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Should I Use My Savings for My Friend’s Destination Wedding?

I just feel really guilty

woman laying in the road

Q: Dear Amy,

I have a close friend who’s set to be married in a few months. We’ve known each other for years—she was in my wedding, and we’ve made cross-country visits to see each other in the past. She’s now been living abroad for a few years, and she just announced that her wedding will be international… which makes it a destination wedding for me.

I am so, so torn. She’s been a good friend, but it’s a huge expense at a time that is not great for me financially. I could swing it, but it would come out of savings, and there’s no way both my husband and I could afford it together. It’s also a place that’s not the top of my list for vacations, and if I’m sinking in this kind of cash for an international trip I’d rather not be doing it without my husband and as cheaply as possible. I’m leaning toward saying that I won’t be attending because of finances, but I feel guilty, since she was in my wedding and we’ve been good friends for a while.

How do I say no gracefully? How do I feel like less of a jerk? If she’s still abroad in a few years, we’d like to visit her, since it’s looking like our finances will be going well after this year… but there’s no guarantee of that timing. I’d also like to give her a hefty cash gift, if I can figure out how with the currency difference, since she does mean a lot to me, and it would be much less than the whole trip.

—Guilty Friend

A: Dear Guilty Friend,

Let’s just be clear right off the bat: this is the reality of international life. You get adventure and freedom and new experiences, and sometimes your favorite people cannot be with you at important events because you are just too far away. I’m a firm believer that “I don’t want to go” is all the reason you need to not attend a wedding (although dress that up a bit when you tell the happy couple), but your reasons are particularly valid. It sounds to me like you can afford this wedding only in the sense that you have enough money to buy the tickets, not that you can afford to spend the money on this trip instead of other more pressing concerns. I, too, would not want to go on a vacation alone to a place I’m not interested in where I have to watch every penny I spend.

You share this information gracefully with your friend by telling her you’re so sorry, you would love to go, but you just can’t afford it. Don’t wait for an invitation and just check “no” on an RSVP card. She’s a good friend, and this deserves a phone call. (I know, I know, everyone hates the phone. But you cannot have a back and forth conversation where you listen to her reaction and respond accordingly over email.)

You really shouldn’t feel guilty, but if you do, maybe send flowers a week before the wedding, or a one hundred-days-to-go card, or ask her if you can sneak in a quick Skype session the morning of the wedding. Send a significant cash gift and plan a trip when you can, but only if you really want to. You don’t need to buy yourself out of guilt.

DO YOU FEEL LIKE EVERYWHERE YOU TURN, MORE PEOPLE ARE GETTING MARRIED? LIKE ATTENDING WEDDINGS HAS SOMEHOW BECOME YOUR HOBBY? IS “EXPENSIVE CRAP FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S WEDDINGS” A BIGGER BUDGET CATEGORY THAN “MANICURES, BOOKS, AND CHEESE”? EMAIL ME: AMYMARCH [AT] APRACTICALWEDDING.

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