One of my friends is going to a wedding this summer, and the bride and groom are asking their guests to buy them gold bars, since they already have literally every other thing two people in the world could possibly need. Besides gold bars.
Gold Bars. Gold. Bars. Gold bars at (I understand the price fluctuates, but) $1,421.99. Unless, you know, you want to buy in bulk. Then you can get them for a steal at $1,411.99.
I think now is as good a time as any to talk about weddings you can’t afford to attend.
The year approximately ninety-nine percent of my friends got married, I was the brokest I’ve ever been. I’d lost my full time job, taken out my first credit card so I could keep myself in Lean Cuisines and tomatoes, and had to borrow money from my boyfriend-now-husband just to make rent. I went to four weddings that year. I don’t think I bought four wedding gifts. I certainly wouldn’t have gifted anyone a galldamned gold galldamned bar for galldamnedness’ sake.
I bowed out of one bachelorette trip that I’d loved to have attended — going camping and tubing, my favorite things in the whole world, with some of my favorite women in the whole world. I think I begged off saying I had to work that weekend. But I didn’t have to work. I couldn’t afford to go, and I was too embarrassed to admit it, even to people I care about.
Clearly, there is a more honest way to do things. But what is that way? I’m not sure, but I think you have to start with figuring out who you love the most.
I’m not kidding. There are people whose weddings, and wedding-related events, you may be genuinely sorry to have missed. Not because you won’t get to see everyone from [insert important and formative time in your life here] through beer goggles at the reception, but because you won’t get to see your friend, who you love and care about, do a thing that is very important to them.
Marriages are part of the fabric of our society, part of the building blocks with which we build family units. Because of that, most people don’t get married in a bunker in the desert, because you can’t invite half the town to a bunker in the desert. What comprises “the town” is up to the couple, but generally speaking, the people they want at their wedding are the people who will make up their little village of humans who will shore up that relationship and bear witness to it.
If you’re in someone’s village, and I think you know in your heart whether you are, it is important to do what you can do to go to that wedding. Even if they have lost their damned minds and asked you to buy them $1,421.99 gold bars and they give out Glenn Beck’s latest book as a party favor at the reception. (At the very least, they may know something you don’t know about the coming apocalypse, and you want to be kept in the loop.)
That’s why I went to four weddings I couldn’t afford to go to: because the emotional cost of missing those events was greater than the monetary savings skipping them would afford me. But I also wish I’d had the guts to say to my friends: “I am sorry I can’t come to [wedding-related event] but it is not in my budget right now. I want to help you celebrate, and maybe we can do [more affordable future option] together instead sometime.” I think that’s better than letting people believe you value work (or whatever excuse you’ve made) more than you value their friendship.
For everyone else, for those non-village people in your life, I would like to turn the chair around and get real with you: they sort of don’t care if you come to their wedding or not. Sure, they invited you because they like you or maybe even love you, but fundamentally, they will not remember if you were there and your presence isn’t going to make or break their day. Unless you are a doctor who will save Grandma from certain choking death at the reception, in which case, you must go to all weddings, even ones you’re not invited to, just in case.
I keep bringing up the gold bars not because it’s batshit screwballs (it’s batshit screwballs) but to illustrate a larger point: when people get married, they are not necessarily thinking clearly or reasonably. They are thinking about their wedding, and how much fun it’s going to be for them, and so sometimes they end up thinking that everyone is as excited as they are about flying to Denmark and dressing up in pirate gear. This happens to really good people.
But you do not have to play along. You can totally send a card full of warm wishes, and save that money you would have spent on a formal eyepatch..
In fact, one of my very favorite things about getting married was the collection of really funny, really meaningful, really cute, really pretty, really individual cards our friends and family sent us. I have them tucked away in our guestbook, and no joke, because I am a sentimental fart of a woman, sometimes I take them out and read them and cry a little bit. I don’t remember much about our wedding, but those cards? Mean a hell of a lot to me. You’re not a bad person for skipping the wedding and sending a card. It’s perfectly acceptable. I hereby give you my permission.
I say this all with one caveat: if you’re not going to someone’s wedding, send your regrets as soon as possible and certainly by the RSVP deadline on the invitation/quirky-bedazzled-pigeon that delivered it. Kick back some of those cost savings to the couple, so they don’t have to pay the caterer for a meal you never eat.
And a few weeks or months down the road, once you’re feeling a little more flush? Take your friends out to dinner or a movie. Do something with them wherein you get to talk and laugh and spend time, even hours, face-to-face. Because you probably wouldn’t have gotten that with them at the wedding, and the wedding is just one day, albeit an important one, in the rest of your friends’ lives together. Being there for them in the months and years down the road is more important than breaking the bank to see them on one day.
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