Prepping for the Year of Many, Many Weddings
After much holdover, nuptials are back on for 2022 and invites are piling up. But just because you’re ready to get out and celebrate doesn’t mean your wallet is.,
When the third wedding was added to our 2022 calendar, I was delighted to have another joyful event after a year and half of small, limited celebrations. When the sixth friend’s “We’re engaged!” announcement appeared on my Instagram feed, I worried but shrugged it off. After all, why spend energy thinking about all those logistics when my fiance and I were busy planning our own 2022 wedding, anyway?
By the time the final save-the-date notice arrived, I could only laugh. “At least this one won’t be too far away,” I said to my fiance, Kurt, with the kind of crazed tone people use when they’re in a crisis. (It was in New York; we live in North Carolina.)
It’s been long predicted that 2022 will be a huge year for weddings, thanks to new and rescheduled events, as well as our collective desire to celebrate love after so much loss and hardship. Yet while crossing off every other Saturday on your calendar for the foreseeable future may be exciting for some, it’s also a logistical nightmare. Not only do you have to figure out travel, lodging and gifts (plus, in 2021, pandemic protocols like whether you’ll need to show vaccination proof, what mask you’ll be bringing, etc.), but you have to pay for all those things. The average cost of attending a wedding is $430, according to a 2020 study by the wedding-planning website the Knot, which surveyed 1,000 people who had attended a wedding in the previous year.
“The closer you are to the couple, the more expensive it is,” said Landis Bejar, the founder and director of AisleTalk, a New York City-based therapy practice specializing in wedding-related stress. “And the more pressure you feel to participate in all the events, give gifts at all the events, and show up in these really big ways.”
Add that pressure to the financial hits people have taken during the pandemic, and you’ve got the situation many of Ms. Bejar’s clients have recently found themselves in. So what do you do if, like them (and me), your desire to be there for your loved ones on their special day coincides with your unwillingness to put yourself into debt over wedding expenses?
Break down all the potential costs.
If you do decide to attend, the first thing you should do after replying yes is to evaluate your finances. “Try to start setting money aside each month now so you have a little bit of a cushion to dip into when the costs come up,” Ms. Palmer said. She recommended the 50/30/20 budgeting method (50 percent of your monthly after-tax income for needs, 30 percent for wants, and 20 percent for savings/debt repayment), and calculating if there’s room within that “wants” allotment to attend the wedding in question. Also, be sure to take a look at all the costs likely to be involved in each event. Will travel require a flight or car rental? How much money do you plan to put toward a gift? Will you need child care? Don’t forget all the additional expenses associated with being in the wedding party, too, if you think or know you’ll be asked to take on a role.
“Each of those costs will have a different way to save with it,” Ms. Palmer said. If you have credit card points saved up, put them toward your hotels and airfare. And if you need new formal wear, consider services like Rent the Runway.
Pooja Shah, a New York-based lawyer and writer with 13 upcoming weddings, including her own, has opted for Airbnbs rather than hotel rooms to save money, in addition to putting $100 a month toward a “wedding guest fund” that covers costs like gifts and international Covid testing. “I want my friends to have a memorable experience and I do not want finances to be a limiting factor that prevents me from showing up and enjoying their special moments,” she said.
Realize the power of saying no.
Much as we may be inclined to say yes to every invite we receive these days, after such a long period in which celebrations were on hold, you really should stop and consider whether you actually want to attend each wedding, with all those associated costs. “I think a lot of people forget that they don’t have to go to all the weddings they’re invited to,” said Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert with NerdWallet, a website providing personal finance advice and tools. “It is acceptable to explain to your friend who’s getting married that you just can’t make it. And it’s OK to say it’s because of financial reasons, too.”
Becca Atchison, the founding partner and creative director of Rebecca Rose Events, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., echoed this point. “In the same way that a couple planning a wedding has to make tough decisions to really prioritize and curate a guest list, sometimes as a guest you have to do that same thing,” she said. “There’s got to be a sense of honesty, as we all collectively look at our schedules and this holdover from this past year, to just prioritize within our own lives.”
When deciding whether to R.S.V.P. yes, Ms. Athinson says you should ask yourself: How close are you to the couple? Is the location worth the trip? If you go, will you be focused on celebrating, or worried about getting back to work?
“Setting healthy boundaries and determining what’s important to you” should be at the forefront of all your wedding guest decision making, Ms. Atchison added, not just your guilt over potentially saying no.
There are plenty of ways to show your support from afar. Ms. Bejar recommended sending a “heartfelt” note to the couple explaining how you wish you could attend, but the difficulties of the past year have made it impossible for you to say yes to all you’d like. “You want them to know that they were thought about and cared for, and whether or not you can show up, people usually have an understanding if they kind of know your thought process around it and that it wasn’t an easy decision,” she said.
You can also send the couple an early gift, or take them out for a small premature or belated celebration, said Shontel Cargill, a marriage and family therapist with Thriveworks in Cumming, Ga. And on the actual wedding day, make sure to Zoom in if that’s an option so you can still cheer them on. “Support is not isolated to attending the wedding in person,” Ms. Cargill said.
Be careful with your credit cards.
While it may be tempting to put all the wedding expenses on a credit card, be careful you don’t take things too far. “It comes up a lot where people want to go to all the weddings, and so they use a credit card and they accrue debt, and then you can end up being stuck with that — in some cases, for years,” Ms. Palmer said. “It’s really something we suggest trying to avoid at all costs, just because it makes going to those weddings even more expensive.”
If you’re going to use a card for some payments, make sure to check the interest rate first, Ms. Palmer added, to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
Decide which events take priority.
These days, “wedding day” more often means “wedding weekend,” with rehearsal dinners, welcome parties, and farewell brunches extending the period of time guests are expected to attend. Being in the wedding party typically comes with several other expensive commitments, often in separate locations. With so many events, you might need to pick and choose which ones you care about most.
“If this is a year where you’re not able to do the shower, the bachelorette party, the wedding, and the engagement party,” it’s understandable you’d be disappointed, Ms. Bejar said, but remember that the more money you save, the better chance you have of attending (and enjoying) the actual wedding.
Swap out pricey gifts for original ones.
When the average amount of money people spend on wedding gifts is $151, per a 2018 NerdWallet study, that alone can add a hefty financial burden on guests. But there are ways to lessen the blow.
Have a useful skill, like hairstyling or design? Consider donating your services rather than buying an overpriced dish towel off the registry. “Think about how you can use your talents to make a creative gift that doesn’t have to be as expensive as a traditional gift,” Ms. Palmer said. “Maybe prepare a nice meal for the couple after they get home from their wedding, or maybe donate a photography session if you’re a photographer, even an amateur.”
Cut yourself some slack.
Going to even just one wedding can be “mentally expensive,” Ms. Cargill said. “You have to take time off from work, you have to buy different dresses and clothes and all of these things to prepare. It’s anxiety provoking.”
Iman Balagam, a writer and marketer in Houston, said the 13 upcoming weddings on her roster, plus all the many lead-up events, have left her feeling overwhelmed and in a financial “chokehold.”
“Every dollar I make essentially goes toward wedding preparation,” she said.
The mental and financial burden of so many events has forced Ms. Balagam to make some sacrifices, including postponing a long-desired move to New York. “There’s no way I’ll be able to afford it knowing I’ll be forced to fly home every other weekend,” she said.
The situation has left her battling feelings of guilt. “I realize I’m uniquely blessed: I have too many friends! I have too many fancy parties to go to! Woe is me, right?” Ms. Balagam said. “But it really is a tug of war between wanting autonomy over your own schedule and the obligations one has to be a ‘good friend.'”
Ms. Cargill urged anyone feeling ashamed over not being able to afford a bigger gift or attend a shower in Bermuda to remind themselves that it’s been an extraordinarily tough year and a half for many. “I would encourage those who are feeling guilty not to beat themselves up, because it really is a lot, and we’re still navigating through this pandemic,” she said.
Keep in mind, too, that the couples likely had their own plans altered in some ways by the coronavirus, whether that meant postponing an original date, cutting down the guest size, or switching locations to something more centrally accessible. They’ll likely empathize with your situation. “Covid changed things for everyone,” Ms. Cargill said. “If anything, we’re all a little bit more understanding that there are a lot of things that are out of our control.”