Ask Team Practical: Spending Money as a Guest

One of my dear friends is getting married. Hurrah! She’s getting married in early June in Orlando and is having a pretty large, grand wedding. We met in grad school, and even though I left the school (and the state) we’ve stayed friends from 1200 miles away. She is a lovely person, and in fact, had asked me to be one of her bridesmaids. Due to financial constraints, I told her that I loved her and would be there for her, but that I couldn’t be a bridesmaid. She totally understood (because she is wonderful). I know that she really wants me to be there, but my fiancé and I are having a really hard time rationalizing spending almost $1000 to fly down there, stay in a hotel for two nights, rent a car, and feed ourselves. We’ve looked into taking the train, flying in on the day of (nerve-wracking!), looking at less expensive hotels that are farther away, but no matter what we do, this is going to basically break our budget. We are planning our own wedding (to which this friend and her future-husband are invited), and trying to get on our feet having just moved in together. We even thought about just sending me, but that doesn’t really change a bulk of the expenses, and then I’d be alone and I don’t know anyone else going to the wedding, so I’d rather not do that.

I am absolutely torn up about this because I love her and I know how much she wants me there. I know that if I were in her shoes, and I’m sure that in a few months, I may be, that if someone told me that they couldn’t come to my wedding for financial reasons, I would totally understand, even if I was a little heartbroken. My question is this: how do I tell her this without completely tearing her apart, and how do I let her know how much I love her and support her in this wedding/marriage?

Thanks for your help,

Largely Emotional—Please Offer Opinions and Recommendations


Gosh can I relate. It’s really hard to have so many loved ones scattered far and wide. I want to go to all the weddings! Unfortunately, taking a tour of the continental US just to sample wedding cakes isn’t financially feasible (at least this is what my husband tells me).

You said you’re in the process of planning your own wedding, so take a breath and think about how silly this situation is. You’re stressing and feeling guilty about being unable to go. She’s probably stressing and feeling guilty about asking you to travel so far. Is that the way weddings are supposed to work? Invitations fraught with guilt and stress on both ends? What a mess.

Being invited to a wedding is sort of similar to hosting a wedding. In both situations, you need to make thoughtful decisions that suit your ideals and budget, without being overly concerned with what people will think as a result. In both situations, you need to let people be grown-ups instead of feeling it’s your responsibility to make everyone happy. You know how your wedding is not an imposition? Well, guess what. Your choice to attend or not attend is not an imposition. An invitation is not an obligation.

I know you really, really want to go, so just to cover your bases, make sure you explore all of your options. Have you looked for someone to stay with while you’re in town, instead of shelling out for a hotel? Have you asked her if there’s anyone else traveling from your area who could give you a ride? Have you tried hitchhiking? (Just kidding, don’t do that. It’s dangerous.)

If it flat out looks like there’s no possible way—call her. Luckily, your friend sounds amazing and understanding, so this conversation shouldn’t be too painful. But, it’s much better to explain the situation in person than to send an email or a “not coming” response card. She’s going to be sad—understandably so. You’re awesome! Of course she wants you there! There’s no way to soften that blow. Facts are facts and money is, well, money. And kind of rare these days. If she’s as understanding as you say (or ever watches the news at all), she’ll realize that this is a matter of unfortunate circumstance, and not one of ill will.

Once you make it clear that you love her but your checking account doesn’t love you, send her a great wedding gift. Even better, write her a little letter including all of your well wishes for their marriage. Hopefully, they’ll be able to come to your wedding, but if finances are unkind to everyone (the monies can be very cruel), plan for a visit later when she isn’t surrounded by guests and you can greedily soak up all her time.


Team Practical, how do you handle disappointing your friends when finances get in the way? What do you to show your love and support for a marriage you can’t attend?

Photo: Moodeous Photography.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com or use the submission form here. If you would prefer not to be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Although, we always love a good sign off like our friend LE POOR, here.


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  • Alicia

    A friend of mine sent me an email a few weeks ago saying that she will RSVP late to my wedding because she trying to see if she can make it work financially. I know she and her boyfriend have been victims of a bad economy, so I completely understand. If she understands what you’re going through and is reasonable, she’ll understand.

    Have you thought of using Couch Surfing to save money?

    • Yes to CouchSurfing! Highly recommend. Also, quite frankly, if you divulged where it is, I bet an APW-er would offer their couch or find you one within 24 hours. Just sayin’…

      Also, does you know of any other guests coming from a similar area that you could carpool with? (or someone you could ask?)

      • meg

        OH YOU GUYS.

    • Therealmariela

      Seriously, has saved me many, many times.

      • Katie

        Or, if you want to take it up a step from Couch Surfing, check out! I’ve had nothing but great experiences with them so far. Room prices run the gamut, but if it’s a big enough market, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

        • Sarah

          Couchsurfing is an option, and I recommend Air BnB too (my fiancée and I just booked 2 weeks with a lovely woman in Barcelona for our honeymoon at just $500 total…that’s approx. $15/night/person). Also, if there’s a university at your destination with dorm rooms for rent when the term is over, these can be super cheap. Finally, what about billeting with family or friends of the bride? For cheap transportation, if you’re up for a road trip, drive away services (where you deliver someone else’s car to them) sometimes give you a stipend for gas.

  • Just want to underline the “talk to your friend” part — we had several people who managed to make it to our wedding (and otherwise wouldn’t have been able to) because we were able to put them in touch with others in the same situation and/or coordinate them sharing rides, rooms, etc.

    Another idea if you really can’t make it — a good friend coordinated putting together a little book of my life before I got married (i.e., a photo book from various friends) and it was such an amazing surprise that we spent our wedding night thumbing through it. If you’re still in touch with other people from school, that would be awesome, but even if it was just a little curated collection of photos of your own personal adventures with the bride, it’s super meaningful and one way of saying that you support her and wish you were there.

    • Yes! Let her know early. Dear friends of mine were struggling with money for someplace to stay for my wedding. One let me know a couple weeks before hand and we were able to hook them up with a place to stay easily. If she had told me even sooner it would have been so much less stress for the both of them.

      A couple of my b-maids and both my parents (they’re separated), knowing many friends were coming from out of town and were young and poor, offered up spare rooms and couch space early on for anyone struggling with money and needing a place to stay.

      So that’s my advice as well. Talk to your friend. Let her know money is tight. She may have options just waiting for you to help you be able to attend without it costing so much.

      • Laurel

        Some good friends of mine had a housing registry when they got married: local friends signed up to offer a place to stay, and out of town friends signed up with their housing needs. I think they ended up being disappointed by how little use it got — people just made arrangements directly with their friends — but it was still a rad idea. Also, because of the timing some friends in a shared house were all out of town that weekend and let me borrow the whole house. I ended up putting up 7 people: 1 on the couch in my teeny apartment plus 3 couples at my friends’ place. Another friend got her parents to stay in a hotel and stuffed their house to the gills with her younger broker friends.

      • SaraB

        Friends of my friend who got married in France volunteered their house for any out-of-town/country guests who would need a spot to stay the night of the wedding. We went to France (even though my friend called off the wedding) and still got to stay with her awesome friends, who even made us breakfast and dropped us off at the train station. So, just ask. Odds are, there might already be friends/family who volunteered their spare rooms/couches/tent in the back yard.

    • meg

      Also. We paid for rooms (and in some cases flights) for friends once we figured out what was going on. Best money I spent on the wedding, no question.

    • PA

      When one of my high school friends got married, she made up an email list of people who she thought would be either attending alone, or would appreciate being able to split hotel rooms and rental cars and so on – then she sent an introductory email and went, “Ok, GO!”

      Also, her parents’ wedding present to her was to pay 25% of the cost for all of her friends’ hotel rooms – something that ended up being a truly meaningful contribution!

      • meg

        That’s the sweetest present ever. I hope I remember to do that for my kids.

        • PA

          Me, too! Thinking outside the box to allow more people to be there? Awesome! And, as families get more and more scattered, we need to develop these strategies to make community gatherings possible!

        • Ana Maria

          I am also getting married far away from about half of the invited. One aunt insisted on giving us money for the wedding but we told her it would be so much more meaningful for her to pay for someone’s ticket who wouldn’t be able to themselves.
          So talk to your friend, maybe she has a back up plan!

    • Sarah

      I want to reiterate the idea of the bride and groom connecting out of town friends with local friends. My friends asked me if I could host people for their wedding. I e-mailed some of the college friends I knew were coming, but they’d already made plans to share a hotel room. I ended up hosting two friends of the groom–one from his high school and the other from his college. It was an awesome way to bridge the different friend groups attending the wedding (I’m a college friend of the bride, and post-college friend of the couple) as well as a way for far-away friends who don’t have enough time to interact with the couple to get to know the other partner.

  • Amy March

    You may not be able to attend, but who else is going to ohhh and ahhhh via Skype when the wedding video comes out? Include a coupon for a wedding video premier party with your card, and when it comes out order the two of you matching takeout, put on a party dress, and have a great long distance evening of wedding viewing with her. Maybe even see if her hubby can pick up a cupcake or two for her from the wedding cake bakery for the occasion.

    • Karin

      That’s such a cute idea!!

      • holy shi*t! That’s a fantastic idea! I’m probably going to steal this!

    • meg

      YOU GUYS ARE TOTALLY MAKING ME WEEPY TODAY. Ugh. Y’all are the best, and you have the best ideas. Also? You guys really GET friendship (take that WIC…)

    • Amanda

      And if they don’t plan on paying a professional to record the wedding? Ask one of her friends to record some bits of the wedding, even with an iPhone. iPhone video = better than no video! And you can still have a viewing party :) Or even a photo slide show if no video is taken at all.

      • Or if it doesn’t add way too much stress to her day, maybe you can Skype in during the getting ready portion and virtually hang out with her during that time/see her in all her wedding finery. Someone gave me that suggestion when I got married because all my grandparents are overseas and couldn’t come. It ended up not working because of the 12 hr time difference, but I’ve thought ever since it could be a super cool way of lessening distance on an important day.

        • jpnadia

          Or, since it is a money issue and not a time issue, perhaps it would be possible to ask a mutual friend to set up Skype or a Google hangout during at least part of the wedding? My cousin will probably be stuck in Germany for my wedding (in the US) for a variety of reasons, and this is our tentative solution. We’re both tech geeks, though, so YMMV.

    • When a dear friend got married in Argentina, 3 of us who couldn’t attend (me in Cyprus, a friend in Zaragoza and another friend in a far away Argentinian city) made her a surprise video “as if”we were at the wedding. We recorded each of us with night gowns, having imaginary dialogues with each other, then edited it, uploaded it to youtube and also sent it on a CD to her. We also Photoshoped ourselves into the wedding pictures that we found online. A friend who could attend kept uploading pictures with her iphone all night, so we felt like we were there, all together.

      • Claire

        Aww! That sounds awesome.

    • Bessa

      Oh–if you go this route and they’re not hiring a video person, perhaps your present to them could be a Flip camera? The most touching present we got for our wedding was a Flip camera that my best friend had used to film events throughout the day and asked guests to film well-wishes for us. She was attending solo for financial reasons as well, and manning the camera gave her something to do all day and also made a kick-@ss present when she boxed it up and left in our hotel room that night- we watched every clip that night in our hotel, and now we also have an awesome little video camera that we use all the time.

      Maybe you could ask the other maids if they could tag-team film and present it to the bride and groom as a joint gift and then have your awesome Skype viewing party?

  • Allison

    One of my dear college friends got married far away from where I live, when we were all very young and broke. I added up the cost, and travel alone was going to come up to about $500 (not counting food, clothes, gifts, etc.). So I just called her and told her that I loved her dearly, but I didn’t have $500+ and wouldn’t be able to come to her wedding.

    She understood, being young and broke herself. I sent a nice gift, and oohed and aahed over their wedding photos. I’ve also been there for her during some tough times in their marriage. She knew I was at their wedding in spirit. Sometimes you just can’t make it work, and reasonable and practical people will understand that.

  • Karin

    I love what you said about a wedding invitation not being an obligation. I’m at that point in my life where wedding invitations are becoming abundant, and this post was definitely a wake up call for me! I moved 500 miles away from pretty much everyone I knew 2 years ago, and while I know that I won’t have to pay for a hotel- for the most part- because I can stay with my mom, the thought of shelling out the money to drive, fly, take the bus/train, or whatever is daunting. Thanks for reminding me that while I love my friends with all my heart, I’m not REQUIRED to go to their weddings if I honestly and truly can’t afford to go!

    • meg

      The only thing you’re required to do is send them a note (heartfelt if you can manage) telling them how happy you are for them. DONE! You’ve lived up to etiquette (and done way more than most people will do).

      Also, those heartfelt notes, some with TINY presents because people were broke, were my very favorite part of the wedding. Or one of my favorite parts at least. Way up there.

      • Margaret

        Yep, we loved the tiny gifts – I still remember who gave us the single red spatula, the yellow dish cloth, the tiny jar of fig jam. Didn’t think my friends were “cheap,” just thought they loved me.

        • Carolyn

          One of my friends gave me a pair of oversized frames from Ikea– I put a photo from the reception in one, a photo from the honeymoon in the other. Best gift ever, and not something I would have bought myself, most likely :)

        • Liz

          I love using everyday things and being reminded of who gave them to me. Definitely an added bonus to writing those thank you cards- I don’t think the who-gave-what would be as clearly etched into my brain without writing them.

  • One of my friends will be getting married in July, and there is a possibility my fiance (our wedding is in May – next year) won’t be able to come. When I told the bride that we may RSVP late due to awkwardness in plans, she immediately said “come stay at my house until the wedding day! I’ll be there all week – we’ll get you taken care of!”

    So, I agree with the others – talk to your friend. You never know what might come of it :-)

  • yesiwill

    A few years ago, I was in the midst of a messy divorce and entering single motherhood with two-year-old twins while two really good friends who both lived out of state were getting married. All of this was occurring in the same month. I told them both that I would be unable to attend for financial reasons and sent much nicer gifts than I normally would have. Spending $100 on each of them for well-thought-out-gifts was less than a tenth of what I would’ve spent to attend their weddings, but I still felt that it expressed how much I wanted to be there to support their new unions.

  • I’m in a similar situation with a dear friend, and my husband and I have opted to buy a plane ticket for just me (at a great discount!). I may end up staying in a hostel and not knowing anyone, but I’ll be there. I’ve learned that matters a lot. I had a good friend not come to my own wedding because, although she found a cheap plane ticket, she was concerned about needing a place to stay. We had a good half dozen mutual friends that would have housed her. She insisted that she would come visit at another time when there were fewer people around and we could see one another more— but that wasn’t the point. The actual day ended up being more important that I ever realized, and not having her there was a true bummer. So, although I agree that an invitation should not be an imposition, if you can find any way to go, go. It will mean the world.

    And, if you can’t go (which certainly might be the case- and I get that), send a letter of well wishes, and drop her a phone call the week of to her let know you’re thinking of her. Either way- best of luck. I get how stressful (and damn expensive) these things are.

    • meg

      True. Hostels and traveling alone are the best. And weddings are about community… you’ll meet people. So if you can figure out how to make it work, I guarantee it will be worth it.

    • DanEllie

      When a close friend got married last fall, mutual friends couldn’t make it down to her home town. Instead, they sent lovingly handmade gifts and had flowers delivered the morning of the wedding. Although they weren’t there in person, they were there in spirit and we all felt their love.

    • Regarding the place to stay, if that winds up being the barrier, call the bride. She really really might have ideas on someone you can stay with.

    • blimunda

      I went with my boyfriend to a wedding abroad a few years ago. It was the funniest wedding ever (I found APW during my friend’s planning and never left :) ). We spent the night before with one friend that we had never met before, and The Day we headed to the ceremony site, by bus, in wedding guest attire, carrying camping gear :) we all got to camp on a field at the reception site, a beautiful old country house. Awesome! The bride&groom made a wonderful job of putting people in touch with each other, providing tents and sleeping bags for those who came from abroad, making sure everyone got a lift to the reception, etc.

  • pixie_moxie

    Be up front. Of course not everyone is going to be able to make it to your wedding. My wedding party went from 3 to 1, the one remaining being my sister. The other two were best friends from different parts of my life. We had tearful phone calls about money and pregnancies but there was absolutely no love lost. Did it hurt that my friends weren’t there physically, yes, but i knew they wished they could be and loved us all the same. Did I wish I had the money to fly them in on my own, yes! It was hard to not wallow in trying to find the money to make that happen.
    2011 was a good year to get married there were 2 other weddings that took place that year other than ours that we would have loved to make it to but could not. One couple lives in town and were getting married a month later than us, we both agreed it was not feasible go to each others weddings and would make a point of dinner upon return. The other had an amazing wedding via cruise, I could not get off work for that long, but they were able to make it to our wedding. I still struggle with the guilt that we did not make it to theirs. The most important thing about all of the above though is communication! I know we will find a way to make it out to visit our friends another time, and when we do that there will be more one on one time to enjoy each others company than can be found at a wedding.

    The guests that didn’t make it that hurt the most was the one that didn’t decline till days before the wedding. We totally understood but would have appreciated the “hey money sucks, we love you anyway” letter. Such is life. You get over it. Not worth ending a friendship over.

    Best wishes, I’m sure you will figure out what is right for you and congrats on the upcoming wedding!

  • thurszilla

    Even if she is utterly torn apart that you can’t come, she is not upset *at you*, just upset at the world that is keeping you from coming. This is not your fault.

    My own wedding is going to be a “destination wedding” for at least half the guests no matter where I have it – I’m just crossing my fingers that some people from my side will actually be able to come.

  • Laurel

    Three things.

    1. We’re having a wedding that’s going to be a giant hassle for people to get to. It just is. That was my (our) decision and it’s the right decision, but I also know that there will be people who can’t make it. That’s fine. I mean I’ll be sad not to have them there, but I would be much, much more sad if they felt resentful about coming. If it’s going to break your budget and make you sad to go, DON’T. Your friend will be fine. It was an invitation, not a summons.

    2. Can you talk to your friend about the logistics? Does she know anyone with a couch in Orlando? Are you sure you’d have to rent a car? Obviously it’s not her job to make your travel arrangements, but if you talk to her about your concerns she might have some easy ways to help. I’d want a friend to talk to me about it.

    3. I went to a friend’s wedding which was even harder to get to than mine will be. I basically only knew him: I’d met his now-wife twice and his brother a few more times. I went alone because my partner and I couldn’t afford travel for two people. It was completely awesome and I had a great time, because I shared a rental car with people on the way there, helped set up once I got there, and stayed with their friends, so I met a lot of people. Going to a wedding alone can be great, even if you don’t know anyone.

  • Kat

    to add to the “if you really can’t make it do this instead” column. CALL your good friend the morning of her wedding and either A) Leave her a wonderful voicemail for her to listen to later (cuz she may have the thing off so she isn’t bothered) or B) Have a totally awesome conversation with her. Maybe even write her a note that you can then read to her over the phone.


    Mail a family member a wonderful surprise that they could give to your friend the morning of the wedding so she knows you’re thinking of her. Bonus points if it’s an inside joke or has meaning to both your lives. I’d say extra Bonus points if you could have someone co-ordinate a phone call with her when she’s given that wonderful surprise.

    Also, if you’re at all religious or spiritual you could pray/do something spiritually significant for your friend and her spouse at the time when they’ll be getting married. You could tell your friend in advance that that’s what you’ll be doing for her. Being religious myself I think it would be VERY meaningful for me to know that people who couldn’t be there were doing something like that.

    • Yes! to this too. I received a wonderful voice mail the day of from a friend who wasn’t able to attend. It meant so much to me that he had been thinking of us on our wedding day and had taken the time to let me know.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Or, if you’re the old-fashioned type, send a telegram. In the old etiquette books, it’s the best man’s job to read telegrams to the couple at the reception.

      • Sarah

        Telegrams from those who can’t make it are traditional in England and yes, the best man reads them out at the start of his speech. We received a telegram from my cousin who lives overseas and couldn’t make the wedding and I was so thrilled to get it!

        • HH

          I LOVE this tradition! How awesome!

    • Kristina

      THIS. My fiance was on a required internship in Africa during the summer of her very best friend’s wedding in NY (which I officiated) and it killed my fiance to miss the wedding. So, months before the wedding on the night she left for Africa, we videotaped a message from my fiance to her best friend. I shared the video with the bride just before her ceremony and both these best friends were crying good tears (one on video months prior, and one standing in front of me watching the video) because the thoughtfulness is what their friendship is about – not geography.

      Also, now that its time for our own wedding this summer – we totally understand all our guests may not make it. But we’re hopeful they will talk to us (and we’re seeking out those who we suspect may have trouble) so we can try to make it happen.

  • N

    I do know what the wrong outcome is (because I’ve done it many times)…say yes to being a bridesmaid, end up resenting the bride because of (1) all the money I’ve spent that I don’t have, and (2) what I do give of my time and money not being enough. Not to mention the conflicts this created with my fiance. The topic of many relationship & money talks!

    • Kat

      AMEN! Sometimes I feel like there needs to be websites for APW bridesmaids who have to deal with/recover from their trauma being there for non-APW brides. I find myself frequently saying to my SO “OUR wedding will NOT be like this, please don’t freak out!”

      • No kidding! That stuff is PERVASIVE! Don’t foget the poor groomsmen either – My fiance is asking his groomsmen to do things that are making me totally cringe, like asking our debt-ridden nearest and dearest to buy $350 suits + matching accessories (including! shoes!). The groomsmen’s attire is more than my dress! I wish I could get him to read APW, I can barely look our kind and forgiving friends in the eye right now.

        • Kat

          ACK!!! Suggest he gives them really really awesome thank you gifts then! Nice flasks full of whiskey and excellent cigar awesome.

    • Alyssa

      YES. You are SO right. I had a friend turn down being a bridesmaid and while it hurt at first, I was so grateful she did in the end.

      I’d like to throw in a giant hug and pat on the back to the poster for knowing what she and her partner can handle. Hard decisions can be made worse by giving in to someone else’s needs or saying no without doing it in a thoughtful way that conveys how you feel.
      The fact she turned down being a bridesmaid and then is trying to make her not coming to the wedding as least upsetting as possible – to a friend she doesn’t even leave near and hasn’t known for tons and tons of year – makes me want to be her friend too!!!

      • Alison

        I’ll be your friend!! :)

  • I’m going to chime in in support of sending a heartfelt note or making a call if you approach this from every angle possible & still can’t make it work. One of my dearest friends had an out-of-state wedding, and when all she got were the “not attending” RSVPs from some of our closest girlfriends, she was really hurt.

    I also have to chime in in support of Couch Surfers. I have loads of friends who have used it (including internationally) and it’s helped so much with travel plans.

    Good luck!

    • Another Meg

      Yes! Couch Surfers is how my sister spent two months in Europe. If it’s your first time, use someone who’s been verified by the site. Calling the bride and seeing if she has a friend/relative with an empty couch is probably your best bet, though. You might not even need to rent a car that way.

  • Alison

    So, I wrote this letter to ATP and your comments are totally making my day. I am looking into finding a place to stay that won’t cost me an arm and a leg… and a little bird told me that people are trying to offer me couches via emailing Liz. Can I just say that the APW community is the best? Thank you for all of your suggestions and advice; it’s making this situation so much easier to handle!! <3

    • I’m in Orlando…happy to help if I can!!

      • All the advice here is awesome, and I have nothing to add on that front….

        BUT – just wanted to say that I met Barbra at an APW meetup that my wife and I drove up to Orlando for, and she is LOVELY.

        Also…we have a Disney timeshare vacation thingie and might be able to help out and get you a room if nothing else in Orlando works out, if we know in advance! Meg/Liz/Alyssa – please pass along my email to the Alison if she needs it.

  • I would like to second all the ‘talk to your friend!’-ers. I know talking about money can sometimes be a little awkward, especially when it’s tied to something like maybe not making a friend’s wedding, but almost everyone has struggled with money at some point in their lives. Most people, although they may be upset, will understand. And also? Definitely ask if she has ideas for places to stay– at a family member’s or local friend’s house especially.

    Good luck. :)

  • Several of mine and my husband’s closest friends in the world could not come to our wedding. That’s what happens when you build a life up at different times in different parts of the country and you make friends with people who are like you (uh, broke). It made us really, really sad. But we understood.

    My advice to you, based on my own experience, is to be up front about the situation. I had a few people put off RSVP’ing until the last minute, saying things like “we’ll *try” to be there,” or “Oh yeah, we’re definitely coming,” only to confess a week or two before the wedding that they didn’t have the money. I know they just felt embarrassed, or guilty, and I’ve totally done the same thing myself, but it’ll be a weight off your friend’s mind if you just tell her, sooner rather than later.

    Also, I’m not about to tell you how to spend your money, but I will say that I felt pretty shitty when one of my more chronically, yet inexplicably, broke friends opted not to come to our wedding (after I offered to pay for everything save the flight), and then posted a bunch of facebook photos of expensive things she’d purchased/done right after the wedding. You don’t have to make your friend’s wedding a priority, but it’s sort of rude to flaunt it if it’s not.

    Finally, I loved it when people who couldn’t make it to our wedding went out of their way to make us feel loved before or after the fact, by sending us a nice note with a photograph or some trinket, or by offering to take us out for a drink next time we were back in the same neck of the woods.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Flaunting purchases on Facebook is always a bad idea.

      • Anonymous Coward

        Over the space of 2 weeks, a Facebook friend/former coworker 1) started a flamewar on my wall about housing prices, cost of living, and how some people were too entitled and needed to live within their means, 2) posted on her own wall that she’d spent $500 on her hairdo, and 3) complained that everything was too expensive.

        It just looks tacky.

        • A A


  • Karin

    The writer of the letter is my best friend and I just have to say thank you to everyone who’s offering to help her out! This has been killing her for MONTHS and just to know that there are so many people out there who don’t even know her but want to help her simply because she’s awesome and needs help is just amazing to me!

  • MDBethann

    If you are traveling from somewhere else on the East Coast, you could look into taking the Amtrak Auto Train from Lorton, VA (just south of DC) to the Orlando area, then you wouldn’t have to rent a car or fly. I think the journey is about 20 hours, so it might even reduce your lodging. I don’t know if it runs every day though.

    As for the whole reciprocal wedding thing, if she was sweet and understanding about your inability to be a bridesmaid, she’ll probably understand whatever you decide to do. I have a good friend from grad school who got married in a lovely ceremony in the German Alps last month. He invited me and I was dying to attend. But, like you, I’m planning my own wedding and between work and the costs of flying to Germany for 4 days (even in winter) it wasn’t in the cards. But my friend and his now wife understood and didn’t expect me to come – they just wanted me to know I was wanted. I have invited them to my May wedding in Pennsylvania, but I know they can’t make it either – I wanted them to know they were wanted (same with some other friends who live in Europe). I made sure I sent them a nice gift reminiscent of our grad school days and a card that said how much I would have loved to attend (it was at a monastery & Bavarian inn between Munich and Garmisch. Sigh).

    Finally, I’ve gone to most weddings in my life solo. It really isn’t that bad and it forces you to make new friends. As for the car thing, is her ceremony and reception all in one place or can you share a ride with someone else? If so, most hotels will shuttle you between the hotel and the airport, so you may not have as many expenses as you think.

    Good luck!!

  • Stacey

    The real world gets in the way sometimes. The earlier you can alert your friend to your situation the better.

    I have two local friends that found out they are pregnant (YAY), and their due dates are only a few weeks after my wedding. They told me that they have no idea if they will be physically (or mentally) able to come to the wedding. Will I be sad if they can’t make it? Yep, but I understand, but I appreciate the heads up.

    Attendance at weddings are pretty important for the two people exchanging the vows, and as much as I want those that I love to be there, they aren’t the ones tying the knot.

    We can celebrate together, later with their beautiful BABIES.

  • We got married about a year after graduating from college and knew that most of our friends were post-college and broke or in grad school and broke, so we spent about $1000 to rent a house (VRBO!) that the bridal party and friends stayed it. It slept something like 12 people and it was FAB. We had it Thursday-Sunday and it was a nice home base for the bridal party and all our friends. It was the best money we could have spent, because a lot of our friends wouldn’t have been able to spend that extra money for a couple nights in a hotel. We stayed there on Thursday & Friday night and then had a room for our wedding night at a hotel.

    Also, one of our friends was only able to get out for the wedding, day of, because of her internship. She got delayed flying across the country and called me, almost in tears, that morning. I hooked her up with my MOH’s dad, who flies a lot and he was able to get her on the next flight (luck, pure luck) and even though she missed the ceremony, she was able to show up and see us. The fact that she still showed up (and since her ride had left for the wedding hours before, she rented a car) and was there was the best.

    In other words, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I told one of my friends that I would buy him a ticket from Prague if he couldn’t afford it because I wanted him at our wedding. And I would have, because having our best friends all together on our wedding day was amazing.

  • Jennifer

    I’d like to reiterate the DO NOT send your dear friend an email to let her know you will be unable to attend her wedding. A very good friend of mine recently let me know via email that she would unable to be my maid of honor, and would likely miss our wedding due to an international move back to the states a week prior. Now this is a damn good reason, but I was so extraordinary hurt by her delivery of the message. Don’t take the coward’s way out!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      At least, take as much care in declining to be maid of honor as the bride took in asking you. My maid of honor will return in time for my wedding (Yay!), but she’s literally on the other side of the world right now. As I don’t Skype, etc., her only way of communicating with me are e-mail and IM. And she communicates more effectually with those limitations than my bridesmaid who’s just 15 miles away, here in California. [Not complaining about either of them. Just observing. They’ve both been super-sweet and helpful, in their ways.]

  • Jo

    A bit of a tangential topic here, but this business about having to back out of being a bridesmaid b/c it’s too expensive and time-consuming intrigues me. I’m a bridesmaid for the first time and the only expense it’s involving (over what it would cost any other wedding guest) is day-of attire. Yes, this is an expense, but it doesn’t seem as imposing as what people are talking about. She gave us dress and shoe options, and while they’re not as flexible as they could be, if I were to tell her that the cost of the dress and shoes is too much for me I’m sure she’d work something out over having me not be a bridesmaid (ie, help pay, maybe change the dress/shoe options to an option that would allow me to wear something i already own, etc). Obviously, I think this is the Practical Bride way of handling things, and I guess I’m just lucky in that I don’t know a single bride who wouldn’t handle things that way. But I’m AMAZED that it’s such a pervasive issue – Am I missing something? Is there a bridesmaid rule book I haven’t read — Am I totally shirking my duties somehow?
    Anyway, my relationship with the bride is special to me and I’d actually LOVE to be able to be more involved in things, I’d be happy to shell out more dough or time to help plan things, etc, but the Maid-of-Honor (bride’s sister) and Mother-of-the-Bride have taken complete control and just smile at me when I offer in person and have never returned my emails.

    • Alison

      I think that’s awesome that it’s not costing you a lot extra to be a bridesmaid! That’s wonderful. I think it all depends on what kind of bridal party your friend is having. The dress (in my experience) has usually cost around $200, plus shoes (anywhere from “already have them, so no expense” to who knows?), plus chipping in for the bridal shower (can be a variable expense… depending on location, size, etc), chipping in for the bachelorette party (again, variable), plus hair/make-up for the day of the wedding… plus a shower gift and a wedding gift (which also occur as a wedding guest, I’m aware).

      If you’re willing to get more involved, which it sounds like you are, I would recommend asking the bride directly? There may be something she can say to either her sister or mom to make sure that you’re included, or maybe you can do something that just she asks you to do? It’s a shame that MOB and MOH are excluding you, but maybe it’s by accident.

      That being said, you can always do what other posters have suggested and in addition to a gift, do something special for the bride on her wedding day (or before). Something that means something to the two of you, with an inside joke or something that has been a part of your relationship. It would be a nice touch in addition to everything that you are already doing as part of her bridal brigade.

    • Liz

      Ditto Alison. Expensive dress, expensive shoes, I’ve heard of brides requesting that their friends get their hair/make-up done professionally or buy matching accessories. Then whatever little shindigs- shower, bachelorette, etc.

      Maybe ask the bride if she needs help for the planning of the actual wedding?

      • I have to admit this is all a little weird to me. When my best friend got married and asked me to be her maid of honor, she bought my dress for me. When I got married, I didn’t have a bridal party, but ended up buying clothes for most of my good friends in India or providing them clothing to wear.

        Everyone else I know has mostly either not had a bridal party, or not asked their bridesmaids to purchase anything specific (more like: please wear green) or has paid for their bridesmaids’ outfits.

        Also, all the showers I’ve been to were usually paid for by the family and bachelorettes were paid for by all the girls attending.

        And I’ve never heard of a bride asking a bridesmaid to get her hair or makeup professionally done and not paying for it.

        I guess I must be living under a rock. ;)

        • Jo

          That’s basically exactly my experience too, which is why I posted. I have zero experience with the concept of the highly-burdened-bridesmaid that many posters are talking about.
          Most of my friends either didn’t even have bridal parties or just had their siblings (hence this is my first time being a bridesmaid even though many of my closest friends have already wed). When my partner and I are getting married next year we’re not having bridesmaids or groomsmen.

        • Liz

          Most wedding traditions- particularly when it concerns finances- are geographical. People in my area have lavish ballroom weddings, and all of these things (including the professional hair and make-up) are anticipated. My bridesmaids were relieved that we found a $40 dress and surprised that I wasn’t “demanding” more of them. Just depends on geography and social circles, I think.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      The WIC has hit bridesmaids, too, with their own All The Things, like matching tank-tops for getting ready, and their own eternal To-Do Lists. It really was genius marketing, because you’ve got two sets of people making bridesmaids buy All The Things – not-practical brides and not-practical bridesmaids. All The Things will be bought if either side thinks they are Must Haves.

      Of course, All The Things leads to All The Jobs. If the bridal shower, like the wedding reception, needs flowers and seat assignments and catering, someone has to set all that up and clean it up. Repeat for the bachelorette party.

    • Jo

      Ahh, fair enough. I guess I don’t yet know if she wants us to pay for (or have) day-of hair-styling. The shower is being thrown by moms & aunts. My experience from attending bachelorette parties (NOT as a bridesmaid) was that the party was paid for by all of the girls at the party, not just bridesmaids. At this point the MOH has been planning the whole thing. Maybe she’ll let me help as it gets closer.
      I am going to try to come up with a creative way to help out with the wedding. No one involved in the planning has had any ideas for me whenever I offer, so it looks like I’m going to have to come up with something myself. I’d love to do something crafty (I’m a designer by training), but I just don’t know what yet.

  • amandanoel

    I have a few dear friends coming out for my wedding who had to make the sacrifice of coming single and not paying the extra travel expenses for their husbands to join them. It meant so much to me that they as a couple made that sacrifice. It also made finding them accommodations like sharing hotel rooms or couch surfing much easier. is this a possibility for you?

  • Cali

    I’m actually considering doing the same thing someone suggested earlier for our wedding… identifying friends who might be in need of splitting room/car costs and trying to connect them with each other. Get in touch with the bride and see if she knows anyone who might be able to hook you up for a night or two. Plus, if you’re able to stay in someone’s home you can also save a TON on food by just hitting up a grocery store instead of eating out for every single meal (you could even make a meal for your hosts as a “thank you”).

    If you can’t go, just tell her early so she has time to process it and not be bummed out right near her wedding. I vote that you do a quick video of yourself wishing her well and letting her know that you’re thinking of her. Then email a link to that video to her the night before the wedding. Good luck! :-)

  • Claire

    I’ll add my voice to the chorus and advise you to call your friend and talk to her directly.

    When I was getting married, one of my longest and closest girlfriends let me know she wasn’t coming to our wedding by clicking “not attending” on the online RSVP feature. This was a shock since during all our previous phone conversations she had let me believe she wouldn’t miss it for the world. When I called her to talk, she brushed it off with a casual, “oh, I just don’t think its gonna work out for me to go all the way there”. I had been her maid of honor a few years earlier and flown cross-country three times for her multiple wedding events (while in grad school). I was really hurt that she just didn’t seem to care at all about my wedding and I missed her deeply on the wedding day.

    Soon after the wedding I learned she was gearing up for a divorce and was preparing to file for bankruptcy and foreclosure. She was too ashamed to admit it and was racked with guilt over missing our wedding. If only she had told me, I would have happily paid her expenses to have her there (as we did for several others). Even just knowing there was a good reason for her absence would have eased my hurt feelings and made it feel like less of a diss.

  • Teresa M

    This is hard!!

    Can you check in with your parents and ask if they want to give you the cost of your flight to this wedding as your next birthday/ xmas gift? or loan you the money? Parental loans are great because they generally do not come with interest…

    Good luck sweetie!

  • Sarah

    I love this outpouring of very good advice! I really hope the person who wrote in is able to make it to the wedding. There have been some weddings that I have been on the fence about attending because of travel expenses (do I dip into my savings just to spend one evening partying with a person who will barely have the chance to talk with me?). In the two cases where I didn’t end up going (again this was a matter of dipping into savings versus going into debt) I really regret not attending the wedding. Five years later for one I still think back and wish I had gone (even though I am not especially close to the bride anymore). These events matter so much even if they are only one day/night.

  • Two of my oldest dearest friends weren’t going to be at my courthouse wedding/elopement because it was on such short notice. I simply couldn’t call because we threw it together in a few days, but I called them the morning of, totally choked up, because I couldn’t believe I was marrying without them there. The one in SoCal ran out of his office screaming “personal emergency be back later!” to make it, driving through 2 hrs of traffic. The other was in AZ and spent the rest of the day texting to make sure she was “with” me anyway.

    If you can’t be there in person, being there in some other way electronically is pretty amazing. I felt like I was being hugged long distance.

    And we’re going to get together later to make up for it. She made sure I knew it was ok and she loved me no matter what. Whatever happens, that’s the most important thing you two could have.

    • Sarah

      Oh, I love this so much! What a wonderful and special way to share your wedding day.

  • This seems particularly relevant at the moment as I just filed my tax return and plan on using the tax refund to fund a trip to New Orleans for my friend’s wedding in June. I really want to go but I have been on the fence since we have been living off of our savings and they are starting to dwindle. Yay for Earned Income Tax Credit and couchsurfing!

  • If less expensive travel/housing options don’t work out (greyhound?), I agree with the ideas of trying to be “present” in other ways, even from afar via cards, emails, texts, phone chats, a note to be delivered that morning, etc. All those things really make such an impact. My maid-of-honor was unable to attend my wedding, but she was present in spirit in those kind of ways and it made such a difference…

  • vron

    Agreed with all above! What lovely thoughts. As someone planning my wedding I will tell you that it is THE LEAST IMPOSITION to get to email with my friends about their challenges getting to the wedding. In fact, it’s one of the awesome things about wedding planning that your friends want to email you to check in about planning/logistics. That also means that I totally know who is driving from where and at least for me (though I am getting married in the town I grew up) I would DEFINITELY be able to find you a room to stay (possibly in my parents’ basement) if you detailed the challenges you were having.

    GOOD LUCK!!!

  • I had a similar situation last summer. I had been unemployed for a few months (in a very expensive city), and my friend was getting married over labor weekend, in a state I used to live in (but not anywhere near my other friends/family). It would have been several hundred dollars for me to go, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to spend any time with her.

    Solution? Before I even had a chance to break the news, she called me and asked if she and her soon-to-be husband could come visit us in NYC and stay on our couch for a weekend a few months after the wedding. I told her that of course they could, but that I wouldn’t be able to come to their wedding due to financial issues. She understood.

    So a week before their wedding, I got a job offer (YAY!), but still wouldn’t have money for a few weeks. They came to visit in November, and we had a lovely weekend together. My fiance and I took them to a broadway show as their wedding gift (which would be more than I would normally spend on a gift, but way less than travelling to their wedding), and it was awesome!

  • Tearful Bride

    I just…wow.

    This made me bawl for so many reasons, for one, that one of my dearest friends was AGONIZING over this and I had no idea and for two…that you guys are so wonderful. I can’t even being to tell you what the writer of this post means to me and when she called me and told me last night (while I was on a street corner in Manhattan) that She and her fiancee were not going to be able to pay to come to the wedding the first thing I said (before she could tell me about all the awesome that happened here) was “Holy crap! no, we’ll fix it, I’ll just nix the centerpieces, that should cover it…you may have to spend the evening sitting on the head table, looking adorable so that there’s something on the table…but you’re small…it’ll work.”

    And then she told me what was going on here, and how amazing all of you were, and the people that have contacted her to help/advise her (who many of you don’t know) get to my (who NONE of you know) wedding…and I couldn’t stop crying. Thankfully it was in the middle of New York city, so nobody noticed…or cared w/e.

    God bless each and every one of you for your kind words and ideas and for assuring her that I WOULD understand because I love her (which I do!). Thank you to everyone who has reached out and offered to help make it possible for someone I love more than life to see me get married and thank you for restoring my faith in humanity and showing me that there are people who are just good and kind and sweet and helpful. I can’t even…man, I’m crying AGAIN every time I think about this I cry. I’m also rambling…

    I just want to hug all of you. Even over the fact that so many people have reached out to offer assistance…I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for reassuring and offering such wonderful advice. It kills me that one of my best friends was agonizing over this and I was the one person that she couldn’t talk to me about it, because we talk to each other about everything (no…really). There would not have even been an ounce of my being that would have thought for a SECOND that she didn’t love me and support my marriage had she not been able to come and I thank you all for reassuring her of that, even though you don’t know me.

    Please, all of you, never change anything about who you are. You are wonderful and amazing and an inspiration.

    Despite being a large wedding (how exactly did that happen?) I’ve tried my best to make it easy for everyone involved, the person who wrote this post has been there every step of the way. Despite dealing with a multitude of her own stuff (not just wedding stuff, either). I was having a REALLY hard time finding dresses that flattered all of my bridesmaids in the color I wanted…so I did what seemed logical to me and hired a seamstress to make dresses for everybody – while this was done purely out of consideration for the girls who I love and adore, I didn’t realize that getting measured would be such a problem and a pain. The person who wrote this post didn’t complain once, she just did it, because she loves me. I didn’t realize what a hassle/imposition it was until AFTER everyone had gotten their measurements done. But that’s how good a friend she is, she knew I was *trying* to be considerate and she didn’t want to “rain on my parade” (so to speak). She’s the best…but all of you already knew that.

    I really have no words for how much she means to me and how touched I am by all of you, I will close by saying that if any of you are lucky enough to have friends who love you as much as the person who wrote this loves me (that they would be this upset over the possibility of making you upset, even though you would never BE upset), hug them and realize how lucky you are. I sure do. <3

    Love and hugs,
    Tearful Bride.