On the first weekend of October, I attended my eighth wedding of the year. Of these eight weddings, one involved an international flight, two took place in the state, and the rest—except one—required an overnight stay in another city. When my own Instagram was flooded with confetti-soaked couples, bouquets, and champagne glasses, I quickly realized I wasn’t the only person who seemed to spend every two weeks at a wedding.
According to The knot, the US is in the midst of a major wedding boom, with data indicating that about 2.6 million weddings were planned for 2022, up from the 2.2 million average of pre-pandemic years. This survey also found that 75 percent of couples who got engaged in 2021 set a wedding date for 2022. “What’s happening now is the impact of Covid,” says therapist Landis Bejarfounder and director of marriage counseling service AisleTalk in New York City. “Guests have been inundated with all these invitations to weddings that have been postponed, events already on the calendar, and new appointments that happened during the pandemic. We are really being bombed.”
The tricky part about this year in particular is that this boom in weddings and the events that surround them — bachelorette parties, bachelor and bachelorette weekends, welcome drinks, post-wedding brunches — is that they also come at a time when our time, energy and money are more precious than ever. “Between inflation and the impact Covid had on our bank accounts, a lot of people are suffering financially,” says Bejar. “It’s not personal and it’s no secret. There’s a systemic phenomenon going on right now where we can’t say yes to as many things as we want, either from a financial point of view or because of the logistics of traveling and being in a large group.” Aside from the potential health risks of socializing, many people find that they don’t have the physical or emotional energy they once had, meaning that celebrating several days can be taxing in a number of ways.
But what should a guest do? Even without the impact of the pandemic and the economy, weddings come with their own complex emotions and expectations. According to Elaine Swannetiquette expert and founder of The Swann School of Protocol, you are entitled to more autonomy than you probably thought. “I don’t think anyone should be forced to attend something they just don’t want to go to,” Swann says. “Anytime you don’t want to attend something, don’t. That is it.”
Fortunately, it is possible to protect your time and money during a full wedding season without breaking friendships – you just have to be careful.
Have some empathy and put yourself in the couple’s shoes
With the multi-billion dollar wedding industry showing absolutely no signs of slowing down, it’s easy to label many weddings and related events as unnecessarily fussy, over the top and, in some cases, a little inconsiderate of the guests’ time and money. However, when it comes to deciding what you’re comfortable with sacrificing to attend an event, it’s important to stop and think about the wedding from the couples’ point of view, according to Bejar. , before you find yourself getting mad at having to make a tough decision. . Weddings are at their heart a celebration, a community gathering and, for many, a cultural tradition. Donut walls, expensive venues and signature cocktails aside, there are many reasons why these events mean a lot to people, especially in 2022.
Bejar suggests considering the period when the couple may not have been able to celebrate as they had hoped, as these years of frustration and disappointment could affect the weddings people are planning now. “Couples are focused on making up for their own lost time,” says Bejar. “People don’t know how many other wedding invitations you’ve gotten this year or even in the span of a few months. No couple who invited you to their wedding have any idea or would consider it when trying to celebrate their love.”
While empathy is an important first step in understanding why today’s weddings are the way they are, Bejar says it shouldn’t necessarily determine your final decision. Rather, it’s a useful exercise in understanding why people are asking so much of their guests right now.
Find out what you can afford mentally and financially
When it comes to your personal resources – emotional, physical and financial – only you can control what you have left. Most of us aren’t in the habit of ranking our friendships by importance, but when you’re deciding whether you can afford to attend a wedding, you need to assess the value of everything and everyone involved.
“Like friendship, time and money don’t exist on the same axis,” says Bejar. “When making wedding decisions, it can be helpful to start with the thing that evokes the least emotion, which is usually your budget.” Bejar suggests doing a cost-benefit analysis, asking yourself the financial cost of attending the event, followed by the emotional cost of attending or not attending.
“It’s important to look at all these factors and ask yourself, Can I participate in this?” she says. “The conversation about not being able to go to a wedding is very different from a conversation about being able to go to a bachelor party.” If you’ve decided that your attendance at an event is non-negotiable, you can do things like research budget-friendly accommodations, search for flight sales, and see if you can borrow or rent an outfit instead of buying something new.
Give bridal party invitations the attention and care they deserve
While it can be an expensive affair to be invited to a wedding, destination or otherwise, being asked to be a part of one’s bridal party comes with a whole host of new costs and expectations. according to Swann, it is important to find out exactly what the bride and groom expect from their bridal party before accepting it. “Often we get very excited and emotionally involved, and we say yes, even though we don’t know what it means — and then you find out you have to take a $5,000 trip to Mexico for a bachelorette party,” she says.
It is also helpful to understand what is traditionally expected of people at a bridal party. For example, according to Swann, bridesmaids can expect to pay for their own dress and shoes, but should have the option to do their own hair and makeup unless the bride pays for it. Taking the time to think about what you can afford before replying means you won’t be letting a close friend down by canceling certain commitments in a few months.
If you’re not at the bridal party, but are invited to bachelorette parties that are out of your budget, it’s best to discuss this with the person hosting the event, rather than the person getting married. Even if you’re not the only one who feels like a plan is getting a little too expensive, Swann cautions against standing up for others, as it can come across as a mafia mentality. Instead, she suggests speaking on behalf of yourself — and your financial situation — and offering concrete solutions that can make the event more affordable, such as cooking brunch at your Airbnb instead of dining out, or making a dress code more flexible. so that people are less obliged to buy something new.
Decline invitations properly. Here’s how to respond.
The way you respond to events can make a big difference in how your decision is received. According to Bejar, the most important thing is to be informed as soon as possible. “There are few things more annoying to brides and grooms than chasing someone,” she says. “These people are trying to get the number of people together so they can go back to suppliers, and now not only does it feel emotionally difficult that you can’t be there, but you’re making it a logistical problem.”
So you know you don’t want to go and the time to share the news has come. What now? According to Swann, the best way to respond is to follow the example of the person who sent the invitation. If you’ve been invited by post to respond, do so. Likewise, if you received an invite through a couple’s wedding website, update your presence there. Bejar also recommends having a face-to-face conversation with the couple, if you’re around, as the tone can be easily misinterpreted in text.
How much detail you need to share will vary from situation to situation. If you denounce the invitation of a casual acquaintance or colleague, both Bejar and Swann think it’s okay to politely answer “no” without explanation. When it comes to turning down invites because of your budget, Swann recommends that you consider the situation carefully, as it can put pressure on couples to find a way to make the event more affordable for you, either by part of cover your costs yourself or by withdrawing favors, such as carpool packages or accommodation discounts. “If you’re really just tired or burned out – or you just don’t want to go – don’t give them a reason to try to fix it. Just refuse and send well wishes,” Swann says.
On the other hand, Bejar believes it can be helpful to be candid about your finances when speaking with a close friend or family member. “If you keep the fact that your RSVP has to do with finances to yourself, people are left to their own devices to interpret why you’re not coming,” she says. “Vulnerability almost always connects people. In fact, it often happens what everyone fears in these conversations: that someone will get mad at you.” The pandemic has also made many couples much more empathetic to people’s unique circumstances. Just as friends and family were once upset that a couple walked out or had a small guest list, most people are now more sympathetic to declined invitations than in the past.
When navigating the minefield that weddings can be, it’s helpful to keep coming back to what they mean to couples. “Remember that the most important thing that your presence represents is your support for their union and your recognition that this is a special moment for them,” says Bejar. “When you’re having important conversations like this, it’s important to get it down to the heart of the matter, which is, even if I can’t come to your wedding, I want you to know it’s a big deal and I’m glad for you.”
Gyan Yankovich is a Sydney-based journalist who focuses on lifestyle, culture and friendship.
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