It seems like weddings get more expensive every passing year. In fact, according to Nerdwallet, the average wedding cost in the U.S. is $33,391. The wedding venue, wedding planner, ceremony site, photography, wedding dress and tuxes, wedding band or DJ … it all really adds up fast!

What’s discussed less often – even though it’s equally impactful – is the cost associated with attending a wedding. According to Marketwatch, the average wedding attendee now spends $1,386 per wedding. Afterall there are travel costs, clothing costs, hair and makeup costs, the cost of a gift, and the costs of attending any pre-wedding bachelor or bachelorette parties.
And if you’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid or groomsman, the price goes higher. And if you’ve been asked to be the best man or maid of honor, be prepared to really spend some money.

And if it’s a destination wedding? You get the idea.

The cost of attending a wedding may be higher than you can afford, and put you in an awkward situation. Especially if who invited you is a close friend or family member.
Any time you’re put in a position to talk about finances … or a milestone event like a wedding, is a good time to review your etiquette knowledge to handle the situation graciously. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

First of all, don’t feel bad.

You’re not alone. Nearly 40% of wedding guests have declined to attend because of costs.

If it’s a destination wedding in a far-away, exotic location, chances are that the couple has already accepted the fact that fewer people will be able to attend due to the expense and the time commitment. If you can’t afford to go, simply declining the invitation and sending a warm card or note of congratulations to the couple should be enough.

If the person who invited you is a coworker, or a more distant relative or friend, you don’t need to feel bad about sending your regrets. And you don’t owe them an explanation about your finances. Thank them for being thoughtful enough to invite you, and if you’d like to send them a congratulatory card, they’ll surely appreciate it!

Close Friends and Family

If you’ve been asked to participate in a wedding that you can’t afford, and it’s a close friend or family member … You may need to have a more honest and delicate conversation about the real reasons you can’t attend. Unfortunately, most young men and women get invited to most weddings at the time in their lives when they’re trying to get on their feet financially. They’re paying rent, paying student loans, and struggling to make ends meet. There often isn’t money left over for extravagances like airfare and hotel fees for destination weddings … or costly bridesmaids dresses or bachelor party costs.

If you’re in this situation, let your friend or family member know how much you care about them, and how thrilled you are about their upcoming wedding. And let them know that much as you would love to attend or participate, you simply can’t afford to. As a consolation, perhaps invite them out to lunch, dinner or drinks before, or sometime after the wedding, as your gift to them and to show your support. Plus, it’s a great way to catch up and hear about what happened at the wedding!

They Made a Choice, and so did you.

It’s best not to say anything about their choice of a costly wedding venue or budget. After all, everyone has the right to celebrate and spend their own money however they choose! But remember, you also have the right to control your finances and decide what activities are worth spending and going into debt for…and which are not.

After having this loving and honest conversation, most friends and family members should understand and will refrain from making you feel guilty for not attending. And if they do complain, fuss, or try to make you feel bad about not spending beyond your means to attend their wedding … well, maybe they need to work on their etiquette skills!

If you’d like to learn more about how to have impeccable etiquette at any social gathering or special event, be sure to explore our etiquette courses and sign up for one today!