How to say “No” to the bride or groom

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There’s a lot of great advice out there about how to budget for a wedding. But anyone that’s been a bridesmaid or groomsman knows that weddings can get expensive—even if you’re not the one tying the knot. From buying a new ensemble, to lavish bachelor and bachelorette parties, being in a wedding party can get pricey… really pricey. So, what happens if you’re asked to stand in multiple weddings over one summer? And what if those weddings require travel?

No one wants to let their friend down, but going into debt for a wedding isn’t ideal either. Emotions often run high when it comes to weddings, so we called in Jay Remer, Canada’s Etiquette Expert, to help us navigate this sensitive topic. When money is tight, how do you say no?

Tip #1: Be honest.

These days, weddings can get pretty extravagant. And while the bride and groom might be willing and able to foot the bill for the wedding of their dreams, it’s important that they consider the expenses and expectations they’re imposing on their wedding party, too. Jay’s advice? If you’re worried about your budget, say something.

“Keep in mind that your friend cares about you”, he explains. “If you can’t be in their wedding for financial reasons, they will understand. The key is to be clear and respectful—this is a conversation to have in person, if possible. Explain that you’re honoured by their offer to be in their wedding, but unfortunately you can’t afford the commitment. The last thing you want to do is decline to be in the wedding over text message.”

Tip #2: Show that you care… without spending a fortune.

Remember—ultimately, weddings are about two people making a commitment to one another. Being a bridesmaid or a groomsman is about showing your support for the couple. Celebrating the newlyweds doesn’t have to involve spending a fortune. If you’re in a wedding party and on a budget, Jay suggests talking to the bride or groom about ways to stay involved with the wedding that are affordable.

“Think about your relationship with the person, and consider what you can afford. If a bachelorette trip to Vegas, or an expensive shower gift aren’t in the budget, show that you care in other ways. If a gift is thoughtful and from the heart, it doesn’t matter what the price tag says.”

Spending time with the bride or groom, and helping with the planning can go a long way too. An extra hand addressing invitations, or a shoulder to lean on when things get stressful are priceless.

Tip #3: Talk to the wedding party.

Jay tells us that according to etiquette rules, brides and grooms should consider the financial situation of their wedding party before the planning even starts.

“Not everyone in the wedding party will have the same budget. If you know you can’t afford an expensive bridesmaid’s dress, or to travel for the bachelorette party, speak up. As a group, the wedding party can come up with a budget-friendly plan. Bridesmaids’ dresses don’t have to be couture to look amazing, and a local celebration can be just as fun as a destination bachelorette party. Communicating with each other, and with the bride can solve a lot of problems.”

At the end of the day, when it comes to balancing your budget with your wedding party obligations, the key is to be realistic with yourself and with what you can afford. Weddings are important, but so is your financial health.

Jay’s advice for the brides and grooms out there? “Be sensitive about what you’re asking of your wedding party. If you have extravagant tastes, you have to be willing to pay for them.”