A Wedding Dilemma: I Can’t Afford To Reciprocate!

What do you do when you can’t afford to reciprocate the generosity of others? Jane writes:

I’m 26 now, and it seems that everyone I know is getting married (including myself). The problem is that my friends and family are scattered throughout the country. If we were to attend each of their weddings, my fiancee and I would be paying for two round-trip flights, plus a hotel room, plus a wedding gift every few months. We simply can’t afford that, but I really wish that we could be at each of those weddings, because some of these people are very close family members and friends. Additionally, I worry about looking rude, because they’ve all found some way to get to our upcoming wedding. Do you have any suggestions for ways to explain politely that we can’t afford it? Is there anything we can do to communicate our love and support without actually going to the wedding? If we have to choose between friends’ weddings (attending some but not others), how can we keep some friends from feeling offended that we didn’t choose to attend theirs? If we do attend some of the weddings, do you have any suggestions for saving money while attending a wedding? Ordinarily we only visit cities where we know we can stay with friends, and we choose our travel times to minimize the cost of travel, but with a wedding those things are out of our control. Any ideas you might have would be greatly appreciated.

My personal advice would be to not attend any weddings that would require enough financial outpouring that it causes you to have difficulty paying your bills. Here are some important things to remember:

An invitation is not a requirement to attend. It’s merely a statement from the sender that they wish you to attend their event. One should never feel like they have to come to an event.

Honesty is the best policy. If you make a decision that you can’t afford to come, be honest about it. Call the person and explain exactly why you can’t come. If you think that you can’t do this for some reason, then what’s the basis of the “close” relationship that would compel you to go to their wedding in the first place?

Thoughtful gifts mean more than expensive ones. We got many expensive gifts for our wedding, but the two that really stood out were simply very thoughtful ones – and neither of those were expensive at all. Spend some time thinking about the people involved and your relationship to them. Often, a very good idea will eventually occur to you – and often it is one that isn’t particularly expensive, either.

Make every possible arrangement to reduce costs for out-of-towners to come to your wedding. Find places for everyone to stay if they can’t afford a hotel. Host meals for the out-of-town guests. In short, do whatever it takes to reduce the costs for people willing to make the trip to your wedding. This will be greatly appreciated by the people who do attend, and they may be more likely to help you in the same way if you choose to attend their wedding.

Another tip: if you do wish to attend some of the weddings, you should make a clear demarcation between the ones you will attend and the ones you won’t. For example, you may choose to only attend the weddings of people you are related to or just the weddings of people in your bridal party. This way, you avoid any hard decisions that may hurt feelings.

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