped yourself into going?

There’s something about weddings that make us feel obliged. I’m sure you’ve missed birthdays and other occasions in the past – we all have. Yet, it feels really hard to turn down a wedding invite. There’s so much pressure and expectation around weddings. They’re even called ‘the big day’. I wonder if some of that has to do with how expensive and aspirational weddings have become. 

The average amount spent on a wedding in the UK is now £30k! And the cost of being a guest at a wedding keeps going up too. According to one recent survey, the average cost of attending a wedding is now north of £1,000. Once you factor in things like hen/stag parties, travel, accommodation, gifts, and outfits, it soon adds up.

There’s a huge emotional pull for weddings. She’s a close friend. Of course you want to share in celebrating her happiness. Plus, she’s asked you to be a bridesmaid – that makes it even more of a big deal. At the same time, you’re about to get into debt because you don’t feel able to be straight with your friend.

I think you need to ask yourself two things. Honestly.

  1.  If you knew that no feelings would be hurt if you didn’t go to the wedding, would you still be booking that flight?
  2.  If this were the other way round – it was your wedding and your friend couldn’t afford to go – what would you want her to do?

Only you know the answer to those questions. I know that, if it were my wedding, I wouldn’t want anyone to get into financial difficulty. Weddings are about love, and friendship and trust. Maybe you can trust your friendship enough to be honest with your friend and see what solutions you can find together. 

Take care,

Lifetise


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